A .D.D.ers tend to oscillate between two different states: “being-as-doing” and “self-conscious-stumbling.” In the being-as-doing state, they are living within every moment, making decisions “within” the moment, doing things “within” that moment and, one might say, “existing as normal people do.” [note 1] It is (or so I imagine) existence with a normal level of self-consciousness which is in contrast to an A.D.D.er’s level of self-consciousness. An A.D.D.er’s self-consciousness is best described as “self-conscious-stumbling.” [note 2] It is like trying to walk down a set of stairs and thinking about each movement. What should come as natural in that there should be no role of self-consciousness at all becomes something that is consciously done and, in the process, becomes something that causes one to stumble. [note 3] The smooth flow is interrupted by the self-conscious thought process so that while the body is still in motion (in a sense, unthinking/un-selfconsciously reflective motion) the brain is trying to determine what the next step should be but because it is in self-conscious mode (a sort of hyper-self-reflectivity) the body – and gravity – which operate according to their own logic, has already moved to the next step. Either it quickly determines what that next step should be (and determine correctly) and thereby “survives” the forward momentum or it has not made that determination and you stumble.
While I have used physical movement as an illustration of self-conscious-stumbling, for the A.D.D.er it is much more than physical activity but all those other modes of existence – work, love, family – where the oscillation can become debilitating. Those first few jobs, those first few relationships, can begin with all the joie de vivre one expects in something that is new. It is being-as-doing and is joyful and unselfconscious. And then a certain doubt creeps in. It might begin as a question that someone asks (“Why did you do that?”) or a glance from someone you work with (or someone you are in love with). And in a moment you flip from being-as-doing to self-conscious-stumbling. You begin to question everything. You ask everyone – and yourself – about the meaning of the work you do or the meaning of the “love” relationship you thought you were in. You are now like the person who self-consciously walks down a stairway. You watch each move. Calculate each move. You self-consciously-stumble as you watch yourself try to crawl back to that state of being-as-doing. And you do make it back to the being-as-doing state but with something amiss. Your smooth “tapestry of being” has a small hole in it. A sliver of doubt has crept in and while you are again being-as-doing, there is an awareness that something has changed. You are in being-as-doing but with a self-conscious twist. Being-as-doing feels phony and inauthentic. The original joy that existed prior to self-consciousness is gone.
- Or, to be exact, as an A.D.D.er might imagine what existence is like for normal people.↩
- The Wikipedia defines self-consciousness as “an acute sense of self-awareness.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-consciousness. A.D.D.ers are not the only ones with an acute level of self-consciousness.↩
- The very act of observation of that action which should be natural and not self-conscious thereby turns it into something that is conscious and therefore awkward, like when a child first learns to walk. As I write this I keep thinking about William James’ definition of “habit” as being something that is so much a part of one’s being that it is embedded in one’s physiology and, therefore, does not require any thinking. It is somewhere between the completely unselfconscious act of breathing and the initially self-conscious but then increasingly unselfconscious act of walking. The repetition makes it less self-conscious.↩