Repurposing Negative Emotions with ADHD Part 2

Episode 200

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In this episode of Translating ADHD, Cam and Ash continue their conversation on repurposing negative emotions. They reflect on the previous part one episode and discuss the coaching process, highlighting Asher’s skill in listening and teasing apart different aspects. They delve into the emotional experience of the cooking class example and explore the nuances of how it differed from the other two scenarios.

Cam realizes that he never fully answered Asher’s question and finds it fascinating. The discussion reveals an ADHD-infused plot twist. Tune in to gain insights on what that is and how to repurpose negative emotions effectively.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash.

[00:00:07] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:00:08] Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. So we left off kind of in the middle of this interesting conversation last week, and you’ve since listened to that conversation. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

[00:00:23] Cam: Yes, and I typically listen to the podcast when I’m writing the description. and so just to kind of like, pick up on common threads to care what to carry through. This was interesting. It was an interesting experience for me to listen to this one because I was deep in client mode.

And I guess to kind of recap for people coming in, if you recall from last week, this is about repurposing negative emotions. And I brought to the podcast episode sort of 3 areas or 3 things that got my attention. The split poopy bag, the polenta that doesn’t set up, and a cooking class where you don’t get to do anything.

And first of all, let’s just start with the coaching piece. So, Asher just demonstrated some brilliant coaching there in the sense of listening, allowing me to kind of process this. And if you listen to our episode where we were live at the conference, we were talking about distinguishing through curiosity and nuance. And Asher did a great demonstration of this.

Yeah. Kind of listen, kind of tease apart these things, and what you did so well was to kind of see, Oh, I think the cooking thing is a little bit different than the other two. And so inviting, inquiring about how are they different cam, right? And you got to this point of like, yeah, and what was the emotional experience around the cooking one? Was it different than the other two?

And what was fascinating, Asher, and listening back was I never answered your question. And you asked it several times, and I never fully answered it. And it was just fascinating to me. I keep saying fascinating. That’s the word of the day. To hear you clearly asked the question and me almost not even hearing it.

And I think that this is not uncommon in that we can get into this mode of kind of digging in exploring the discovery process, and it’s new terrain or we’re kind of getting in. And it’s we’re exploring in a way that we haven’t explored before. And when we do so, the new stuff starts to pop out. And I think that’s what was going on for me, new stuff. And that’s what was right front and center for me.

[00:02:28] Ash: It’s so cool that that happened that way and that our listeners got to hear some real coaching because that wasn’t necessarily our intention when we set out with this topic last week. But because I noticed what I noticed and inquired about it, that’s kind of the direction that it went.

And so just want to add a couple of things for our listeners – if you’re coaches or if you’re not – in terms of insight into what was happening there, is one of our roles as coaches is to notice, is to listen attentively and to notice powerful language or notice a limiting belief. Or in that case, notice that you brought these 3 things that you were grouping in the same category of emotional response because it doesn’t do its basic function.

One of them was touching on a different value of yours. And this is where deep knowledge of your clients is so important as a coach, as well as that comes from prior knowledge of you as a person I knew and heard that value in conflict before it was ever explicitly said

[00:03:41] Cam: Yeah. Well stated.

[00:03:42] Ash: On top of that, if you listen back to how I inquired about it without attachment, if you would have said, no, I think that these 3 go together, and that would have been the way that the conversation went, okay, great. Right. And I think that that’s where new coaches can get hung up.

Sometimes you get a little afraid when you pull on a thread and it doesn’t produce anything, but coaching is not an exact science, right? I pull on threads all the time with my clients that all the times. Let me say that again. I pull on treads all the time. I tell my clients that, okay, in a way, coaching is like unraveling a sweater, pulling on a loose thread. Maybe it’ll be a short one, maybe it’ll be a long one, maybe it’ll be almost nothing at all. But we don’t know until we pull on the thread.

And so if you listen back to those, listeners, you can hear that I’m not attached to where this conversation goes, including how I was showing up when Cam wasn’t answering my question directly because that often happens with clients.

Throw out a powerful coaching question. You have no idea where that question might take that client. And my clients, new clients are always worried about giving the right answer. I tell them whatever comes to mind is the right answer. Whatever that brings up for you, wherever that takes you, there’s something there for us.

And that’s why that question took your attention there. And again, who knows what’s there? Who knows if it’s going to be a long thread or a short one, but let’s pull on the thread, without being attached to it, and see what we find. So, Cam, are you ready to keep pulling on some threads today?

[00:05:13] Cam: I want to introduce another metaphor that I’ve been thinking about concerning something similar. And I think it’s, it’s again, sort of like, oh, what are these coaches doing? Looking at emotions. And that I liken it to, you know, what a party tent needs. Or if you think about a party tent, like where you’re having a wedding reception or graduation reception and those big white tents that you’ll see in people’s yards or some venue, what do they need?

They need two things. They need space, and they need tent poles, right? Some structural elements hold it up. And so that’s what you provided last week, Ash, was this space to kind of unfurl and roll this thing out, but with emotional dysregulation, sort of like we can be under there with a single tent pole in the dark trying to pull this thing up.

And so what you did so deftly was to, hey, let’s come over here and, you know, place a strategic pole. Let’s place a strategic pole over here. So you’re starting to kind of get this thing off the ground so we can get under there and look around. And this is this framework that is so important, right, around values and needs and coaching process.

And emotions are, they’re something we all experience. We don’t have to go to therapy to process what we’re thinking or how those thoughts and feelings might be informing our belief system, you know, we have in conflict. So, yes, you might be struggling with something, listening where you go, and it is a good idea to go work with someone, a professional, to address emotions. Absolutely.

But so here, I just wanted to give that was a little thing that was floating around. I know it’s not Mount Rainier, but it is something that just, I think it’s, it’s a useful metaphor space and structures where we want to place them. We don’t want to get overly ambitious with these frameworks or structures. And then that becomes a scaffolding, and then that’s not coaching anymore. That’s just sort of propping up the individual, and it’s not coaching. So, okay. What was the question? Where do you want to pull on the thread? Right? Like, where do you want to start?

[00:07:21] Ash: Yeah.

[00:07:22] Cam: Well, I think where we were last week was again, too, it’s like, okay, well, how do you repurpose negative emotions. And what you did so deftly last week was to, all right, well, what did you do with the poopy bag and the polenta? Right? That annoyance that you had aggrieved was the operative word. And what did you do to take that negative signal and convert it into something useful? That’s a really good question. It’s like, again, this is a process that I’ve been developing over some time and it’s like, what did I do? It’s a good little exercise.

So to recap and to kind of build off of that, there’s a pause, disrupt, pivot opportunity here, is using the negative emotion as a pause opportunity. Okay, I’m annoyed. What am I annoyed about? You know, I can be in that moment with the poopy bag and like, I can’t use this. Damn it. Right. Versus. All right, I can check the damn bag before I leave. I hate to make sure because most of them are functional. and move from there, right? To kind of take that, convert it into an intention and action.

And I think the most important thing, Ash, is to take that emotion and try to turn it into a learning. What’s a nugget of wisdom that I can turn this into? So, I’m not doomed. To repeat it because listeners, we all know so well how we’re wondering why are we back at the same place. Here I am again with a split poopy bag. What? We keep coming back to that clean slate or having to start over bringing that learning forward.

So taking that, recognizing it as a negative emotion, the pause disrupting that emotional state because we have that emotional drift or coast. We just kind of keep going in that direction. I’m just annoyed for the rest of the day. And you said that last week is like we get into a mode. It’s just like that. There we are. It’s like it, really? I’m going to let a poopy bag put a black cloud over my day. That’s kind of silly.

So it’s that disrupting that and sort of thinking about. All right, what’s the annoyance? Is it tethered to something that matters, and how can I turn this into learning; into a nugget of wisdom or some kind of intention and a different way of being going forward? So I’m not buying this polenta ever again, number one, right? And then again, coming back to basics with the polenta of like, don’t get so wrapped up in the damn burlap bag, right.

Or, you know, so I think that’s enough there. And I think it’s now we can pivot over to the other one because I think that’s got my attention around the cooking class and education.

[00:10:09] Ash: What has your attention now, Cam? That’s, by the way, coaches, that’s a great question if you aren’t sure what thread to pull off the sweater with your clients. After they’ve finished a story or finished answering a question, I will sometimes ask what has your attention now? It’s a great coaching question.

[00:10:28] Cam: So the, a couple things, but what, as I was, you know, I’ve had a whole week to kind of reflect on this and then yesterday, listen to the episode. And so what has my attention right now is the implications of ADHD. I hinted at that last week, but, first of all, how it was really hard for me to turn my attention to your request, is that ADD is that executive functioning is certainly some element of that.

So there’s sort of the ADD in the play in the room right now. But I’ve got my attention on a different place, which has, again, some kind of implications, Ash. And that is that, you know, my again, so back to this, I appreciate things that do their basic functioning, right? A polenta that sets up, a poopy bag that works. And again, if you’re going to offer a teaching class, that there’s some element of, for me, it’s experiential. It’s hands-on. That there is a partnership piece, and this is why coaching is so valuable, I think.

[00:11:27] Ash: And so, listeners, the awareness we cultivated last week is Cam brought 3 things that all conflict with this value of basic functioning. But the cooking class, it’s also in conflict with your value of education. All education is experiential.

[00:11:45] Cam: Yes. And, you know, I’m pretty irate at our public’s, uh, our county school system right now because their focus is on attendance and putting asses in chairs. Right? It’s like, my wife and I feel very strongly. It’s like, why don’t you work on a program that the kids, again, feel compelled to come and be educated in your building, you know.

So it sort of runs in a lot of different areas. Again, I can kind of go way into an emotional and negative signal to the point that maybe we need to leave the county or leave the school system, right. What are the actions that we can do here? Going back to this idea of the coming into the mix is that for years with my undiagnosed ADHD. What was the main argument, the main argument from my parents, from my teachers, from my, colleagues you know. It’s great, you’re doing this and doing all these creative things, but you’re not taking care of the basics,

[00:12:43] Ash: So you’re not fulfilling a basic function.

[00:12:47] Cam: Right? And I think that that is not lost on listeners, right? Is that this is the perplexing thing about ADHD is that we can do amazing things. We can do wonderful things, but those basic functions. We struggle with doing those consistently, right? Coming back to the basics, whatever they are. And again, it’s because of our interest-based nervous system, the big signal. But this is that, why is it that I don’t do what I know I ought to do, is sort of, there’s a big then here around basic functioning that just got my attention. It was really interesting how this is coming into play with this current dilemma.

[00:13:24] Ash: And not just that, Cam, but for you, there’s a double whammy here because you’re struggling with basic function, which we’ve all been there with ADHD. You and I coach every one of our clients around some amount of quote-unquote basic functioning. But for you, there’s also a value there that you’re not living.

I like to start my clients with a values and needs exercise. And pretty often a client will bring a value and say, I don’t know if this value is true for me or not because I see how I’m not living in accordance to this value. I see where I’m out of integrity with this value. And that’s a tough thing to look at, to directly look at.

So there’s not just the ADHD of it all, but there’s the ADHD of it all putting you out of integrity with a core value. What does that do for emotion?

[00:14:22] Cam: Well, what it did for me was that, again, that’s a really good question. And, I just recall my motivation for coaching was to, it was this spite, I’ll show them, right? It was a negative emotion. I use negative emotions as fuel. I’m going to prove them wrong.

Them. Who’s them? You know, a handful of, just a handful of teachers who, again, you know, didn’t believe in me. Again, it’s a matter of just trying. No one knew about ADHD in 1979, right? What they saw in 1979 was this sort of, again, more of the hyperactive and not the inattentive.

So, again, I would kind of take my education experience as fine. Overall, it was fine. It wasn’t terrible, and I was self-selective, right? Because I couldn’t find traction in any conventional way. I kind of cherry-picked these kind of places, or these elements, and sort of then put it in my fuel cell to kind of blast along with. Again, I’ll prove these people wrong.

Again, I’ve said this before, I’ve had lots of positive experiences with teachers and mentors growing up. My parents have been, they were lovely, great childhood, but I didn’t have any way to get going. So I took that negative emotion, and I put it into, again, my fuel cell to get things done. So that’s where the negative emotion was going, was right into motivation to make a difference, prove them wrong.

It worked, Ash, right? It worked until it no longer worked. And so he’s like, yeah, you want to know what it is was like to burn out as a teacher, you know, you’re looking at case scenario right here because it was all on negative emotion. And I hadn’t ever developed this affinity, or then the sense of values and needs, around getting the basics done concerning my job.

[00:16:21] Ash: It worked until it didn’t work. That’s the place where our clients come to us wherever they are. What was working for me before wasn’t working. And by the way, listeners. you’re listening to Cam in a place where he has a lot of awareness that he’s cultivated over many years about this period of his life and what was true and not true. But at the time when the negative emotion quit working, you didn’t know what you know now.

[00:16:52] Cam: No.

[00:16:52] Ash: What was that like? When did the negative emotion quit working?

[00:16:58] Cam: Oh God. You know, it’s moving from that sort of the hot emotion to a cold emotion. I think maybe, you know, or maybe cold is more like contempt. It’s despair and hopelessness. Right off, not having anything in the tank, right? Having a burning ember of some kind of rage or anger is more useful than nothing, It’s like the power plant was empty and cold, and there was nothing there. And all I could do was just show up and try to get through my days. So what’s that like? It’s pretty dark.

But I also realized that, and as you said, it’s this, this is the time when it’s sort of had to come to terms with oh, okay, I think I need to address something here. What’s really in play? What’s going on? And this is, like, the moment when I took a really hard look at myself, got my diagnosis and started to understand my wiring. Starting to understand my wiring, and then roll out that tent and kind of locate people that could help me start to put in some poles of supports.

And one of them was my first coach, Russell Culver, right? To make sense of, again, this whole idea of not being able to see over my time horizon. Anticipating, you know, what’s coming up is not a moral character flaw, but it’s something, a part of my wiring. But if I practice looking over the time horizon, especially with someone else, it’s helpful. Then I can start to backfill and construct, kind of making different ramps and off-ramps.

You know, it’s really interesting, I was just thinking about this actual thing, Ash, because it’s like, well, what do I do now for me? This is me, and it’s like I may, you know, the whole slow food of thing out there. There’s like slow food or slow cook. I don’t think slow food resonated with you. You’re looking at me like, I have no idea.

[00:18:55] Ash: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

[00:18:57] Cam: There’s some kind of, okay, alright, I know I’m onto something here. It’s like, is there a slow food or it’s like, there’s some movement and it’s like, that’s beside the point. My point is this is that I’m like a short-order cook on a long timeline. And so I am kind of getting these orders and it’s like, you know, I’m starting 3 classes. It’s like, they’re all in process. And they’re all kind of, again, I’m kind of serving up certain things and able to kind of move these things in a very interesting way

Listeners, it’s not, I’m not suggesting this is the way for you. This is the way for me, right? Is the way that I got an insight into basic functioning coming back to, oh, that whole conversation about I have awareness. I don’t complete it. So what did I do? I built a model to train coaches with. Based on awareness, engagement, and completion, right? So it’s this process breakdown, but that it’s like coming to terms with what are the nuts and bolts around me not being able to function in a basic way.

[00:20:01] Ash: I always love that story about that model that you’ve taught to what, hundreds, of coaches at this point. Many hundreds, myself included, because it’s the intersection of that value of education and doing your work. I love that that was first a curious exercise for you to make sense or make meaning of your experience and why you don’t pleat.

I’m curious at what point in your story were you aware of these values that we’re talking about? We’ve only got a couple of minutes, by the way. So, when did you become aware of basic functioning or education as experiential as core values?

[00:20:45] Cam: Well, that’s a good question. It was, again, this sort of, okay, the power plant doesn’t work, and I can’t keep going back to that. I can’t keep putting hot embers into this power plant because the cost stress was just too great. And so, I think it was really through this back to stop trying to do it like others. And if you’re going to do this, you have to find your way. And again, with lots of helpers, but it’s like, I’ve got a different kind of power plant, and I got to figure out what’s going to generate this thing.

So it was coming back to focusing on a good job every day, right? It’s like, what’s the basic win for today is to how can I do the best job for my client that’s coming up at 2 o’clock? What’s the best thing I can do for this class? That’s at 4 o’clock. You know, how can I show up and do the best job possible at this moment? And what is the opportunity here?

And so it’s through that practice. I mean, it’s like riding a bike and continuing to ride a bike and get better and better at riding a bike around this one basic functioning of teaching people about change. What’s interesting is it’s not lost on people as I’m doing my work on change too, right. And I think that that’s in coaching the best people who are out there. They’re seeing themselves, again, as models. Of like, how can I improve a fear? What is my learning opportunity?

But Ash, I think it came down to the, I know we’re finishing up, but, you know, that big idea generator of mine would kind of just like, it would give me so many different options every single day. So I had to counter that with what is one basic thing I can do. What’s one basic thing I can complete? So getting into basic functioning, getting into my love and appreciation of education and teaching differently, right? It was like I was experiencing teaching with a whole new set of emotions other than spite or wanting to prove someone wrong.

[00:22:50] Ash: What a cool set of episodes this turned out to be, And listeners, this is, stuff like this happens in coaching sessions all the time, where a client might legitimately bring a poopy bag and polenta and a cooking class. And then we start to discover something about that client. Who, and their why. Why do you have such a strong negative reaction to those 3 things? There’s a value there and look at how, look at the difference in Cam’s experience between knowing that that value is on board and being able to examine it, have a different experience with it, and come into integrity with it.

And now there’s this learning and evidence that says you can do this another way. And that is what replaces the furnace over time, the furnace or the urgency or whatever other negative elixirs you might be using overtime. Again, when we can get to the core of why, why do I show up this way? There’s almost always something about the who in there. And the more we learn about our who, the easier it becomes over time to show up in ways that work for us and to also recognize when we’re not showing up the way we want to show up.

What’s happening here, right? What several years ago might have been a meltdown or days of negative mood over the poopy bag or the polenta or the cooking class is now a moment where you can recognize what’s showing up. But you can also because you can recognize what’s showing up, you can contextualize it in the grand scheme of things. Yes, the poopy bag is annoying, but overall, my value of basic functioning is not an important thing when it comes to that value. And I am attending when it comes to what’s important to me about that value.

[00:24:53] Cam: And then you can see how there are great ADHD management tools here around being present, prioritizing, as you said, attending to, overcoming cognitive inflexibility. Overcoming, or again, taking that emotion and converting it into something useful, as opposed to trying to wrangle it, wrestle with it, or just straight-up manage it. That might be a good place to finish up today, Ash.

[00:25:20] Ash: I agree, Cam. So listeners until next week, I’m Ash.

[00:25:24] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:25:25] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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