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Sometimes you fight more than you need to because you "prepare too much for it"
I’ve written (I think - one issue with ADHD can be that you get confused between daydreams and reality at times - I’ll write about this another time) about how when you have ADHD, and you have idle time with yourself, your mind can really play tricks on you.
You get a random thought and then inevitably end up “hyperfocussing” on it. You think about this thought so much that this thought becomes “reality” and you get divorced from the real reality. And then when you are forced to interact back with the real world, you do so with a combination of reality and your perception, and that can result in some really inappropriate responses (oh yes - my last post was about this).
I’ve been fighting a bit more than usual of late. Maybe it’s seasonal - sometimes in the summer I don’t sleep that well, and that can affect my mood. Maybe I’ve been having too many high-carb meals (the inevitable sugar crash that follows results in impaired thinking and “high ADHD”). I’m pretty sure there is serial correlation in this - you get into a few fights, you anticipate more fights, and that results in your getting into more fights. It’s a vicious cycle.
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Anyway of late I’ve been trying to anticipate the sequence of events that leads up to a fight (or an inappropriate response) - and there is one clear pattern that I notice. And it has to do with what I’ve written above. And - the fact that when you have ADHD you try to avoid conflict makes the conflicts you end up having bigger than they should be.
Let me take an example - recently I was supposed to go out somewhere. While getting ready, I saw from my balcony that someone had parked their car across our gate - which would make it incredibly hard for me to get my car out. Given that there was still an hour to leave and that there might be a driver in the car, the likelihood that I might actually have trouble getting my car out was slim. Nevertheless, the possibility of difficulty (or conflict) loomed.
I tried to shut the thought, but couldn’t. Soon, I found that I couldn’t think of anything else (apart from whether that car would’ve gone by the time I went down). This hyperfocus wasn’t “static” - I started thinking all kinds of scenarios that might unfold, and how I would react to those and what I would tell people in those situations. By the time I left, I had pretty much practiced the conversations I would have with my building security guard when I went down. This meant that irrespective of whether the car would still be parked there when I went down was immaterial - I was already worked up. And if there was no car trouble, I would surely get into trouble elsewhere .
Similarly, earlier this week, I had an external meeting scheduled in my office. I had booked a meeting room but had seen half an hour before that someone else had occupied it (and in the past I’d seen these people occupy that room for long hours). “What do I tell them when my meeting is about to start?”, I thought. Soon I was hyperfocussing on this thought. I started imagine all kinds of scenarios, some pleasant and some not so. I had practised quite a few lines in anticipation.
One “feature” (rather a bug) of ADHD is that sometimes your instinct can be weak. Rather, it’s bimodal - you can occasionally show great instinct but most times it fails you. And this makes you want to “prep”. The downside of this prep is possible hyperfocus that can lead to a frenzy.
In the event, the meeting room was vacated right before my meeting started (so precluding the need for conflict). However, a few versions of potential conflict had already played out in my head by then.
In both these examples, there was no conflict and the only downside of my “prep” was a sense of frenzy and anxiety I got to. However, when the conflict does materialise, the results can be crazy.
Let’s say you’re dreading talking to someone, because of some potentially unpleasant things they may say. Again you think of this possibility and end up hyperfocussing on it. All the “prep cycle” happens in your head. And this person duly says something unpleasant.
As per them, they might have only said some minor unpleasant thing. However, you have been playing out this situation in your head several times before it actually happens. So by the time you actually meet, your brain has already built up a very strong Bayesian prior that this person has told you several unpleasant things and you’ve had a big fight. The little unpleasant thing they say further confirms this prior, and you lash out. They start wondering why you’re overreacting so badly to the little thing they said. The conflict quickly escalates.
So - the thing with ADHD is that you are not good at instinctively reacting (on average, you might be good, but most of the time you’re bad). So during the course of life, you learn to prepare. The problem with this preparation is that you can sometimes obsess over it, and hyperfocus on the problem at hand. This blows up the problem in your head compared to its real size. You accordingly overreact, and that catches the counterparty off guard, who decides to escalate the conflict.
The more such escalated conflicts you have, the more you want to avoid them, and the more you prepare. But then this preparation only leads to bigger conflicts. The vicious cycle continues.