Identifying False Needs with ADHD

Episode 213

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In this episode, Ash and Cam discuss the concept of “false needs” in managing ADHD. They highlight examples from clients who feel compelled to constantly manage their ADHD or strive for daily improvement, often driven by internal pressures and emotional dysregulation.

Ash shares his own experience with false needs, stressing the importance of identifying genuine needs versus constructed ones. Cam shares examples from two clients where they both feel compelled to do something. It feels like a real need, but they are not physically possible and they come at a great cost. The hosts emphasize the value of pausing to reflect and using emotional signals to distinguish real needs, ultimately promoting self-awareness and balance in ADHD management.

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    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. Quick thing before we get started listeners, if any of you have been interested in working with me as your coach, I actually do not have a waitlist at the moment, and I have just a couple of openings that I am looking to fill. So now would be a great time to engage there if that’s something that you have thought about in the past. You can visit my website, CoachAsher. com. And from there, there’s a questionnaire for you to fill out as a starting place.

    So cam, what are we talking about today?

    [00:00:36] Cam: Asher, what we’re talking about today is something that got my attention from our recent episodes. I think the theme has been around trusting ourselves. Last week, we were talking about your client struggling with that purchase of a cell phone and in conflict with his value system and about making decisions, making choices. So it’s that, and also a few client engagements I’ve had where clients have come with this interesting theme or challenge. And so I thought I’d bring it to our listeners. And so we’re calling it false needs.

    So we’ve done a lot on needs. We did a whole series on ADHD needs that my interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy. I did a big presentation for AADA, so if you go to AADA or ADD.ORG and go to their webinar series, I did one in February on that. It was a nice little presentation on needs. So that’s where we’re going to go today.

    And I’m going to start with, in particular, one client who came and at the top of their prep form or their version of a prep form was I’m so tired of managing ADHD. Can I take a day off? This is at the top of their list, something they’re not complainers. And I don’t see that as necessarily a complaint. And they said it is. They said as much. You know, I don’t mean to complain, but can I please just take a day off?

    And so we’re talking about it, and we kind of get into this discussion and sort of seeing what played into that statement. What, why were they coming to coaching leading with that of can I just take a break from managing my ADHD? And it turned out that she had done a huge push, like an enormous push earlier in the week to get something ready for a client. Four days pushing on this thing, doing something really innovative.

    So this is an architect. She was introducing something and a pushing the edge of the envelope. This is what she tends to do. And it was received with, you know, full reception. They embraced it, everything. And everyone is a winner. She meets me a day after, maybe two days after, this big meeting. So where is she?

    She’s going to be depleted. She just did a major five day push. And here she is sort of like got some kind of narrative going of a should, I should be on top of things. I should be making the most of my time And really just wanting a break. So we could say there’s a should here. We could say there’s a false belief.

    The thing I want to start with or aim for is this false need – some kind of undeniable need to be constantly managing her ADHD. I want to say compulsive or a compulsion because that’s what it was described. She said it was like a compulsion, like this sort of I’d love a break, but I just have this compulsion to make the most of my day, you know, and this constant monitoring of, and in particular her ADHD symptoms.

    So that got a conversation going of this idea of was this a real thing or is this something that she’s constructing in her head? And this goes back, Asher, to this whole idea of trusting ourselves, being able to live with our decisions. And one of the fascinating things about ADHD in this case is she’d forgotten completely about this major output three days before, two days before.

    And as we started to talk about it and look back over the week, it was like, Oh, she’s starting to connect the dots with this extreme or this tremendous output of production. And then this unwillingness to give herself a break. And that’s a, this, so, so in that sort of vacuum or in that moment, there’s this sort of, it’s I have to keep at it. I got to keep at it.

    I want to add one more that’s very much related, another client who, and this idea of, I need to improve every day. So it’s a slight variation. The other ones I need to manage and monitor and always be on top of my ADHD at every moment. This other client was talking about this sort of man, like a compulsion to improve every day is a chance to do better.

    So, I mean, we talk about this in coaching of looking for that progression and improvement over a period of time, but this was sort of like a hard and fast rule. And you and I talked about this, is this false? Is this a limiting belief? Is this, you know, where does this fit in? So again, I’m going to just kind of put it in this cubbyhole of false need. Yeah. This need to improve.

    So in the coaching, we start to kind of look at that, poke holes at that. Is it really a need or is it something else? And I really like what you said is that often in these cases, there’s a real need in forming. And, listeners, this is the opportunity this week, is if you’re feeling compelled or this pressure to have to do something, and you are putting it in this box of, well, this is a need and I need to address this need, it may be, it may not be. And to kind of take a step back and consider, is this my own interpretation of a need? Is this me going after something? And really there’s another more authentic, real need in play. And this is how I’m trying to get it.

    [00:06:37] Ash: Cam, it’s really funny that we’re talking about this today because I had my own recent experience with false needs versus what is the real need. And I don’t want to take up a bunch of time talking about it. But it was a real clarifying moment to figure out why is this so much in my head? Why is this something that I’m so attached to, that I can’t let go of, that follows me around, that drives my behavior or makes me feel guilt and shame when I can’t engage with it, which drives different sorts of behavior.

    Right. So how do we start to bust this kind of thing apart? When you started to bust this apart with your two clients, what was there? What’d you find? What was the real stuff or some of the actual truth underneath these two sets of unwanted behavior?

    [00:07:44] Cam: Asher, that’s a really good question. And the first thing we did, and I think for both clients, and this is back to sort of this engaging in a coaching process, where you come as you are, show up regardless. So both of these clients were coming, and they know the coaching engagement. They know and they come and it’s, but they were kind of bummed out.

    This one, the first one is sort of that I’m tired of managing my ADD. Can I get a break, please? Is not a complainer. And it was like, ah, I’m complaining. And so it was as the coach, I’m sort of thinking here this is not a complainer. So what’s going on, like what’s happening?

    And in coaching, what we do is that we come in and bring what you have. Look at the situation and what is the opportunity? With coaching is always the opportunity to discover something about any of those barriers. We talk about the barrier to awareness, the barrier to action, and the barrier to learning.

    And I think this one is, again, it’s awareness and learning aspect of, and it’s something that I really am very fascinated with, is how our emotional dysregulation can actually be a starting place. That our emotions can be a starting place for informing us that something might be slightly amiss. Right?

    We’re annoyed. We’re aggravated. Now your client last week with the phone, of this aggravation around why can’t I make this happen where I have a phone that I can feel good about buying, but it also works and does the daily functioning. And often what happens is we get annoyed or frustrated, we’re frustrated with the world or ourselves.

    And we will then go down this emotional dysregulation route. As you said, it’s in my head, we’re attached. And we kind of go, you know, it’s all this energy that goes into this. And then it’s we start to step back and what’s in play, what’s going on for both of these clients, it’s looking back over their recent history.

    You know, what are the circumstances? So that first client who put in that big proposal, it’s okay, so you have this big expenditure. And now here we are in the shadow of that a couple of days since then. And I think I may have said you, so you’re not allowed to take a break, but no breaks. And that really got her attention, but this naming a possibly a limiting belief, no breaks. Can’t take a break. Taking a break is a sign of weakness. I always, it’s again that with the ADHD I always have to be attending to it and managing it 24/7.

    [00:10:33] Ash: Yeah, what this is reminding me of, something that my client that I talked about last week said, is I think I swung too far the other direction. Where, and I see this a lot with my clients, when we get to a certain place in the coaching, where there is more awareness, there is more engagement, they’re getting the learning regularly out of their experiences, even those experiences that aren’t going the way that they want them to go at that time, right?

    But we can be very all or nothing with ADHD. So we start to see some success and be more successful. And we swing too far the other way. That now I have to show up like this all the time, I can’t slip. And back to trusting yourself, I find that there’s this middle place in coaching – wherever in time that happens for any given client – where there are regularly different experiences, but there’s still this big fear that at any given moment, I could backslide all the way back to where I started.

    I can get stuck there again. And that’s not a fear based on nothing either, right? Because that until we start to have this type of different experience with ADHD where we’re learning something and we’re learning to be aware differently. We’re learning to sort of navigate things as they come to get curious and question, how do we solve for our ADHD?

    Well, we solve for it with urgency and we solve for it with beating ourselves up. And we’ve had that experience of letting people down over and over again. Or we’ve had those moments in life where there was enough energy, enthusiasm, urgency, whatever that mix is, where we are showing up really productively, and we don’t understand how we can’t get back to that.

    And we don’t know anything about how to get back to that, right? I don’t know what that magical mix was, but I want more of it. Where is it? And so there comes this place where the client is regularly showing up differently. But there’s still that lack of self trust that if I give myself a break, am I going to be able to get back?

    It’s like a hypervigilance almost like again, swinging too far the other direction from, I don’t know what to do, where now I, I do have a better sense of what to do. I have to be hypervigilant about it. There’s no room there to relax a little bit.

    [00:13:19] Cam: That’s a great point. Again, and swinging too far I think that this the second client who was talking about the need for herself and always improving it’s ingrained in their DNA and it’s sort of years and years of Internal and external reinforcement of put in your best effort always there was the messaging, there was the practice and clients when they will hit a bump, get stressed, they can swing too far, and they can also kind of go back to their default right so that first client is sort of has that hyper-vigilance.

    I was like, I got to be, you know, at the control panel all the time monitoring. She actually has a character she calls the monitor. It’s like constantly monitoring. The other one is an achiever. It’s we go back to what we know. So we go back to what we know is this about achievement and this, the simple rules that persona provides us.

    You always have to do better. And so she’s not doing better. She’s not progressing. So what does she do? She doubles down and pushes even harder. And then it is frustrated. There’s that emotion. Why is this not working? There must be something wrong. And that emotional expression is an opportunity to look at what is the real need in play that might be complimentary.

    So that first client that’s taking a break, you can take your foot off the accelerator around management. And the second one is you can take your foot off the accelerator around improvement. And that is novel idea to kind of, really? I can do that? I can take my foot off the accelerator? So it feels like it’s cheating sometimes.

    [00:15:17] Ash: Absolutely. And that’s back to that all-or-nothing thinking with ADHD coupled with people in general, anybody, we’re not always great at seeing long-term results. Why is weight loss one of the hardest things for people who are overweight? Because it’s a daily practice that you don’t see the results.

    For quite some time, and with ADHD on board, that can be really challenging to deal with, right? We build up this picture of consistency, of balance. And that’s what we’re going to talk about next week. This idea of balance of this beautiful place where all of the plates are spinning at about the same speed and all of the buckets in life are getting the right attention and progress is a graph that is always moving upwards with no dips and that’s just not real. It’s just not real.

    And, Cam, with your second client, if that was my client, I have a client like that. Actually one of the discussions we had was so true for him, right? This idea of achievement. That’s very important to that client, but strength and challenge can be two sides of the same coin, right?

    So this client has a real strength in terms of achievement that he can swing too far on, and that can create challenges for him. So, listeners, that’s another place to look, right, is where in my life is strength becoming a challenge where I’m taking it too far, or I’m thinking about it in too binary of a way.

    A few weeks ago, we talked about my client and his language of toxic optimism that was articulating the challenge side of his strength. High achiever like your client and very optimistic that he can achieve, which is part of why he’s been as successful as he has been. That can swing too far. And giving it a different name, at least for that client, helps him distinguish between when is it optimism showing up as strength and when is it toxic optimism showing up as challenge?

    [00:17:43] Cam: Great points. And there’s one more I want to point to. It might be a topic for another episode, but I thought I’d throw it in because the inattentives out there might be like, well, you got nothing for me, man. Like I’m not aligning with the high achiever and the high, you know, this need to manage, you know, this really doesn’t resonate for me.

    So I got one more for the big-brainers out there who may not be connecting with these examples. And that is a client who came and said, some things are just too exciting for my brain. That was their lead in.

    [00:18:17] Ash: Ooh, what a statement that is.

    [00:18:19] Cam: I know. I know. Well, it’s I love that. I love it when they bring that, ’cause it’s they’re coming with this they’ve already articulated, right? There’s a coaching skill called articulation, right? To articulate, it’s like kind of boiling down. It’s not a summary, it is taking the situation and what is the essence of it? Right. So they did this for me and brought it right, right at the top of their prep.

    Some things are just too exciting. So, this client, we talked about it and he’s just ah, man, I just am, I’ve done something again. Right? So there’s like this, back to this shame, frustration, annoyance place. And they build out this story of you know, I met this guy. He’s a really interesting guy. And I promised him a job. And here’s a guy, he carries me through this whole thing. It was like, yeah, I flew him up here and I promised and oh, and I didn’t tell my leadership team at all. Like nobody. I didn’t tell HR, I didn’t tell.

    And so here’s a guy who owns a business, and he starts talking to people, he starts talking to people about ideas. And so the energy starts to build. And he admitted this. He said, damn, why is it I have this need to promise? I’m fine with creating hope and inspiration, but somehow then I just keep going. I, you know, all that energy.

    And this is a fascinating thing. So you say what you said earlier about sort of strengths and challenges, two sides of the same coin. And that’s what happens, is that the achiever and the manager are taking things that are valuable, their strengths, like being able to sit down and work and make something happen, even taken too far or swing the other way.

    In this case, it’s this, there’s a bundle of energy, and he’s got this energy now, and he has to take it out of this. Like we can’t just leave it as like hope or inspiration, or this is a really interesting idea. It’s like, Oh, I can make somebody’s day. It’s a slam dunk. It’s like without thinking about all the different consequences or what happens there, right?

    So that’s us not being able to see over our consequences time horizon. Like my promise that I’m making right now, how is this going to play out a day from now, a week from now? Is anyone going to have a challenge with this?

    Or, you know, so anyway, that was his recognition of chasing this need to commit to others, to give something to someone, a promise, he said. It’s like, how can I then keep the energy, but not let that energy get built up into such this head of steam, where it just kind of comes rumbling down the track. And I’m clearing the way for, yeah, we can do that, we can do this, we can do that.

    So there’s that promiser, it’s sort of a pleaser, sort of the pleasing. And yeah, sure, it’s saying yes and not saying no. So that’s another way that something can kind of get going. We get hyper-focused, excited about something, and then any thought of, you know, what else do I have on my plate? Is this a good idea? And all of that is set aside, and we just get fully invested in this thing. And it’s the only thing right now.

    And so that’s another way that can feel like I have to do this. I have to do this. There are no other options. It is this undeniable need, when in fact, it’s not a need. It’s back to this what is the real need here? And I’m going to say it’s about validation. It’s about belonging and connection. But this client takes it farther to this further – further farther. I’m going to say, I’m going to go with farther, listeners. English majors out there, send me a note on this. You can always send me a note. – takes it out to this commitment. And so back to, there’s a good idea, Oh, so I need to be creative. I need to inspire, but taking the step further. Now I’m going to say further. It’s, we’re getting late in the episode here, Asher.

    [00:22:48] Ash: Cam’s a little loopy today.

    [00:22:49] Cam: I know. Yeah.

    [00:22:52] Ash: And somewhat unlike the other two, this is kind of swinging too far in the same direction, right? Where there’s an opportunity there for creative inspiration, collaboration, whatever that moment is providing. But there’s no pause. There’s no stop to evaluate before getting to some commitment that is offered.

    I’ve had clients with that challenge too, right? These are the clients that so often are like, where, how am I so over-committed all of the time? And the corresponding story of it, all of us with ADHD at this rate, log made the commitment. So now I have to make myself, do it because I’ve so often not honored my commitments. And so it can become this really vicious cycle, microcosm, of that.

    I had a client who that’s precisely what we were talking about, is giving away her time without thinking about it first, and in the context of being out at a social event and being invited to do something and feeling social in that moment, feeling, you know, in the groove in the moment. Yeah, I’ll go, without really looking at her calendar and her commitments or evaluating her desire to do the thing that’s being asked of her.

    And so much smaller example, but the action there was to create a pause. And that’s something I do for myself too, whenever I’m not sure, or I know that I need to take a little space to think about it. I’ve made it a practice of mine to, can we follow up later about this? Or would I ask my friend, my friends – no, it’s kind of funny – do you want me to text you? Yes, please. Because if they send me a text while we’re out together and I go home and it’s unread, then I have that prompt to take that moment to do the thing I said I would do, or think about the thing or look at the calendar or whatever it is I need to do from there. And that buys me some time and space to evaluate, right, without having had made a commitment. Having had made, man our English is terrible today. I don’t think having had is good English.

    [00:25:04] Cam: That’s all right. We’re human.

    [00:25:06] Ash: We are.

    [00:25:07] Cam: It’s understandable. So listeners, as we finish up here, there’s a couple of things to be thinking about. And that is back to this sort of this urge or desire or undeniable need to. Where are you feeling pressure to, or even a compulsion that here’s a hard and fast rule that I have to do this, or you’re feeling compelled to do so.

    Is it a need? Is it a false need? I think also we talked about this in the sense of, are you feeling annoyance or aggravated with others or yourself? There’s another one around like boundaries, annoyed with folks in your sphere who are asking too much. And you’re feeling annoyed by that. That annoyance can be a starting place to dig in.

    Is there a false need? And what might be a real, authentic, true need underneath that you’re not honoring? Those real needs are more subtle. They do not elevate to the big signal, like, and it’s exciting to improve. It’s exciting to promise something in the moment. Yeah, we can do this. Absolutely. He’s a little bit more subtle.

    So it’s an opportunity to step back. And as Asher said, give it some space, consider and think about it.

    [00:26:30] Ash: Well said, Cam. And I think that’s a good place for us to wrap for today. So listeners, until next week, I’m Ash.

    [00:26:37] Cam: And I’m Cam.

    [00:26:37] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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