Resilience and Building a Reflective Practice with ADHD

Episode 92

Play episode

Hosts Shelly and Cam continue down the road of resilience with a focus on developing a reflective practice. A reflective practice is a key element of coaching and an absolute linchpin in the action/learning process. Research in neuroscience and meditation shows the benefits of cultivating a reflective practice. The population as a whole under-utilizes this practice and those of us with ADHD can really struggle in developing a consistent reflective practice.

We introduce the idea of The Keen Observer, the objective partner to explore and reflect on experiences, thoughts, feelings and how we make meaning and form new beliefs. Cam and Shelly share simple practices to access this powerful resource and Shelly shares a client story where a reflective practice reveals not only a limiting belief but also a break through moment to a new opportunity.

Exercises for both Fast Brainers and Big Brainers are included with our new emphasis focusing on practical application of the concepts introduced in each episode.

Episode links + resources:

For more of the Translating ADHD podcast:

Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam. 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD this week. We’re going to continue on the topic of resilience. But before we do that, we want to remind you that we do have two coaching groups open for registration right now, the first is on the topic of resilience. This class used to be called navigating the lunch counter, and it’s the class that we just finished offering in the evening.

This we’re now offering during a daytime slot. For those of you who are international. Or who otherwise couldn’t make that late evening time work. That one begins September 29th. The second is self-care that’s back at our normal evening slots, eight 30 Eastern. And it begins October 20th. We encourage you to apply it early.

If you’re interested in either one of these groups as Cam and I really try and handpick participants that are going to work well together. So sometimes we do a little dialoguing with you upfront. If you’re not quite where you need to be, we can help you get there between now and the time that class starts.

So, Cam. Continuing down the road of resilience this week building on last week’s episode, where do you want to jump in? 

Cam: Well, We talked a lot about a reflective practice and the keen observer. So we thought we’d bring keen observer in this week and something you said uh, last week about showing the power and the value of showing up whether it’s 10 seconds, for that pause and that disruption or that 10-minute exercise, whatever that is. That was the triple 10 ascending that we introduced last week. I’m just excited to be on the right mic. This Shelly I think was like talking out of a tin can last week and so I’m back at it and in the booth, so ready to go, but yeah.

Let’s bring in the keen observer. Let’s look at how we can develop more of these practices around resilience, especially in the reflective practice that is so essential in coaching dynamics.

Shelly: Cam, I’d like to jump right in here with a client session from a few weeks ago. This is a client that I’ve been working with for quite some time. So she’s developed familiarity with being in her limbic system, her valley, her pool, whichever metaphor you like. What that looks like and how to have some self-resilience there, how to have a different experience, but this particular session she showed up and it had several pretty significant setbacks all in a row.

It was just a really tough couple of weeks for her in a number of ways. And she started the session by saying I’ve lost all ability to be curious or creative.

And it was interesting to me as her coach that she started there because this was the first time in quite some time that she was arriving to a session effectively in her valley or in her pool. With no sense of how to get out or how to get to safety. She genuinely felt I can’t be curious about any of this.

I’m just, here, I’ve shown up. And that is as far as I’ve gotten on this topic and even showing up this week was a monumental task.

Cam: do you think had her show up? Right. If she was loss of curiosity and creativity and deep inner valley and not having or accessing any of these resources to tether out in any way. But she did show up. So what do you think had her show up regarding.

Shelly: That’s a good question. And that actually came up in our session. So as we started to get into it, she talked about being the responsibility Hoover, which I just, I loved that metaphor. She was sucking up all this responsibility for stuff that wasn’t hers, some of which was forced upon her, meaning she had responsibilities dumped into her lap that shouldn’t have been, and.

She could choose to be angry about it or choose to navigate through it. And she was having a lot of anger about it in this moment because so many things had piled on in this area at once. And as we started to dig around there, we went back to the pool and we talked about the three stages of the pool.

And she got curious about. What does safety even mean to me? And that brought her back to very early in our coaching relationship. So this was a client for whom being able to show up fully and to be vulnerable was very challenging for her early in our coaching relationship. And in part, yeah. Because her last coach did pretty significant harm to her by telling her you’ll be my biggest long shot.

Cam: Oh my God. Okay. Coaches out there don’t do that. Don’t let 

Shelly: You do that. Just sunk. And she had shared that very early in our coaching relationship, but. It was our first couple of months of coaching that we were really cultivating safety within the coaching relationship. And so why was she able to show up because for everything else she couldn’t recognize, for her complete inability in her own words, to be curious or creative.

She trusted the coaching space and that resource as a safe space.

She just showed up and, cam I’ve said this in our group coaching several times when we’ve had a participant going through something difficult when they feel like maybe they’re not keeping up with the rest of the class because they’ve got a personal dilemma that was unexpected, that is taking up a lot of bandwidth.

When my clients are in that place, I tell them, you’ve already had a different experience just by showing up. You could have chosen to cancel. You could have chosen not to come to class, but you’re here. So let’s stop and celebrate that. And this particular client had that experience with me before.

So even in this really deep dark valley, she was in, she was able to connect back to that and she was able to feel okay. With just showing up,

as coaches, it’s our job to let the client direct the session. Most of the time to bring the topic, to tell us what has their attention.

But I think it’s really important, especially with ADHD clients to make it okay. If they don’t know. Where they want to go. If they’re just showing up and saying help, I don’t know what I need here. I feel like I’m drowning. Let’s just start there. 

Cam: This is reminding me of last week. You talked about exposure to new experiences from REBEL.

This is reminding me of ‘R’ of REBEL, right? Remember to remind the brain. And when I first developed that, what came to mind was a kind of the old country pump, right? The water pump that takes some time to prime and with working memory with those challenges. Allowing it to be a process to start to populate.

What are we considering? So I love what you did with her in the sense of acknowledging how she’s showing up and it’s okay. Number one. Like Loki a couple weeks ago. I love that responsibility, Hoover. Right? Who is that? What is the responsibility? Hoover’s sucking up all this responsibility that’s cause and effect work of pulling in all of this responsibility is generating emotion, resentment, anger, frustration.

All right. And so she slips on a banana peel and falls down into a, vowel. And is it didn’t have her safety line. So then bringing in elements of reconnecting, tethering, her priming the pump here of yeah, yeah. They’re here. This is such an ADHD thing is that we have these resources available, but they don’t populate.

It’s like a slow rendering, but if we take the time. and trust the process. They’ll come back and they do come back. So using the pool and recognizing there’s the deep end of the pool, there’s the safety place. And that’s what we’re going to be doing today is really looking at how do we generate a practice to move from that deep end of the pool, more to safety.

So safety was. I am not really appreciating what’s going on, but I can handle it. I can handle it. And this is where we bring in the keen observer, right? Developing this character who is on our side. We can objectively look at a situation to assess and observe our current way of being. This is so difficult.

When you have ADHD, when you slip on that banana peel and fall into a deep part of the valley or the pool you know what you’re reminding me of one of our participants in project X who was really struggling with working on his project X element, but he kept showing up. Through the eight weeks, he kept showing up.

He was relatively quiet and in the end, it was like, the doors opened for him in so many different ways of learning new knowledge. And it was him showing up being okay with not keeping up quote-unquote and that his word. What’s different. That’s the other thing is we come in and we’re like, okay, I’m going to do this thing.

When in fact, sometimes the work we think we have to do, it’s not the actual work, there’s often this pre-work or this other work that is available. And that’s what if you show up and you bring your keen observer with you, this. Is so valuable and this is why we’re focusing on it today. 

Shelly: Yeah. So Cam alluded to this, but I think it’s helpful to just overtly state or restate our pool metaphor.

So the idea of the limbic system or the emotional brain as a pool, And the three stages there, stage one where my client was when she came she’s in the deep end she’s thrashing, she feels like she’s drowning. This is a common experience for those of us. With ADHD. When we talk about safety, the idea is you may still be wet.

You may still. Be in the situation that got you in the deep end in the first place, you may still be in and out of your emotional brain around that situation, but you no longer feel like you’re thrashing. There’s an opportunity there to step back a little and to try and bring that keen observer into the situation.

Which is something we can’t do when we’re drowning. And then the third place is of course being out of the pool and oftentimes that’s what our clients think they want. I want you to get me out of the pool. 

Cam: Can I just modify that a little bit? Because got my triptych right here of know your pool, looking at it.

That third one is mobility. So it’s not necessarily getting out of the pool. It’s developing that stroke. It’s swimming in the pool and to the shallow end and eventually getting out of the pool. But it’s, again, this finding that pool noodle and its mobility and moving to inform choice, which back to last week with cultivating the emotional health ladder is moving up to that levels too, of attending to right above survival, above autopilot, to attending to.

Shelly: So let’s go back to my client and talk about where we went next. I asked her what safety meant to her, and guess what? We already knew most of the stuff that she was connecting back to. Room to breathe, not feeling emotionally responsible for things that aren’t. Being in a place of gratitude rather than anxiety and fear, trusting myself to solve my own challenges.

And then we started to talk about what it meant to cultivate safety. And she started asking herself some really great questions, is what I believe about this situation. Is there a limiting belief generating this mindset that isn’t accurate looking at self-care, my hungry am I tired? Do I need to exercise?

Do I need to find something fun to do? And as she was moving through what it meant for her to cultivate safety in a number of areas, it hit her all of a sudden. The enemy of cultivating safety is the belief that I have to perform, or I can’t have setbacks. And at this point, the whole dynamic of the coaching session changed.

She started laughing, really laughing, belly laughing, when she finally collected herself,

She said, do I think I’m not allowed to have setbacks because that’s effing absurd. That’s absurd. That’s so absurd. And here. Even more funny, I’m realizing that we just spent an hour doing the thing that I came to the session saying that I was completely unable to do. I just spent an hour being curious and creative about the fact that I believed that I couldn’t be curious and creative, so you can see the story arc thereof.

Getting her first to stop thrashing, getting to that place where we could bring the keen observer in. We could get a more realistic view of the situation, connecting back to what she already knows about herself. My helping her connect back to what we both know about her. And that shift into safety is what got us to laughter.

And holy cow, this belief is effing observed. 

Cam: I love, love, love this story because you’re articulating this whole process and how she did her own disrupt pivot, activate, and explore because it’s one thing to talk about safety. It’s another thing to cultivate safety. There’s the pivot. That’s the mechanism that is often missing in ADHD.

We get stuck in our modes. We start to make meaning in this mode and then it just heaps on itself. And because we can’t pivot and activate for task or hit the brakes and reflect what happens is we’re stuck. So the fact that she went from. Discussing reflecting. And then into this active mode of cultivating safety, all of a sudden, the keen observer steps in, and the keen observer, you can always tell when she or he are there because it’s about curiosity asking these curious questions about safety.

What do I need? Is there a basic need back to self-care back to man? Am I hungry? Is there a basic need that’s not being met? I love where you got to because you got to this big limiting belief around I have to perform and I can’t have any setbacks that statement. Is infused with ADHD, It’s all or nothing.

It’s very black and white. And then when your client, the two of you look at this together, Shelly, she starts to laugh because all of a sudden she sees the absurdity of that reality. Wait a second. I’m not a Hoover. I’m not an automaton. I can’t allow for any setback. We put so much pressure on ourselves to try to push through this moment and it all backfires.

But when we pause, show up, but step back, consider reflect. Go find those resources. They’re lying around the house, people, These resources you’ve cultivated. These practices you’ve developed over a period of time, step back. What is missing? What is that thing that I’m not tethering to right now that I need to my sense of identity, sense of self?

Seeing myself in the picture, going back to last week in the dog episode, I was tethered the whole time to my sense of being I’ll say one more thing here. Another fascinating thing that happens is with verbal working memory and non-verbal working memory. We’re not generating positive language.

So this is the value of it. Quick tap the break moment to consider your current way of being How are you making meaning here to take a step back and allow for that emotion to move through into some kind of. Articulation, whether it’s a picture, a feeling, a language, what are the words that describe your current situation?

And as Shelly did with her client Hey, let’s get to the safety place and observe from a distance. Is it going to hurt you? Are you in real danger? What is it that is real here and what is not, and can we just be here to observe. And learn from it. The reflective practice is taking that learning and applying it forward.

Shelly: So I think it’s important to call out that this was a long-time coaching client, and we had done a lot of work and built a lot of self-knowledge for this client and built a shared language around the pool metaphor and things like safety. Overtime. So this wasn’t her first time showing up to coaching in the valley.

Not by a long shot. It was the first one in quite a while. And it was a really deep valley, but all of the work that we had done prior informed that big shift. And I see that so that you listeners don’t expect that big aha. Every time you do this work, all of those things that she named about what safety mentor her, those were pieces of learning that she and I developed over time letting go of that.

I’m a long shot mentality work that we did over time. So this was really a culmination and a real pivot point for this client because two weeks after that she showed up and she said, I just want to recap the session because I’m noticing something and I want to share, she said, I feel like for the last.

Many months that we’ve been working together, you and I have been standing on one side of a very flooded, fast running Creek, and there’s no way for us to get around it, but to figure out how to do it slowly and safely the other. And today I feel like we’ve crossed that Creek.

Which, what a lovely metaphor for a client to bring to a session. My gosh, as a coach, that was so cool to hear. But then I asked her, what is the other side of the Creek represent? What are we on the other side of? And she said for the first time, in a very long time, I’m pursuing something where I’m in charge of the details, which is where she came to coaching, by the way, Big massive project that she is undertaking.

but the following statement was it’s scary, which it always has been, but I’m less scared now I trust myself and I’m able to trust somebody else. you remember. I said that was hard for her at the beginning of our coaching relationship. So she practiced that in coaching first and then started taking it out into the world. I know that I can show up on a consistent basis. I’m able to access resources and ask for help.

And I’m learning to detach from the outcome. I’m learning to let the setbacks be what they are and to be on this journey. 

Cam: Wow.

Shelly: Yeah.

Cam: Agency is on the other side of the Creek. agency and that powerful language. Now she has that in her back pocket to counter the old, remnants of you can’t have setbacks, you can’t go backwards. That is so powerful and you’re right.

It’s a process that takes time. I want to say a little bit more about again, what are we doing this week people, or let’s move in that direction. What can we do this week? The other 167 hours. What’s the practice here for you and Shelly and I are thinking that again, get in touch with your keen observer.

So it’s just that neutral party that is observing and not assigning meaning, right? It’s not judging, it’s not jumping to conclusion, which with our wicked fast brain, it can happen very quickly. We make meaning. So start there, Noticing your current way of being and. the meaning that you make in that moment.

So Shelly’s client, the meaning she was making us, I got to perform and I can’t have any setbacks. that’s in your operating system, that’s in your operating system, that’s then going to inform your behavior and how you show up. Now here’s the thing is that distinguishing big brain from fast.

Big brainers tend to get locked into a way of thinking. So they’re thinking and overthinking and ruminating and having challenges of getting into action or, so what is that meaning that you’re making in this stuck place here for fast brain? So often I’m going to stay in that.

And I’m avoiding tapping the brakes to reflect on a moment. Often the situation is if I tap my brakes or stop, I won’t be able to start. And that’s very true, right? That’s very real in the sense of having the ability to reactivate. But if you tap the brakes for a moment and just check-in, remember that reflective practice can be a very short engagement.

we bet you could come up with something in about 10 seconds. Hey, what’s informing me right now. Let’s bring in the keen observer and ask a curious question with this idea of where is safety, how can I cultivate safety this week? want to kind of set up a little stand here, a little bit of, a stage or platform above the fray, and just get the long view on what’s happening.

And don’t feel this rush that you’ve got to change it yesterday, because again, that’s impatience, that’s impulsivity. That’s disinhibition. That’s ADHD, breathe. Observe. And take note, and then that 10% piece, what’s the 10% that you want to address. Shelly had a lovely example last week, about the 10% solution with regard to organization to pick a corner, to pick a sliver to work on in 10-minute increments.

Shelly: Well said, cam and listeners. We’d love your feedback on how you’re feeling about our taking time at the end of a show to really talk about what the practice is. How’s that resonating for you? Is it helping direct your practice? What else could we be doing to help support you in using this show? As one resource to do this work.

I just want to throw one more thing in about the keen observer that helps my clients when they’re new when they’re trying to observe their behavior or their dilemmas in this way for the first time. I like to think about a field researcher. I’ve had several clients over the years that study animal behavior, they go out into the field as part of their work and study animal behavior and record what they’re seeing, record the data and then analyze it to see what learning or meaning they can glean from it.

That’s a really great metaphor for the keen observer. No, my clients don’t go out into the field to judge the particular critter that they study. That would be absurd. They go to learn something or in the hopes of learning something, advancing the knowledge in their field around. What they’re looking at or studying.

And so if you turn that inward, it’s the same idea letting go of the emotion, all the value, judgments, all the judgmental language, and seeing what comes out. And again with my new clients, when they tell a story and they’re in their limbic brain, a lot of times I’ll let them tell the whole story that way first.

And then I’ll ask them to try telling it again, using the keen observer. And it’s okay if you’re not perfect at it at first, but you get better at. Yeah, there’s a really cool point in a coaching relationship where I don’t even have to catch a client going into those harsh self judgemental statements anymore because they hear them and they say, okay, wait a minute.

Let me rephrase or reframe that statement before I move on without even having to intervene. And that’s the power of doing this work is. We’re noticing our behavior and connecting to it or noticing what our valleys are like and connecting to that, or noticing our dilemmas and connecting to that in ways that we didn’t before.

It’s just a different way of observing and a more powerful way of observing 

Cam: love that. And I want to add that ADHD is like an exotic animal.

Shelly: Perfect. 

Cam: Yeah, it is. And I think that, again, the meaning we make around ADHD is well, the solution be, should be simple. And we’re told that every day we are told that or advise that every day out there in the world, just do this. It’s simple. Just do that. It’s not so simple. Because it’s so unique, right?

Your color of ADHD is unique to you. And we are such believers in this, that Shelly and I have years and years of experience of working with people and inviting them. To set up a little field stand and to observe their add-in nature, to observe their own behaviors and how the add infuses and informs that moment.

This is the whole Mount Rainier model and getting to causation, seeing how all these different things connect, drawing that together into a powerful new awareness. Go ahead and say, no, thanks to that old awareness, that old thinking of defeated and down and one down to what is possible. So it’s an exotic and you can’t judge an exotic right out of the gate.

We’ve got to observe number one, that’s the opportunity. I want to say one other thing is. Like we do in our coaching and in our group coaching efforts, we always start with tethering to a bigger positive outcome. So two things here is, as you do this work, as you go in and start to observe with the keen observer, maybe something that’s hard to watch, go with resources.

 Go with a coach, go with a friend, right? Who’s not going to judge themselves. Take resources with you. Number one, number two. Think about what’s the positive gain from doing this hard work. Who are you going to be in the future? When you do this work today, it’s a powerful agent, A resource to tethered.

And it just lights up the positive side of our contextual wiring to think of the bigger opportunity at hand for myself. 

Shelly: Well Said, Cam, the one thing I’ll add is we’re not believers based on blind faith. This is informed belief. This is not a 

Cam: religion people. 

Shelly: This is. What the evidence has shown both of us doing our own work with our own coaches and what the evidence shows time and time again, doing this work with clients.

I can confidently say that if a client is coaching, If there’s an opening for change in their life, meaning there’s not something so urgent or pressing something on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that needs attention, something so overwhelming that they can’t attend to the work. So if they’re coachable, if there’s an opening for change, and if they stick with the process, I don’t know when we’ll get here.

Sometimes I’m surprised when we get there, that client that went in two weeks from we’re drowning in the pool too, wow. I’m somewhere new. She brought that to the session, not me. That was her noticing and informing me of this new place she was standing in. But I know that every one of my clients is capable of getting to that place.

 On their own time on whatever journey they need to take to get there. 

Cam: And it’s so refreshing compared to that your client’s old coach of you’re my long shot, which is. Just don’t get me started. Oh, I did. I 

Shelly: did it. I did it Twitter rants about that one a while ago with this client’s permission of course because it was sensitive and it was emotional and was something she needed to work through, but we’re there now.

If you like what we’re doing here on the show, there are a few ways that you can help us out. Number one, which costs you nothing, but a little time is to leave a rating or review wherever you listen.

Number two is to become a patron of the show. You can visit the website, translating Click on the Patreon link in the upper right-hand corner and for $5 a month. Only are you helping cover the costs of producing this show, including our editing? You also gain access to our discord community, where you can chat with other listeners and work together, be a resource for each other as you do this work.

That’s what that community is there for Cam and I are also in the discord community. So you’re free to ask us questions, directly 

Cam: Shelly, you know what I did this morning? 

Shelly: What? 

Cam: I jumped into the accountability channel and I put my own stuff in there and I was like, Hey, join me.

Who else has something this week? You want a little positive support around. And three people responded within 30 seconds. It was so much fun. So yeah, that’s where we engage. And it’s a great community. 

Shelly: Another benefit of being a patron, which is new, is we’ve replaced our live Q and A’s with live coaching demonstrations.

This was something that came from the patron survey that we sent out while we were on summer break. You all wanted to see more demonstrations of coaching? What does the actual practice or dance of coaching look like? So you have an opportunity once a month to attend those meetings, see cam, or I coach.

And potentially to be coached by one of us, if you volunteer to do so. 

Cam: Yeah, I did it last week. People, first one, it was so much fun. So yeah, on Thursday’s fourth week of the month, I believe at different times.

Different times. Yeah. There’s an evening time and there’s a daytime. That’s all I’m saying there.

Shelly: And of course, if you’re interested in joining one of the coaching groups that supports cam and my work here too, and it’s a way for you to dive deeper into these concepts, with our direct support, we limit those groups to 10 participants and cam, and I both. Show up as coaches. So you’re getting a five to one ratio of coach to client, which is unheard of in coaching groups.

So until next week, I’m Shelly 

Cam: and I’m Cam. Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. Thanks for listening.

More from this show


Episode 92