Navigating the Fight, Flight, or Freeze Stress Response with ADHD (pt. 2)

Episode 79

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As ADHD people, we pay most attention to the the things that generate the biggest signals. This week on the Translating ADHD podcast, Cam and Shelly continue working with the stress response metaphor we introduced last week.

We discuss how listeners can use this metaphor as a way to build awareness around the stress response and to leverage that awareness to have a different experience with the types of dilemmas that cause us to end up in fight, flight, or freeze.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Shelly (and I’m Cam) and this is the Translating ADHD podcast. This week, we’re gonna pick up right where we left off. So if you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, I encourage you to go back and do so because we’re going to pick up right where we left off in the scenario, which was with me in the pool. In my limbic system in this place of overwhelming stuck, the place that I first engaged in coaching with Cam, I had this pain caused by ADHD behavior that I wanted to be free from.

I want to take a step back though and talk about something we didn’t get to last week. And I think this is a good place to start. Which is what I was moving toward. Now, when I came to coaching, I was interested in what I wanted to be free from, but because cam is an excellent coach. We talked about what I was moving toward and what it was moving toward was a coaching business.

So there were goals and positive outcomes that we were starting to anchor to, even though I was still in the pool. And that leads us to what we want to talk about today. Which is pool work in the greater context of creating change, because it’s not all pool work. The pool is there. We have to manage the pool. We have to manage being in our limbic system, but it’s not the only thing that’s there. So, Cam, what are your thoughts?

Cam: [00:01:37] Yeah, I was thinking about this over the week and I wanted to make sure that we don’t just do pool work. And I think that a lot of coaches make the mistake of someone reaches out with like help I’m in trouble.

And the coach kind of jumps into the pool with the person. And that’s what they’re doing. They’re doing pool work and they haven’t really sketched out and had a sense of the framing of the bigger opportunity. So tethering to positive outcomes, even in that state, when you showed up and you were on your sofa and you could only care for your three-year-old, you still had a sense of the change that needed to happen.

The opportunity. And so if you had not been able to see that it would be likely that we wouldn’t have worked at that time. Now, also, I knew who you were. A couple of years before you were a student of mine, and I saw you. I saw you in action. I knew who you were and what was possible. And so you painted out a picture, you were sharing with me, your blueprint.

Of the atrium that’s over this pool, the pool is one aspect of your life, but it’s like, what’s around that. What are we building? I go back to framing out versus building facades. And you were doing some important framing or you had plans of, this is what I’m doing. I’m shifting from organizing to coaching.

Coaching is the way forward in this program. It’s about integrating organizing and coaching. I think at that point, that’s where we were. But you had plans, you had a vision of success that you were able to share with me. So tethering that tethering to that positive outcome is really important in coaching.

Shelly: [00:03:22] Cam, we did an episode on this, where we talked about the big agenda, which is what I call the initial set of conversations I have with my clients. Because when we first started working together, that stuff was there. You’re right. And it didn’t take much to draw it out, but it was not immediately in my view until you started pointing me in that direction.

All I could see and feel was the pool. So that’s why those types of conversations are so important. The same with our project X group coaching, we have anchored that group around project X. That’s the tether. That’s what every single person in that group is moving toward.

We’ve done pool work with people in that group. We’ve discussed things like limiting beliefs. We’ve had people have some major setbacks, but all of the work they’re doing is in service of moving forward toward this thing that matters. And that is where coaching is really powerful.

Cam: [00:04:29] So let’s go back to this model and I’m going to spell it out completely right now, because I think there are those folks, you know, they’ve got their piece of paper and they’re like, dammit, can you just give me the full picture.

So I’m going to give you the full picture. And it starts with this awareness piece that recognizing we have emotional needs, we have an emotional part of the brain that is susceptible to dysregulation. That if you notice that you snap or you just go to intense dark place, that’s the emotional part.

That’s deep in the limbic. And we have this sort of access point because the ARC pony is down there in that area is that we have easy access to it. So first of all, the deep end is really this just awareness to stop thrashing about. Because that thrashing often gets us in more trouble.

Oh my God, Shelly. I just go back and think about all the times I did stupid stuff. It was basically in this place. I don’t like this and I got to get out of it right now. And then I’d create so much collateral damage, like just tenfold, you know? And if I just kind of breathe, okay, what’s going on to start to have a sense of this.

We talked about body awareness last week, you know, the body is this giant antenna connected to our brain. It’s giving us indications of being there. If you have a tightness in your chest, if you have tension in your neck, it’s likely that you may be in the deep end of the pool. And to start to relax that and breathe, and just notice that keen observer and orient to this.

 The next phase is safety. And again, we made this important distinction. I can’t control this, but I can handle it. I think that that’s another thing that we do is we have a desire. We have a thought limiting belief that, well, I should be able to control everything or I should be able to control this situation. There’s an attachment there.

And so being able to distinguish. Distinguishing is what we do in coaching a lot. You talked about that last week is what you do with your clients is to distinguish what is something you can control, what you can’t so acknowledge this place. And the challenge just to acknowledge it, acknowledging is close to accepting.

Then starting to detach, naming the belief, the attachments you have here, and to let that go. That’s about distinguishing the subtle distinction between I don’t like this. This is uncomfortable, but I’m okay. And I can handle this. So that’s that safety level. And that’s what we said last week was such an important place where you can create new learning.

You’re close to that deep end of the pool, but you’re starting to get more shallow. It’s a great place to kind of notice, notice this cause and effect breakdown. A cause and effect breakdown is often we’re acting out of this really deep place of the pool, and we’re not seeing all the collateral damage we’re creating or we’re in a relationship with somebody who has ADHD, how they’re just making a mess of the place bull in the china shop.

Finally, the third place is mobility. Getting to this mobility and finding a pool noodle. To visualize positive outcomes. To discern facts and resources. And to ask this curious question of what is an informed choice and starting to move to this choice place. ADHD has us kind of go to a singular choice because of that whole prioritization challenge. So looking at choice as a positive thing and not as a threat.

Shelly: [00:08:22] Listeners. We’ve been talking about awareness a lot lately. When we talked about REBEL, we talked about awareness in a moment being exposure to a new experience. When you have awareness where you didn’t have it before, there is an opportunity there that didn’t exist before.

So that’s why like almost every other model we present to you, it all comes back to that awareness piece. So safety, Cam, I see, as that place, when a client does come to a coaching call in the pool, in their emotional brain, and we start to do the work of shifting into curiosity about the dilemma.

And it’s a really cool phenomenon to see. I still think it’s cool. And I do it almost every day of when a client starts to shift out of that fight flight or freeze and into curiosity. Even if you’re not on a video call, you can see here and feel the total demeanor change. So they’re starting to move out of the deep end, toward the shallow end, closer to the edge of the pool.

They are looking at their dilemma in a way that’s going to enable that third piece of mobility, because when we’re in that curious place, that’s when we can learn something new about this old dilemma. And learning something new about this old dilemma gives us things to try that we hadn’t thought of before. And that’s coaching.

So yet again, I know when we did rebel, we said this model is coaching, and now we’re doing this pool model and we’re saying, this is coaching. It’s all coaching.

Cam: [00:10:07] Yeah.

Shelly: [00:10:07] It’s all coaching. And that is the heart of this show as well. So again, you don’t need a coach to do this work. You can use this show as your coach to do this work.

And it all comes back to awareness. Awareness, awareness, awareness.

Cam: [00:10:30] And I think that when we get in that deep end of the pool, our initial reaction is to, you know, I want to stay here because you know, I’m in my righteous state of anger and it’s sort of flooding and Oh, what is it doing? It’s creating more big signals.

Of this is the way it is or it’s to get the heck out of this place, get out as quickly as possible. And this safety place is this middle ground. It’s literally your moving out of the deep limbic out of the peripheral areas of the limbic, where you’re starting to find language. I remember last week we talked about how there is no language in the deep end of the pool.

But when you start to find language and articulate, and you said it, this curiosity, and just sort of stand there and turn back and notice. From this close proximity, I’m safe. I’m out of harm’s way, but there is learning here. There’s learning here to be had. And I can I learn from this, throw down a little grit around my pool edge, so it’s not so damn slippery and have a different experience.

This is Mount Rainier, right? We get down into the Valley. That’s the deep end, but coming out out and getting altitude and coming up to, in creating this sense of cause and effect. What is causing this? That is what learning is. And this is how ADHD disrupts. So we’re going to get back to Shelly and the pool.

Remember we left you’re in the pool and I’m thinking there’s two responses out there that I want to address briefly. Then we’re going to go back to Shelly in the pool where she was. Okay. Listeners. So two scenarios that I think are opportunities here.

One is you left her in the pool. How could you do that? Talk about a cliffhanger, she’s in the pool. Well, yeah, she is she’s okay. She’s over there. Smiling. And so it might be that  you’re in your pool, you’re having a pool experience of being in the deep end. So just take note of that and to orient, to move to that safety place of, okay. I don’t like it, but I can handle it. And what’s the learning here? To turn back and look at that objectively, maybe with a friend.

The other one is, I don’t know what you, people are talking about. What pool.  What are you saying? And so this is this manifestation of ADHD, where it’s a challenge to access emotions. A complaint that I often see in some of my clients is, well, my spouse says I can’t empathize with their situation or I’m not available emotionally.

And so you crew, I appreciate you hanging out. And it’s really about finding your pool to locate it because it’s there. Do you ever have bouts of impatience or frustration or anger, rage? Guess what that’s you dropping into the deep end of your pool. Big signal makes things happen. And yet later on, you’re thinking, Oh my God, what did I just do?

What just happened there? So different scenarios to consider here and just be where you are be, where you are like, Oh my God, I don’t have a pool. Where’s my pool? Or, ah, I’m stuck in my pool. Breathe. Be with us. We’re here. And follow this process. This is understand own translate. This is it all the way through understand own translate, coming up to the lunch, counter, connecting cause and effect.

But as Shelly said, it comes back to awareness. Awareness can be painful, but also is you look at it with curiosity and forgiveness of yourself and others. There’s learning to be tapped there. All right, Shelly. Let’s get you back in the pool. I think we were somewhere. We were just dabbling. I think you were in awareness state and we hadn’t talked about how we got to that safety.

So how did we get to safety? How did you get to safety in that coaching process?

Shelly: [00:14:52] Good question Cam. And I’m not going to say that I remember it perfectly because my working memory is sometimes faulty. Shocker, I know. But I can tell you what it felt like. What I do know. And that is number one, you helped me anchor to when I had been successful.

 I was a little intimidated to engage you as my coach, because I knew the type of client you worked with because I had been a student of yours for so long. You work with leaders. I didn’t see myself as a leader. So I had this picture in my head of you work with successful people. And I, throughout my life to this point have been an abject failure. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go when we started working together. But you helped me connect to where I have been successful to get that more balanced view of myself and my life.

We started having humor in the sessions at that point. Which was a major shift. Our first few sessions were really heavy and I cried a lot and it felt like I was going to be in the deep end forever.  And that I just was not capable of success in the ways that I wanted it.

But when I started to feel like just maybe I could get a little traction, then there was humor. There was a little lightness and humor is one of my values by the way. So that was a big one. Being able to laugh about it, being able to step back and take the lighter view of the dilemma rather than this heavier one.

Cam: [00:16:34] You’ve got a better working memory than I do or that recall. Cause I do remember that the other thing was back to Hoth was to really articulate Hoth.

We talked about like, let’s decorate that ice cave. What’s here? What draws you in here? The mechanisms around it, of what closes the doors for you? And then finding and being curious about those mechanisms so it wouldn’t be this automatic process. So that’s that awareness that orienting and really kind of fleshing out some of the details there and moving away from the pain and the emotion to okay, what’s the experience like?

Shelly: [00:17:18] Yeah. Thank you for tethering back to that cam, because you’re absolutely right. That was our initial work was getting from the deep end to safety. Starting to learn how to get out of the pool, but more importantly than getting out of the pool once developing language and metaphor, that helped me more easily recognized when I was back in the deep end and helped me tap into resources.

So that it didn’t have to be this all or nothing experience of while I’m here, I’m going to be offline for a minimum of weeks and a maximum of months, because that was my previous experience. As you said, last time, right? The radio silence, I would go offline. And so we did a lot of work about what can I do before I totally go offline.

So reaching out to you and articulating that the doors are closing, new experience. My business partner at the time, giving this language to her, helping her better understand what happens when I disappear and go offline, new experience. Articulating to my husband at the time who was also a great resource there.

This is understand own translate. I had to understand my own pool, my own Hoth. What’s actually happening for me there. I think the most surprising thing to me at the time was that I have some amount of control there. Because the way I experienced it before was that when I’m offline, I’m just offline. And I just have to wait until I’m back online.

There’s nothing more to do here. I just have to wait until I come back online. So having that different experience of first reaching out to you and seeing what a difference that made and being able to not only not go fully offline, but then turn around and get back online pretty quickly.

That was positive motivation to articulate to my business partner, to articulate to my husband, to consider other ways that I might create pool noodles or safety rings for myself to get to that safety place more quickly and more consistently. To not let myself live in the deep end. To recognize that I have control here and I am capable of getting myself out of the deep end. I said last week at this stage, I’m mostly a self resource here. And this is after years of doing my own work.

Not to say that I don’t need other people, because I also said that here in this friendship and partnership space, you’re not my coach anymore. I will still sometimes send you that text when I feel like I need that lifeline. When I need someone else to know, Hey, I’m in the deep end and I can’t get myself out this time. Help me please.

Cam: [00:20:27] I really love that. And that’s so nice to hear. As you were saying that I’m thinking about another resource that we’ve alluded to here and that’s essential structures. We did an episode on that. I think back almost a year ago. And really it’s identifying of the pool noodles or resources, and then reaching out and articulating to them.

Your husband at the time, your business partner at the time to see them as and  identifying supportive people, identifying supportive environments.

Shelly: [00:20:57] And by the way, listeners, if you haven’t listened to the entirety of the show, I just feel like it’s important to say that when we’re saying my ex-husband and my ex business partner, neither one of them are exes because of anything we’re talking about here.

And they’re both still resources in this area. So I just wanted to toss that in for those of you that might be listening for the first time and going, Oh, these relationships failed. So it didn’t work. No, it did work. And these relationships didn’t fail. In my case, they just evolved and changed.

Cam: [00:21:35] Exactly. It was about growth. This is about growth. This is about honoring who you’re becoming and stepping into that. This is more about the blueprint, the big agenda. And stepping into the leader that you are.

I want to talk a little bit about the pool and just this idea of like, okay, well there’s a pool and I, and I should be just really careful about falling into it.

This is a part of you that deep end of the pool is your fight flight center and it’s necessary. So one way that the fight flight center activated for Shelly was to go into this Hoth place. To go offline and just wait. So it’s a necessary thing. It’s not about that we build a guardrail around our pool and never enter it.

Our emotions are important. Our emotions are the on, off switch for activation. And so this is really the deep part of the emotional brain and that not to be afraid of it, not to think that this doesn’t serve you. It serves you really well. Just in the last two weeks, I’ve been dabbling in my pool. And now I see it as a resource.

So the last two weeks, I’ve just not been having a lot of fun, Shelly. Because I’m in a situation that is really difficult. It’s hard to watch and I’m having an emotional response to that. And kind of in this place of not feeling like where is my control point? So that creates a little bit of a panic and I’m not feeling resourceful.

So all of us can kind of identify what I’ve done is line up those pool noodles, get a pool noodle and stay in this safety place. Like not just swim and get out of the pool and dry off as quickly as possible, but to kind of be in the pool and recognize, okay, what can I learn from this? What is my deep part of my brain trying to tell me?

 What it’s telling me is there’s a boundary here. There’s a boundary that has been violated and you need to reinforce this Cam. Okay. And this week after doing a lot of work and working with people and continuing to work with people, tapping resources, I’m in the shallow end.

And it’s fun. It’s actually kind of fun. I wouldn’t say fun right now, but it’s getting more fun. It’s getting more manageable. I have options. I have choices. And I’m feeling resourceful. That feels good. Just want to reiterate that it’s not about putting like protective crash pads all around this pool and guardrails and never entering into it.

This is a resource, but to be able, as you enter it to move through it with less thrashing, about, with less freezing with the less anger outbursts. To have that initial anger. It’s like, again, the reason we feel pain so we can do something about it. We put our hand on a stove, it’s like, Oh, okay, hot. What do we do?

We respond to that. And so being in the deep part of the brain is like the hand on the stove. And then we just keep it there. That’s not helpful. In ADHD, it doesn’t open that window. We go to that place and it’s really hard to see that safety place. So then we tend to stay there and then it gets reinforced by this negative thinking and sort of like someone pulls the drain plug and we go even deeper.

So just sort of noticing your pool, walk around it. What has you fall in? Who and what could be some pool noodles to help you in your pool management?

Shelly: [00:25:26] Something to add to that Cam is to notice how you’re showing up when you’re in your pool. There was a bit of tension between us when we recorded last week’s episode.

Just a bit, don’t worry listeners, Cam and I are great, but this is the beauty of two people that have done their own work. Is I noticed that and we talked about it and Cam came back later that day and using me as a resource articulated his dilemma and the fact that he was in the pool.

 And that alone started to move you towards safety. And this week, you’re showing up completely differently. I have the Cam I know and love back for all intents and purposes, even though you’re not completely out of the pool. This dilemma still exists. It’s an ongoing situation. But you’re you, and you’re showing up the way you want to show up because you were able to step back and notice.

I’m here. I’m in the deep end. Here’s what I can affect. And here’s what I can affect right now. But what I can do is I can get to safety. I can get that far. So awesome stuff this week.

Cam: [00:26:33] Yeah.

Shelly: [00:26:35] So, if you like what we’re doing here on the show, the number one way you can help us is to leave a review wherever you listen.

You can also financially support the show by becoming a patron. Visit the website, translatingadhd.com. Click on the Patreon link in the upper right-hand corner. And for five bucks a month, not only are you supporting the running of the show, you gain access to our Discord community, where our listeners are working together to do their own understand, own and translate work. Transcripts are now available for every episode, starting with episode number 74. If you visit the website and click on the episode number, you will find a full transcript at the bottom of the show notes. And until next week I’m Shelly (and I’m Cam) and this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening

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