Change Requests & SuperSensitives

Bradshaw’s Change Model and Hypersensitivity
Guest blogger: Glen Hogard

Hypersensitivity: Anything from not being able to tolerate tight clothing or labels in clothing that irritate our skin, to light, temperature, or sound sensitivity, to heightened emotional sensitivity, we often have to find ways to cut down on our reaction or “over reaction” to a stimulus.

While heightened sensitivity can be a valuable benefit in certain areas of life as in jobs such as EMS technician, doctor, fireman, and even a writer, when it is extra emotional sensitivity it can make interpersonal relationships, especially intimate relationships, difficult if not balanced with ways to sooth our hypersensitive emotions.

While it’s easy to see how it affects us, it’s not so easy to temper.

In the 1980’s, before I knew about ADD/ADHD, I was taught a tool by John Bradshaw, a famous family systems therapist, while working with his first satellite center outside of his California facility in Miami. I worked then, as I have done for ADDA, as the volunteer coordinator for his then yearly or semi-yearly seminars hosted by a great therapist Joan E. Childs.

I’m sure there are other variations of this method in practice, but this is how it was taught to me. So here it is: The Change Model

John Bradshaw’s Change Model

1. When I heard you/saw you/felt you (fill in the blank)

2. I felt (Mad, Sad, Scared, Etc.)

3. And I fantasized that (I assign meaning to your behavior that discounts me
Negative, Critical, or Shame based internal messages)

4. What I need from you is (describe what you want different next time in similar situations)

5. Can we agree to (Problem Solving and Contracting)?

My Perception vs. Your Action

What is important about the dynamics of the construction of this model is that it puts all the perception in “I” messages and is “your” perception in terms of what “you” imagined or fantasized was going on in a particular situation, rather than blaming or shaming the other person for “doing or saying” something harmful “to” you.

Telling someone “what you imagine” they were saying or doing and how you then felt, and asking if they would agree to do or act differently next time is different than putting them on the defensive by blaming or shaming them for intentionally hurting you in one way or another.

There is not enough room in a short article such as this to fully explore and “teach” how to use this technique with lots of examples, and a more thorough explanation, but if you write the form above and leave blanks to fill in where the descriptions are, and practice with someone who agrees to play with the idea with you, I think you will quickly get the idea.

Here’s a typical example from a personal relationship where one or both are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

Spouse A: “What’s wrong with you? You never put your shoes away and I find pairs of them all over the house!”

Spouse B typical response: “Nothing’s wrong with me: I’m just not aware when I remove them. Why don’t you ever put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink for me to clean?”

I think it’s safe to say, the battle lines are drawn!

A More Productive Conversation

How could it go if both had been practicing “The Change Model” and one or both remembered to use it, instead of letting their hypersensitive “reactive” self jump in front of their better judgment?

Spouse A: “What’s wrong with you? You never put your shoes away and I find pairs of them all over the house!”

Spouse B: When I heard you say: ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I felt hurt and angry and what I imagined was (or I fantasized that) you were demeaning me as a person and shaming me for leaving my shoes around the house.

  • What I need from you, since I’m not aware of my shoes at the moment I remove them, is help in noticing when I leave them around in a charge/neutral or friendly manner so I can learn to put my shoes away when I remove them.
  • Can we agree to not use negative, blaming or shaming language when you want to remind me about my shoes and I will look forward to your gentle reminders to help me learn the new habit of taking my shoes to the closet?

Of course there are other specific ways to deal with this situation. One might say, if you love your spouse who forgets this, how much trouble is it to just put the shoes away yourself? Or you could work on your own need for a perfectly tidy house.

Universally Useful

The great thing about “The Change Model” is that it can be applied in almost any circumstance with anyone. It is useful with friends, coworkers, or just about anyone who sets off your emotional sensitivity negatively by something they say, do or you perceive. The magic that makes it work is that you are not assigning blame but simply stating what “your” perception was and how “you” felt and you are requesting change, not demanding it.

Pick someone you trust to practice with and once you are comfortable you know it, use it at those times when someone that matters sets off those emotional alarm bells in your heart.

Glen Hogard, founder and principle of Synapse Coaching, is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach who received his ADD Coach Training from The Optimal Functioning Institute,™ serving as Dean of Students for several years after graduating from ACT-8. He is a Co-founder of the ACO & the 2011 recipient of its “Glen Hogard Award” for distinguished service to the ADHD coaching profession. His ADD/ADHD Coaching practice is specialized toward high functioning professionals, academicians, and creative entrepreneurs in the US and internationally. He can be contacted at glen at (use the symbol) (or 814-353-4947)

More ADD/ADHD Resources on this site:

Other supports for this article – on

Communication, Couples/Relationship:

Articles in the ADD Overview series:

Articles in the Attention series:

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

5 Responses to Change Requests & SuperSensitives

  1. EssenceOfEmpathy says:

    MGH==>I have edited this brave poster’s comment (adding some formatting so all can follow the thread, and removing more personal/private parts before approving/posting).

    I am responding publicly to her comments that most of us will be able to relate to (and benefit from) in cybercoach fashion: from interwoven within and among this posters comment. Because of my schedule and the totality of my accountabilities, I won’t be able to do this for ALL who comment in this fashion, so I hope my response to this comment will serve as an answer to all of you who find yourselves in a similar situation.

    I don’t know how else to get your attention, so…
    mgh==>While there are a number of ways to reach me privately, that’s really not the fastest way to get my attention, nor can I respond personally in any kind of a timely fashion, or to all who email for help, due to the volume of requests for my time and attention.  

    In addition to expanding understanding and awareness of the implications of ADD and EFD, posting publicly allows me to leverage my time – since I get similar or same requests or questions multiple times.

    FIRST TIME POSTERS must be approved “by hand” – which means I can catch things before they go “public.” Once approved once, be aware that further approvals for your comments are automatic.   I don’t have the time to remove “poster’s remorse,”  so (everyone!) think before you post, please.  (SPAMMER WARNING: Akismet software magically filters spammers, and I blacklist & report offenders who attempt to “sneak thru”).

    UNFORTUNATELY, I can no longer publish my email, in any case, because of said spammers (my multi-leveled spam filters already remove over 200 every two weeks – but I still waste an hour or more every single week sorting through e-glut and deleting spam that slips through – it’s tough, as the ADD Poster Girl, to stay tracked intentionally through the distraction of all that garbage, and everybody suffers when time must be spent in that fashion)

    …My choice is to send this as is. I have no idea how much of what I want to say to you is actually here, but if I proof it, I will second guess myself and that will cause me to edit, which means it will never get sent because I have no doubt it is a train wreck (with a tone that I have no way of recognizing anyway). Do you have to ask me how I know that?
    mgh==>I sure don’t! Believe it or not, it happens to me too. When I proof my own stuff, not only do I tend to rewrite vs. edit, I also see what I meant, not always what I wrote, so I can relate to that quasi-anxiety feeling that someone will take offense or that I will deepen someone’s pain because I wasn’t careful *enough* in my wordage – then, like you, I take a deep breath, feel the fear and send it anyway, because life is too short for endless do-overs

    On the plus side, I also have no doubt it is a riot, that is if you understand ADHD. Normal people will just see crazy. I may be a toon but I am definitely (pretty sure?) quite sane.
    mgh==>LOL – to reference Buffet, “If we couldn’t laugh we’d go insane” I like to think others see me as “quirky” – not crazy – but another favorite quote I saw on a t-shirt: “What you think of me is none of my business! Keep it to YOURSELF!”

    I don’t have the ability to say what I need to say this way. I usually ends up coming out so wrong but that is because of the anxiety that has been building for 8 to 10 hours of trying. No exaggeration there either. My desperate need to communicate is the one thing that can take me to the edge and I don’t want to be there. It would be different if it produced results. See?
    I have a lot to say if you will give me the chance. I know me very well, I feel everything. I never understood why I was so different but I knew it and always thought I had such a better understanding of the world (not something I shared with people).
    mgh==>This is a common feeling with ADDers – so we end up, usually, saying too much, in an attempt to be clear. I know I do, anyway, as do a lot of my clients. I think you’re doing just fine.

    I was 48 when I learned why and my whole life made sense.
    mgh==>I can relate – I was 38, which is the average age woman are diagnosed, since doctors still don’t know how to recognize the signs of ADD in women and girls – so we finally get the dx because we are desperate enough to perservere! Only once diagnosed, can we finally begin the life-long journey toward understanding ourselves.

    Anyway, I do see a doctor and am on medicine but he does nothing more than write the prescription and I need more.
    mgh==>this kind of doc. is a “psychopharm” – the system is far from adequate, but because of the DEA hoops (Drug Enforcement Agency) doctors must jump through, it allows more to BE medicated if you go to one doctor for a quick appointment for your meds and use support groups, therapists and coaches for the “more.”  Few of us could afford support if it ALL came from our psychopharms – even if they were willing to work with us in that fashion.

    There is too much to say but I can’t second guess or I will be looking at a blank page 120 hours from now and nothing Ineeed to do will be done today.
    First I havbe never met anyone like me and I read the forums and the things people don’t understand and the depression that I don’t understand. No one seems to have thje insight I have. Bryan from ADDerworld comes close, but only to being on the right track. His ego keeps him from seeing the rest.
    mgh==>(Reference is to the author of One Boy’s Story – and more (many free, in ebook fashion)- and creator of ADDerWorld, a free membership site – kind of a FaceBook for ADDers) Bryan has been just where you are – and he has worked very hard on mood management and self-esteem (the inner game) to get to the place he is now. I promise you he sees the pain – he simply thinks it best not to respond from that paradigm, but from his positive thinking choice that allowed him to heal and move forward.
    — private material deleted here —

    The way my mind works fascinates me. I camn’t explain by writing but I have always known what was missing in order for me to grasp something. I am sure that doesn’t make sense but thanks to this, I can’t explain. You are more like me than any other . I am almost 50 and am very lucky to have a chance to put my life on track and my last chance is slipping through my fingers. I can’t do it alone. I know that I have tried to tell people, have screAMED FOR HELP and those that want to help tell me they just need me to do this or that. Well, if I could do this and that successfully, I wouldn’t need help with it. I know you get that. So here I am, still screaming for help. I am in school because the one thing I can do for work (THAT EARNS ME A GREAT LIVING) is at risk and I have not been able to work [. . .]

    I have chosen something that will earn me a comparable living and in light of my recent enlightening of the ADHD and the lack of help and support and understanding for those who need it and especially for those without financial resources, I want to take up that cause.
    mgh==>The good and bad of it is that we are ALL unique – ADDers and non. On the down side, we can only partially understand another’s reality, however hard we try, and we ALL live in Syvia Plath’s Bell Jar in some ways.

    The up side is that we all have our own gifts and talents to bring to our world. I like to say, “If God had meant us to be all the same, there’d only be ONE of us!”

    The best we can do is “listen from belief” and offer support where we can, no matter how limited our resources, there are always those “behind” us on the path – and our lives become richer by extending our hands to them. I’m happy to hear you are keeping on – and that your goal is to reach out to help others. From my experience, it’s the only “do over” we get – helping another to avoid our tough lessons by sharing what worked for us.

    I know what it is like and I don’t want others to feel so alone and disregarded. I don’t want to see anyone cry for help and not get it because they can’t afford it. I want to advocate for this cause, and in spite of my communication issues , when armed with the knowledge, I can take a stand. The words will flow clearly and concisely. Try and figure that one out!

    mgh==>Passion gets us out of our small selves to be able to tap into talents and abilities that seem to appear like magic, because we are able to operate from our higher Selves (Check out The Power of Full Engagement)

    [deleted personal details of this poster’s current situation]

    The kicker is I am capable of pulling out of this if I knew how to prioritize and follow through or had someone helping me by keeping me organized and on track.

    mgh==>I’m sure you don’t mean the above literally, but since this is a public response, I feel I must remind EVERYONE that no one besides YOU can “keep you organized and on track.” Even the most knowledgable and helpful helping professionals can do no more than listen, inform, and help you sort through options to set up systems that work the way YOU work: the rest is always up to your willingness and ability to “take the coaching.” The benefits of coaching only come with ACTION – your action.

    I understand about your bills and such, and that your efforts to get where you are deserve compensation. What I do not understand is how you can turn away. I don’t hold it against you and please don’t take this the wrong way, I am just saying I am trying to put something in place where I can support myself so I don’t need people like me to pay me for helping them.

    mgh==>I do what I CAN to make the biggest difference for the greatest number of people, truly — and my budding Peer Coaching Center is one of  ways I hope to be able to help MANY MORE.  I promise you it has not been designed as a “profit center” but it must be priced to pay its own bills. In combination with the time I spend on this blog, I receive less than minimum wage for the considerable time spent on both endeavors in combination.  Throughout my entire career, more of my time and expertise has been and continues to be given away than “sold.”

    HOWEVER,  the reality that all helping professionals struggle with is that we simply MUST be able to pay our bills with what we do with our time.  If we were forced to work full-time jobs in another field to pay our own bills, we could help FAR fewer numbers of people.

    We “turn away” as you call it, with heavy hearts, because we simply MUST or we’d be homeless and unable to help anyone at all.  Many of us, myself included, live simply and do without personally to do what we do; the seemingly high fees we charge actually form the basis of a “scholarship” of sorts for the low-fee and pro-bono work most of us do with and for those who are struggling financially.  Those who can afford to hire us privately make it possible for us to be of service to those who cannot.  But we are ALL limited by our personal circumstances at some point, like it or not (and I don’t, by the way)

    I want to go into ultrasound and there are 14 seats each YEAR, not semester, YEAR. It is extremely competitive and at this point, I really need to get in the aug 2012b program because if I have to wait another year, it probably won’t happen. I can’t do it alone. It’s not like I haven’t tried and it’s not like I won’t try again because I am but I just don’t see that changing
    It’s funny, one of the first things I thought when I realized ADHD is everything I am, was that I was the poster girl. In truth, what I expect here is that you will fall in line with everyone else and not walk the talk, so to speak.

    mgh==>I encourage you to shift that expectation, even as it is not easy to find the help you need, it IS available.  Perhaps not to the degree you would wish or expect, but that’s true for those for whom money is no object as well.

    I hope you will be able to understand by the time and care I have put into responding to this post that I do the very best I can for ALL who struggle, regardless of ability to pay, and much more than many of my colleagues (who insist that I need to focus more on what coaches refer to as “extreme self-care”)  BUT if you insist on defining “walking my talk” as “working with the many hundreds in your situation without fees of any sort” –  then I guess I don’t and can’t – and unless someone steps forward to fund my life, I never will be able to do that, and you will find yourself in the same situation when you begin to offer help yourself.  

    NOW, if you can get me funded, I’d be willing to offer everything I do at no charge! But even that would be limited by the number of waking hours I have available, taking personal care needs, and the MANY hours I must spend in reading and research to staying current into account as well, even if I were to attempt to live with no “personal life” what-so-ever.  

    So NONE of us can help ALL of us – it takes a village!

    I actually AM the essence of empathy and I actually believe in pulling together as a community to help each other. I can’t stand the thought of people having to feel the pain of helplessness and loneliness. I know what it feels like. Help me so I can help those you can’t afford to help and so I can change the worlds perception of ADHD.

    mgh==>On a response to another post, I explained that I am working on a way to be able to say yes to you and more of those like you – but until I can solve the administrative and financial requirements of doing so, all must remain on hold. It breaks my heart to have to tell you that I can afford to do no more than I am currently doing until MY financial situation changes to the point where I can HIRE help.

    There ARE free teleclasses offered by non-profit organizations (whose leadership is on salary, albeit meager ones) – and I encourage you to check around to see what’s available to help you “externalize” your pre-frontal cortex.

    Sending white light for healing and resolve your way, and I hope to “see” you in one of the Peer Coaching Technique classes soon.


  2. The other thing about Bradshaw’s change model is this: Even when you have done the work- and killed off all the extra loops of unnecessary emotional attribution, the sensory overload still exists and has a life of its own. ( It is just that you no longer have the luxury of blaming everybody else for the fact that you feel terrible.)

    I do not think many people get deep enough in to grasp this.

    Look out for the book “Too Fast, Too Tight, Too Loud. Too Bright”.


    • I appreciate your comments – thanks for taking the time. I, too, recommend “Too Fast, Too Tight, Too Loud. Too Bright.” For those who don’t know it, it is from the lexicon of the “sensory integration” field, a combination of explanation and example that illuminates the experiences of individuals with hyper-responsiveness in some or all of the senses (as I conceive of it, “an idle set too high”).

      My response, like yours, to almost everything I read (or write!) is a sort-of internal “yes, but” that connects me to the reality that human beings are too darn complex to be encapsulated within any single theory of motivation, activation, goal setting and actuation that works “out of the box” for everyone (or, truthfully, *anyone*).

      I keep frustration at bay by thinking of reading and writing as part of the process of “menu creation” from which I am able to pick and choose my “meals.” One can’t eat everything in a single sitting, and there is freedom in embracing the reality that one’s overall health is determined by the balance of nutrients we take in overall, not what we eat at any one breakfast, lunch or dinner.

      So it is with cognitive health, in my view – we need to be aware of what there IS to put on the menu to be able to make it up in a manner that choosing a “balanced meal” is possible. We must take our current “appetites” into account — as well as what we have “eaten” recently and “food sensitivities” — when choosing the best “fuel” for what’s up today.


  3. What bio ?:)
    Good article though.

    One of the toughest challenges of coping with my ADHD is that I can no longer “zone out” of sensory overload.
    Sometimes my whole body hurts due to sensory overload, and it is really hard to cut through that and do the needful when it allegedly HAS to be done. ( It is a shame we have to share the world with these obsessive types).
    I do not think this happens to the neurotypical.
    I have found mindfulness techniques the best coping method.


    • My heart goes out to you. My sensitivities are activated only at the “overload” point – so I have no advice to offer for those of you who have to manage it every single second, beyond that old joke:

      PATIENT: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
      DOCTOR (writing on prescription pad): Don’t do that.

      In a perfect world, that would be possible. As you point out, you can’t stop the world ALL the time (or even much of the time) – so there are always times when you MUST “do that.” I promise you it does NOT happen to the neurotypical, more’s the pity.

      Not that I wish pain on anyone, but I do fantasize about the difference it would make in our world if we all could (and would) “walk a mile in each other’s shoes” so we could stop “should”ing all over each other, and live with compassion for the experience of the other — rather than the arrogant view that, “It’s not easy for me either, but I do it, so you could too!”

      If nothing else, it would allow me a much needed vacation from attempting to get off my own judgment of those who “should” all over people who are struggling, mislabeling their comments as “tough love.”

      Have you tried EFT (tapping?).


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