Recently I have begun work on a condition I have been calling “Emotional ADD”. In people with emotional ADD there is not always a clear framework of seeing actual difficulties when it comes to concentrating on study or work or reading. It mainly has to do with a loss of any center of passion and even of any sense of entitlement to passion. Most glaring is the tendency to feel like the loser in almost any argument which involves a battle of wits or a difference of point of view. In fact the person with emotional ADD may have a strong inkling of what is right in a particular situation but can be argued out of that inclination with a bat of an eyelash, or anything which resembles an arrogant disapproval or disagreement. In this sense the person with emotional ADD is distracted from anything resembling a strong sense of self and self-initiated direction, particularly in the vicinity of anyone inducing doubt. The doubter becomes the authority, thereby rendering the emotional ADD person altogether fragile when it comes to another’s emotional bullying.
This condition can be dramatic in scope or more subtle, as when an adult lives a “regular” life with job, family and vacations and at first glance all may even see quite fine. But the spark is missing: strong opinions, strong feelings of preference are missing, the “oomph” is gone or is not even an expectation of its sufferer. For the person for whom the zest is all but gone, when the condition is suggested there is often an “aha!” experience. In some people the suffering is enormous and constant; it may look more like a case of obsession but it is not about worrying about the same thing: it is about guilt and lack of practice in holding onto one’s right to have the bare minimum of joy and an opinion without absolute proof or in the face of any objection whatsoever.
In a therapy session with an emotional ADD person, there is often a look of feeling lost and easily in a haze. In fact almost anyone who puts the idea of therapy and seeking feelings of wellbeing in doubt will usually win a contest out of hand. If the therapist has understood the patient, the “thinking” goes that patient and therapist must be the jerks. The therapist is demeaned, the therapy defined as silly. The emotional ADD person can’t stick up for himself/herself or for that matter his/her child or friend or lover- for anyone whom the unauthorized authority says “must be wrong”.
Even though not yet an official “diagnosis” and perhaps better that way, Emotional ADD can be a condition which is an affliction that affects all aspects of existence. When those people who question are made to feel alienated or as failures, their lives freeze, their passion goes underground or away, and their capacity for and trust in, authentic and critical thinking can come to a halt.
This is not a matter of easy resolution and in general I am not prone to being a “bullet points” kind of girl. But as this is a “helping” part of the site, the least we can do is to point to some alerts to the condition and to some beginning tips about waking up. The thought is that simple awareness can be a way for the opening of channels which have been closed to feelings or thoughts. If some of these early “tips for the road” ring a bell, that can be a good thing. Get ready, set:
- Be alert to a beginning wake-up call, from your child or friend or a book or film or from an inner voice, or from me, which may mark the start of discomfort that people often feel when they are bullied or intimidated by self-doubt.
- You may be just waking up when you begin hearing or thinking about the notion of an entitlement to form your own opinions. Feel free to ask questions from people who won’t belittle you and also be careful to seek information which isn’t pompous or preachy.
- Keep in mind that confusion does not mean you are inferior, stupid or even wrong. In fact anyone who bullies you, in the playground, the bedroom or the television, may not be smarter at all but may just talk fast as a practiced manipulator.
- Consider that if you are in an intimate or controlling relationship and you have emotional ADD, any beginning clarity on your part, may be “welcomed” by misery in your partner. We often “go with what we know” and as such anyone used to easy power tends to dislike and change in the balance of power.
- If you are “living” in distraction from yourself, waking up can pose tough times for you and your friends and lovers. However, when husbands, wives or friends try to bully you out of your changing or threaten to leave if you insist, threats of abandonment are can often be intimidations calculated to scare you away from your beginning sense of clarity. If you become threatened with insistence or abusive behavior, you may need to recognize that you cannot and should not be expected to, go it alone. This is a good time for a good therapist with a need to be open and take risks in your search for integrity.
- If you happen to be the bully of the emotional ADD person, think about whether in fact you yourself may have emotional ADD that you are masking behind your loud voice or fast words. It’s ok, there is help available. If you are a bully even some of the time, remember that anger is easier than vulnerability for many people. Some of us are trying to change that old-fashioned and destructive notion that vulnerability is a bad thing: in fact it’s often the beginning of true courage.
- There is no freedom without questioning. Most of us think our best when we have questions. When children are allowed to question everything and everyone, they often give us our best questions, especially if we have become mentally sleepy.
- After questioning and often along with it, may come the desire or need for facts. Just because you ask a question or question a policy does not mean you have to have all the facts. Facts can be very important, but try to remember that information is often limited by the way questions have been asked in the first place, and in the way facts are organized. Remember most facts have been organized by people and their validity will also depend on how they are used. If facts are used to bully they are not helpful to questioning or to learning.
- If your thinking style is different from those around you, perhaps you too have a dancing mind. Perhaps you think in pictures or while dancing, or through poetry or music. You deserve for your uniqueness of style to be appreciated.
- For those of you who need an educator or mentor or doctor or therapist: Please remember that the best of these will seek to know you and value your essence, and not seek to overpower you with the absoluteness of any one way with no questioning allowed. Remember: questioning is crucial to everyone’s growth and needs to be allowed in all such interventions.
- A Note to Fellow Seekers: Please be advised that all change is often frightening, and frightening even to the point of threatening the fiber of one’s being- one’s defenses, and one’s sense of reliability whether based on reality or not. It is important as seeker or friend or helper to remember that to have clarity is not necessarily equal to the readiness for change. One recent important shift in my own work and writing is a much greater empathy, respect and patience for the territory and often great distance between clarity and change. In fact I have added to my repertoire a reassurance to patients: You can find clarity without signing up for change. And if you decide on both, the arena of your fears and what you might need for change to be bearable and viable, will be explored- with respect.
- A Note to Fellow Therapists: Remember that in terms of the opinions of this essay and this writer, therapy needs a good measure of mutuality and humility. While self-discipline and care not to harm others are crucial ingredients, we are in essence co-creators in a potentially creative process that involves more art than science. Admission that we are all learning as we go might equalize the playing field in therapy and in life.
If we ourselves have dancing minds, may we accept our dancing talents and have patience for the more linear and strict thinkers among us; many of them know not what they do. In the best of all worlds we can complement each other and make life and lives, better.
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