Habitual Responses to Expectation with ADHD

Episode 132

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Shelly and Cam continue on the theme of habitual responses by looking at expectations. An expectation is basically a belief that something will happen at some future date. You can appreciate how expectations may be problematic for those of us with ADHD – the delivery of something at some future point in time. Time estimation and struggles with activation go hand in hand here. So it makes sense we can develop some not-so-helpful responses to expectation.

Cam shares three examples – ‘running the flag up the flagpole’, where we elevate our own expectations and ‘do whatever it takes’; ‘bristle and defy’ where we reject any expectation outright; and an emotional shame response where we go to our one-down position.  There are more responses, and Shelly and Cam invite listeners to think about their own responses to expectation. Shelly, fresh from a Phish tour weekend, adds the colorful examples for each scenario from setting up the campsite to challenges approaching our Discord server.

Through discussion, the hosts reveal a useful process of getting awareness and perspective on the expectation, identifying our own relationship and response to the expectation, stepping back and releasing any attachment to the expectation, and then using the experience as a point of discussion to clarify and reflect on the experience to build a better relationship going forward.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly.

Cam: I’m Cam.

Shelly: And this is Translating ADHD. I’m fresh back from Phish tour, so I’m going to let the group coaching thing be easy today. We have two group coaching offerings. Registration for one of them closes very soon. Visit the website, translatingadhd.com/group coaching. Pricing, all of the information about the courses and how to apply are there for you.

So before we go any further, the last time my voice was a little off, our very sweet discord community noticed that I might be a little under the weather and wished me well and hoped I was feeling better. So I think it’s important to say that I’ve lost a couple of octaves, but it’s not because I’m sick.

It’s because I’m fresh off of a Phish tour run. So this is happy voice droppage, not sick voice droppage. I feel great.

Cam: It’s singalong voice droppage. 

Shelly: Um actually, no, I’m not much of a sing-a-longer. This is talking to strangers at rapid fire pace all weekend about anything and everything, and the amazing show we just saw or the amazing show we’re about to see nonstop. My voice is just tired. I think I talked more in the last three days than I’ve probably talked in the previous, like three months. Lots of words were said,

Cam: There we go. It’s a different Shelly.

Shelly: It is, it is, we’re still, we’re still working our way back into regular life, but also trying to keep the joy. You know, we all lost a lot in the last few years. We’ve all got a lot of grief, and we’ve all been pretty lonely with that grief. And it really felt good to let joy back in. Not that I’m ready to move on from grief, but to let joy be part of the picture too. Two things can be true.

Cam: And you also know what your reset button is.

Shelly: I do, and I missed it a lot.

Cam: Yeah, So this week we’re going to follow on this theme of habitual responses. Last week was habitual response or habitual responses to time. And we’re going to keep going in that direction. And we’re going to look at habitual responses to expectation this week.

Shelly: I love this topic. I was geeking out about this topic before we hit record. This is going to be fun. We think it’s going to be three episodes. We’re going to be on this one for a little while. So strap in everybody. It is a different Shelly. It really is.

Cam: It is. People you should’ve seen Shelly last week. It was uh,

Shelly: Well, we’ll get there

Cam: we’ll get there.

Shelly: bristling is actually an important part of today’s episode. So we’ll get there. 

Cam: We’ll get there. We’ll get there. Yeah, so actually I was thinking in the last week around. Okay. How can we follow up to this? The steam of habitual response. Like what else? In addition to time, and actually I have a workshop coming up in a few weeks and I thought this is a great opportunity to workshop this a little bit for me.

It’s like getting the language out, getting the words out. again, expectation. And so we’re gonna look at it in general terms and then Do a deeper dive into sort of expectations around work and expectations in personal relationships. But today we’re just going to take a high level view and start with yeah.

And these habitual responses to expectation. So I was thinking about three in particular and those three are in this, no real order here, but one of them is The running, the expectation up the flag pole is what I like to say. Do whatever it takes. One of my clients will say again, if someone says, Hey, can you do this? It’s yeah, I got it. And I’ve approached with that over-delivery whatever it takes. And so expenditure, spoons, whatever you want to say. We’re going to put it in and we run that expectation up the flagpole to 100% and beyond.

Shelly: Listeners. All of the examples this week are going to be from Phish tour. But they’re great. They’re great. So let’s talk about running it up the flagpole this weekend. And first we have to set the scene of two couples, comprised of four neurodivergents, set up a campsite together. We’ve got our camping stuff that we drove with. We’ve got their camping stuff, four suitcases worth that they flew with. And it’s going well right up until it isn’t. And the point that it stops going well is here. We have a second shade structure, but no room because Phish camping is not camping. Phish camping is pack them in as tightly as you can. You got your shade, you got your tent, that’s all you get. So by the time we get to the second shade structure, we have no room for this shade structure. 

Cam: so Shelly, excuse me. Just, what is a shade structure? What is that exactly?

Shelly: it’s a great question. So you are camping for three days. In the sun because it is sunny. Again, this is not regular camping. We’re in a field there aren’t trees. There’s There’s grass. The grass is really nice. You need your shade structure so that you do not wilt by 7:30 PM. When fish is thinking about playing a show, cause they don’t actually come on until like. something, you know, there’s ticket time and then there’s real time, but you’re trying not to Wiltz you got to have shade. That’s like the number one rule of camping at Phish is you got to have shade and we have shade for all of us to sit under, but it’s a little tight and now we’ve got this bigger shade structure that we can’t set up.

And it’s also a hard shade structure to set up because it’s designed to pack down small, but that means it’s basically a big tarp with two poles and four guidelines. And so my partner says, why don’t we pitch this one over our temps, which is a pro move, because then you don’t get the sun on your tent in the morning and you get like an extra 30 to 90 minutes of sleeping time, depending upon your heat tolerance. And if you got really good heat tolerance, maybe even a couple hours, because you’re not getting the sun itself of sleeping time before your tent becomes an inhospitable environment.

Okay. Okay. So here we are, we’ve got this really awkward shade structure. It’s got guidelines that are supposed to be run pretty far out in order for it to function correctly, no space, but it’s about the size of our two tenths. So it will sit up nicely over our tents. So we start getting into this project because my partner decides this is happening.

Now. The two of us that are ready to just sit down because everything else is done and drink a beer start wilting pretty quickly. Okay. I fall first, I’m sitting under the shade, the other realtor kind of stuck it out for a while. We’re swapping, I’m holding the pole for a little while, so he can get some shade and then he’s coming back and holding the fall. And our two doers, they got this on lock and still are one of our two doers is about to rage quit. when she is about to rage I will set her day, but with that particular friend is about to rage. Quit. It’s time to give it up. It’s time to say this was a great idea. It is no longer a great idea. Let’s just phone it in, but my partner is running it up the flagpole, right? Like, no, we’re going to get this done. We’re going to get this done. We’re going to get this done. 

Cam: Whatever it takes.

Shelly: Whatever it takes, Whatever it takes. And the three of you need to stop wilting and get back on board.

Cam: with the program.

Shelly: Now, at the end of the day, I will say the shade was really nice to have, and also that we could have lived without it. Two things can be true. If it was just the three of us, if my partner was not in that dynamic, we would have lived without it and been fine, but he was running it up the flag pole, whatever it took in that moment, we were not allowed to move on as a camp until this damn thing was up. And it took a long time because he had to shorten all the guidelines and figure out how to get the things secured in a pretty windy environment configured in a really sub-optimal way. And he did it only fell down once it only fell down once. So there’s, you’re running it up the flagpole.

Cam: Yeah, so want to come back to it and I want to share the other two that I see and kind of look at the similarities of. We’ll come back to that in the sense of, again, the mechanics or the physics of that experience for your partner. Right. And what was so compelling about that, Likely it’s that vision,

Shelly: And I’ve got that covered when we get to not bristling. What’s the other one.

Cam: Shame?

Shelly: Shame. Yeah. Okay.

Cam: Okay.

Shelly: we, should we leave that? Should we leave that in? We should

Cam: I think so. I

Shelly: editor. Leave that in, leave, leave all of that

Cam: Leave it in. Live it all

Shelly: we’re letting it be easy. I’m still on Phish tour vibes. It’s fine. We’re fine. Everything’s good.

Cam: So the second, habitual response uh, we often see is that, that defiant one, right? The rebel uh, breasts. Right. If there’s some expectation that is placed upon you, right? Whether it’s work, whether it’s in a personal relationship, whether it’s a, again, it’s this ask, we can have this bristle, this automatic habitual response It’s a demand and expectation is a in some way is a demand. And so that kind of auto response with the bristle.

Shelly: So Cam, for this one, I’m going to do this set up, but I’m going to let you tell the moral of the story here about bristling. And here’s the setup. For several months now, Cam and I have had a goal of revamping our discord server. And for those of you in the server, you’ve seen how that has started and stopped several times. And because, to put it nicely, I’m a little more tech-savvy than Cam, this is fully on my shoulders. I understand the mechanics of discord. Cam does not, and it’s becoming a massive wall of awful for me. I just can’t approach the discord community members. I miss you. Because I can’t engage because it’s just a thing.

That’s start, stop, start, stop. Promises are made. Deadlines are made. And then I come to a halt. It’s not going anywhere. And the lovely thing here is Cam and I have this dynamic of offering support. We generally don’t demand of each other. We offer support. How can I support you in getting this done? Or what can I alleviate for you? How can we make this better? And that is what makes this show work and has for so long is we have this ebb and flow of shifting around responsibilities so that we can both stay in our joy about doing this.

So cam now I’m going to let you tell on me.

Cam: So I’m here experiencing a different Shelly cause last week I think I may have even gotten a growl. I got a growler Shelly. I was like, you know what? I Not thinking that she needed the Phish experience or the break or the reset, but I knew it was going to help because. it was sort of a Hoth kind of, you know, again, wall of awful and like, ah, Shelly does this, uh, 

Shelly: I do, Cam, when I let go of the shade structure and went and sat down what proceeded. That was a, ah, I’m done. So, Yeah, Cam last week we show up to record the podcast. And we have a meeting before we do that, where we outline the show, we talk about anything else we need to talk about. And Cam ever so gently is, as his style says, Hey, what’s going on with the discord thing is there something I can do to support you there?

And I just bristled, I growled I hog and he was like, whoa. And I was like, I can’t even approach this with you right now. We need to move on. Let’s back it up and say, Cam, still trying to offer support, and I finally had to say, I can’t even approach this with you right now. We need to move on because I’m just in my bristle, we have to get off this topic. I can’t, I can’t be with it and I can’t be with it in any other way than bristling at it right now.

Cam: So then let’s talk about the physics or mechanics of the expectation there. Like, what was your experience with expectation at that point? Because we can look at kind of pre fish and post fish because you’re having a different experience with discord now, your re-engaging you’re like, yeah, I’m coming back.

And so. it was first of all, identifying that, but just take us back to that Graley moment of the bristle. And what were you perceiving about that expectation or that demand?

Shelly: So here’s what we were trying to do when we talked about discord revamp. Cause we were trying to give some more spaces for our community members to engage with one another without making it overwhelming. And we had some really lovely tech-savvy community members make some suggestions about adding bots so that people could tune in or tune out to certain channels and not get overwhelmed by notifications.

And so now that’s a rabbit hole that I’ve gone down where I’ve engaged a friend who knows a lot about discord bots to help, but it’s not something that I can just hand off to him because he doesn’t know our community. I can’t just delegate this job and it’s more complicated and more technical than I want to deal with because while I am more tech-savvy than Cam and I can navigate technology well, I don’t like it. And I don’t like having that be my responsibility. And so cam suggests, could we hand this off to somebody? And then he got like the double bristle of now you’re just pissing me off. Stop trying to help. We need to move on from this topic. So we’ve got this goal, we’ve got some very technical things that we’re trying to do in the server.

I don’t know how to fit the puzzle pieces together in a way that it’s going to work and be better than what it was before. It’s in an area that I don’t like working in any way of technology. And I just don’t want to touch it. I want to stop talking about it and stuff it back into the black hole so that we can record our podcast episode before I get too angry to do that.

Cam: Yeah. So then here we are post and you’re back at it. So what changed? what’s the change around the expectation? What’s your change? What’s shifted for you around your relationship with the discord and that whatever you want to call it, project tasks. Revamping. And what’s shifted about the expectation,

Shelly: Let’s start with the expectation because your final suggestion and wish you got the triple bristle. If we don’t move on from this topic right now, I’m leaving and we will record the podcast at another time.

Cam: like water on a rock.

Shelly: But your suggestion or your question to me was how can we let this be easy? And so we record the podcast. We get off and I kind of park, how can I let this be easy in the back of my brain because now I’m gearing up for Phish tour. So I’d already told you I could not do anything with discord last week because I was leaving for Phish tour and now I’m gearing up. I’m in a different Headspace. I’m letting go of that expectation, but not in a fraught way.

Because you and I are on the same page that I can’t address this until next week at the earliest. And so I just let it go. And because I let go, got out of Hoth, got out of my bristle stance, I was able to kind of get curious about how can we let this be easy? And then we show up today, and do you toss an idea on the table about let it be easy?

They put the last puzzle piece in there that I wasn’t sure how to do, which is if we’re not going to do bots and we’re not going to do all that, but we also don’t want 27 different little channels that overwhelm people with all the notifications, what do we do? And you proposed a beautiful self-put the final piece in and I was ready to hear it for the great idea that it was.

And it’s like, great. I have nothing going tomorrow but some phone calls catching up with old tour buddies that I reached out to after thinking about them this weekend, tomorrow is going to be a great day to handle the discord and I can get it done in a day. I got it. I got this.

Cam: So there’s a couple of things there that we can use and apply to again, the first one of running it up the flagpole and then the third one too, but let’s just sort of capture that in a sense of first of all, acknowledging or recognizing your bristles. Oh, I’m seeing how I’m responding to this. So getting some distance getting some perspective on this and then the release part, that’s the hardest part.

I would say with ADHD, your partner, who was then wedded to this idea, this picture of this shade structure and the way it would look could not let go of that. So that letting go and relaxing releasing, and then re-engaging at a more appropriate time when you have the energy right. To go ahead and look at it. The last one is And it’s not just these three, right?

So there’s the flagpole one. There’s the bristle one. And then finally there’s a often a shoe. Or one down response, right? If someone makes a request has an expectation, what we will do is have this emotional and one down response to that, a shame response, maybe even a rejection sensitivity response. And so that’s the third one and all three are possible.

We’re not naming them all. There’s likely more so listeners as you’re listening in be thinking about, okay, what’s your relationship with expectation? What’s your habitual response to expectation and the place that you can start to create some movement is exactly in Shelley’s example, right?

Is that she took a step back. And really kind of considered what was going on and saw that it wasn’t just bristling. It was a bristling stance and that there were other options there.

Shelly: So tying to our, the, of Shelly is camp at Phish tour. Let’s talk about shame. So we wake up on Monday morning and it is a beautiful morning. We have got plenty of time to tear down our camp. The contingent that we have to get to the airport has a really late flight. We have time and we take some time. We make a pot of coffee. We sit under the shade structure for a minute. We drink our coffee, we reminisce, and then we start to get moving. Now I really like to plan my tour so that I don’t have to move fast on Monday morning and not because I’m leftover, just because I want to relish the last little bits of the experience while I pack up and prepare to go home and we’ve got that time. So we start to pack up our camp and my partner starts running it up the flagpole. He pulls his truck over into the sun and he’s standing in the truck bed barking orders at people. And I am trying not to be shameful about it, but I started my period. I’m a little crampy.

I need to take some moments in the shade, the shades NAF bar. We got a tree not too far from our campsite few steps over into a neighbor’s campsite that is now also torn down. And I start chatting with our neighbors and I’ve got this bag. That’s not a normal bag chair. It’s a rocking bag chair. So it is more complicated to put away than a normal bag chair, but not that much more complicated.

I proceed to spend the next 45 minutes putting away this one chair because I’m chatting up our neighbors and we’re having a really great conversation. And then I turn around. And I see my partner standing in the truck bed. We’re almost there. Everything is almost put away and he just looks at me with complete frustration.

Boom. There was the shame. It was like, I’m so sorry. I’m moving as fast as I can. I got distracted. I’m doing my best. You guys are doing a great job. I’m so sorry I didn’t help more because our other two parties were pretty much responding to the barked orders while I’m over here, chatted up, spending 45 minutes putting away a bag chair.

And then one of my friends says you’re doing your role. You are our greeting and goodbye committee. If it wasn’t for you, if you were not here, we would not have known our neighbors all weekend. You were doing what you were supposed to be doing. It’s fine. And I was able to let go of the shame and my partner who was running it up the flagpole was able to calm down a little bit, come back down the flagpole himself. And then we had a really nice conversation about it on the way home, because he was pretty sunned and pretty hot from packing up the truck and he was tired and he said, can you drive? I’d like to take a nap. And I said, that would be great. I’d like to be alone with my thoughts. And then when he woke up, we realized this is how we deal with Monday morning. You run it up the flag pole, but don’t make me do that with you because once you get moving, you just want to get it done. And then you’re off duty and I’ll drive home. I got that part because that’s my speed that works at my speed.

Cam: So that’s an example of, again, looking at expectations is something that you can actually put on wheels and move around. it’s like a block of clay that you can start to shape. You know, That when that friend came up and said, you know what you are is you are our welcoming and goodbye committee that’s shifted the expectation for you, 

Shelly: For my partner, which was important to.

Cam: Right? So I think that as we dig into habitual responses to expectation is just to see expectation as something, not as this thing that is immovable, first of all, just start by noticing your own response, that own habitual response to see. Am I running it up the flagpole? Am I having this bristle moment? Am I having a shame response? And so what am I having this response actually, to. To start to put expectation in the middle here as this thing that we can adjust, that it might be actually a place where we start to engage with conversation, right? As you were going home with your partner, it was a discussion point. And it’s interesting how you see how needs are coming in here, right. of his need to. Run it up the flagpole in order to get things done, but then to be able to rest. But if we can start to discuss this and see these patterns, then we can start to engage with each other. That expectations are they’re happening, they’re there, it’s one of those dynamic things that’s always going on. And if we don’t pay attention to them, they’re going to happen to us anyway. And we’re going to have those habitual response. But if you see expectation as this, oh, it’s a point where I can engage in conversation. Maybe identify a need, or can we come up with an agreement like you and I did around discord.

Let it go, Cam, let it go. Third time. Cam, let it go.

Shelly: Yeah. Oh, it was so much more aggressive than that, but I can’t do it now because I’m not in that headspace.

Cam: And I was like, but I knew well enough. I was like, Hey, all right, I got the message. I got the message that we can come back to this. And also this recognition of offering support and knowing that the discord we’re going to address the discord because it matters to. That community matters to us and that the technical aspects are not really the issue.

It’s more about the community and a place for people to come together and create community with us and not to lose sight of that. So fascinating stuff that we’ll continue discussing in the next couple of weeks.

Shelly: Cam, I just have to add on that statement of needs. I said to you before we hit record that, one of the reasons that I love Phish tour is I’m almost positive that there is a much higher than average population of high IQ neurodivergent people on Phish tour. And that can be overwhelming unto itself with so many needs in the room and so many different manifestations of neurodivergence.

And so our crew. And this is all the way back to our crew has grown from two to four. At first, it was just my tour buddy. And I he’s a single Pringle. I’m married to somebody who doesn’t tour, but is happy for me to tour.

Then his partner joins us and now my partner has joined us, but all the way back to when it was two of us, rule number one is no dying, but rule number two, yes, rule number, what is no dying and safety for? We haven’t figured out rule three yet, but rule number two, and really the most important rule of our camp is we take care of the most pressing need first, because otherwise we can stop and logistics too long and try and get, figure out what everybody needs.

We take care of the most pressing need. First, if somebody is hungry and about to start having a bad time because they’re hungry, we’d go to shakedown and we get a grilled cheese and then we figure it out from there. Once that person is happily munching on their grilled cheese. And it’s just such an interesting dynamic because here are four neurodivergents. We only see each other on Phish tour because these friends live in Arizona. I live in Missouri, but we’ve been doing this together for so long, we’ve developed these ways of navigating. We’ve developed this shared understanding, co-created way of navigating these things that for the most part works. So the most pressing need gets met first. And the hilarious thing is when we least know what to do is when nobody has a need of any sort.

Cam: Nice.

Shelly: We all just stand around, looking a little confused. So listeners, thank you so much for allowing me to bring a little bit of my Phish tour voice and way of speaking into the show today and do a little story sharing. This has been really fun. And rather than asking something of you this week, I would like to reiterate something that I said that I think is really important that I’d like to offer to all of you. And that is that we have all lost a lot these last few years. And it’s okay if you’re still grieving. I know I am. It’s been really lonely, whatever you’ve been going through, whatever’s been hard in your life. In the last few years, it’s been lonely.

It’s okay to keep grieving, but I invite you to consider if you’re ready to open the door and give yourself permission to let joy back in. I didn’t know if I could do that with how difficult and hard the world is, but I’m really glad I did. Two things can be true. Be with your grief, be with the fact that the world we live in is still hard and it’s not getting easier anytime soon, but give yourself permission to feel joy.

That’s what made this weekend magical. We did this same run at the same venue last weekend, and I had a terrible time and talking to all of our camp neighbors and everyone else, everyone had that experience because we weren’t ready to let the joy back in.

Cam: That was last year.

Shelly: that was last year. We weren’t ready to let the joy back in. We didn’t know how to do it. Everybody’s still kind of used to being with their individual grief and it changed the whole dynamic of the weekend. But this year, we collectively let joy back in and this is why you’re getting this Shelly. So no pressure. We’re all on our own timeline, but it’s okay. It’s okay to have joy and to navigate the difficult world before us, you can do both. So until next week, I’m Shelly.

Cam: I’m, Cam.

Shelly: And this was the translating ADHD podcasts. Thank you for listening.

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Episode 132