One of the hallmarks of ADHD is a problem with impulse control. Impulsivity is so common that we are known for it.
And some of the subtle ways that it impacts our lives often go unrecognized because being impulsive is usually only seen in the more explosive and dramatic examples of its manifestation in our behavior.
It’s not unlike the discovery years later that a sibling has a milder form of ADHD that went undiagnosed because, in constant comparison to the more challenged member of the family, they appeared to not be one of us.
So too with impulse, the behaviors that did not result in something exploding are not recognized as impulsive in comparison to that time when I … well, let’s not dwell on the past shall we?
So sometimes behaviors that are at their root impulsive do not appear to be because they aren’t dramatic.
Impulse control is, apparently, not something that can be turned on or used at will, it apparently is a thing that just is there in the neuro-typical human. For us, it is something that we have to fake.
And the trouble is that we do not see the difference between doing the right thing at the right time, doing the right thing at the wrong time, or doing the wrong thing at any time. When we do the right thing at the right time, we did it as an impulse. That’s just how we are.
To me there is no difference between my sudden decision to hit the brakes than my equally sudden decision to hit the gas. I see a way to avoid a collision and I just do it.
Did it work?
Often it does, and when it does I don’t think about impulsivity. I think I’m clever. I think I was thinking outside the box. I think I was problem solving.
But the other label for it is risk taking. As the saying goes, better to ask forgiveness than permission. And if my impulsiveness was successful, I don’t need to bother with either. But I did take a risk to get there.
If a tree falls in the forest …
If an impulsive action results in a success, was it in fact an impulse?
Yes, of course it was. But if you don’t acknowledge it how can you ever gauge the extent of your impulsivity?
How can you ever get control if you aren’t actually acknowledging the extent of the problem?
On the other hand …
If everything we do is an impulse, is there ever a chance that we might get control of our impulsive behavior? No.
So what could we possibly gain from acknowledging it?
In truth, the result of doing the right thing, impulsively or not, is that we feel good. And impulsivity is all about instant or near instant gratification. So the more often we do the right thing, the more likely we are to become impulsively prone to do the right thing.
And even if it just increases the chances of our doing the right thing at the right time, well, that’s better than nothing, right?