Applying Monotropism

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Over the years I’ve used many different lenses to think about and analyse the way my body works. Two of the lenses which really stuck where ‘autistic’ and ‘ADHD’.

Those are useful lenses, but coming from a medical direction they often end up with negative and pathologising language.

It’s taken a long time to find better lenses and with them better language to describe what’s happening without falling in to negative language.

One of the lenses I have found to be super useful is called monotropism. The idea of building life around a handful of things and recognising that I do my best when I can get into long flowy attention tunnels.

This gives me a useful lens for thinking about day to day situations in more positive and effective ways. Getting into, and staying in, a flowy tunnel is critical. Once I’m in a tunnelling state tasks just sorta look after themselves. I structure my life around tunnels not tasks.


A good example of better framing would be the topic of ‘impatience’.

It’s easy to look at something I do (like getting frustrated at how long toast takes to cook) and see it as a negative thing ‘caused’ by ‘ADHD’. A symptom to be managed etc. Thats the lens i used to use.

These days I see it very differently.

I focus on attention tunnels, they are how I get things done.

I often find that my focus tunnel loses momentum while I wait for things. If I wait too long, I’ll run out of momentum, I’ll loose my flow and the tunnel will end.

It’s not impatience. I’m trying to protect my focus & attention tunnel.

While something like toast is cooking, I’m not ‘distracted’ by other things. I’m also not ‘bored’. What I need is to do something which will protect the momentum I have so the tunnel doesn’t collapse.

This is much better explanation of what is happening. Rather than fighting my body or essentially gaslighting myself… I am kind to myself. My body needs the momentum and put simply, making toast is to damn slow.

The barrier is in the environment not within me. Other folks may be less impacted by the slowness, but for me it’s not good enough.

Over time i’ve started to understand how my body works best. I learnt that my tunnels loose momentum after about 30 seconds of waiting. I thrive when I take this limit into account and structure the things I do with it in mind.

Final thoughts

Monotropism and tunnels are a really simple lens with a massive impact on my life. It has the power to shape the language I use about myself and gives me a framework to change in my life.

I find it monotropism to be an empowering, practical and useful lens. It helps me to structure my life so I achieve the things I want to achieve.

Many thanks to the wonderful OT_expert on Twitter. A lovely chat this morning inspired this post. They are well worth a follow :)


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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