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Willpower

Postby Tesseracts » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:28 pm

I'm reading a book about emotional difficulties in teens and adults with ADHD. I have found it to be a really interesting book so far. I wanted to post the section on willpower and ask what everyone thinks about it.

I almost titled this "willpower and ADHD" but it's relevant to many things which aren't ADHD. Even if you don't have ADHD you may have stayed up playing video games instead of studying, which is what someone with ADHD would do.

I have ADHD and my working memory has always been lower than my general intelligence. I have always struggled to reconcile the part of myself which believes I am intelligent with the part of myself which believes I am stupid.

Willpower is a thing which exists, but the way people talk about it shows a lot of misunderstanding. It's often used as a way to shame and dismiss people by accusing them of not having enough willpower. It's more productive to come up with solutions which take our weaknesses into account, rather than simply wishing those weaknesses didn't exist.

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Re: Willpower

Postby Marcuse » Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:00 pm

I've never been diagnosed with anything like ADHD, but I do absolutely recognise the description in the first part of that extract. I know I'm intelligent, and I am conscious that I can perform very well academically in the right circumstances. But those circumstances never conspire in my favour, which of course is the case for most people, and my actual performance is often lower in formal examinations than I feel my understanding would merit. This includes, during my A level course, times where my teachers were also convinced my work was better than it was eventually marked, after we asked for a remark because my coursework was graded at 50% when both my subject teachers advised me they would have marked it higher. I wonder if that arose from working with me and being aware of the understanding I possessed, and I simply explained that badly during my coursework.

I definitely got worse throughout secondary education, having been a high achiever in primary education. I often found it hard to complete homework and generally found myself frustrated by subjects I wasn't good at or interested by. Even when I worked very hard to address my performance gaps at GCSE stage, I still only managed a B grade at best in those subjects, and ironically things I enjoyed suffered as a result.

Is that a question of willpower? Well I certainly was, with great effort, able to overcome some of my difficulty learning. But I don't think I would have been able to maintain that level of concentration in the long term. Rather than saying that ADHD and willpower are antithetical, and one doesn't affect the other, I'd suggest that it might be easier to see it as willpower being a factor that might mitigate academic or personal drawbacks, but that the overall costs of doing so are so high that it would require such a degree of resource to simply will the kind of concentration a person without ADHD might bring to bear that it might be considered infeasible even if it were theoretically possible.
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Re: Willpower

Postby Tesseracts » Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:13 pm

Marcuse wrote:I've never been diagnosed with anything like ADHD, but I do absolutely recognise the description in the first part of that extract. I know I'm intelligent, and I am conscious that I can perform very well academically in the right circumstances. But those circumstances never conspire in my favour, which of course is the case for most people, and my actual performance is often lower in formal examinations than I feel my understanding would merit. This includes, during my A level course, times where my teachers were also convinced my work was better than it was eventually marked, after we asked for a remark because my coursework was graded at 50% when both my subject teachers advised me they would have marked it higher. I wonder if that arose from working with me and being aware of the understanding I possessed, and I simply explained that badly during my coursework.

I definitely got worse throughout secondary education, having been a high achiever in primary education. I often found it hard to complete homework and generally found myself frustrated by subjects I wasn't good at or interested by. Even when I worked very hard to address my performance gaps at GCSE stage, I still only managed a B grade at best in those subjects, and ironically things I enjoyed suffered as a result.

Is that a question of willpower? Well I certainly was, with great effort, able to overcome some of my difficulty learning. But I don't think I would have been able to maintain that level of concentration in the long term. Rather than saying that ADHD and willpower are antithetical, and one doesn't affect the other, I'd suggest that it might be easier to see it as willpower being a factor that might mitigate academic or personal drawbacks, but that the overall costs of doing so are so high that it would require such a degree of resource to simply will the kind of concentration a person without ADHD might bring to bear that it might be considered infeasible even if it were theoretically possible.

If not attentional issues what do you think was the cause of your difficulty? Emotional issues, or just regular boredom? Or maybe some skills required to express the knowledge didn't com as naturally as the knowledge itself did.

I think schools often fail to address the fact that someone may be more advanced in some areas than others. When someone has a difficulty like mine they tend to assume they must be poor at everything. For example I believe Sellers said he wasn't able to take the classes he wanted in high school due to his aspergers diagnosis. People with aspergers are known for high intelligence so this is a really bad policy.

This books makes me wonder how much of ADHD is really attentional and how much is related to emotion.
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Re: Willpower

Postby Marcuse » Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:23 pm

If not attentional issues what do you think was the cause of your difficulty?


I think it was a combination of factors. My school's pupils had a culture of not doing homework and an affectation of disinterest in academia that disillusioned me a lot. I'd imagined that a classroom with the top 5% of the region would be more committed to education than that, but it turned out they were mostly talented assholes who leant on their inherent ability and scorned hard work as something other people did. You were socially excluded if you completed work on time in some cases. The friends I did have were stoners and druggies and that didn't help either.

I can't deny that my really bad problems with depression and anxiety began around the time I started secondary education. Worry and concern to do with school was more acute than most because of my social status being decidedly on the poor side. None of that helped me concentrate on and feel positive about my academic work, which I'm sure affected its quality.

On top of that, I was one of those kids that everyone would describe as "no bother". I was quiet, unassuming, and very often ignored. When I struggled at something, it only became apparent when it was too late to address it, because I was too good at hiding things until it was too late, and nobody who had an adult responsibility to intervene in that thought enough of me to talk to each other until it was, again, too late. When I took a graphic products GCSE and did badly at it, my parents came back from their parent's evening furious, not at me, but at the teacher because he'd straight up admitted he'd ignored me and allowed me to waste my time during my course through nothing more than a lack of direction.

So essentially, I was good at hiding problems, scared of seeming weak and being excluded and nobody cared enough to look into why my grades were suffering as a result.
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Re: Willpower

Postby Tesseracts » Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:45 pm

I often had the same problem in school, I was afraid to ask for help. For example if I didn't hear the homework assignment, I didn't want to ask what it was because I was ashamed that I didn't hear it the first time. My parents wanted to email the teacher to ask what the assignments were, but the school had a policy against emailing teachers. At one point one of my special needs accommodations was handing me a paper with the assignment written on it, but of course many teachers refused to comply with this rule. All of this could have been avoided if I was interested in standing up for myself. I was discouraged at how many people faced my failures with complete apathy and basically said I should be allowed to fail.
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Re: Willpower

Postby Piter Lauchy » Sat Feb 27, 2016 11:22 pm

Like Marcuse, I've never been diagnosed with ADHD, but a lot of that passage applies to me, especially the part about not being able to perform except under extreme pressure (and sometimes not even then).
I've always had a feeling that it can't just be a lack of willpower/discipline, but at the same time disregarded that as a lame excuse.

In that context, intelligence is a curse. I've never had to actually work hard to achieve passing grades in school. They weren't good, but they were enough, even if barely. So I never learned how to study/work hard. This repeatedly kicks me in the balls now that I'm a university student, because intelligence alone just doesn't cut it anymore. I desperately want to change it, but I really don't know how. I always tell myself to just do it, to stop slacking off and to just fucking do it! It can't be that hard; everyone else does it!

But then there's a new episode of some show, or some topic that never interested me before nor ever will again claims my attention for several hours and oh yeah, there's that Cracked article that I've been meaning to read and hey, I haven't checked TCS for half an hour. Taking all those examples out of the equation would amount to nothing; they'd just be replaced by something else. Time I don't enjoy spending feels like wasted time to me.

Plus, if I actually do study for something and consequently get a good grade, my joy about it lasts for like ten minutes. I never get that achievement high that other people apparently experience.

So yeah, willpower and me aren't the closest friends.
The excellent article Why Procrastinators Procrastinate by Wait But Why is also relevant here.
So is this quote from Goodnight by one of my favourite bands, Dry Kill Logic: "How could I have a will so weak with a mind to strong?"
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Re: Willpower

Postby Tesseracts » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:39 am

I am chronically late. It's a huge problem, and I have had it my entire life. I was often late to high school for no reason.

Right now, in my art program, it doesn't matter if I am late. I'm in the Bargue drawing part. I'm almost done with the 2D drawing part, and will move onto cast drawing. I'll be drawing from a plaster cast of a statue. This is relevant because they have limited space for these things. I MUST be on time, or I'm taking that space from someone else for no reason. They wouldn't let me get away with this, nor should they.

I have been writing down my own attendance to try to hold myself accountable. However I am still late. Not just 5 minutes. I'm late by more like 5 hours.

It's a huge commute to school. It's over an hour and it's tedious. This is part of my hesitation. I'm never late for my online art class, because I don't have to leave my house.

Every morning I wake up and I just don't want to go anywhere or do anything. Every night I regret all the things I didn't do. I feel like there's something wrong with me, but I don't know what.

My instructor suggested I get my parents to wake me up and let them help me get there on time. It's true I often don't let people help. I don't want to need help.

I spoke to my therapist about this and decided to try to shut off the internet voluntarily at a certain time at night. The internet is a large part of the reason I stay up late and get up late. Although that's not the whole deal because when I wake up on time I still don't go to school.
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Re: Willpower

Postby jbobsully11 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:20 am

Would it help if you (gradually) adjust your sleep schedule so that you go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, eventually to the point where even if you get up later than expected and procrastinate a bit in the morning, you'll still make it there on time?

I can't guarantee that it won't also drive you insane, because I'm thinking by the time you're done, your biological clock will be five hours earlier than it should be, you'll be going to bed at, like, 8:00 at night, and then on the rare mornings you get ready and leave without delays, you'll wonder where the hell everyone is at what turns out to be 5 AM.
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Re: Willpower

Postby selena81 » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:22 am

My 'best years' were definitely as a small child, and that's why i think schools and parents should be very carefull when labeling children as 'smart' and 'dumb'. (i'm not saying we should embrace the 'special snowflake, everybody is equal' nonsense, if only because it just changes 'dumb' to 'special' to 'basis' to 'godknowswhat', i say we should honestly believe that intelligence-at-2-years-old is not a rock-solid indicator of intelligence-at-20-years-old).

Because the reality is that we all change over life, and someone who was succesfull at something as a child may not be succesfull as an adult (succesfull in things like math or sports, of course i'm not talking about succes at being 'a worthwile human being'), while many who are succesfull as adults barely even reached average as children.
The past is the past: try to see 'everything went so easy back then' as 'it is nice that i had such a good time as a kid' and not as 'omigodomigod, i am so totally failing at living up to my potential'

I know the whole 'hating to ask for help' thing from experience. I still have that. But i do find it easier to ask help from my family, and it sounds like you really would be helped if your parents would just tell you 'turn of your phone, time for bed' and 'you should leave for the bus right about now'.
Though that is assuming your parents are better with time-management than you are, which may very well not be the case. You do not need a one-time stern lecture, as you seem to be perfectely aware of your problems. You need someone who steadfastly tells you week-in-week-out 'it is 9o-clock dear, and you know what we agreed on'.

I can understand the idea of 'though love' when someone in your family is willfully misbehaving: at some point you need to say 'this is it, i am choosing myself over you'.
But i do not believe in setting ultimatums (not for yourzelf, not for someone else) when the guilty party honestly agrees 'i know i have a problem and i want to change'. In that case that person needs a combination of emotional support, financial support, and 'a good example' to show them how it's done. And of course some sympathy and patience if things take a while to get in the right rythm.
(i believe 99% of parenting is about 'setting the right example': try to give explanations for why things are the way they are, and don't feel ashamed to occasionally say 'this is the way i do it, but i know it is not right and hope you will do better', but *never* stoop to forcing children into 'do as i say, not as i do')
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Re: Willpower

Postby Kivutar » Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:57 am

Pure question: "frequent lying" is a symptom of ADHD? Is that your experience? How does that work?

Just something I never would have guessed.
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