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Focus Dichotomy: Thought Dependent vs Context Dependent

My old Pentax, manual external focus. My manual focus is internal.
My old Pentax, manual external focus. My manual focus is internal.

Why can I focus on some things better than others? And why is it that the important things seem to be harder to focus on? These are questions that plague me.

They plague me particularly when I’m trying hard to view my ADHD as a way of being, rather than a flaw in my being.

I am always hoping that understanding issues will lead to being able to rectify them. If not, then I hope understanding them will possibly present a usable work around for the issue I’m studying.

The first thing I’ve noticed about things I am better able to focus on, is that they are, more often, things I enjoy. So why do I think they are less important if I enjoy them? Perhaps that is a self esteem issue. If I like them, they can’t be that important.

Yet maybe I like those things more because, for some reason, I am more able to focus on them.

Aaaaah, focus

There’s a sweetness to focus. At least, there is for me. It’s like everyday life, but with a light sweet taste. It’s like eating king crab regularly and then discovering the taste of snow crab.

Unanswered question

But I still haven’t figured out what makes me focus. If I like something and that makes me focus, then what makes me like it. And is it true that I only focus on what I like?

And as I said, I like focus. So maybe I don’t like everything I am able to focus on, maybe I’m just enjoying the focus.

Things I focus on

I don’t really like video games, but I can play them for hours. It’s like an addiction. Am I addicted to focus?

TV is the same thing. It sometimes seemed easier to tolerate what is on the tube than to try to decide what else to do. To many choices, to much preparation and organization, to much distraction. TV is garbage piped in to my brain, but it requires little in the way of organization or preparation. I’ve quit watching TV.

I must confess that reading fiction is the same for me. I can read for hours, even if I know I have other things to do. I don’t get upset with reading though, I feel good about it.

Wait a minute …

Hmmm, TV, Videos, games, books – there seems to be a commonality here. These things are all external, and to some extent, beyond my control. I mean, yes I can change the channel, turn off the console, turn the page or close the book, but they are all still there.

The focus required to keep me on task when doing complex internal projects like income tax and house keeping is so easily set aside, misplaced, and without visual or auditory cues, long gone and forgotten. The focus required to do the simplistic external projects like watching TV or playing a video game or reading a book is reinforced by the very real visual and auditory cues we get from the book in front of us, the TV’s sights and sounds and the video consoles display and auditory feedback.

What can we learn from this?

Focus is generated internally, but the stuff that is reinforced with external stimulus is the focus that is easily maintained.

Creating consistent focus, then, is a matter of adding external cues. Lets ponder that for a few days, and come back to this topic, shall we?

Focus Dichotomy: Thought Dependent vs Context Dependent

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). Focus Dichotomy: Thought Dependent vs Context Dependent. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 25 Apr 2013
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