The Tyranny of Now

H ere’s summarization of this article suitable for the A.D.D. mind. ;) :
The problem of not being able to understand past, present and future is a serious one and should not be underestimated. It is possible for the to understand it on a conceptual level – such as in the discussion of such phenomena – but the real difficulty is not being able to live it. Being so consumed by the “now” there is no mental space for even thinking about the past and certainly none for the future. The “now” is just too exhausting and all-consuming.

Now…if you are still with me…here’s some more on the subject. ;)

I believe it was a Dr. Hallowell comment that described A.D.D. as being like a radio that tunes every station at once. Which one do you pay attention to? The problem is that sometimes you try to pay attention to all of them at once. At other times, you figure out how to pay attention (selectively focus) on one. However, it is not like you don’t hear the others…you just ignore them for a while so you can focus on that one station. (Ironically, as a ham radio operator, what I enjoy doing most is “digging out” the hard to hear stations, that is, I literally hear many stations at once but I can focus in on the one that I want to hear and can ignore the others.)

I think of this phenomenon as the tyranny of “now” where everything is continually competing for your attention. Consequently you spend all of your time trying to turn that off. Of course, you can’t turn it off. So you find something that will help you do that: sitting in front of the television for many hours, taking up a hobby that consumes hours of your time and concentration, eating carbs like mad, taking drugs, engaging in sex simply for the release, excercise. (I’ve done all of these things at various times in various manic-like states.)

The problem is that when you are consumed by the tyranny of now you can not find the mental space to think about the future. Every day is a struggle to control the tyranny and doing so is exhausting both mentally and physically (because it is physically exhausting it is my belief that A.D.D. gets worse as you get older simply because you don’t have the physical stamina you had as a kid to control it). Having discovered I was A.D.D. at about the age of 46, it has taken me several years to get to the point where I can do this blog (“journaling” whether on a blog or in a paper journal (I do both) really is therapeutic…it forces the brain to slow down…or at least trains the brain to learn how to slow down…though just a moment ago I got distracted and I’m now struggling to get back on topic. ;) ).

Being consumed by the “now” makes it impossible to prepare for the future. In fact, there is no concept of “future”! I’ve only started to see the linkages between current actions and future consequences but that was something I only thought I understood but really didn’t. On an intellectual level I understood it but I didn’t live it, which is quite another manner.

Others who discuss this issue:

“In some cases the disorder [A.D.D.] goes a bit further and those children are not capable of understanding the idea of present, future and past. That’s why they do live only in the here and now and don’t seem to remember the past. They also are incapable of thinking about the future. Due to this they do never think about the consequences that might follow their actions. In such cases cause and effect should be deliberately communicated.” Source: Effective ADHD Treatments

See this interesting post on The Mental Reset Button and Jennifer Koretsky’s Newsletter Archive

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  • Becky

    this is a wonderful article. as an i relate to this very much. i also intend to share this with my partner to perhaps give her some insight into what it’s like for me (and why i feel stuck sitting at home all the time). having been diagnose at the age of 10 (for reference i am now 25) it has been a lifelong struggle to have those around me understand. the only ones who really understand my quirks seem to be my parent, and other A.D.D. ers

  • http://none Ismaeel Abed

    This is very insightful & i did’nt realise that this was such a problem.I have had this problem since i was a kid.
    I asked my grade school teacher about time in the following manner “Madam” i said “If what i am saying to you now, is the past,but you hearing it in the present & what i still will say is in the future-then what is time?” I recently read a book called “the power” of Now & could relate to it immediately.In moments of helplessness is when i become aware of the role of time.My experience of time is not linear,Krishnamurti once described Time as being “the interval between an IDEA & ACTION” The Sufi’s say”Time is a cutting sword,if you do not cut it-It cuts you”

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