August 4, 2010

ADHD Related Choices and an Existential Thought Experiment

I am a huge fan of Dr. Irvin D. Yalom's writings - both fiction and clinical non-fiction works. Stumbling across his book Existential Psychotherapy in the musty library stacks one lonely night in first year university singularly inspired me to specialize in psychology at the University of Toronto.

He poses the following thought experiment to a number of his patients - one which I think is very powerful.

Suppose you were told that after your death, you were destined to relive your entire life exactly as it is, with all the same choices and all the same consequences.
  1. Would that be a reward or a punishment?
  2. What can you do now in your life so that one year or five years from now, you won't look back and feel dismayed about the new regrets you've accumulated?
  3. Even if you are subject to forces which seem beyond your control, at least 10% of your life is within your power. How can you find that 10%, and exercise it, so that you're doing whatever is in your power not to create new regrets in the rest of your life?
He even took it a step farther in his novel "When Nietzsche Wept", where the therapist protagonist poses the question to the ailing philosopher Nietzsche by asking him if he were destined to relive his entire life exactly as it has played out over and over into infinity, what changes would he make... that really puts an edge on the question!

Some would respond by saying that they have no regrets, or that whatever they encountered 'made them who they are'. Sure it made them who they are, but that is beside the point, in my opinion. Is this who they wish to be? I take issue with those who say that they have no regrets, because personally I know that if I could go back in time with what I know now, I would make some different choices. Whoever says that they no regrets is either a liar or a saint. Or so says I...

But I think the important lesson of the thought experiment is that it makes you ask yourself about the here-and-now. What choices are you making at this very moment in your life which you would make differently in light of this thought experiment?

Enough wandering. Focus: How the heck does this relate to ADHD? Well, I get that I use medication to help me control my ADHD symptoms and that the neurobiology and genetic factors are out of my control. But I also understand that exercise, pattern planning, self-coaching, and other activities can help me improve my ADHD symptoms, and that these are all choices I can make.

I have been reading "The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents" by Nancy A. Ratey. She stresses the importance and capabilities of people with ADHD to perform self-coaching. At the same time, she recognizes that ADHD never 'goes away', and that self-coaching won't replace therapy and medication. But that self-coaching and persistent efforts towards carefully chosen behavioural goals using a structured self-coaching model can make a tremendous difference to an ADHDer like me.

This book has been very eye-opening for me. It discusses symptoms and how they relate to real-life situations. It details a structure and very rational self-coaching model which we ADHDers can employ.

So getting to the point: I am choosing to commit to engage in self-coaching over the next several weeks on an area of development (which I have yet to decide upon...). I'll work on this topic over the next few days and post about my choice, my commitment to the self-coaching and the outcomes. I think it should be a very interesting project.
"Ratey has produced a valuable resource for people addressing the daily challenges caused by the neurobiological condition of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty with organization, focus, and time management. Ratey, a professional ADHD coach who was diagnosed with the disorder herself while in graduate school, provides a set of concrete tools that ADHD adults can use to help themselves traverse both personal and professional situations, though the author emphasizes that her book is not a substitute for diagnosis and treatment. Short sections explaining the biological reasons for the disorder's more exasperating symptoms are contributed by Ratey's husband John, a psychiatrist specializing in treatment of ADHD and co-author of Driven to Distraction, a seminal ADHD book. With a nod to her audience, Ratey divides her book into sections that can be absorbed in small increments, including her own struggles with the disorder, her six-step "A.N.S.W.E.R" system, case studies and tips from spouses and employers. For ADHD sufferers, Ratey's book might not be a one-stop remedy but it's an extremely helpful starting place. "

"For the millions of adults diagnosed with ADHD The Disorganized Mind will provide expert guidance on what they can do to make the most of their lives. The inattention, time-mismanagement, procrastination, impulsivity, distractibility, and difficulty with transitions that often go hand-in-hand with ADHD can be overcome with the unique approach that Nancy Ratey brings to turning these behaviors around.

The Disorganized Mind addresses the common issues confronted by the ADHD adult:
“Where did the time go?”
“I’ll do it later, I always work better under pressure anyway.”
“I’ll just check my e-mail one more time before the meeting…”
“I’ll pay the bills tomorrow – that will give me time to find them.”

Professional ADHD coach and expert Nancy Ratey helps readers better understand why their ADHD is getting in their way and what they can do about it. Nancy Ratey understands the challenges faced by adults with ADHD from both a personal and professional perspective and is able to help anyone move forward to achieve greater success. Many individuals with ADHD live in turmoil. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can make choices and imagine how things can change – this book will teach you how. By using ADHD strategies that have worked for others and will work for you, as well as learning how to organize, plan, and prioritize, you’ll clear the hurdles of daily living with a confidence and success you may never before have dreamed possible."
Hope you enjoyed this post and found it interesting. I really enjoy reading your feedback and comments - if there is anything in particular you would like me to write about, please leave a comment below...



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1 comment:

  1. "if there is anything in particular you would like me to write about, please leave a comment below..."

    As much as you want to share!

    Being as I'm in a more rural location atm, getting help is sort of a lacking thing here....and I see a 'therapist' to work on these things maybe twice a month, and a psychiatrist once a month concerning meds.

    That's it. So much of it is going to be up to me to work on, and as such, I'll take any helpful information that comes about. I have no problem working hard on my problems, just need the tools to do so.

    Your blog has been an excellent reference so far, thanks for that!

    I look forward to your posts about what you are learning.



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