Positive Emotions and Positive Structures with ADHD

Episode 112

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As Shelly and Cam shift in the direction of the role of positive emotions in motivation and activation, they pause to consider the importance of positive structures. It’s almost impossible to embrace and utilize positive emotions like hope, curiosity and love if the signal of negative emotions, like anger or shame, is still too intense and if one has not considered positive emotions in the context of positive structures. Those of us with ADHD are masterful at responding and reacting to negative structures to create urgency and to activate an adrenaline/dopamine response. This approach comes at a great cost, though. As stress and anxiety build, our ability to utilize this consequence-based motivation system starts to diminish.

Positive structures are something Cam discovered in a state of burnout while teaching and again while building his coaching business. He realized that his fuel source of negative emotion and negative structures couldn’t propel him any farther. With little options he turned to being curious about bigger contextual questions and his bigger Why. This is the land of values, needs and purpose. Cam realized important personal values of learning and education and that shifting to a positive mindset and utilizing positive emotions started with considering positive structures like core values and positive outcomes.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam. 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD before we get started this week, a reminder that our next group coaching course is now accepting applications. That course will be on project X. For more information, visit the website, translating adhd.com. Click on the group coaching tab and class begins for that course on Wednesday, April 13th.

So cam, what are we diving into today?

Cam: So Shelly, wow, this is an and listeners. You don’t see what we do here. How we come to visit. This episode, fascinating process that I think that we could let people in on at some point to see our creative process, because it really works. And so just where we started and where we are right now is, is really fascinating, right. just in the last 45 minutes to really clarify what we’re focusing on today.

So what we’re focusing on today is, again, Opening the door to positive emotions. And, you know, we were talking about prior to recording, just whenever we dig into something, it just opens doors, opens doors. So we get into these other concepts big agenda values and needs, and we’re like, wow. This is like so much more to explore.

So what are we, what are we going to fit into this shoebox for today? And so what we thought was that before we keep going with positive emotions, we just have to take a side step over to this idea of positive structures. And Shelly, it had me thinking about my own experience with. Using emotion in my life.

And it’s like, again, listen listeners, like, why are you guys focused on emotion? What’s up with this? Just help me deal with my ADHD. Emotion and ADHD are linked in so many different ways and so much more than just regulation. Right? Emotion is about motivation. So, Shelly, I want to, I want to start with a story here of young Cam is becoming a teacher for the first time. The year is 1991. And guess what my motivation was for teaching. I’ll tell you it wasn’t positive. So, you know, We’ve talked about our own experiences in the classroom. so I got a job because I knew somebody how I got in the door. Um, but once I got in the door it worked and I was pretty good.

Shelly: I want to jump in and just say. That statement of, I got a job because I knew somebody that alone shows where your headspace was at this time. That’s very one down. For a lot of my clients, I find some of our early work in really learning to embrace journey thinking is reframing their career story up to the point that they’ve come to coaching, putting themselves in the picture and seeing where they were at choice and where they were revealing new stepping stones on their journey to step on all the way, because so often my clients do exactly what you just did. They describe something important that happened along the way as something that happened to them or something that they lucked into rather than something that they were a part of. So yes, you knew somebody and at that time it felt like you sort of lucked or sidestepped your way into this, but you were in a choice in taking this job. Sorry. Just wanted to throw that in there.

Cam: I love that. I love that sidestep there. Yeah. So true. You got me. Yeah,

Shelly: You didn’t know I was going to be calling you

Cam: tag you’re it, Cam. Oh, fell. I feel seen. 

Yeah, so the motivation was not positive. It was really negative in the sense of um, the statement, my internal statement was I’ll show you

Shelly: Ooh, 

Cam: I’ll show you. Yeah. I’ll show you.

Shelly: Who are you showing what? 

Cam: I’m showing my teachers how to reach kids now, and I want to be really clear. I went to a great school with great teachers and they were great people. Most of them were great. Some were not. And again, this is the seventies and eighties where a kid shows up. And ADHD is not a thing. It’s just not a thing. There’s a lot on uh, learning disabilities reading and writing disabilities, but on add not a lot. And so it’s that cumulative effect of being dismissed or fit into this box and not being able to fit into this box.

And so. I had a lot of emotion there that I channeled into. I’m going to show you. And that fueled me for about half of my teaching career.

Shelly: Ooh. Talk about what that felt like having that negative emotion, being the fuel to your fire.

Cam: Honestly, it was gorgeous. It was beautiful. Like, Cause it’s the elixir, right? It was addictive. There was, it was crystal clear. Was it good for me? No. Because that inner voice. To others and being critical of others then easily turned it scattershot to me. And I developed an inner critic from that anger. Right. So you can see how emotion comes into play and you just let’s throw in emotional regulation challenges. And so the spikes are how. The valley visits or the pool visits are deeper and not having those natural boundaries or stopgaps to slow myself down, I would go into right. And what was there?

Shelly was fueled to get up and go. And that’s the thing I would just want to make certain I got across today was we do what we have to do. Right. We use the motivation or fuel that we develop out of necessity.

Shelly: Cam you’re so right about the compounding effects of negative emotion. I have a client right now. Who’s really digging in and working on that self-judgment. And she too has that judgment of others and she doesn’t like that about herself, but it’s so interesting that when that’s on board and when that’s the mode in which we’re operating it’s judgment of others. And then 10 times more harsh turned around on ourselves.

Cam: Yeah. And again, to go above the lunch counter here, and a reference to this cause and effect dynamic, Being in a, an environment. Let me back up a little bit here. Okay. So again, what we do, because we don’t have an ability, I don’t know what the words are. the ability to create positive structures, we resort to what works, right.

We still have to get up and go to school you know, develop a lesson plan uh, show up and work, hit our marks. And so we find a way to be successful. And so, because we don’t have that ability to create positive structures easily with ADHD. What we do is we set up and react to our environment, right?

That whole thing of when we judge others in part it’s, because we’re wired for external inputs, we’re wired for comparing, how am I doing compared to this other person? Why is it look so easy for them? And it’s so hard for me. And so we resort to this reactive mode. And we go to our reflexive network in our brain, which happens to be the fight-flight, the negative neural network.

It’s a consequence motivation system. So listeners just give yourself a break, right? Cause you’re like, oh, I should be more like Shelly and camera. Oh, I should have more positive emotion in my life. You can’t really have positive emotion if you don’t have. Other elements, positive structures to anchor to last week, we talked about anchoring to a positive outcome all through these episodes.

We’ve been talking about seeing yourself in the picture, right? That is another positive structure that we can start to hang positive emotions on. And this is the interesting thing that happened for me. Is that I didn’t give up. I stayed in the game and kept teaching because I didn’t see another option.

I didn’t see any other options until coaching came along. So when I started to coaching well, then really the doors came off the vehicle because there were no external structures of show up at this time. It was just wide open. So it really, again, came to this reckoning of wow. Even my anger and I’ll show you, isn’t getting any kind of traction on this slippery ice.

So I had to resort to something else, and this is the fascinating thing that happened for me.

Shelly: Before you dive into that fascinating thing. Just again, want to point out such a common experience with my clients, where for a time, sometimes for a long period of time being fueled by that negative emotion works, but eventually for one reason or another. We’re going to tap out that fire is going to burn out and there is nothing at that point that we are going to be able to do to relight it.

Cam: Yeah. And that, that moment came to me in a parking lot in my, between my fifth and sixth. It was the summer between my fifth and sixth year of my second job. So it was my, between my eighth and ninth year of teaching. And I ran into my principal who was an amazing guy, like just brilliant, And there he was.

And I saw him and I, I came up to him and he was like, Hey, how are you doing cam? I’m like, John, I need to do something different than. I kind of like almost out of desperation, kind of just grabbed him. I still remember it grabbing him and saying, do you have something else for me? Because that fuel rod had been totally spent and I got nothing.

So I was in the midst of burnout, crispy critter. And looking at him and like, and he got to looked at me like, whoa, dude, I’m just out picking up some, some groceries, man, really do this now. but it’s, it’s again, that memory is so visceral for me. It’s right there.

And so he didn’t have something for. It was a small little school with a limited budget and really couldn’t move things around too much. So I had to, you know, either quit or keep going. And so it was that that keep going. I had to dig through find something else. I had to find another fuel source to be successful.

And so this is where. kind of a structure that we talked about in coaching, right? Our big agenda listeners, we’ve talked about the big agenda. We’ve talked about values and seeing yourself in the picture. And so this period of time, in the bright, big signal of this negative fuel source, this rage and anger and.

Contempt like I’ll show you. I wasn’t able to see what truly mattered to me. I wasn’t able to get in touch with a really important value of my core value. And when I considered it, I thought couldn’t possibly be that value is learning. I’d say education/learning. A big, big, big value of mine.

It fuels everything I do now. And it’s this powerful, powerful source at that time, I couldn’t connect with. Shelly, we’ve talked before about the significance of connecting to community and being seen as your authentic self and being able to put that mass down. This is another connection of connecting to something that is relevant only to you.

This is an internal element and begin with add we’re so wired for external. Incomings and you’ve talked about that defensive crouch. When you’re at the defensive crowds, you just like, look it out, waiting for some, something else to happen. So why could I not connect with education learning? Well, my record to that point as a student, Was really a contrary experience.

I was a terrible, student again. And, and I know what you’re going to say. That’s that one down. Yes, because if I go back over my history, there were moments when people would say something contrary to that, like you were the best student in the class. What I got a C minus, but I was the best student in the classroom.

What’s that about? I had to come to terms with separating my experience with learning and this value, collapsed distinction to kind of tug that apart and really think about. You know what can get me up in the morning? gets me up in the morning? Now, this podcast is all about understand, own translate.

It’s all about sharing information back to, I think it was Sarah our last week with her, letter to us, right? Her email to us about making a difference. What made a difference there? Information Accurate information. That’s going to make a change. That’s learning that whole learning process.

Shelly: Kim I’ve often talked to. How quickly you said yes. When I propose this podcast concept to you and what you’re discussing right now, illuminates, why, even though you are incredibly busy and you cannot possibly take every opportunity that comes your way, you know, which ones serve your big agenda and serve this value of education.

And this. Was an opportunity to educate in a bigger way and a more consistent way than you were currently doing. And that’s where that instant yes. Came from. It came from this value and knowing this value, Hey, it wasn’t a yes of knee jerk reaction or over-committing you have great boundaries. You necessarily have to, it was a yes.

So. Yes, this serves my big agenda, my value of education and fits in with what I want to be doing with my career.

Cam: Yeah. And you know, in my 20 years of coaching, what’s really interesting too, is again, I was reaching a burnout phase around year seven. And it was at that point when I recommitted to really a diversity of services, to really move in the direction of presenting, teaching and mentoring. So I still love coaching, but just doing that and again, having that impact with just one person now I know. When I train somebody to coach, it’s multiplying that whole education learning thing that there’s a coach in Wales, who’s taken one of our concepts from episode 14. Remember those levels of interest. We introduced in episode 14, Shelly, right? She’s taken that and has put a free test on her site with, you know, our logo and thanks to us that people can come and use that as a tool. And we’ll talk more about that when it’s up and going, because it’s just about to be ready, but that like, that’s the stuff, right? It’s like, your book project to make this more available to more people. My positive change initiative, right? It’s that hunger and desire to we’ve got this nugget of information and we, it’s just a matter of getting it out to the people so they can understand and have agency that’s powerful.

And right now I’ve got like chills. What is that? That’s positive emotion. That’s positive emotion that I’m able to hang off. This bigger structure of sense of self-value tethering to something that really matters to me, education and learning matters to me. Listeners. Think about what matters to you, right? It’s not necessarily.

Shelly: Cam, you said what I was about to say is here’s the positive emotion coming out right now. And the beautiful thing about that anchor is it is a fire that. Burn out, you will not reach burnout in the way that you did before crabbing your boss in a grocery store with this fire. With that being said, I think it’s important before we conclude for today to point out that this is not a magical elixir.

Or a magical fix. And so I’ll share something of my own that’s going on right now. One of my big agenda points. One of two, as relates to my career, is elevating the ADHD coaching industry. And the other is changing the conversation on ADHD. This podcast is currently serving that. My forthcoming book project, which I was totally not ready to announce on this podcast. So thanks for that. But now, I guess we’re big committed to writing a book.

Cam: Just nudging you out there. Nudging.

Shelly: You do, but to that first point of elevating the ADHD coaching industry, in order to be able to do that, I need to be able to do what you were doing, Cam. I need to be able to train and mentor coaches. And in order to do that, I need to be certified. Now I have avoided the certification process for a very long time because there wasn’t a compelling reason to do it.

My clients didn’t care. They cared about my experience. They cared about their results. They cared about how the coaching relationship was going. I never once had a prospective client ask if I was certified. So it is something that I never pursued.

Cam: Well, Let me, and, but let’s make a distinction between certified and training, right? You’re one of the most over-trained.

Shelly: Oh, for sure. Oh, for sure. It’s, it’s actually hilarious. 

Cam: lots of training, people.

Shelly: It’s hilarious how over-trained and overqualified I am for this certification now that I’m actually pursuing it. Right. Anyway, now that I’m looking in that direction, there’s a compelling reason. To do certification and still, and Cam knows this to be true because he’s been supporting me the whole way.

It’s been what, seven or eight months of slogging through this process that is intended to take maybe three or four weeks. It’s hard. It is really hard for me that bureaucratic mess of paperwork and documenting. It’s just a mountainous wall of awful. And there have been massive delays and massive chunks of time in which I have not moved that forward at all.

However, little by little, over this longer span of time, I’m getting there because there’s that fuel of the positive outcome. And while it’s not strong enough to incinerate this big awful thing, it is strong enough to remind me that there’s a bigger why here and that I want this as painful as it is massive as the pain portal is to get it.

I want this and I want what’s on the other side of it. And that’s huge. That’s huge, Cam. I started again, you know this because you were my mentor coach. I started the certification process two or three times prior to this and did not follow through this time. No matter the delays, no matter how small the progress is over time, I know I’m going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done because what’s on the other side is too important to me and my values to not get it done.

Cam: I really like you bringing in that story and talk about some vulnerability there. So as we wrap up today, listeners, last to be thinking about where I’d like you to begin is just to have some self-compassion, which is a positive emotion. I think what we can do is if we’re in a sort of vigilant state, we can’t leave our post.

We can’t give ourselves a break. You can. Start by giving yourself a break, stand up and breathe, right? That often the body mimics what the brain is thinking. If you’re in a defensive crouch, like waiting for the next thing to come in the next urgent matter to stand up and really breathe. Come back to that curiosity from last week.

Can you tether to a positive outcome. You can’t really tether to that larger one, again, just the end of the day, envisioning getting to a place that’s different from where you are right now. And then with that keen observer, to notice how you have gotten to this place. I got to that place in the parking lot.

It was not great, but I got there, and again, I was just coping. I was just doing what I knew I had to do because I didn’t have any other information. And so seeing yourself and what do you set yourself up to react? What are the emotions in play? Look at them from a distance because it’s really hard to insert positive emotion when you’ve got the big negative emotion in play, the anxiety, the worry, the stress, the anger. Okay. So standing up breathing. And starting to be curious about what you might be able to tether to. We’ve just scratched the surface here, Shelly. Right? We’re going to go way into big agenda and more about this concept of values and needs. Distinguishing them.

Shelly: Yeah. And finding your own positive outcomes to tether to This is all stuff that we’re going to go more into listeners. We’re going to skip the regular outro for today. And instead I’m going to go to you all a little bit for some new reviews. It has been awhile. It’s been awhile.

Shelly: and listen, we all have ADHD here. So I understand that for some of you, there’s a, there’s a wonderful intention. And a wall of awful and that’s okay. I’m not trying to push you through your wall of awful, but for those of you who have simply forgotten and there’s no wall of awful or any other barriers there, if you could please take the time to leave us a review, Cam and I are so grateful for those and they really are the number one thing that you can do to help out the show.

Perhaps number two, next to sharing us and sharing us often with those around you. So until next week, I’m Shelly.

Cam: And I’m Cam.

Shelly: and this was translating ADHD. Thanks for listening.

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