Why stress hormones and fight or flight response are part of ADHD “Teaching”
Here’s something that happens to ADHD children a lot: Getting pushed beyond their limits by accident. Here’s how it works and why it’s so bad.
The child says, “I can’t do this.” Adult (teacher or parent) does not believe it, because Adult has seen Child do things that Adult considers more difficult, and Child is too young to properly articulate why the task is difficult.
Adult decides that the problem is something other than true inabilities, like laziness, lack of self-confidence, stubbornness, or lack of motivation.
Adult applies motivation in the form of harsher and harsher scoldings and punishments. The child becomes horribly distressed by these punishments. Finally, the negative emotions produce a wave of adrenaline that temporarily repairs the neurotransmitter deficits caused by ADHD, and the Child manages to do the task, nearly dropping from relief when it’s finally done.
The lesson the Adult takes away is that Child was able to do it all along, the task was quite reasonable, and Child just wasn’t trying hard enough. Now, surely Child has mastered the task and learned the value of simply following instructions the first time.
The lessons Child takes away? Well, it varies, but it might be:
- How to do the task while in a state of extreme panic, which does NOT easily translate into doing the task when calm.
- Using emergency fight-or-flight overdrive to deal with normal daily problems is reasonable and even expected.
- It’s not acceptable to refuse tasks, no matter how difficult or potentially harmful.
- Asking for help does not result in getting useful help.
Not mine, source:
“Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.”
– Thomas Carlyle in Frederick the Great (1858)
This capacity is born of love. Love lavishes attention and time on the beloved and is rewarded with a deeper relationship and greater intimacy.
Once upon a time, in the cold forests of the north, a little girl was born, the only child of the royal family of a small, troubled kingdom. She was named Princess Laurel. The trouble concerned the girl’s parents, the King, and the Queen. Theirs was a loveless marriage, arranged and imposed over their angry protests. Though dutiful, neither felt well used by their own families. Their marriage was demanded to secure a peace settlement unifying the eternally warring adjacent duchies of Laurel’s grandparents. Once a unified kingdom, these clans had ripped it in two. From their armored castle compounds at opposite edges of the kingdom, they battled each other viciously for control, bringing misery and chaos to the peaceful population. The history of their feud was a ragged scar dominating the history of the kingdom. Heartless power grabs, Murders, and revenge murders filled the pages of that history. One day something snapped and a peasant revolution exploded into action, capturing both families and demanding change or death. Facing insurrection and obliteration by the common people, the families bowed to the inevitable.
The arranged marriage was acclaimed as the first step toward true peace and unity for the Kingdom. The essential next step would be their child, who would grow up to rule the kingdom and being related to both clans, could resolve their conflicts with the power of blood and rank; A living human bridge to peace.
That was the shining hope in the hearts of the men and women of the kingdom but that outcome was the last thing either the King or the Queen wished to see happen. The optimistic premise of peacemaking wasn’t accepted by either aristocratic family, they merely sought their own advantage in any circumstances and would make the most of this that they could. They viewed the marriage as a duel for supremacy, with the king and queen as the tips of their respective blades. For now, though they must be patient. The peasants weren’t complete fools and held high ranking hostages for security.
Drifting like smoke
Note: This is a writing exercise exploring an important memory, but one that existed like a collection of facts without much context or meaning. I find when I use writing to explore a memory that the lights come back on, and details lead to meanings along a narrative path. Every time I’ve done this I’ve been given a fresh understanding with relevance to my life in this very minute.
When I was young I lived with chronic depression, untreated… could there even be a more discouraging opening to an erotic memory?
Nonetheless, there is fucking ahead. Also betrayal, malpractice, and naivety. Plus a soupcon of shitty meanness.
My depression as a child and adolescent was like a seasonal beating given by an indifferent but professional thug. Or pulling from a different box, I was like a tiny Pacific Atoll blown apart by tropical cyclones 2 to 3 times a year. My palm trees thrashed violently in the wind, my beaches eroded and my desperate citizens disappeared into any hiding place they could find. My dad was a veteran of maybe a dozen years of Freudian therapy for depression and my mom was in therapy for at least a couple of years.
To the best of my recollection, they never noticed my withdrawal and sorrow and I didn’t feel I should bother them for help.
I think that:
- I might have masked it well enough to look pretty healthy, but
- How did they not notice anyway?
My son is extremely private, a secretive and enigmatic person, but I see clouds or clear skies on his face and understand the weather in there well enough to send aid and comfort to the suffering people of his tiny island. My suffering finally surfaced in talks with my mom when I was 15 or 16. My self-loathing and despair were catastrophic, a house burning down. She listened to me lovingly and sympathetically, she made positive suggestions, but that’s all. She didn’t perceive a need to address it beyond this. I don’t go back and live in the ashes of family psychodrama, blowing on the embers. I don’t hold mental Nuremberg trials for my parents and I find little value in blame beyond healthy and timely communication to keep the pipes running freely. But my parents let me down, the only two people, directly tasked with my well-being and very knowledgeable about mental health by the standards of the time, did nothing to help me despite the obvious crisis. I was failing out of school, peacefully refusing to do any work like a teenage “Bartelby the scrivener”. I had given up having friends and lived alone in my room. That’s the extent of the case I prosecute against them and that’s where I let it go, feeling mystified since I know they loved me and worried about me. Continue reading
1- The Entombment of Christ 2-Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, 3-Crucifixion of Saint Peter 4-The Beheading of St John the Baptist 5-Judith Beheading Holofernes 6-Flagellation of Christ 7-The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew 8-Annunciation 9-Rest on the Flight into Egypt 10-Narcissus 11-The Raising of Lazarus 12-Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy 13-Bacchus
“We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origins. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! It is our own.”
Sir Arthur Eddington, Space, Time, and Gravitation, 1920
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
In every Third Mind post, I talk about people becoming social molecules. Two people meet and a sort of third, hybrid self pops into existence. I call it the third mind. It’s generally a wispy, nebulous self at the MOMENT that people meet, as in, introduce themselves. If you think about it there is almost a sort of taste to a first meeting but it’s usually all but drowned out in the psychic noise of social posturing, self-consciousness, and the jumble of talk from all around. Still, it’s there.
The deepening of the third mind between you and another is rather like the creating of a molecule. You are an element, and they are an element, and you both have chemical properties. There will be a chemical reaction when you meet. In most meetings, these reactions are Ho-Hum, almost neutral. With most people, your two elements just look each other up and down and shrug: “Hey.”, “Yup.”
Let’s talk blind dates. When you meet your blind date you know roughly 0.7 seconds in whether this is anything or not. Within half an hour of talk, you know for certain if you ever want to see them again for any reason. Meeting the same person in a different context isn’t the same thing at all. You don’t sprint to such large conclusions when meeting Bob from accounting in the break room for example.
In an online dating context:
As we approach the date we are informed only with expectations based on research data about this new person, the mental dossier we’ve gleaned from their profile and pictures, and texts. Almost everything we feel toward them is emotional doodling or embroidery around this data cluster. It is a hypothesis based on hearsay, advertising, imagination, and self-image. This first impression is bound to the context of the meeting. Two critical variables come into play: The SET and SETTING. The Set is your expectations. It is the emotional baggage or mental clarity you carry into the meeting. The SET is what we think we are doing here and what it potentially means. The Setting is where you meet, but not the street address. It is this place of meeting, but mainly the aesthetics and atmosphere, the mood, and the feeling. We bring our data report into the atmosphere of this bar, or waiting room, or street corner and wait for love as if in a duck blind.
I’m intrigued by this instant knowing. What the hell is it exactly that we instantly know? In that specific moment where you know: “Absolutely not!” as opposed to “Maybe”? It’s mysterious. Little things that don’t feel right about them may come to mind but I think those are more often like rationalizations than real answers. The closest I can get to explaining this interpersonal “dead air” lack of connection is like this: “Sorry, you are experiencing network connectivity problems, try resetting your modem.”
No Connection. True, but no connection to what? Do we have a molecular binding site for romance? A lock and the wrong key? Honestly, it feels to me like everyone has an invisible elephant loyally plodding after them. When you meet, chemistry is how well your invisible elephants get along.
The significance of our mental SET (our expectations) on a blind date is almost literally cosmic: “I might have kids with you”, “I’m seeking my true love”. The overwrought significance of dating gets in the way of dating. You can be completely sensible and have all your ridiculous big expectations, pseudo-expectations, and even ghostly shadow expectations locked away in a big trunk that says “Oh, shut up” on the outside but when you see your date, you can’t unknow the underlying reasons why you are there. Then, 0.7 seconds later you might for example know that something kind of fun and sexual could happen but it wouldn’t be worth the awkwardness of extracting yourself later. Or, that a possible friendship could grow in this soil; OR that we could save ourselves a lot of time and energy by saying goodnight right now.
The issue of rightness is so important to everyone that’s it’s as if an inner representative of your DESTINY steps forward like a humorless secret service agent to pat down your date and gives you the tiniest head shake, no.
Meanwhile, across the table, your date’s secret service agent looks hard at you before giving the same little shake. OK, we’re done here…except for two hours of polite talk entropically cooling toward an awkward goodnight.
This is the composition of the American population grouped by important neurological, sexual, and political “realities”. These people are active ingredients in their standard amounts in the recipe that produces human communities. This is a recipe (or at least a list of ingredients and amounts) for reality as we know it. You can not leave out or thoughtlessly replace any ingredient is a standard recipe and have success. We can think about any food recipe and with only our common sense, understand why that ingredient was essential and why its absence ruined the result.
Look at this with that simile in mind.
Neurology, Gender, Sexuality, and Politics.
Each variation is a distinct frequency of reality and behavior. Each frequency affects those around it. When all these measured types are present at once we have a larger meta-frequency generated from this synthesis. The harmony of the choir when each singer is hitting their note.
This aggregate of differences is the blueprint for a human community. These percentages are unchanging, year after year. This is the consistency of us as a collective generated by the soulful, longing, hard slogging individual lives we lead. There are a lot of roles being played here that support community health and success. This is the diversity of a healthy biome. The tent could collapse if the percentages wandered far enough out of balance. Too much or too little could cause problems comparable to a pudding that won’t set or is too thin or thick. An imbalance could mirror a PH imbalance that stops the bread from rising. Continue reading