What do you pay attention to?
Andrew: You’re right David, after my years with depression and feeling stuck, I started to make a series of changes to my lifestyle and my outlook. I made new decisions that affected my health, wellbeing and attitude, to be more positive and take control. With my diagnosis of ADHD, I realised that there were new alternative and better ways to address my challenges. Why do we become so negative?
David: People subconsciously are run by negativity – all human beings, not just ADDers, but people with ADHD are even more so because that’s what’s they have experienced and had reinforced for many years. So we have to
learn to identify where that negativity shows up, generally it shows up in our bodies. Everything that starts in the invisible realm of the mind shows up in our physical bodies.
As a typical ADDer, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone.
When we feel disharmony in our body rather than pausing to pay attention to it, we move on and try to fix and solve it. We won’t stop long enough to say “How is what I’m paying attention to serving me?” We don’t even give it a name.
If we’re angry or frustrated, we keep pushing on, pushing on with the anger and frustration unidentified in our body, and many of us with ADHD become immobilised by that. We ruminate. We go into all these negative kinds of hyperfocus and it becomes a huge barrier to our own individual progress
We know that it is so powerful just to be able to pause and pay attention to what we are paying attention to in any given moment. So many ADDers have a very difficult time pausing, because we live in a world that doesn’t even believe in pausing. It just believes in doing, doing more and more.
I actually have clients that tell me they think they’re smart and intelligent based on how fast they do things. It’s crazy.
But when we get them to slow down and pause, and say “This disharmony you’re feeling, where do you feel it?” “I feel it in my body.” What is that?” They can tell you it’s anger, it’s frustration. And when we do just that first piece of helping them identify the negative, science tell us that by identifying the emotion we diminish its power over us.
Andrew: So we need to pause and pay attention to our emotions?
David: Yes, but this is precisely what a lot of the ADDers don’t do. They pay attention to patterns of fixing problems that have not been identified emotionally. They get sucked up in the emotion itself because stimulation is anything of interest that stimulates the brain, but not all interest is necessarily good for us.
An emotion is highly interesting and stimulating to our brains, but the intention of that emotion can be very negative.
So we have to learn to pause and pay attention, and identify the emotion and ask ourselves “How is this emotion – that I’ve labelled fear, anger, perfectionism, whatever – serving me?” And we know that it’s not serving us. The next question is “what do I have control over and what don’t I have control over?”
We may not have control over the results but we have control of our ability to sit back and pause, and ask “Is this serving me well?” And if it isn’t, we have the power to change it.
If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all
If we don’t know the patterns we cannot make the essential changes. This is why I got into the ADHD Coaching profession, I saw so many brilliant people beating themselves over such ridiculous concepts such as perfectionism: “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all” or focusing on problems, as opposed to possibilities.
The most successful people in this world and indeed the most successful ADHD people (of which I’ve seen many,), are the ones that have learned to pay attention to these patterns. They recognise the negative patterns, reinforced in their brains as children.
When you and I were children we went through the school systems not doing well enough, not doing as we were expected and then we took those negative patterns into adulthood and never challenged them.
Really what this is all about is identifying these emotions and then challenging the thoughts that create them.