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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Undue Attention

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 18, 2011

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Attention span is much in demand these days, what with the expansion in time we spend in school, at work, and in front of computers, but like all mental traits, from anxiety to passivity, it contains its own strengths and weaknesses, whether yours is big or small. Whatever your attention level drives you to do, then, (or distracts you from doing), don’t take it too personal. It’s not a failing or disability, just a trait, and if you can accept and manage it, you can forget about what’s in demand.
Dr. Lastname

Whatever I’m really feeling, I’m a boundless ball of cheery energy when it comes to my job search. Give me a likely prospect (I’m an engineer) and, within a day, I’ve researched the company and can send out a cover letter that’s more like a consultation, containing answers for questions they didn’t even know they had. I’m confident I’m doing a good job, but it’s really painful when I put lots of work into a possible job application, get an interview or two, and then nothing. My goal is to have these failures not get to me as much as they do.

As usual, the problem isn’t whether things get to you too much—you can’t change your sensitivity—it’s what you do about it. Lots of people get enraged sometimes, but most manage to stew instead of punch. And so with sensitivity.

If the frustration gets you to give up, lose faith in yourself, and stop searching, then it’s a problem. Then again, it may be a problem if it gets you to rev up, try harder, and come up with yet more solutions.

That’s because some people, particularly engineers, tend to get hyper-focused on whatever it is they’re doing. They want to produce good results–even perfect results–regardless of how much time they take or whether their work is getting a good response. They’re not that sensitive to how people respond, just to the outcome of their efforts.

If you think you have a problem with excessive attention and obsession, you may want to try my new, fictional drug Distractex. Just one pill can put random thoughts in your brain, regardless of how intensely you want to focus, so you can never lose track of the big picture. People who try too hard to concentrate in spite of the drug can experience “brain zaps” and even seizures, coupled with a lose of bowel control, until they finally back away and think about other things. May also cause dry mouth.

Seriously, you deserve great credit for your hard work and willingness to soldier on and, basically, you should keep on doing what you’re doing. Lots of people in this economy experience serial rejections and forget that their ability to reach the level of the second or third interview should not be a soul-crusher, but a sign they’re on the right track.

Maybe, however, you should also think of chilling your jets a bit, and listening more, before overwhelming your prospective employer with advice. After all, if they’re making a big mistake, it’s because that’s the way they do things, and they don’t want to hear anything from you that implies they’re stupid.

Think of your first interview as a first date; even if you think it’s love at first sight, don’t go right ahead and whip out an engagement ring. If you push yourself to focus on long term goals, not just the task at hand, you can get your EAD (Excessive Attention Disorder) under control, no Distractex necessary.

“I’m proud of the energy and motivation I put into searching for a job, and I’ll never give up, even though I don’t take rejection easily, but I’m always open to coaching and suggestions for improving my pitch and it’s possible that what’s strong and effective in one situation might be a problem in another.”

Stimulant medication performed miracles for my daughter, who’s very bright but couldn’t sit still or learn anything in school prior to taking it. Afterwards, she got a scholarship and pulled in great grades for about 3 years until, 6 months ago, she got hooked on computer games. Now, she breaks any promises she makes about studying and limiting her game-time. At school, she sneaks into the computer lab. At home, she stays up late and figures out ways to bypass the passwords I use to keep her out of our computers. Her grades have dropped and she’s become a total liar. Why have the medications stopped working? What can I do to get her back on track?

All addicts are liars, so don’t let your disappointment with your daughter’s integrity get in the way of what you need to do. And yes, you can be addicted to video games; they’re not as addictive as, say, heroin, but for your daughter, they might be just as hard to kick.

Many people with ADD are prone to addiction. It’s a two-sided trait; on the one hand, it gives you spontaneity and an ability to spot whatever is trying to sneak up on you; on the other hand, it makes you restless and hungry for distraction, and there are few things more distracting than a videogame. Medication can help control her ADD, but not the personality that goes with it.

You’d like to have a kid you could trust and you’re accustomed to thinking of trust as a necessity in your relationship with her. Well, you don’t have such a kid or relationship, and won’t anytime soon. Accept that, right now, and we’ll start to consider alternatives.

The alternative, as it is for all parents of children with addictions, is running your own residential program. Yes, I know you’ll tell me the kid needs help and it’s your job to find the right experts, but the trouble is, the experts with the most power are her parents. So grab all the advice you can get from the experts, but then prepare to become the in-house social worker (and computer commander).

There’s no trust to be had, but with a simple lock box and the use of laptops rather than desktop machines, you can control all access to games in your house; your daughter’s ability to break passwords won’t get her far if she doesn’t have access to an old-fashioned key or combination. You are king of space and money, at least until she leaves home. You don’t have the power to create trust, but you do have the power to create huge incentives and a large barrier between her and her drug of choice.

Be sad about the lack of trust or scared for her future, but keep your feelings to yourself. You’ve got a job to do, like a case manager, that requires tough decisions and a refusal to argue or debate. If you show emotion, she’ll see an opportunity to blunt your decisions. She can’t help it, so issue your decisions and keep communication and internet usage limited.

Keep things friendly. It’s much easier to stay friendly if you aren’t engaged in circular arguments or having your feelings jerked around. There’s lots you can do to help an adolescent addict if you know what you’re doing and aren’t too reactive to your feelings or hers. The disease here isn’t ADD, but good old addiction, so resign yourself to running a rehab until she can get herself back on track.

“The fact that my daughter is a game addict doesn’t mean I’ve failed; it just means that life is hard and she’s at high risk. I may not like the job I have to do, to help her manage her addiction, but I can learn how to do it and I think I can help her. The sooner I start, the better.”

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