Turning on the light in “darkened” brains

The Miracle of Neuroplasticity
You can’t take advantage of it
until you look at behaviors in a new light

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Why You Can’t – and How you CAN – Part 2

Turning on the brain-lights

In a prior article, Brain-Hacking: Moving Beyond the Brain you were Born With, I used the analogy of a lamp that wouldn’t light to loosely explain the complexity behind some of the troubling behaviors and challenges that parents, partners, psychologists and coaches frequently encounter and try to “fix.”

The most important message in that earlier article – for EVERYONE – is that these troubling behaviors and challenges are not confined to the population of individuals who have exhibited them from childhood.

These SAME behaviors and challenges are frequently seen after brain traumas of one sort or another, even following apparently “mild” head injuries.

MOST of them respond to the same or similar interventions — even as they continue to FAIL to respond to many of the interventions currently suggested or currently employed.

As I said in Part one of Why You Can’t – and How you CAN:

To experience relief, you have to scratch where it itches.  Unless you can figure out what’s involved in creating the problem, how in the world can you expect to UNcreate it?


“Figuring out” is Sherlocking – which means you have to LOOK

There are a number of ways to Sherlock kludgy functioning to help you scratch RIGHT where it itches (and STOP expecting results from techniques promoted to all, even though they were designed for brains that aren’t like yours).

I have written about many ways to go about Sherlocking in prior articles like Goals Drive Habit Creation and the entire TaskMaster Series.

We’ll explore functional glitches in future articles, with an eye toward rebuilding, overcoming and working around areas that are challenging to impossible — but in THIS article we are going to focus on Sherlocking by looking directly at the brain with brain scanning technology.

You Can Change Your Brain

The graphic above was used in an inspiring TED talk by Dr. Daniel Amen – inserted below for your edification and viewing pleasure.

Take the time to take a look — at the video AND at some of the related articles I inserted above and in the Related Links below.

Life doesn’t HAVE to be so hard!

More to the Story

Take a look at The Wisdom of Compensating for Deficits for another way to look at this issue.

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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above or below)

Related LinkLists to Series of Articles here

Related Articles ’round the ‘net


BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

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!"

17 Responses to Turning on the light in “darkened” brains

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  7. wendy says:

    That was wonderful. I wish I could have a scan of my brain, and I can think of so many other people who I wish could benefit from this, a particular friend who they can’t seem to find medications to work, she is so miserable. People are still shooting in the dark. People are still suffering so much. As we have so often said, mental health care is lacking is so many ways. It is so very sad that so many people are hurting.

    I don’t know if I had a brain injury. I know I fell a lot growing up. I know I was in a car accident when I was a child, went through the front windshield, but wasn’t even seen by a doctor. I do think I lost consciousness for a but, but I didn’t bleed, so they didn’t take me in. I could talk fine…you know how it was. I did throw up in the police car. ha. but I always got car sick.

    I also had a very high fever when I was young, they were surprised I didn’t have brain damage. I wonder?

    My first suicide attempt was at age 11. My moods were all over the place. I have shown signs of Bipolar since I was a child. I admit with my medication, I am more “normal” now. But I do have moments….but no where near as extreme as I used to.

    Was very impressed that the video had wonderful captions! Was afraid I wouldn’t be able to understand it, but the captions were perfect. Very rare to find.

    thanks again.
    wendy xoxo


    • WOW. Wendy – it would be a miracle if you did NOT have brain damage! “Back in the day,” they figured if you could walk, talk and see you were fine. We know so much more now – and so many of the problems are mental, and show up later in life. Thank GOD your medications are making a difference. You have enough ELSE to deal with!

      I hope NOBODY takes this article to mean that I am anti-medication, or that everyone who takes them could do it without. Threaten to take away my meds and I’ll send Guido to break your face (and maybe your fingers too, lol).

      I’m glad the captions worked for you and that you watched the video. And I agree that scans could be a useful diagnostic and medication tool – but they are still “controversial” (meaning still pooh-poohed by the old guard, even as they are exaulted and misrepresented as miracles in the popular press). They are also quite expensive, & it’s tough to locate a doc who is trained to interpret them, with the VERY expensive equipment on site. In any case, they are not a panacea (just as meds are not).

      In YOUR case, I think your mindfulness practice has rewired your brain considerably — I don’t know what else could explain your amazing resilience and positive attitude through ALL your considerable challenges. I’m glad you didn’t wait for scientific “proof” to give it a try, and that you have the wherewithal to keep doing it.

      I wish EVERYONE were doing as well with their smaller challenges as you are doing with your considerable ones!!! (especially me!)

      Thanks for being the wind beneath my wings – and for taking the time to read and comment.


      • wendy says:

        You humble me.
        I don’t always take my challenges so wonderfully.
        Mindfulness does help. Of course many poo poo on that too, but for me it sure does calm my mind. I really need to keep up my practice more right now. I have really slacked off and I can tell. As can others probably….just look at how I’m not posting as often. My words just don’t come.

        I think my mother had a lot to do with how I handle life. She was a great example. I bounced back from a lot long before I found mindfulness. Mindfulness gave me the Aaha moment I needed and put me on a path to settle my mind and helped me get past the past and not worry about the future so much. It also gave me the permission to be gentle with myself. If I mess up, it’s OK. Don’t beat myself up. I’m human. Move on. I used to be very hard on myself, riddled with guilt. Now, not so much. That is HUGE!

        I don’t think anyone would take your article to mean you are against medication. I hope my comment didn’t seem that way.

        The work you do is amazing!

        Your encouragement of me helps keep me going!



        • DITTO, re: encouragement. Actually, you are my best inspiration. (If Wendy can do it, why am *I* griping?!)

          Of course, NONE of us can stay on the positive side of the line 24/7- no matter what storms toss us about – even the best of us get discouraged (like Mother Theresa – which is why I love her “Do it ANYway” verses — they make her human).

          STILL, encouragement is so easy to give – yet so many choose discouraging words instead. I wonder what they think is inspiring about them (they can’t ALL be mean-spirited folks, can they?)

          Nope – your comment didn’t make you seem anti-meds, and I appreciate the feedback that my article didn’t either.

          Onward & Upward (and pray for an early autumn – the summer heat is already killin’ me!!!)



  8. ericb85 says:

    Beautiful, inspiring TED talk by Dr. Amen – he’s a straight-up hero to people with cognitive challenges!
    About your coach Madelyn: this person coaches baseline temperament? Seriously? I’m very curious about how this works, if a bit skeptical.


    • Thanks Eric. I’m glad you took the time to check out Amen’s video.

      READERS: Eric’s question is in response to my answer to Beth’s comment, further down, not on something you will find in the article above.

      Re: my coach — FIRST OF ALL, while I *know* what to do (and can partner my clients in that manner), regularly DOing what I know can be as tricky for me as for any ADD/EFDer (any human, actually!) A comprehensively trained coach as an accountability partner serves as an “externalized pre-frontal cortex” and, in my considerable experience, makes quite a big difference.

      Re: Changing baseline temperament

      Remember, environmental experience (and our reaction to it) changes connections in the brain. For most people, changes in “baseline temperament” becomes a HABIT of THOUGHT that can be changed through many of the techniques that coaching employs: reframing, affirmations, small (batched) completions, gratitude lists, etc. – which shifts perception. That, in turn, changes how you feel about the elements of living.

      (Check out the Three Tiny Things post (part of the Black and White Thinking Series) for more of an explanation & a technique I’ve found to work).

      In addition to some other things I am working on, Kai gives me “homework” designed to track the times I utilize these techniques, and checks up on me to make sure I reward myself – the three “Cookies” posts in the TaskMaster™ Series underscore the importance of Reward and Acknowledgment. (I tend to drop out that piece especially). He also points out how hard I am on myself in terms of expectations – encouraging me to do LESS, not more!

      The events of 2014 (gang mugging, moving, PTSD, repeated phone failures, being forced to replace ALL my carefully build structures, etc.) kicked me into a hole so deep I am STILL climbing out (and will be for the rest of 2015, most likely) – and, at my age especially, it can be more depressing than exciting to be forced to start over. It did quite a number on my resilience. Kai also encourages me to look further back in my history for functional changes, vs. blaming it ALL on the events of 2014.

      Like my clients, I want what I want (my life back, in my case), and I want it NOW! But I am not in denial about the fact that it won’t happen “automatically,” it will take more time than I want it to, and that I’d be an idiot to think I could do it all without help.

      IMHO, Coaches need coaches like dentists need dentists. When you know it works, why wouldn’t you want that for yourself? It shifts the energy balance from energy OUT to energy IN – especially important for helping professionals, I firmly believe.

      Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment.


    • PS. to Eric: Check out the video at the bottom of Brain-hacking – Moving Beyond the Brain you were Born With (link at end of this comment). It begins with some hopeful news about a DRAMATIC new treatment for vertigo – then moves on to seeing without sight (read the article first, btw).

      The brain of a woman who couldn’t even STAND without “wobbling” now rides a bike, etc.

      The study used a computer-assisted “tongue device” to use the tongue’s receptors to overcome the vestibular system – immediately. The surprise was that the effects lasted BEYOND the time the device was in place – for longer and longer periods with repeated sessions (proving the “rewiring” theory, in other words)

      It can be done WITHOUT advanced technology too – it just takes a bit longer.

      LINK: Brain-hacking – Moving Beyond the Brain you were Born With


  9. janetkwest says:

    Excellent video! Thanks for sharing that.


  10. bethbyrnes says:

    Scary to think that even a mild blow on the head can have lifelong consequences. Interesting information, as always, Madelyn!


    • It makes sense when you remember that the scull is hard, with bony protrusions “inside,” and the brain is soft, floating in fluid. A hit on the head means that the brain is sort of “batted around,” banging against the “sides” of a small “pool.” You don’t have to get a concussion or black out to do damage.

      Whiplash, for example, can do greater damage to the pre-frontal cortex (which coordinates our Executive Functions) than to our necks and backs — but few of us think about that when somebody hits our car from behind.

      My thinking is that, for “milder” hits on the head (no skull damage from the outside), the damage to the brain may “heal” but the decisions we make about ourselves until full functioning returns changes our behavior and our willingness to keep pushing through what we have observed that we “can’t” do until we develop ways that we CAN. That becomes “wired” unless we “unwire” it.

      Makes sense with what I see, in any case — and I know it was true for me, following a nasty skiing accident where I blacked out for a moment and came to with a badly broken leg. I never connected my tendency toward depression that followed that event to anything beyond the reality of a leg in a cast for almost a year until MUCH later. I didn’t even realize I HAD a tendency toward depression until it became debilitating, many years later – BUT, looking back, my preternaturally sunny outlook on life changed in the time after that accident.

      The GOOD news is that we can rewire. I’m working with my own coach to get my former temperament back!

      Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to leave a comment.


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