Category Psychology

Baseline

“But if there’s one single thing that has made the difference between partners who have hope and partners who are struggling, it’s this: we – the ones with ADHD – have to own it. We have to say to ourselves and our partners: “Some of the things I do don’t work for us. They don’t work for the family, for my job, for me. I want to change them.”

That’s it. That’s the baseline. There are many different ways to go from there: couples counseling, education about ADHD, medication, support groups, and forgiveness and growth. There’s no one-size-fits-all “next step,” but if we can’t at least do this – if we can’t at least say “something has to change” – there’s nowhere we can go.

ADDA – We All Want to Be Heard

False Imitation

“[…] Governor Cuomo praised the design of the broad, bland new stations to the New York Times as a “public space where community can gather and where culture and shared civic values are celebrated,” and, at a news conference, predicted that “this is just the beginning of a new period of rebirth.”

What actually happened was that the design of the new subway stations was outsourced to assorted stars of the modern art world, most of whom not one New Yorker in ten thousand would likely recognize by name or achievement. One of them, Chuck Close, filled his station with mosaic portraits of “New York artists who have formed Mr.Close’s wide circle,” which includes Lou Reed and Kara Walker along with Cecily Brown, Philip Glass, Alex Katz, several younger artists he favored, and two self-portraits.

The artist Vik Muniz did Close one better, providing three dozen images of various friends, relatives, and cultural celebrities dressed up, reported the Times, like “normal people,” including “the restauranteur Daniel Boulud holding a bag with a fish tail sticking out; the designer, actor, and man-about-town Waris Ahluwalia”; and Mr.Muniz himself, “in a Rockwell-esque scene of him tripping, spilling papers from his briefcase,” as well as his son, dressed “in a tiger suit, like a Times Square mascot on lunch break.” Isn’t it marvelous? The artists are depicting themselves and their celebrity friends imitating us, waiting for a train and doing all the perfectly ordinary things that we ordinary people do?

The Death of a Once Great City, by Kevin Baker (Harper’s, July 2018)

Paying Attention

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu

Posttraumatic Growth (6/17-6/18)

“PTG is a cousin to resilience, but more of a thug: meaner, more brutal, more devastating – and more transformative. Rich Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, coined the term in 1995, when they noticed they some people did not recover from their traumatic experiences in a typically resilient fashion. Rather than return to their set point, everything about them radically changed: their worldviews, their goals in life, their friendships. […]

“The one thing that overwhelmingly predicts it is the extent to which you say, ‘My core beliefs were shaken,'” Calhoun adds.

“What kind of core beliefs? “The degree to which the world is just,” Tedeschi says, “or that people are benevolent or that the future is something that you can control. Beliefs about, basically, how life works.”

Life Reimagined, The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife, Barbara Bradley Hagerty

The Illusion of Perfection

“To escape the uncomfortable barrage of complaints leveled against them, women like Rhonda learn to protect themselves by hiding (Solden, 2005). They avoid addressing painful mistakes by deflecting attention away from themselves. They cover their tracks with a smile, but behind the scenes they are working frantically to uphold an illusion of perfection. Women with ADHD are resourceful and creative; more often than not, they find a way to covertly triumph over their latest SNAFU. Buoyed by their success, they expand their camouflage to conceal not only their executive function weaknesses, but their true personalities.”

The Distracted Couple, Edited by Larry Maucieri, PhD and Jon Carlson, PsyD, EdD

End Game Analysis: “Mind the Gap”

This article, and the articles that follow analyze my thoughts on what I am calling my “end game.” You can read more about this concept here.

In my last post, I spoke about two positions within a “relationship spectrum,” one based on complete openness, and the other, extreme isolation. Understanding and managing what lies between can enable one to make better decisions when interacting with different people, all of whom have unique perspectives and ways of operating.

You may be asking: “But what does this have to do with the original end game? Isn’t the end game about critical thinking and advancement?”

I’ve learned that very close and fulfilling relationships can act as a source of fuel towards greater intellectual and creative achievement; their benefits are multifold. In contrast, challenging relationships can interfere with one’s ability to concentrate and ultimately advance.

At their worst, the ending of close relationships can result in severe depression and anxiety, the combination of which can cease all effort for an extended timeframe. Without an appropriate course correction, this decreased activity can begin to permeate into other areas.

This can be a major problem.

I used to believe that the fluid nature of relationships made it naturally resistant to any form of management. I no longer believe this. Relationships involving some type of mental disorder require considerable patience, understanding, and need to be carefully managed. Relationships that do not harbor such disorders also require a certain degree of management, although to a lesser degree.

While self-awareness is invaluable, situational awareness is what really matters here. Thus, the ability to remain mobile is largely dependent upon the relationships one finds him or herself in, and how each relationship should be managed, or ultimately contained (more about this later).

Given the various relationship types, personalities, and situations that blend the two, it is difficult to share specific examples. Books like “How to Deal with Difficult People” provide this type of guidance fairly well in both a lighthearted yet grounded way.

In my next post I’ll talk about an initial set of relationship principles that can enable one to effortlessly “mind the gap” without letting emotions run the show.

 

Crisis Management

“Doba’s response to Gabriela’s concern about what he’d do in a crisis, if the closest land was the bottom, was to say there will be no crisis. He did not say this because he’s naïve. He said it because he has reimagined the concept of crisis, just as he has reimagined the concept of suffering. A crisis, in Doba’s worldview, is an opportunity for triumph. So Doba moves toward the crisis, just as he moves toward the suffering. By choosing it, he casts himself in the role of hero, not victim. He gives himself control.

Why he Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the third time), Elizabeth Weil, The New York Times

 

End Game Analysis: Relationship Spectrum

This article, and the articles that follow analyze my thoughts on what I am calling my “end game.” You can read more about this concept here.

In my Connectedness post, I highlighted the importance of staying reasonably connected with others when one’s primary energy is focused on challenging work. Maintaining a balance between the two contexts can improve the quality of both.

Unfortunately, not every connection will result in a positive experience or outcome. Hence, it is very important to consider the use of “early warning systems” and boundaries to enable one to continue to stay reasonably connected regardless of the participant “mix.”

Thus, it’s worth exploring another spectrum, one that I have traveled along and gained experience from. Let’s call this the “relationship spectrum.”

At one end of this spectrum is naive openness, where one’s relationship with others places no restriction on the types of people or the relationships themselves. All advice and opinions are weighted equally regardless of source, and there is little-to-no “post-processing” done before acting upon such advice. All behaviors are tolerated.

At the far end of this spectrum is complete isolation and containment. Here, all relationships are discouraged, and the concept of “post-processing” has little to no meaning given that advice is neither sought nor recognized. All behavior is absent.

These are extreme positions.

Without an appropriate understanding or management of this spectrum, one can find themselves needlessly vacillating. This pattern of behavior, if left unchecked, can result in a cascade of poor decisions, the outcome of which can be difficult to unwind.

In my next post, I’ll talk about “minding the gap” via a comprehensive understanding of what lies between these two positions, and a starting point for defining a set of operating principles to maintain perspective and a positive outlook.

Illegitimate Suffering

When I consider the personal losses I’ve experienced over the past decade, and in particular, my most recent experience, I am left to wonder why these experiences have entered my life, and why I find myself increasingly isolated after each one.

Given the majority of these experiences involved some form of mental disorder, this provides some assurance that all is not “random.” Yet, these experiences leave deep scars that will never truly heal.

What’s perhaps more unfortunate is the feedback shared by friends and family. In their desire to move past the visible suffering, they are inadvertently negating the experience all-together:

“Bad things happen to good people.”
“Now you’re free to have someone else enter your life.”
“There is a reason why this happened to you.”

(And any derivation thereof)

These comments, in particular, are reduced versions of their originals; the longer versions, ironically, drive an even greater wedge between giver and receiver. In my personal experience, I’m frequently left confused, conflicted, and angry. I don’t feel heard, and worse, my feelings appear illegitimate.

Ultimately, these comments reflect a lack of courage to lament.

Taking the necessary time for deep introspection, counseling, or other forward-moving actions is a necessary, albeit eventual, component of grief. All too often, I have found that people omit these valuable exercises with the intent of “getting on with life.” And, unsurprisingly, they wish others to do the same.

Ironically, persons with ADHD are unfortunately programmed for this type of behavior. By its very nature, they are able to quickly “forgive and forget” which only worsens the pain on the inflicted (partner) and, unfortunately, leaves them in an increasingly vulnerable position over time. Not everyone heals as quickly.

Those who have not experienced mental illness first-hand are unable to comprehend the severity of the disorder. All too often, relationships involving partners with BPD, NPD, or ADHD, exhibit behaviors that are clearly visible within the relationship arena, but are invisible in normal, daily “life” interactions. The result of this disconnect should be obvious.

Through no choice of my own, there is the benefit in transforming what would otherwise be a positive and supportive relationship to an academic exercise.

The “illegitimate” dimension of suffering is initially manifested through the seemingly detached guidance just shared. It’s only when this suffering extends into inaction, and potentially subsequent unhealthy relationships, that it becomes self-inflicted.

And this is what requires my greatest level of attention.

 

Attention IV – Habits and the Objective

In February 2013, I decided to begin working with a personal trainer.

From 2007 up until this time, I had been steading improving and expanding my training regimen having completed my first marathon and my fourth triathlon. I made this decision to push myself to the next level of fitness, and I needed formal guidance to get there.

Over the next three years, I learned an incredible amount about strength training and was able to significantly improve my overall condition through consistent and dedicated effort. In early 2016, I was awarded “Most Improved.”

Then, in early 2017, I learned that my trainer was relocating. Coincidentally, it was around this time where the purpose of our working relationship was beginning to lose its meaning. After all, we had gone through similar routines for an extended timeframe, and I didn’t require any further instruction or guidance in its current form. I was also operating within a fairly consistent routine.

Fortunately, via this foundation, I was able to maintain, and even expand upon, our original routine and continue to do so today.

While I set out to take my fitness to “the next level,” I never really defined what “the next level” really looked like. I just knew instinctively that I was operating well beneath my potential.

I am thankful to have had the financial means and opportunity to work with an experienced athlete for so long, and while his expertise contributed a great deal to my success, I discovered that the sheer habit of meeting with him represented half the effort.

Ironically, when coming up with the idea for this post, I came across an article by Marcia Reynolds entitled “Stop Making New Goals, Create Habits Instead.”

When I stop to consider this experience, and aspects of the book “Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective” by Kenneth Stanley, I’ve learned you don’t need a specific “objective” to get started, but you do need to plan and repeat small shifts in behavior to experience positive, and lasting change, regardless of what the “change” entails.