The In-between Place: Untethered with ADHD

Episode 165

Play episode

To be untethered can mean a lot of things in mental health circles. Often it is referred to as one not being grounded or tethered to reality. With respect to ADHD, it can take on a whole different meaning. Ash and Cam discuss how as coaching clients unravel themselves from the react and respond mode of the Adrenaline Response Cycle, they can find themselves in a rather uncomfortable in-between place straight out of a Dr Seuss book. This is the place of lots of awareness and little change, and a place where many turn back from.

The hosts share how tethers serve to anchor ADHD individuals to strengths, values and purpose. Anchoring to a journey thinking mindset can assist people as they move to their more authentic version of themselves motivated by inspiration and opportunity. Ash shares numerous examples from his Purpose class on how students are developing knowledge without the destination of a clear purpose. Cam shares two specific examples of how this in-between place can feel disorienting for the Big Brainer (freefalling) and the Fast Brainer (infinite acceleration). The hosts share several examples of what listeners can do while they inhabit the in-between place.

Episode links + resources:

For more of the Translating ADHD podcast:

Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash.

[00:00:01] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:00:02] Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. I’m gonna start by saying my voice is a little worn out today. We actually pushed this week’s recording back as far as we could. So listeners, I apologize for the rough quality of my voice. I actually just got home from seeing five shows in a row, so my voice is a little weary, but we’re doing the best we can today.

And let’s go ahead and talk about group coaching. Cam’s Equanimity class is now full, but Project X is still accepting applications. For more information on Project X, which begins Tuesday, April 11th and meets at 8:30 PM Eastern Time, visit the website and click on the group coaching tab. So Cam, where are we going today?

[00:00:52] Cam: Oh, that’s a good question, Ash. Hi. How are you doing?

[00:00:57] Ash: I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.

[00:00:59] Cam: It’s been a bit, it’s been a bit.

[00:01:01] Ash: Getting back in the groove here.

[00:01:03] Cam: First I want to talk about Project X for a sec, and sometimes people can think about like, oh, I don’t necessarily have something special that only matters to me that I wanna work on right now. Project X is like our Agency class where agency is about bringing more choice and control in your day. And so Project X in a way is sort of agency with a specific application. And so just to be thinking about that class. Resilience comes after that. Typically, we offer that in June. So if you’re wanting something more general, Resilience is coming up typically over the summer months.

So where are we going today? Good question. You know, we’ve been spending a lot of time around that Adrenaline Response Cycle, reintroducing it to our listeners and looking at how do you get distance from it, right?

Well, first of all, orienting to it, the delay, the intense activity, the crash and recovery, and how do you get space? How do you get space? The dilemma of ADHD is navigating all these big signals, right? The pull of the big signal, the really interesting thing, the shiny object, the drama, the negative signals and the positive signals.

And so last time we talked about kind of practices to get some distance from the big signal items. And I shared that example of a client who was using day trading to really get insight into his emotions, and how he was showing up around the day trading and the FOMO, right? The fear, the absolute fear of missing out, the fear of maybe not participating in a trade, an opportunity, and just the data that he got from that, using the Keen Observer using pause, disrupt, pivot.

[00:03:09] Ash: And so here we are, Cam, with your client coming out of this very reactive way of existing, which is where our clients typically come to us, reacting to putting out fires, listening to the biggest loudest signal. And here we are inviting you to step out of destination thinking into journey thinking. But when you stop reacting and you don’t have a destination in mind, then what?

And that’s actually the question that we’re addressing in Purpose. That is what the Purpose class is really about – is what do you do when you don’t have a destination in mind. Because for so many of our clients, and for everyone in the Purpose class, it’s like if I stop reacting here, I’m coming up for air and I feel a little adrift. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what’s next. And in some cases I don’t even know what I want or what I’m moving toward.

[00:04:21] Cam: Yeah. So today we’re really gonna spend some time in this in-between place as we start to release and move away from the big signal and reacting and responding. And tapping into our fight flight center of the brain to get things done, using stress to get things done, using urgency to get things done, that it can be a little sketchy. We wanna kind of, as we release from there, we want to grab onto something else. And that destination thinking is still present. It’s like I gotta have a purpose, I gotta know what it’s all about. That’s what I grappled with for years, Ash was this. Before I can proceed, I have to know what it’s all about and guess what? It just exacerbated my avoider and not proceeding, pushing forward.

I love your term of pulling on threads, and that’s the opportunity is to pull on threads in this place between. As you’re moving from and you’re moving to that, there’s some things that we can do in this middle ground place when we don’t have our purpose, our meaning, our North Star big agenda, synthesized and identified.

You know, it’s really fascinating as we’re talking here. It’s so funny, people, we’re sitting here and it’s been a while. We’re like, yeah, let’s tether to what’s going on. And it’s funny, all this last week, I’ve been having conversations with coaching students around this dilemma that our clients face. And it’s like, as we have been meeting with our clients, they start to get some data. What’s going on ARC, ADHD, big signal destination thinking, and they start to fill their hopper of awareness of like knowledge, and yet they don’t have the practices to move forward.

And so here’s this really vulnerable place, this place in between you’ve got lots of awareness, and you don’t have a lot of tools or practices or ways to move forward, and it can feel scary. Your word adrift, the sense of adrift and highly aware, like too aware at times, and it becomes a little scary because what was, you know, kind of conveniently out of focus or you know, not in the picture is now fully in the picture.

And this is a place where many people with ADHD, they get to this point and they turn back because it’s like, Ooh, I don’t like this. this doesn’t feel good. There’s pain here, there’s struggle. And I haven’t developed a swim stroke here in order to move out of this uncomfortable.

[00:07:22] Ash: So Cam, in our Purpose class, the cool thing has been, I’ve seen people shifting from that awareness, almost too much awareness to some engagement, and it’s such a cool shift to see. And I’d like to give two very different examples from participants in that course.

The first came to the class feeling like a failure in his career. He’s an attorney, and in his words, I’m a bad lawyer. And that limiting belief of bad lawyer came from comparing himself to others, comparing himself to people that he’s known since law school who have gotten the high dollar jobs, who have made a lot of money. But as he started to cultivate some awareness, he started to see where his strengths as a lawyer are. He’s got this really cool opportunity to do some advocacy work, which is really where his passion is, and to build something from the ground up. And while he’s doing this, to mentor young attorneys, and in his own words, we need more young radical attorneys.

So we talked about strength and challenge being two sides of the same coin. Suddenly here is this client recognizing that the ways in which he is a good lawyer are just different than what is typical. And he’s developing this appreciation for what in the past felt like diffuse experience or not enough lawyering experience or not the right experience. Suddenly he’s seeing how his unique experience as him are ripe for this next opportunity. And so now he’s starting to take steps in that direction and pull on those threads of the intersection of his strengths and his areas of interest and passion. So cool.

Another client in this class came saying, I don’t know what my purpose is. I think it might be something related to career or work. So let’s dig around there for this client. Funnily enough, that turned out to be a should. I should have some greater purpose. I should have something bigger. But ultimately this client’s purpose is I want to have a family, I want to find a partner, I want to have children, and that is an important part of a future life that fits for me. And the limiting belief there was that that wasn’t an important enough or good enough purpose.

You know, he kind of joked that it’s like The HomeGoods pillow, right? The cheesy HomeGoods pillow. I know because his values, I forget what three they were. I wish I could remember, but if you just said those three, it sounded like you could slap that on a HomeGoods pillow and there it would be. Right. And he was feeling some kind of one down way about that. Like, that’s not valid or that’s not enough. And when he started to accept that no, this is really what I want and I’m content with my career, but I’m also content with career not being at the heart of purpose for me. Again, suddenly that shook loose all of these new threads to pull on in the direction of how do I move toward having a partner and having a family.

So two very different examples there, but both that highlight how these clients have started to take that emerging awareness and turn it into action. Neither one has a fixed destination in mind, but now they have meaningful threads to pull on and a meaningful direction to move in.

[00:11:50] Cam: And what a fantastic display of journey thinking. There’s journey thinking in play, right? There is this recognition of, first of all, noticing the destination thinking. Noticing the limitations and what happens when we have that destination thinking, as you said, I’m not doing enough one down to have this awareness of the limitations of that destination thinking how destination thinking is not helping me in this moment. So what can help me in this moment? And this is what’s so fun.

Working with ADHD clients is as coaches, what we do is we introduce these consistent terms and themes. I like to call them tethers, right? We talk about again, big agenda or values, needs, strengths. Roles that we play. And so the lawyer example, there’s that should, and that starts with that comparison. We are wired for external data and when we are in a depleted state, we are vulnerable to opening ourselves up to comparison. And as we compare, guess what? Here we are with this very different wiring and we’re comparing ourselves to a neurotypical majority. So of course we’re gonna look different. And different somehow then means I’m not doing it right. So then that cycle continues. We stay in that hard place.

And what’s so fascinating to me is as you’re talking about, we are talking about, people coming to coaching and where they can begin is moving away from ARC and towards sort of journey and what is possible. I see this with my clients happening all the time because they’re just out there in life meeting life’s demands and challenges and opportunities, and as you go along we get sort of pulled and twisted and distorted and we forget. We forget what it’s all about.

[00:14:08] Ash: Cam, just wanna hop in here and say, we also forget our role in our journey to this point. A big discussion we had in the Purpose class was that every person in that room, up to the point of arriving in that class, felt like their life happened to them more so than they happened to it.

So we forget those moments where we did have agency, where we were at choice, where we did put in the work and we build this story of, I don’t know how I got here. I don’t deserve this success or this title, this position that I’m in, or whatever it is, because it just sort of happened to me. And so one thing I love to do with my clients who have that limiting belief is invite them to reexamine their journey to this point and to examine whether or not that’s true, because that’s a story I would’ve told a decade ago.

Listeners, if you remember, I won my first coaching course. So in a way this did happen to me, but I chose to take the course and I chose to keep pulling on that thread, even though I didn’t know where it was going, because it was compelling to me. 

[00:15:34] Cam: This is all really great even in the midst of challenge, we can pull on a thread. There’s a thread to pull on. And again, this reconnecting our clients to their journey. Their strengths and how on the opposite side of that strength may be a challenge at play. The other thing is just, Ash, as I’m sitting here and thinking about this, it’s not like we can just sort of hit the pause button. Just like, oh, you know, I really, um, feeling a bit adrift, and I need to reconnect, you know, to my, uh, resources and what I know works in the midst of that adrift.

It’s not just that we’re adrift, I’ve seen two things happen in some clients in the last couple weeks. One is this sense of free fall, right? This falling, this, the bottom has dropped out, so you’re trying to like, you know, re tether. You’re in a free fall. The other is the uncontrolled acceleration. And these, I think, are absolutely in the realm of ADHD. It’s sort of like, again, even maybe kind of tethered to big brain and fast brain.

Big brain, we kind of don’t have those tethers, and so we open up a portal to the bigness of it all and feel adrift and just lost and falling. We haven’t found that hard to build that foundation, right, to reconnect with your analogy of the house and the structures, like where did I leave that it’s sort of been a snowstorm and where can I reconnect to that?

The other is, I’ve just had two conversations with clients about, again, where they lost their tethers. It’s like the big signal activated, some kind of flywheel or afterburner that just has them on some kind of rocket train that is accelerating faster and faster and faster, and it’s again, this sort of, I just need to consume more. It’s stimulating, it’s exciting, and it’s really hard to get off that ride and deny that intensity. It’s that you are having your experience.

So first of all, acknowledge what is going on, listeners. Are you in a free fall? Do you feel like the bottom’s dropped? Do you feel like that there’s some guardrail that’s missing? That all of a sudden your vehicle is now accelerating at an alarming rate and the only thing to do is to accelerate. That’s scary. That’s unnerving. And that’s ADHD.

If you first of all, take a breath and come back to these regular themes that we’ve been talking about in the sense of, again, these tethers, what matters. Take a step back to that bigger picture of what matters and what is here. Cuz we will often think, oh, what I need is not here in this moment. I need to get somewhere in order to get it and I need to get to a destination. But what’s available here to take that breath and slow that, slow that vehicle down, or slow the fall.

[00:18:42] Ash: Cam, I’m glad that you brought that into the picture because yet another Purpose participant is in that place. She is in the midst of a major life transition that she did not choose. It happened to her, and it is not something she would have chosen for herself. And that what you just articulated has very much been her work in this Purpose class. Sort of just reconnecting to her own who and also examining some of the parts of her who things, like relentless optimism that have been challenged in the wake of the events that have happened to her, and examining that with curiosity. So looking at what is still true about me, what’s maybe a little different than it was before?

And so for that client, when we talk about looking for purpose relative to the other two, she’s likely much farther away from an answer or even a good chunky thread to pull on, but she’s still moving with curiosity toward what can I pull on, what can I find in the here and now where I am? So I’ve said before on this show, I say it a lot to my clients, both private and group coaching, that sometimes just showing up is the win, and here’s this client showing up and doing the work of curiosity, even in this tremendously difficult place.

[00:20:25] Cam: Yeah. Curiosity and empathy. Right. Empathy for herself, that self-compassion, that grace. And in this place it’s like we want to grab onto something it’s very natural to want to hold tightly, right? Holding tightly is in the realm of the big signal and the fight flight and the ARC system, right? This place of vulnerability. And it’s scary and just wanna move back in that direction because we know it, it’s comfortable in a way. There’s, safety in that or sense of security in the familiarity of it But what you are talking about here, Ash, is this bringing curiosity is a relaxing of a bean and really witnessing what is here, considering reflecting, refining, distinguishing.

All these things that are out of that binary system of ADHD, of all or nothing, I am this or that. It should be here or there versus Wait a sec, can I weigh on this? Can I consider, can I reflect and I look at what’s happened and am I now? How am I changing, how do I need to change? To address this challenge or this opportunity, and this goes back to this self-awareness thing and this self-knowledge of learning about yourself and what matters to you. And all of you have your own unique makeup of what makes you uniquely you.

[00:21:52] Ash: Cam? I actually wanna share something that happened in the Purpose class that was so cool and has become a recurring metaphor that we come back to as a class. One of the class members shared that her favorite essay that she had ever written – and she’s an academic, so she’s done a lot of academic writing – but her favorite essay that she’s ever written was one where the professor said, you already have an A. Everybody gets an A. So just take this topic and do what you will with it. And she was talking about the freedom that already having an A gave her. And the context it came up in our class is around shoulds, and how we can get hung up on what we ought to be doing or what we’re not doing correctly.

So if that’s where you’re at, maybe try asking yourself, what if I already have an A. Then what would I do? Then what might I explore? Then what might I be moving toward? So listeners, I invite you to take that metaphor and play with it. What if I already had an A here? Then what does that free up? 

[00:23:06] Cam: We’ve talked a lot about acceptance, accepting where we are, and permission.

[00:23:13] Ash: I love that, and I think that’s a great place for us to wrap before the last thread of my voice runs out for today, Cam. Listeners, thanks for bearing with me today. Apologies for the rough voice. We did wanna bring you an episode this week, and we pushed back as far as we possibly could. So until next week, hopefully with a renewed voice, I am Ash.

[00:23:35] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:23:36] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thank you for listening.

More from this show


Episode 165