You don’t have to be a bad person to make bad choices, but sometimes it’s an uncomfortable road to freedom to find this out. Today, I would like to reveal a tactic to escape the vicious cycle when you feel stuck when repeating ADD errors and or making poor choices in response to your ADHD symptoms.
As ADDers, we can feel like victims to our faults, self sabotaging impulses, harsh inner critiques and create cycles of imprisoning anxiety.
These common and problematic symptoms are an affect of our brain wiring:
overwhelm during pressure
short memory retention
low frustration tolerance
poor focus causing inefficient time management
missing vital details/deadlines
lack of understanding and empathy
misreading social cues
Though many people experience these problems at some point, those with Attention Deficit Disorder have a high frequency and often produce errors that are problematic, discouraging and even embarrassing. And when I say high, I mean that an ADDer battles one or more of these problems at least once a day since they were very young. The problem may escalate into frustration and mental paralyzation a few times a week. And the worst part, it seems as though the person with ADD didn’t learn their lesson.
Despite best intentions, the common story of someone with this diagnosis seems to be doomed to repeat. Even with the best resources, preparation and supports, they are labeled as their own worst enemy.
The Story of an ADHD Shame Cycle:
The Persona: In order to protect ego and self esteem, the ADHD persona lives up to an expected role. This lovable character agrees to portray self love while accepting themselves as the late, forgetful, distractible, apologetic, disorganized colleague, friend, spouse and/or parent. They are sensitive to critique but accept help in order to be polite.
The Setup: A partner, parent, teacher or boss, reminds them to be careful, focused and not to let the important things slip through the cracks. The ADHD subject now treats everything as important and has a sincere intention to follow through before the deadline. The subjects ego creates a protective layer of overconfidence while leaving part of their planning to chance and hope.
Protection and Perfection: The mistakes tally, the pressure and unbalanced weights stack up. Instead of asking for help, telling the team to slow down or creating a new plan, they proceed at full speed. They are now about to be exposed for repeating a fault. There is a grand fear of falling behind and labeled as lazy, avoidant or absent minded. They use the ideal of perfectionism as protection from possible failure. At this point, our hero of great intentions is left alone to defend themself from being both the victim and the villain.
The Ego Prison: Many find that dealing with these Attention Deficit symptoms weigh heavily on one's ego because every time the mistake is repeated, a longstanding shame is dug up. Years of exhibiting both small and large failures turn into the main focus instead of creating practical answers to the problem at hand. As shame exacerbates emotional triggers, it’s pretty easy to feel stuck, helpless and unmotivated. This immobilization is called shutting down and it is the prison that many with ADHD live with. It’s like your car is stuck in the mud while you run from the cops! Do I run by foot, fight the cops or push the car out of the mud?
The Final Exposure: Whether it is a bad grade, loss of a client or a messy home. The evidence eventually becomes physical. Not only does the subject have to deal with the consequence of their stifling situation, but now it is realized that they could have started to solve the problem when the problem was smaller. This avoidance and fear of responsibility is most likely seen as a character flaw and is now another tale for the person with ADD to bury again.
My father always taught me that cars on the street could kill me even if I had the right of way. Well, his exact words were “When you are walking the crossroads, pull your head out of your own ass so you can see a safe route!” What I’d like to think he meant was that an ego can kill progress. The difference between an idiot and being ignorant is that being an idiot is a choice, while being ignorant means that you haven’t experienced the opportunity to be educated yet. After many times of following the idiocy of my ego, I have searched for a way to release my ego from the equation. The following practice is a way to gain ownership before earning another shame story to your book of life.
You’re About to Make it Worse with a Bad Reaction or Non-action
Let’s use Critical Thinking To get You Back on the Right Track
The law system is a brilliant way to work through this. I admit that the American practice is not perfect. I just admire the idea that justice can somehow be served when executed correctly. We open up and swear the truth while an impartial jury listens deeply while a masterful orator probes for the bottom line. While we live in a world filled with empty apologies and ambiguity, this is one system that creates an opportunity to be vulnerable during investigation and accountable through ownership. And at the end, there is usually a critically thought out and fair judgement. All I want to know is how can we use this system of quantifying actions to live, learn and move forward!
So I am stealing it! I am using the court system to heal any shame, from myself and with my clients. While working with an overwhelmed client who felt stuck in inaction, I asked him if he would like to try this. He really wanted to find out why he was feeling ashamed and helpless and learn to create momentum after feeling sorry for himself.
The Trial of the Inner Crique Vs. ADHD Errors:
The prosecution (his inner critic) stated the case against himself:
Defendant (client) stated his case as a defendant bias or opinion:
He listed all the facts from his perspective.
Ownership and admission of any guilt.
Labeled the guilty feelings as inadmissible as they are in the (unhelpful) past and as hearsay because they aren’t provable facts
Cross examination of facts:
Jury and Judgements:
Created empathy for both perspectives and found a path to resolution so that he can stop feeling guilty about his past action.
Judge orders payment of fees or restitution, fixing what what broken, an apology or repayment for loss of time/resources. Consequence!
We found that by admitting his faults, separating opinions from facts and examining evidence, he got a chance to process and understand the larger perspective. What he got out of it: Clarity and more self control over his feelings because he wasn’t coming from an emotional place. The defendant created a space for empathy and forgave himself while learning the difference between reaction vs. response. Reactions are impulsive and an initial intuition to protect his ego. When he leaned into his fear, he mindfully created a response and it was easier for him to find a solution than to live among avoidance.
What I love about this process is that the sentencing has the possibility of relieving the accused party of their guilt and their shame. Instead of protecting themselves and their vulnerability, they learn to own up to their crimes and face guilty feelings that have been chasing them. Being on the run for so long, the defendants develop that guilty persona. Which is actually shame.
Maybe the defendant is completely innocent and deserves to clear their name! Wouldn’t that be great! The case would be won. Then what, NO GUILT and definitely NO SHAME! Whether you pay the consequence or overcome false accusation the situation is a win/win. Prove yourself innocent or serve your sentence and then you will be free!