Locating ADHD Behind the Limiting Story

Episode 167

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Following up on last week’s episode of emotional autopilot, Ash and Cam explore some of the motivations for this behavior. We do what we need to to get through our days, and emotional autopilot is a coping mechanism for managing strong emotions and the limiting stories that can accompany them.

Cam shares three specific examples of limiting stories and how we can uncover the ADHD that is operating in the background. When we explore causation, we can start to poke holes in our stories that don’t serve us. Cam specifically points to ‘One Down’ or ‘I am not enough.’ The conflict avoider and the misunderstood rebel. Ash points out distinctions where awareness, agency and choice can completely change the dynamic for the better.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: I’m Ash.

[00:00:01] Cam: I’m Cam.

[00:00:02] Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. Quick reminder – registration for the Project X Group Coaching course, which begins April 11th, closes this Wednesday, April 5th. So if you were thinking about applying for that course, now is the time you want to get your application in by April 5th. And again, that class meets starting Tuesday, April 11th at 8:30 PM Eastern time. For pricing and information about the course, visit the website translatingADHD.com and click on the group coaching tab.

So, Cam, where are we headed today?

[00:00:44] Cam: So, Ash, last week we were talking about ADHD and emotional autopilot, sort of our tendency to partition our emotions because when we have emotions and we’re thinking about them or processing them, it is executive function intense. So instead of being confronted with these emotions all day and overthinking, over analyzing, over feeling, will set them and then be surprised when they come out and are not necessarily helpful. So today thought we would look a little bit at why is that? Why do we tend to partition them and not look at them head-on. And do a little bit of cause and effect work here to consider how might the ADHD come into play with regard to emotions.

You know, you and I were talking before the episode today, and how our clients come with a common story. We all come with different stories, but our stories are informed by our ADHD. Also, our story can hide the ADHD. We talked about how the emotions and the story around those emotions can be in the foreground, and that these executive function breakdowns are in the background. People talk about ADHD being this invisible disease. We can see that the external displays of it with forgetfulness and distractability, but that’s not really what’s going on. Our listeners know all this too well, but the experience is more nuanced than that. It’s easy to kind of like just set it aside for the day. So we talked about these three different scenarios, and we’ll introduce that today.

Listeners, you may have a slightly different scenario, but Ash and I were thinking about what are the three different scenarios or three different kind of presenting common stories, and then we’re gonna tether back to how ADHD may or may not be coming into play. Ash, you know what this reminds me of?

[00:02:59] Ash: What’s that, Cam?

[00:03:00] Cam: This is lunch counter. It’s lunch counter. It’s bringing me back to Mount Rainier. It’s so nice there’s many of you out there like, ah, great, Mount Rainier, yay. Or some of you’re like, oh my God, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not Mount Rainier.

[00:03:16] Ash: And if you’re a newer listener and you haven’t listened to our old episodes, you might be like, what the heck are these two people talking about?

[00:03:23] Cam: Yeah, so episode 10 and 11 are around the question of why is it that I don’t do what I know I ought to do. The universal question, part one and the universal question, part two. Episode 10 and 11 is where we lay out the Mount Rainier. We revisited in episode 60 and 63 of, again, it’s about this: We live at manifestation. We live in our experience and it’s very difficult for us to get to causation. What’s happened is Mount Rainier has developed into the three barriers, and don’t ask me where the episodes are for the three barriers, but the three barriers are awareness, action, and learning.

So, coupled together the barriers of awareness and learning kind of makes up that whole lunch counter network of barriers. It’s very difficult for us to get from our experience to what is actually going on. And this is the case here. We are beings going through our lives, and we have feelings and we have thoughts, and we have messages in our bodies. And we’re going along and can be at times hard to get to how is the ADHD actually informing and influencing here? And so what we’re gonna do today is to kind of look at, again, these common statements we hear our clients say, and then how it might be tethered.

So here are the three that we came up with: The first two are in the realm of one down. Right. That one down position of I’m not enough, so the I’m not enough. I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough. I should be doing more. Okay. That’s the first one. How that tethers to ADHD is decision making and being able to say no. So we don’t say no. And that’s tethered to executive functioning. That’s number one.

Number two is the pleaser avoider – I’m just gonna go with the flow. It’s just whatever. Fine. We can be emotion avoidant, I’m just gonna deal with that. So we just kind of go, we’re just gonna be in our boat floating down the stream and let that go. So no opinion. And over in ADHD land, it is having to make a decision there or to have an opinion to go against the grain.

And then the third, outside that realm of one down, is more of the rebel. You know what, it’s that I’m really misunderstood. People don’t get me. So again, it’s nothing wrong with me or the issue is not necessarily with me, it’s with them or the world. It’s outside of me. So to look and reflect, to think about how am I moving through this world and impacting those around me is, again, a challenge.

So the first one, again, one down. I’m not enough. I’m not enough and I’m not doing enough. So how many of you connect with that story? Is that a story that sort of is running as a narrative through your day? I’m behind. I need to be doing more. I’m not doing enough. I’m not enough.

[00:06:48] Ash: Cam, I would add to that first one that I should be different or I should be better. A lot of shoulds, right, along with that one. About who we think we’re supposed to be and who we think we’re not being. And this one, I would say, is the most common when a client comes to coaching. This manifestation of one down.

And the interesting thing is, is when we get under the hood with a client, how do we have a different experience here? We start to examine those stories because when the emotion comes up of guilt or shame, that’s real, or it feels real in our bodies. But the storytelling behind that emotion may not be real for any number of reasons. Whether we’re being the blame sponge and we’re taking on all of the blame for everything that isn’t going right in our lives, and we’re failing to distinguish whether we are playing up our shortcomings and our challenges and downplaying our strengths. and our successes.

And so getting in under the hood and starting to distinguish out what is yours to own here and what’s not, where are you being successful? Where are your strengths showing up? And not as a way to ignore or diminish challenge, but to put those things on an equal playing field. To see that you are more than the challenges that you are having, and you’re likely contributing and doing more than you see or than you’re aware of. Because this particular manifestation works because we only pay attention to the big negative signal.

[00:08:49] Cam: Right. And that’s a really good place to look at is as we said last week, are these negative signals, these negative stories get our attention. They’re more powerful than kind of thinking about our strengths. So this is why when people come, they’ve signed up for ADHD coaching, but they’re not necessarily thinking about ADHD, they’re thinking about the pain point, and they’re thinking about the change that needs to happen.

So as coaches, we start to introduce this piece around ADHD and how ADHD might be showing up, cuz that starts to inform our story, that sense of understand, own, translate. This understanding of, again, here we’ve got this big signal. Number one, that our brains will turn up the negative story to drown out everything else at the same time. It has us not see ourselves in the picture. So right there, when I introduce that to clients of like, okay, cognitively this is happening where the signal gets ratcheted up, and your ability to see yourself in the picture drops, it’s no wonder that you think that it’s a matter of I have to reinvent. I’ve gotta reinvent. I’m not good enough. I need to be different. Being different, that’s exciting. Hey, clean slate. Right? Way back to clean slate of, I’m just gonna, just a do over here. Let’s just completely do over here. How many of us have sort of like, I’m just gonna do that clean slate thing.

So, this is destination thinking, too. So there’s all kinds of stuff that are coming into play and that is happening at causation, that is informing our story. And when we start to look at this and consider, oh, there’s some cognitive stuff going on that is informing and in influencing, then we can start to, break down the power of that and think about other things. Cuz that’s the other thing, is we will hyper focus on this story and then we will use our high contextual brain to reinforce the meaning of that story. We’ll go seek evidence that reinforces that story. So the other part of that story, that big signal boost. Plus we diminish the ability to see ourselves in the picture.

That’s that executive function piece that’s at play, just as you’re talking Ash, I’m thinking about my big idea generator. It’s like I gotta do more. One thing is I’m inundated with new ideas. They just come funneling in. I could do this, I could do this, I could do this, I could do this. Again, that big idea generator also coupled with really this inability to see how long something takes, right? It’s the estimation of that investment, and it’s sort of like I have to trust that this idea, this neat little idea that is a big signal. It’s what kind of commitment is that gonna be? Do I really wanna set aside all of the other things that I’m doing, right? Again, that new idea comes in, and all the other things that I’m doing have diminished in significance and importance. And that’s why in coaching we always come back to, again, what are your strengths? What are those relevant completions that did happen this week? Because we often get focused on what didn’t happen.

So listeners, are you starting to appreciate is that as we consider how the ADHD comes into play, then it informs and we can start to poke holes in that story, right? We’ve got to start to kind of question that and not take it at face value that, oh yes, this is the way it is, right? I’m not enough, therefore I need to do more. Or how I’m showing up is no good. Therefore, I need to be different.

[00:12:57] Ash: And when we start to poke some holes in that story, we can have a different experience with the emotion the next time it comes flooding in that same guilt or shame. There’s the opportunity to pause and to recognize that while that emotion may feel real, the storytelling behind it isn’t so real. And that pause point, I’ve said it many times on this show, but I’ll say it again, that’s the most important piece because until we can pause and be aware in the moment that that’s what’s happening, there’s no opportunity to have a different experience. But once we get that far, I would venture to say, Cam, that learning to disrupt and pivot to a new experience, that’s the easier step.

[00:13:48] Cam: And I think that many people in our group coaching classes, they’re coming with these ideas of change and they’re looking at all the things that are on the outside, the external behaviors. And it’s a really important distinction here, is in order to have change there and these external behaviors of, you know, paying your taxes on time or, being able to say no to somebody. That’s an external behavior. It’s informed by that pause to say, wait a second, am I seeing myself in the picture? Am I responding to a big signal to just sort of be there for a moment? And it’s hard because guess what? That’s ADHD, too, that impulsivity. The inability to stop and respond to an immediate signal, but we just have to prop it open just for a moment. It can be a half a second just to sort of say, wait a second, do I need to respond right away? That’s the other thing, is that we put a lot on our ability to respond quickly. Again, we can do that and turn that into a strength, but also look at it when it’s not necessarily in your best interest.

Let’s go ahead and move on to the other two because this is really interesting. So the second one was around, again, in the same category of one down is the pleaser avoider, right? So, oh boy do I know this one.

Ash: Isn’t that two of your three saboteurs, Cam, is the Pleaser and Avoider?

Cam: Yeah. And, oh, victim. Yeah, the victim. Yeah. It’s the brutal trifecta. So pleaser, avoider, again, it’s sort of like to have an opinion in that moment. Again, it’s like, um, oh, I’ll just go with the right. Or, you know, it’s easier to take care of others people’s needs than my own. You know, I really like helping people out, right? So there’s that story around that and we can, we’re gonna put the sort of the best dressing on that. But if we look back to the executive function areas that inform that experience or that. It’s that we’re delaying a decision. We’re delaying an opinion. And if we have an opinion, what happens? People say, can you back that up? So backing that up means we have to retrieve data and information. Working memory, long-term memory.

Verbal and non-verbal working memory sort of pull that stuff together and present our case that’s intensive in an executive function way. So what did I do if I didn’t have to, I didn’t do it cuz all I’m doing is trying to preserve bandwidth through my day and keep my decision making. Or again, keeping that prefrontal cortex on ice a bit. because if I overtaxed it, then I became just a reactive feral animal and I was like, what did I agree to now? So it’s sort of like, I’m just gonna go with the flow. Yeah. That might be part of your personality, be who you are. That’s fine. But it’s looking at, okay, how might my ADHD be coming in and informing this situation?

[00:17:07] Ash: Cam, I wanted to sort of distinguish out going with the flow in the way that we’re talking about it and in a way that it can be helpful. Because what you are talking about is the absence of putting yourself in the picture and having any agency. You’re effectively giving up your agency by way of not participating in decision making when that decision making might affect you.

Now, I will say that I am a person that does like to go with the flow and likes to reduce as much friction in my life as possible. But the difference there is, I’m at choice when I’m choosing what to engage with or what not to engage with, what needs my input to make a decision and what doesn’t, what I need to be involved with or what I can delegate.

There’s something that ADHD people have a hard time with and that I used to have a hard time with, but the way that I make delegating decisions now is by distinguishing what do I need or want to have my hands in? What needs to be me involved and what doesn’t? What can I put enough trust in someone else to do well enough or possibly to do better than I could ever do it? See also editing this show, which is something that we delegated. So listeners, it’s not that you have to go the other way and have a stance on every little thing.

[00:18:39] Cam: Right. Yeah. 

[00:18:41] Ash: From going with the flow to stopping the flow, as it were. That sounds terrible. It’s about agency and being at choice. Are you going with the flow because you’re choosing to go with the flow, or are you going with the flow because you’re avoiding being seen, avoiding having an opinion, avoiding making a decision?

[00:19:01] Cam: Yeah. And also that’s informed by your awareness, right? Your work on those two barriers. Awareness and learning. So you were editing this podcast, you were doing that and it was like, you know what? I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to do this. My strength is showing up on the mics, and we have the resources to hire somebody to do that editing.

[00:19:29] Ash: Thank you patrons for that, by the way.

[00:19:32] Cam: Yeah. Thank you patrons very much. But taking that learning from that experience and bringing it into your awareness so that in the future then this is perspective. Before you say yes to something, it’s like, wait a sec, do I have to do this? What are my resources? As you said, what are my needs? You’re considering needs, resources. Is this in my wheelhouse at choice with agency? So there’s a real shift there and starting with seeing yourself in the picture. I have needs that are worthwhile. And, listeners, starting to think of that.

So quickly, I know we’re running out of time, but we’ll just pivot to the last one here, which is, again, it’s a little bit different than the first two, but nonetheless, it is often a story that we hear. And I’ll hear this actually from my entrepreneur, business owner clients, sort of like they’ve kind of made a world that responds to them. Sort of people work for them, and sort of when they go into their personal life, they’re kind of amazed that people are not like working for them. Like their partner, right. So it’s just sort of like, I’m just misunderstood, you know. Really, it’s just you are misunderstood, and you need to get on board with my agenda. And I would say, there’s an empathy piece there, right? Of pausing to consider and really think about the other person’s come from story situation. What are their needs?

[00:21:05] Ash: I’m like the second one. I think this one is worth distinguishing because people with ADHD are often misunderstood.

[00:21:14] Cam: Yes.

[00:21:15] Ash: Difference here is lack of awareness versus awareness. So in your example, your clients are just not aware. They are responded to one way in their working life, and they are not aware of how they are showing up at home with the expectation that friends, family members, loved ones will show up similarly. They don’t understand why things aren’t working or what their role in that is different.

But that’s not to say that ADHD people aren’t genuinely often misunderstood. The difference is there is an awareness piece. An awareness not just of the other person and how they’re perceiving you and how your actions might cause others to draw incorrect conclusions, but also an awareness about how you are showing up and what your role is in that, even if it’s not necessarily quote unquote fair or accurate. What other people are coming to. Introspection there, and there’s an understanding of one’s own role and how one’s own ADHD is part of that mix. So there’s an element of ownership there, I guess would be the best way to say it. That’s lacking showing up the way that you’re describing for your clients.

So again, not to say, listeners, that we’re never misunderstood. The difference here is critical awareness. Being misunderstood is a story without any distinction.

[00:22:53] Cam: Yeah. And to tether back to executive function piece here around my distinction of misunderstood is being able to, again, access emotions, right? Empathy is emotion, and that we can kind of like just bypass that. And so I really like, Ash, how you are bringing in awareness as the main distinguisher here.

So listeners, as we finish up here, to really think about reflecting on your story and tethering back to how ADHD might be informing that story. To start to poke holes. And what we’re doing is building awareness. And I so appreciate what you said about misunderstood. I think we absolutely are misunderstood. And I invite clients to embrace that rebel, right, to be different, but different with awareness, with choice, with agency, and owning who they are and seeing themselves in the picture.

[00:23:55] Ash: Well said, Cam, and I think that’s a good spot for us to wrap it up for today. So until next week, I’m Ash.

[00:24:02] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:24:03] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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