The book "ADHD Decoded" deals with the subject of attention at a very deep level. You said, these are your findings. Can you put some light on it?
The subject of attention has been on my mind since the late eighties. The basic contents of the book have already been published in two articles in 2006 and 2007. I claim in the book to take into account all the facets of life that both cause and affect the movement of our attention and its shorter or longer dwelling on each aspect of life. However, the life aspect or facets of life that draw our attention in a moment or for a certain time can be both deep and ordinary or even banal.
For example, in my practice I could work with a client or I could be a student in class, and be distracted by a slight nausea or lack of energy from what I am doing or should be doing or wanting to do. And that's because I didn't have breakfast at all or only insufficiently.
In another example, however, my attention could be drawn almost compulsively and very often to actions and situations in which I am looking for means of recognition or attention or love from others. And this because my self-love, for whatever fundamental reasons, is deficient.
So we realize that our attention can be drawn or distracted from this or that for different reasons.
What is interestingly noticeable in these two examples as well as in all or many other possible examples is the fact that we are dealing with something that we lack, something that we need. And this may not surprise, because where else is our attention supposed to go except to what we need and therefore want? Is that not so?
You mention that you are open to discussions about your findings about what attention really is. What do you mean by that?
By being open to discussions, I mean that while I feel pretty confident with the insights presented in the book, I am open to looking at something new, should new good arguments emerge.
Even though I think the facts speak for themselves, sometimes it is also a matter of definition, or of what and how one understands something.
For example, at the point where I address this openness, it is about whether attention precedes consciousness or whether the opposite is the case. This is not just a simple matter like understanding what a table is or what multiplication is, but very important if you want to penetrate into the backrooms of our attention machinations.
And last but not least: open for discussion or good arguments or new facts should be anyone who likes true science or truth and doesn't just want to hear pure assertions or just good-sounding stories.
Is the book intended for a specific target group?
The target audience of my book is all those who understand how central and global the movement and lingering of our attention determine our lives; in every moment. For what we are not aware of we do not experience, it does not exist for us. On the other hand, what we experience because we are aware of it, because we are attentive to it, is the CONTENT of our life, IS our life.
To become aware of that, of our life in its entirety, and to bring it into harmony with who we really are and what we really need, is as good as impossible to negate. We automatically want it more and more, the more consciously and clearly we feel it and see through it.
You have linked attention to conscious experience and to our existence, so indirectly as crucial to a way of life! It's a very vast statement in few words. What life example can illustrate this fact?
I could give a great many examples. But maybe a first or important one is that children today are overwhelmed on the one hand by the demands of the educational system and by social expectations, and on the other hand they receive so little of what they need, or can hardly be, as they really are or as they would be if they were left alone. In very many cases, this is then drawn into at least adulthood.
If the teaching is not interesting and the world is so full of other living and nourishing or more nourishing possibilities, isn't it a sign of intelligence when a child visits this other world? This visit then manifests itself as a reaction in the classroom, through everything that promises to get rid of boredom. Or as a reaction to the new or old and renewed expectations of the parents to do this or that...
In the same way we adults can for example be dissatisfied with our professional activity. And then we are either distracted from what can do us good, or we discipline ourselves to stay focused, and are exhausted accordingly. Not only children, we all want to feel alive, to feel nourished on several levels, to experience ourselves in who we are, to discover ourselves in how we grow and what we become by unfolding what we are meant to be.
What we need and what we need to be is the expression of the forces or energy flows that make up life. Vitality. To be in love, to feel loved, to be loving. The impulse to create. To discover. To understand. To fully live. To be nourished. To be calm and serene. To be free. If these forces are neglected or suppressed, whether consciously or unconsciously, then our attention must react so that we get what we lack. Both in school and at work, as well as in the crucial area of interpersonal relationships. This is one of the central messages of the book.
The point you are making here is of greater significance in every thing that we want to achieve in life. And you have described what the issues are that can lead to a deficit situation and how these can be identified. One more ironical fact is that many people still consider ADHD as a disease or a condition that can be controlled by medicines and use daily medication for it. What is your message for them?
Imagine a battery-powered toy whose battery is quite empty, and which therefore begins to tremble in its otherwise flowing motion or to have complete dropouts. It shrugs, moves again, then stops again and so on. What would be the diagnosis here? Inability to move or lack of energy supply? The answer is obvious.
And now we imagine a child, an adult or even ourselves when we are in the supplied phases. Why supplied? Because we are emotionally satisfied or do or experience something interesting. In both of these cases we are quite involved. We have no attention dropouts. And we don't need medication.
Let’s suppose we are asked in class to carry out or pursue something that seems mysterious and opaque to us, and therefore become restless inwardly, and try to avoid the situation unorganized or flee mentally and emotionally, or we are professionally obliged to listen to a boring lecture, and struggle between staying with it and gliding over into all sorts of more beautiful activities that we will perceive immediately afterwards.
Whether as a pupil in pointless, senseless lessons or as a listener of a lecture which cannot be endured. Is one of the famous medications necessary here? There is no doubt that an appropriate chemically strong medicine takes us on a leash and can pull us, regardless of whether something comes out in terms of content, but is such a medicine the solution?
I am not giving the answer here. Everyone has to give it to himself. Only one thing is certain: if I learn to follow the content of the lesson because I have understood something, or if I change my profession or at least the department in my field, then this is what I choose instead of some drug that freezes or imprisons my attention.
One of my last clients told me at the beginning of our work, "When I don't take the medicine, I feel mentally alive, my thinking is creative, the world is sooo more interesting".
If I have too little or too much energy, then the problem is energetic and not attention. I need to balance my energy.
If I don't master something, then I need knowledge and not concentration training.
If I have an emotional problem then I need an emotional solution and not attention training.
If I don't find meaning in something, then I might have to look at that part of the world more deeply or differently or completely rethink it and perceive anew or leave it completely and find a more coherent place in the world.
When I am unorganized, I have not yet tasted the irresistible attractiveness of structure.
To subsume all these possible cases under the label ADHD is simply crude and an unnecessary capitulation.
To perhaps conclude my ever-longer answer, I want to say frankly, that the message for all those who wonder whether ADHD is a disease, is that ADHD is a healthy response to our own self-alienation, which in turn results from a mixture of unnaturalities we suffer.
Either we are forced to do something that does not suit us, or we are missing something that we urgently need.
The five great areas I have just touched upon, or power generators as I call them, in which excess or shortage can prevail, are dealt with in the book. Let me just name them here: Existential Reality. Emotional nourishment. Energetic balance. Mental clarity. Well-organized life.
Ok, maybe another saying by Mark Twain: "If our only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail."
Translated for us here: Life is complex or rich. Accusing our attention for something or for much that goes wrong in our life, is sloppy, to say the least.
After reading the book it gives a feeling that more has to be known on this topic… And you have suggested the same in the beginning of the book.. ‘you want to keep it short but not leaving out any details’. So can we expect another follow up/ sequel of the book coming where more insights are shared?
Sure. Yes. That can absolutely be expected, because it is necessary. There will be more publications and also practical instruments on the subject of ADHD, but also on the subject of attention independent of ADHD, which both go beyond this book and illustrate aspects of this book and make them practically manageable and realizable. Of course, seminars and practical training units are also included.
Every reader might be able to relate to the nurturing aspect you have mentioned in all dimensions of the ‘self’. One can relate to it, and may be able to understand relationships at both family & business levels, it may help understanding our own behaviour & choices. Can you please elaborate more on this topic?
I'd love to. It's about getting to know what our lives are about and the possible struggle in it or the conflict between what our life could and should be like and what it is like now, and perhaps for some time now. Those who are completely happy do not need my book. But the book and what it is about can be really useful for all those who experience disturbing restlessness in different areas.
The practice or lifestyle of so-called mindfulness, for example, has become fashionable in recent years. Very probably rightly so. What is it all about?
Mindfulness is the directing of attention or the entire consciousness to everything that is experienced in the present and perpetual moment. This is very useful, because if I consciously notice what I am experiencing anyway and am not distracted, only then can I see whether it is good or not.
Mindfulness, even if it is fashionable and sounds new, has been a component of humanistic psychology for several decades, e.g. by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.
In humanistic psychology, mindfulness, self-confidence and organismic feeling are used to get to know unreflected, unconscious and reactive behaviour and at the same time to feel oneself authentically; with all subsequent beneficial insights and actions.
And even humanistic psychology, on the other hand, is based on the time before it, we are talking here about these one hundred years between 1850 and 1950, a time in which both the development of psychology-science and the currents of existentialism and phenomenology produced the realization of a freedom, never before so clearly established, to design and realize one's own life along one's own authenticity.
So if you address nourishment in all dimensions of the self as one aspect, and central aspect, I would add, as affecting all our behavior and decision making, then that is a very correct statement.
And I have listed mindfullness, humanistic psychology and existentialism as evidence that the basic ideas and insights in my book are not new.
In the book, however, all this is summed up in such a way that life is more clearly defined, and then accepted, and then shaped according to the individual personality. As long as such shaping does not violate the laws of reality.
Unfortunately, a society always tends to create and require uniformity. But we are all, even if in many ways the same or similar, in many ways so different from each other.
At the latest since Rogers the importance of a person-centered fulfillment in life is clear. Unfortunately, compared to the time that has passed since then, not much has happened. But it is high time.
What is your inspiration & vision behind "ADHD Decoded"?
As for inspiration, there's just a lot I can name. I can say the clients I have worked with, I can say all the people who have touched me or still touch me, including all those I have never met personally, but only mentally and emotionally, I can say my own past attention adventure, its end, and the gain since then.
However, my true inspiration is life itself. The miracle that we are there and everything else is there. As Wittgenstein has already said: "Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is."
And what role, function, task and ingenious work our attention is accomplishing in our life has interested me for 30 years.
About my vision. According to Germany's former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, everyone who has visions must see a doctor. Maybe he didn't mean it literally and maybe it's not true for everyone, but it is for me. For a long time it has been the case with me that life is here now. A vision may spontaneously emerge again and again, but I don't follow it, it would distract me from everything that is already there, and thus create a certain ADHD.
Therefore the saying of Confucius: "The way is the goal" would be closer to my answer.
Strictly speaking, it is much more important to me that what my condition is here and now in my life is much more important than the many possible and future arrival points. The more I allow or effect of what is right in my life now, in the right mixture and in the right priority, the more natural and automatic the path will be. And such a path, because it is right, is good and always leads to nourishing landscapes and places and springs. Because it results from a right state, from a harmonious way of being.
So if I can support others in reaching this state with my work, then that's wonderful.
It is about abundance, which is possible soon or now, not in the future, and without infinite action and doing. And it’s possible by the fact that the sources of the movement of our attention nourish us so that on the one hand we can rest naturally and pleasantly, and on the other hand our being active through naturalness and truthfulness reaches more completely the intelligence that has been waiting in us for long.