Remembrance of Selves Past
Sunday, March 11, 2012 8 Comments
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A not-so-new form of Self-advocacy
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Practically all of us here in ADD-land have what the neuropsychs call “short-term memory deficits.”
Not only does that make it tough to run our lives, day to day, it also has a negative effect on what we are able to remember about our past.
Since one’s memories become the fabric of one’s sense of self, self-esteem can only be battered by the trade winds of today if you have no reliable sense of past to keep you moored.
It also makes it difficult to explain ourselves, our decisions, and our conclusions – even to ourselves!
Many of you who battled with teachers who accused you of cheating because you had the answer but couldn’t “show your work” know just what I mean by that statement.
We KNOW they don’t get it – WE don’t even get it!
So-called “neurotypicals” have NO idea what it’s like to read a journal entry in your own handwriting with no access to the memory of having that train of thought ever in your life, much less working through the issue on paper to a conclusion you find as enlightening as you might find a brand new concept written by another. (YES, I do remember writing it as I get into the rereading – but I’m still quite often fascinated to see what I came up with by the end).
Here’s the Hard Part
- We can set systems around to-dos and chores.
- We can set alarms to remind us WHEN we were supposed to do something – with back-up notebooks to remind us why we set the darned things to begin with.
- And we can amuse ourselves to no end when we state, without reservation, that we did not watch a certain video or read a certain book, only to come across it in our personal libraries, splattered with evidence of the exact opposite – yet we still can’t remember the endings on demand.
But how do we deal with a shifting sense of authenticity?
Not that it matters much to US
Left to our own community of fellow travelers, we’d be content to simply “play it as it lays.” Those of you with vanilla-flavored brains, however (currently in the majority on this small planet we share), seem to consider “being oneself” an important marker for leverage in the status game.
And that particular form of being seems to have something to do with being
the very same self every single day in every single environment.
That’s where you lose us- but we keep trying, bless our little hearts.
We do, after all, have to live in what you seem to consider “your” world. And you do, after all, expect us to at least look like we’re struggling to fit into your world view (even though we’re not exactly sure why you’d chose to do it YOUR way — or exactly which lines we’re supposed to toe when).
Passing for Normal
“Please, God, don’t let me be Normal!”
~ Luisa, from the musical The Fantasticks
There are currently quite a few posts in the Aspergers community explaining how much energy goes into “passing for neurotypical,” and how painful it is for unique, authentic expressions of self to be discounted while inauthentic “acting” is seen as who they really are.
My heart hurts for them. Sixties redux – when we were all beaten bloody by the “You are not ‘REAL’” stick.
Those of us with what I call “a high Aspergers piece” to our ADD presentation may relate more directly to that particular problem, but many ADDers rarely feel inauthentic in exactly that manner.
- We are more likely to fear that we are possibly bipolar, because our “moods” seem to shift with the wind.
- We tend to be like chameleons – authentically green, red, or plaid, depending on where our Fates decide we are to perch today.
- And, truth to tell, a great many of us find all this emphasis on “being one’s self” incredibly redundant and more than a little bit boring. Who else COULD we be? And what makes anyone believe THEY can tell, from the outside, much of anything at all about the authenticity of the inside of anybody else?
Curiouser and curiouser
When WE look around, it seems to us that the mavericks and eccentrics are the uber cool. They also seem to be the more successful ones; they are definitely the ones who get all the press coverage. And money. Have you ever noticed that money follows quirky more readily than straight-and-narrow?
AND we can’t help but wonder if the theory behind those (why-are-they-so-popular-with-so-called-neurotypicals?) “creativity seminars,” designed to get everybody OUT of those very same boxes you tell them they need to live in the rest of the time, makes any sense to you either.
How and when did “professional” become a synonym for “cookie-cutter?”
NORMAL is not the Goal – Extraordinary is the Goal
(and extraordinary people are NEVER “normal”) ~ mgh
Remembering the times of our lives
STILL, it would be nice to be able to reconstruct our histories, if only to count the many ways we came up with to be ourselves in our lives so far. Who knows, we might feel like trotting one or the other out for a revival, if we only had a link to where we’ve been!
Pictures go a long way – but then, of course, we’d have to get it together to organize the darned things for them to be much more than a dream recalled for a moment, more distraction than tracking tool, with little to no help with orientation or timeline.
Keeping a journal is a great idea, and I absolutely adore mine. All eleventy-seven of them. It seems I misplace them regularly (well, I have moved A LOT), so my entries aren’t exactly in chronological order. I do leave breadcrumbs for myself like, “find red leather journal for beginning of 1999″ – for all the good THAT does.
I recently came across an eBook written by journaling specialist Aisling D’Art that tells you, step-by-step, HOW to recreate your history. It actually seems DO-able, the way she lays it out.
It’s not written specifically FOR the attentional community — there are a lot of other resources in the eBook which you may or may not find compelling. But the part about creating a history may be as amazing to you as it was to me (another of those duhs! that seem so obvious once it’s pointed out that you might never have figured out otherwise.)
How much? Nada. Her gift. Go grab yourself a copy while she’s still feeling generous! I think you’ll find that it’s really worth your time.
In a FUTURE part of this thread, I’ll outline a way of working with your past that my clients, students and many of their clients have learned to use to shift their own brain chemistry and increase self-esteem. Reading the “history” part of the eBook above would be a GREAT jumpstart for that process!
I also plan to nitpick this “short-term memory deficit” idea a bit – because I don’t think many of the “experts” really get the nuances of what’s going on with most of us in that arena. LOTS more to come, so keep coming back.
UPDATE: Take a gander at the comment thread on this post (below my “bio” – sorry, it’s “automatically” part of this theme). The comments expand on the ideas above NOW – and if you click on the names of the commentors, I think you’ll find THEIR blogs of interest as well.
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- Journaling — Part of the ‘Happy Secret’ (aisling.net)
- Journaling Morning Pages @750 words.com (mybyeworld.com)
- What Does Authenticity Look Like? (psychologytoday.com)
- Brainwave: Can an Actor Act Without Short-Term Memory? (danapress.typepad.com)
- Are You Neurotypical? (quantifiedself.com)
- How does your brain create short-term memories? [Neuroscience] (io9.com)
- What determines the capacity of short-term memory? (sciencedaily.com)
- Journaling (ajrokin.wordpress.com)
- HC: Woman with Amnesia Unable to Hold a Single Face in Short-term Memory … Unless it’s Paris Hilton (neurosciencenews.com)
- Why you memory IMPROVES with age (Well, up to a point, anyway) (dailymail.co.uk)
- Reason why people listen to love songs, over and over again (examiner.com)