How well do you REALLY function?


Soldiering ON with less
than Optimal Functioning™
when we could REALLY have a much easier time of it

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
part of the Executive Functioning Series
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Do you suffer from boiling frog syndrome?

You’ve probably already heard the story about cooking frogs by putting them in cold or tepid water, then slowly bringing it to a boil — even though they would have jumped out immediately if they were suddenly thrust into hot water.

Other versions of the story assert that, as long as the temperature increases slowly, the frog is able to adjust its body temperature to remain comfortable — until it ultimately becomes too weak to jump out before it’s cooked.

Just a myth, but apt

According to an interesting article on Wikipedia, neither version is true, but the analogy is perfect: as things slowly but steadily worsen, most of us adjust and accommodate, even when we could find ourselves in much better situations if we’d only react more quickly and reach out for help.

  • In my 25+ year coaching career, only a rare few individuals ever reached out for help or brain-based information until they were practically desperate, and almost all had been leading what I call “limp-along lives” for years.
  • More than a few had been taking pricey vacations or eating lunches in restaurants to get away from the stress of the work environment, or indulging in daily caffeine fixes at several dollars a pop, still convinced that they couldn’t afford coaching fees — until they felt they “had no choice.”

For YEARS it only made sense in the context of Boiling Frog Syndrome.

Even if they were cracker-jack “over-achievers” when they were younger, they contributed their functional and cognitive slow-down to aging
. . .  or the demands of parenthood
. . . or the increasing complexities of modern life
. . . or the rise of social media expectations

. . . or anything other than being flat-out worn down by repeated, unrecognized struggles with Executive Functioning they never understood how to overcome.

So What Goes Wrong?

It’s mentally and physically exhausting to continue to swim upstream.

  • As long as you are swimming with the current you get carried downstream with much less thrashing about on your part.
  • Not only that, when you’re swimming upstream, if you stop stroking for even a minute, your life goes backwards.  Nobody can keep up that kind of effort.
  • Before you realize it you are swimming alone, unhappy that life is so much work, but not really expecting it to be easier because you’ve always had to “work twice as hard for half as much” — or so it seems to you in your most private of thoughts.
  • You begin to believe that everybody struggles in the same fashion, but suspect that the others are somehow better able to cope than you are.

But it doesn’t have to be that way

It recently occurred to me that many people don’t reach out for help, perhaps, because they have forgotten (or have never really known) what effective focus and follow-through look like.

They’re falling victim to “that happens to everybody”
or “this is the best I can expect from myself” thinking
to explain and attempt to accept their various challenges.

Things can get WORSE as time goes by . . .

because each new skill must build on the ones before it.

If you never learned to add or subtract, multiplication and division would remain a mystery.

If you never really mastered basic arithmetic, how could anyone expect you to do well as you moved through school?

Similar to moving from basic arithmetic to higher math, learning how to manage life’s many challenges is also an incremental, multi-stepped process.

So, for the next few Mondays, I am going to detail the problems many of my clients had been putting up with because ““that happens to everybody,” and do my best to explain what’s behind the struggle — in the hopes that I will finally inspire more of you to spend a few months working with me to turn things around before you feel like you are about to crash and burn.

Lets START by taking a look at some of the problems
that are NOT “normal” functioning.
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Friday Fun: Fashion and Shopping


Can’t take fashion seriously?
(or maybe you take it TOO seriously?)
Whatever!
Let’s ALL laugh the whole thing off

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-Based and Friday Funnies Series

Quick Review before we get to the Funnies

Today is Jodie’s last installment of our collaboration exploring fashion as a “change agent.”  So before I send you over to A Touch of Style to finish up the series and read my closing observations, I want to review the point of fashion week before I inspire everybody to exit with a chuckle or two.

Don’t skip this review – it’s vital to everyone who wants to spend his or her “golden years” having fun rather than merely waiting for the inevitable.

Epigenetics and Fashion Week?

In Making Friends with CHANGE, posted  a week ago today, I briefly underscored the miracle of lifetime neuroplasticity — that the brain can change its structure and its function throughout our lifespan, depending on what we do with it.

We’re not stuck with – or blessed with – a lifetime contract on the brain we had when we were born.

Here’s the Good News

Gene expression is dependent upon our environment, the actions to which we commit ourselves, and even upon what we think and imagine.

The genes that shaped our brain in utero are literally capable of being turned on or off in reaction to how we respond to the targets of our focus, actually “rewiring” the brain we were born with with every new and different experience.

Changing anything is healthy-brain-aging friendly.

Change forces the brain to create new “roads” it can use when its usual pathway is damaged by any one of a number of things: stroke, concussion, medication, chronic stress – whatever.

If we change and grow as we go through life, our brain rewards us by creating new connections that will serve us well as we age.

Here’s the bad news: it works both ways

If we allow ourselves to stagnate, comfortable in our same ole’/same ole’ ways, we merely deepen the grooves of those same ole’/same ole’ pathways.

That’s GREAT for habit creation to handle those nattering Treadmill Tasks (distraction insurance that releases cognitive bandwidth for more important endeavors), but not a great strategy for brain-health overall.

For most of us, doing what we’ve always done is a recipe for functional backsliding called age-related cognitive decline – unless we are very, very lucky.

But in order to experience the benefits of brain-change, we must actually CHANGE what we ask it to do, with activities like:

  • studying something completely new to us
  • learning a new language
  • practicing a new musical instrument
  • exploring a new environment
  • taking up a brand new & challenging hobby

WARNING: if we don’t keep it up, the pathways created by our brain-healthy changes actually atrophy and die from disuse.

So, just like physical exercise, it’s important to pick something we actually enjoy to keep us motivated to keep it up — so we keep on making friends with new changes.

Making friends with CHANGE as we change our clothes

Jodie and I decided it would be fun to put our heads together to see if we could come up with a week’s worth of challenges specifically designed to shake things up, forcing change to our SELF-images on the way to helping us become more “change-friendly” overall.

As I commented in Jodie’s first post of this 3-part series . . .

Not only have researchers begun to discover the importance of “play” to healthy brain development and continued health, any time we spend making friends with change is what is called “neuro-protective.”

Together we explored how playing with what we choose to wear – recombining items we already own or adding something inexpensive to alter the look – can be a terrific way of making friends with change.

Stay tuned for more about change and healthy brain aging – including tips, techniques and work arounds. Meanwhile . . .

I’ve left you links to all three of Jodie’s posts at the bottom of the funnies, so be sure to pop over to see how three different challenges were interpreted by three different “real person” models representing three different decades — along with some additional comments from me to underscore the brain- benefits.


AND NOW for some fashion-related humor TODAY . . .

How many of the situations below make YOU nod your head
(or shake it)?

YOU PLAY TOO

If you have something on your website or blog that relates to the theme, especially if it’s humorous, please feel free to leave a link in a comment. (Keep it to one link per comment or you’ll be auto-spammed, but multiple comments are just fine and most welcome).

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Change your Clothes, Change your Brain?


Fashionistas & their Opposites
A brain-based look

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Brain-Based Series
Collaboration with
Jodie’s Touch of Style

Fashionistas First

You’ve seen them on television, on the internet, in the tabloids, maybe even in your own neighborhood, right?

Whatever we think about how they put themselves together, we tend to notice that we see them in a different outfit every time we see them – even if we see them several times on the same day.

Many of us who like to think of ourselves as serious thinkers love to make fun of them.  We frequently believe they’re vapid, self-focused vanity plates wasting time and energy on items that don’t make one whit of difference.

And we’d be wrong.

They might not be changing the world, but they certainly are changing their clothes!  And that’s not such a bad thing, you’ll come to find out as you keep reading.

Frozen Fashionitas

Most of us have met at least one of these ladies.  A perfect example is the college beauty queen who hasn’t changed her style since her heyday, despite the fact that she is now middle aged or older.

Her hairstyle is practically the same, often chemically processed at considerable trouble or expense to remain exactly the same color.  Her wardrobe usually has a slightly “Delta Dawn” feel to it – frozen in time.

Youngsters sometimes point them out in a manner you wish they wouldn’t, and often at the top of their lungs, “Look Mom – that old lady looks just like Aunt Theresa!”

Another example is “Sensible Susie.”

She has decided what is appropriate and what is no longer suitable for any number of reasons: since she’s gained or lost weight, now that she’s older, the kids are in middle school, her husband got a promotion — whatever!

She may well be right, but the problem is that she turns what might have been a good idea into a rule book from which she never varies.

She may be easy to shop for, but nobody would ever accuse her of being “fashion forward,” and she’s often one of the first to point out the supposed flaws in the outfit of a contemporary.

Make way for “Matching Molly”

My own grandmother could have been the Matching Molly poster girl.  If an ensemble was purchased as an outfit, the various items might as well have been sewn together.

Suggesting to her that she could wear the jacket from Outfit A over a dress – or with the skirt from Outfit B – was practically enough to give her apoplexy.

She had a fit if I mixed and matched in my own wardrobe too, especially with items that she had given me as birthday or Christmas presents — there was no such thing as “separates” in my grandmother’s closet or her world view.

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10 Organizing Principles for the Organizationally Impaired


NOT Your Mama’s Organization

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the Challenges Inventory™ & ADD Coaching Series
my edited reposting of a five year old article

If at first you don’t succeed . . .

I know.  I’m right there with you.  You’ve read all the books and made a good stab at following their advice, and you still live in what might affectionately be called a pig stye if only it were that neat.

Give it up!

Those books were NOT written for you and me.  They were written for fundamentally organized people with relatively reliable follow-through skills and abilities.

They simply needed a little how-to help and advice.

I don’t work their way.
Do YOU work their way?

How DO you work?

If you don’t get real about how you work, you will never be able to determine what YOU need to do to to keep from spending half your life looking for things that were “right here a minute ago” — and the other half tripping over dirt and detritus.

As I began in an even earlier post (ADD & Organized?) . . .

Yea verily, even YOU can learn to be organized
just as soon as you understand
the reasons why you’ve been stopped in the past.  

Those of us who struggle with any of what are referred to as Executive Functions work a bit differently than those neurotypical folks.  We do not have vanilla-flavored brains.  We’re more like the ice cream with the mix-ins.  Our stoppers are not their stoppers.

HERE’S the KICKER: it’s a different mix of stoppers for every single one of us.  

So much for helpful hints and tidy lists!  

That said, I’m going to go w-a-a-y out on a limb by offering my top ten organizing principles that I now call, collectively, The Executive Functioning Organizing Manifesto — a summary of some basic concepts that need to be embraced and understood if you want to have a shot at working out what you need to do for YOU to be organized.

In future posts in this series, I will expand on some of the points below.
For NOW, print ’em out and hang ’em up and follow them!

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Learning to Work Around “Spacing Out”


Honey, you’re not listening
ADDvanced Listening & Languaging

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Memory & Coaching Skills Series

Spacing out – when attention wanders

We’ve all had times when our mind goes off on a short walk-about as someone seems to go on and on and on.

But that’s not the only arena where attention wanders off on its own.

Have you ever gone into another room only to wonder what you went there to do?

I’ll bet you have little to no awareness of where your attention went during your short trip to the other room, but if you’re like me (or most of my clients and students), you’ve sometimes wondered if doorways are embedded with some kind of Star Trekkian technology that wipes our minds clean on pass-through.

Awareness is a factor of ATTENTION

Has your mate ever said “Honey, I TOLD you I would be home late on Tuesday nights!” — when you honestly couldn’t remember ever hearing it before that very moment, or only dimly remember the conversation for the first time when it comes up again?

Most of the time, when that happens, we are so lost in our own thoughts, we have little to no awareness that we spaced out while someone was speaking to us.

What do you do DO on those occasions where you suddenly realize that you have been hearing but not really listening?

Don’t you tend to attempt to fill in the gaps, silently praying that anything important will be repeated? I know I do.

It is a rare individual who has the guts to say, “I’m so sorry, I got distracted.  Could you repeat every single word you just said?” 

And how likely are you to ask for clarification once you are listening once more?

  • If you’re like most people, you probably assume that the reason you are slow to understand is because you missed the explanatory words during your “brain blip.”
  • If the conversation concludes with, “Call me if you have any problems,” I’ll bet you don’t reply, “With what?!”

That’s what the person with attending deficits or an exceptionally busy brain goes through in almost every single interchange, unless they learn how to attend or the person speaking learns how to talk so people listen.

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Why we hate to change our minds


The Greater our Investment
The greater the likelihood
we will hold on to ideas that don’t serve us

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Foundational Concept of the Intentionality Series
Opinions vs. Facts

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong.  Presented with conflicting information, accepting the new evidence would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable (called cognitive dissonance)

And because it is so important to protect that core belief, they will rationalize, ignore, and even deny anything that doesn’t fit with the core belief.~ Franz Fanon, Free Your Mind and Think

Confirmation Bias

There has been a great deal of research and writing on the implications of the concept of confirmation bias. I have often referred to the concept here on ADDandSoMuchMORE.com, so many of my regular readers are already familiar with the expression.

Given today’s political climate, I believe it is time to review a few ideas
as we all attempt to make sense of what’s going on.

Some of you will recall seeing the information in the box below – but I believe it will be useful to take a moment to reread it as an introduction to this particular article.

Confirmation bias is a term describing the unconscious tendency of people to favor information that confirms their hypotheses or closely held belief systems.

Individuals display confirmation bias when they selectively gather, note or remember information, or when they interpret it in a way that fits what they already believe.

The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues, for deeply entrenched beliefs, when we are desperate for answers, and when there is more attachment to being right than being effective.

How it tends to work

Human beings will interpret the same information in radically different ways to support their own views of the themselves. We hate to believe that we might have been wrong — especially when we have invested time and energy coming to a decision.

Studies on fraternity hazing have shown repeatedly that, when attempting to join a group, the more difficult the barriers to group acceptance, the more people will value their membership.

To resolve the discrepancy between the hoops they were forced to jump through and the reality of whatever their experience turns out to be, they are likely to convince themselves that their decision was, in fact, the best possible choice they could have made.

Similar logic helps to explain the “Stockholm Syndrome,” the actions of those who seem to remain loyal to their captors following their release.

©Dogbert/Dilbert by Scott Adams — Found HERE

Adjusting Beliefs

People quickly adjust their opinions to fit their behavior — sometimes even when it goes against their moral beliefs overall. We ALL do it at times, even those of us who are aware of the dynamic and consciously fight against it.

It’s an unconscious adaptation that is a result of the brain’s desire for self-consistency. For example:

  • Those who take home pens or paper from their workplace might tell themselves that “Everybody does it” — and that they would be losing out if they didn’t do it too.
  • Or they will tell themselves, perhaps, “I’m so underpaid I deserve a little extra under the table – they expect us to do it.”

And nowhere is it easier to see than in political disagreements!

When validating our view on a contentious point, we conveniently overlook or “over-ride” information that is at odds with our current or former opinions, while recalling everything that fits with what is more psychologically comfortable to believe – whether we are aware of it consciously or not.

We don’t have to look further than the aftermath of the most recent election here in America for many excellent examples of how difficult it is for human beings to believe that maybe they might have been wrong.

BUT WHY?

To understand why, we need to look briefly at another concept that science has many studies to support: cognitive dissonance.

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Change, Growth and Decision Dilemmas


Decision Anxiety
Another glitch in the Change Management process

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Edited reblog from an earlier post, Choices & Decisions

Chocolate, vanilla or tutti-frutti? Early Monday or late Thursday?
This drawer or that one?  Move away or stay put?
Have a baby, adopt a baby or remain a dual-income-no-kids couple?

Avoiding the Agony of Deciding

We each must make a great many decisions every single day.  A few of them we think about consciously and carefully, and some we make quickly and unconsciously – sometimes even really big and important ones.

Since our mental processes are subconsciously influenced by our emotions and memories, more frequently than not we remain oblivious to what really drives those decisions we make.

Then there are the many times we’re thrown into the agony of indecision – even between choices that are actually too small to, ultimately, make much of a difference in our lives.

Change, Growth & Decisions

There is no doubt that the process of change and growth would be easier if it were as predetermined and automatic as the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.

However, I can’t help but wonder if, were we humans relieved of the task of having to decide what comes next, we would be more comfortable with life’s changes or more frustrated by them.

As difficult as most of us find the process, it seems we are practically “hard-wired” with some kind of drive to exercise our free will.

  • Since early childhood, few of us have been especially happy when someone else tells us what we must do.
  • More than a few of us absolutely refuse to acquiesce. (Why else do you think we describe that particularly early transitional stage characterized by the single word NO! as “The Terrible Twos?”)

So how come so many of us AGONIZE when it comes time to decide?

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Beyond the Limitations of a Post-It Note™ Brain


 

TIME Perception is a factor of Awareness

The more conscious the process,
the longer it seems to take

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections post from the Time & Task Management Series
Part THREE (Part I HEREPart II HERE)

According to Dr. David Eagleman, we humans are more than passive observers where time is concerned. And he should know. The author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, has studied Time perception for well over a decade.

According to his research, we are not merely watching the river of time flow by as if time happened TO us, or we happened IN time. Science is learning that our brains are actively constructing time.

Re-engineering Brain Resources

In Eagleman’s words, It turns out that it has everything to do with novelty, and with how much energy your brain has to expend.

So, when you can predict something, not only does your consciousness not come online, but [the event] feels like it goes by very fast.

In other words, driving to work may seem relatively fast eventually. The first time you had to do it, however, it seemed to take longer because of the novelty, as well as the amount of brain-power you had to burn the first time you did it — before your brain was able to predict much of anything about the trip.

Essentially prediction means that if it’s something you’re doing repeatedly, you’re actually “rewiring” — reconfiguring the circuitry of the brain.

You’re actually moving things into your sub-conscious circuitry, which gives you speed and efficiency, albeit at the cost of conscious access.

So you have to pay a lot of conscious attention if you’re learning to do something new, like playing golf or driving a car.

After a while it’s not necessary, because you’ve changed the circuitry of your brain — no longer at the effect of the conscious awareness of what you’re doing.

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Sherlocking for Task Completion


Looking at the details
of any problem with follow-through

How do YOU need to proceed?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections post from the Time & Task Management Series
Part TWO (Part I HERE)

Follow my process as you Sherlock your own

As I continue to remind you: ONLY when we take the time to Sherlock the details of how and why we get stuck are we able to figure out what might work to help us get UNstuck!

And I promise you that it is RARELY as simple or straightforward as the self-help books might lead you to believe, neurotypical or otherwise.  Everything depends on how any particular task intersects with your particular Challenges Profile™.

As you examine some of the details of my own particular problem example below, think about some of the areas in your life that might look like one type of problem but are actually the result of something else entirely. 

The Leaning Tower of Crockery

Creative Commons, Wikipedia

Creative Commons, Wikipedia

There is no room for a dishwasher in my current apartment. I’m stuck with the task of washing everything by hand.  As much as I hate it, it’s nothing compared with the struggles I faced in my last apartment.

During a hateful period of several weeks there was a faucet drip, compounded by a sink-drainage problem for at least two.

During this particular period, it could take hours for the sink to drain completely. Increasingly powerful drain cleaners did little to clear the clog effectively. Water backed up in my kitchen sink and my dishes piled up unwashed while I waited for my landlady’s follow-through skills to kick in.

Since water in that particular first-floor dwelling always took several minutes of running before it approached a temperature anyone might consider warmish, the sink filled with cold water before I had a shot at getting water delivery hot enough to clean anything.

It made me increasingly furious to have to boil water like a pioneer before I could wash my dishes, so I stopped.  Cold.

Calming myself down

Getting my shorts in a knot about the drainage problem wasn’t going to make it go away. Emotional upset would only increase the difficulty of getting anything ELSE accomplished.  It made sense to stay busy elsewhere so I wasn’t constantly aware of the problem building in the kitchen.  Some distractions are actually helpful!

Except for nightly applications of drain cleaner and cleaning out the goop in the sink – a process that seemed to be undone by morning – I tried to avoid using the kitchen sink at all. I waited for my landlady to find and fix the problem, calling her every day or so with a reminder message. Day turned into day after day.

Even though the resulting mess was beyond hateful in many ways, and even though I could not FORCE myself to handle it “in real time,” waiting was more of a choice than a problem with procrastination.

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Predicting Time to Manage Tasks


Beating Back Task Anxiety

by understanding your relationship to TIME

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections post from the Time & Task Management Series
Part ONE

What’s YOUR Tendency?

As regular readers already know, I tend to put my faith in what science crowd refers to as “anecdotal evidence”  — learning from what I have observed in my clients, myself, and what I have heard from thousands of ADDers who have attended conferences and participated in my support groups and workshops in the twenty five years I have been in the field.

As I expanded my evidence collection to include the experiences of the other citizens of Alphabet City (TBI, PTSD, OCD, EFD, AS, etc.), I began to mentally record their experiences as well, and factor them in to my techniques and theories.

When the science supports what I see in the population, I quote it.  When it doesn’t, I ignore it or argue with it. It makes no difference if 98 out of 100 people studied tend to do xyz if my client and I happen to be among the 2% who do abc.

It doesn’t matter.  Your job is the same either way: check your gut to see what makes the most sense to you and try it on.  Tweak from there. Check out another tool when something doesn’t work for you.

But hang on to the first!!  Just because you need a hammer NOW doesn’t mean you won’t need a lug-wrench later!

My take on Anecdotal

  • For years I struggled valiantly attempting to adopt “majority rules” norms — with little to no success and a lot of wasted life.
  • It took a long time for me to develop even a rudimentary feeling of entitlement to my own process, learning to close my ears to the words of the “experts” and neurotypical Doubting Thomases who kept telling me that I was only kidding myself or making excuses.

I coach, train and share here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com hoping to help others avoid some of the wilderness-wandering that has characterized much of my own life. And to remind myself of what I’ve learned.

Trying something different

I want to encourage you to find what works, not what is supposed to work

So, in the first part of this multi-part article, let’s take a look together at how people relate to time and tasks, and how that affects our ability to plan our schedules and run our lives.

Let’s examine the real stoppers to OUR forward progress to see if we can figure out how to work around them, independent of the “standard” assumptions and techniques – a process I refer to as Sherlocking.

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Brains Need SYSTEMS to Develop


Learning CHANGES the Structure of the Brain:

Impossible in the face of chaos

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC

“You don’t cure a different organization of the brain;
you find ways and strategies of helping that brain learn [. . .] in a different way.
It’s not about cure, it’s about teaching different ways.

~ Maryanne Wolf
reading expert & author of Proust and the Squid

Building a Brain

While it is true that no two brains develop in a manner that is exactly the same, babies come into this world with a brain specialized for learning – a pattern-recognition device designed to bootstrap learning into a structure of additional patterns.

The brain develops in a manner not dissimilar to the way in which a computer uses certain hardwired sub-routines to locate and activate still more code that allows for the loading and interpretation of additional programs — which facilitates their use for creating new ideas.

The human brain builds the new structures and networks it needs to allow it to continue to learn.  The process by which it does that work is known as neuroplasticity.

Not all that long ago, most of the science-crowd mistakenly believed that there was a relatively early window in which neuroplasticity operated. It was once thought that all of the neurons our brains were ever going to have developed within that window, and the systems the brain used to learn were set after a particular point in childhood.

Baby brains develop amazingly quickly

If you’ve ever spent any time at all around an infant, you might recall their unfocused stare and their unselfconscious movements and facial expressions.

It may not be immediately apparent to parents who spend day to day time with the baby, but adults who visit only occasionally are usually amazed at how much more that child is able to interact with the world each time.

Suddenly, it seems, that tiny child is able to focus on an object of fascination.  S/he responds to the direction of a particular sound and reaches for things. The baby exhibits what adults recognize as curiosity about the world around them and develops preferences.

Order out of Chaos

Babies come into a world of seeming chaos: sights, sounds, temperature, texture and more, with little in place to help them make sense of it all. They have to build the brain that will help them learn for the rest of their lives.

The task of their amazingly neuroplastic infant brains is to learn to recognize the constants that help them to derive meaning from a cacophony of stimulation that the majority of us learn to filter out – eventually.

And it is the task of the adults around them
to provide those constants.

As infants learn to recognize the simplest thing, as far as adult sensibilities are concerned, their brains grow and change their structures. As the baby’s brain learns that certain types of vibrations need to be visually interpreted, others audially, and so forth, it reorganizes its pathways for the most efficient recognition and interpretation of incoming data. It condenses the complexities of sensory awareness to comprehend “meaning.”

Assimilation of the basic concept of Mom, for example, requires a complex network of connections that, very quickly, allows the baby to understand that the source of his or her food is mother, and that she is one single element:

  • those hands are part of my mother,
  • those arms are part of my mother
  • that face is my mother smiling
  • that other face is still my mother, frowning
  • those sounds make up my mother’s voice
  • and I have a voice too

A lot of brain-based learning must take place before the baby assigns emotional or intellectual meaning to what s/he observes, eventually able to extrapolate expectations of sensory awareness to form new ideas about his or her world like, “I have a voice too.”

A LOT for our brains to learn

It makes sense that it might have seemed that brain-development is essentially a childhood task. Because young children have so much to learn so quickly, brain growth and change seems, by comparison, to stop in adulthood.

It has been postulated that, because of the size limitations of the birth canal in an upright-walking human being, our babies are born essentially nine months premature.  The increase in size of the infant’s brain after birth is phenomenal, compared to the growth in an adult brain. A baby’s brain doubles in size in their first year alone. By age three it has reached 80 percent of its adult volume.

Highways and Byways

It is a logical extrapolation that after a certain point, the brain would use what it has built in a manner similar to the way in which a city uses it’s roads to connect grocery store to neighborhood to a particular location in the center of town. There may be a hundred ways to drive from place to place, but nobody sober cuts through yards to form new roads that were never there before.

Except, with the brain, that hasn’t turned out to be exactly true.
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Good news on brain-aging from The Nun Study


Healthy Brains for a Lifetime

We really DON’T have to lose it as we age

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

Cognitive decline is NOT inevitable

A quick review before some data that will bring smiles to a lot of worried faces (especially for writers!):

There is still a lot to learn from School Sisters of Notre Dame “Nun” Study — the longitudinal scientific exploration of aging and Alzheimer’s disease originally funded by the National Institute on Aging.  Data, tissue, and genetic material collected in this landmark study will, no doubt, prove invaluable to a great many meta-studies long into the future.

Thanks to the Sisters’ unprecedented generosity of spirit, however, we now know a lot more about how the brain ages than we did, even a few years ago.  We also know more about dementia and what factors seem to be neuro-protective.

The oft-cited study centers on a group of a relatively homogeneous order of 678 Roman Catholic sisters (American, no drug use, little or no alcohol or tobacco, similar housing and reproductive histories, etc.) — which minimizes extraneous variables that may confound other similar research.

Along with, ultimately, hundreds of others in their order, a few brave nuns agreed to volunteer for a long-term study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease, hoping to provide evidence that might be used to teach the rest of us how to escape the worst ravages of this heartbreaking illness.

To repeat a comment from my last article [You don’t HAVE to lose it as you age: Moving Past Mind-Blips and “Senior Moments”]:

Upon autopsy, even some of the individuals discovered to have what used to be accepted as “positive Alzheimer’s identifiers” (senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles), managed to escape the behavioral devastation of the disease.

Others had only recently begun to exhibit signs of mental decline in the year or two before their deaths (at 80 and beyond), despite brains that would have predicted a significantly earlier onset of dementia.

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You don’t HAVE to lose it as you age


Moving Past Mind-Blips and “Senior Moments”

Maintaining & improving your brain’s vitality as you age

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

“A mind equipped with a wide range of
previously formed
pattern recognition devices
can withstand the effects of neuroerosion
for a long time.”

~ Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD, from
The Wisdom Paradox 


Along with suggestions designed to help, this article begins to debunk the myth of “to be expected” age-related cognitive decline — as it explains the mechanics of memory and outlines the functional trajectory of the healthy brain as time marches on.

In the Memory Issues Series, anyone currently struggling to fit into a neurotypical mold, even if you are GenX or younger, will find a lot of information that will help you develop effective you-specific strategies to work around some of the things that give you fits and shut you down.


Our Worst Nightmare

Staying in SHAPE as we age (Source HERE)

Most people who have lived with cognitive decline in an up close and personal fashion (in particular, the ravages of any of the dementias in a loved one), frequently report a back-of-the-mind concern that they are looking into a mirror of their future selves.

Time marches on, and we’re all getting older. The first wave of Baby Boomers – that spike in the population statistics once Johnny came marching home from World War II – turned 65 in 2012.

With the third-act aging of more and more of the Boomers, this conversation will become increasingly frequent, as those back-of-the-mind concerns rise to conscious awareness and become the worries of a greater portion of our population.

Take a D-E-E-P breath — you don’t HAVE to lose it as you age!!

Prevention is the better part of valor

You wouldn’t wait until the day before the marathon to train for it, would you? Same thing with healthy brain aging! Don’t wait until decline begins to start doing something about it — if you want to experience the rosy finish you can expect if you begin to employ neuro-protective techniques NOW

Good news for most Boomers –
it’s not too late to start turning things around!

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Listening from Belief


‘Cause maybe you DON’T know better

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections Post on Listening Skills for Coaches

AS I’VE SAID BEFORE:
More than most people with “vanilla” functioning
ADD/EFDers have had people
trying to “fix” them all their lives —
along with the other citizens of Alphabet City
,
whose cognitive challenges are not physically obvious.

UM, this is why . . .

When we try to explain our actions in the context of our challenges, they barely make sense to us – and rarely make sense to them.

Even when those “fixers” appear to be listening,
they don’t always seem to be hearing.

Too many of them seem to believe that their own experience of life is valid and useful, and that their ADD/EFD buddy merely has to adopt their perspective and their correct attitude to be able to function differently — and well!

• You’re running a victim racket  . . .
• It’s all that coffee, or sugar, or lack of sleep –
ANYTHING besides Executive Functioning Disorders themselves . . .
• You are at the effect of an inaccurate BELIEF

Most of us understand intellectually that most “helpful” comments probably come from a positive, even loving intention. Most of us are willing to believe that those we’ve hired to help us (or who claim to love us) wish us well – but do you realize how UNloving those comments are in execution?  They don’t help, and they DO hurt.

They’re invalidating. They’re shaming and should-ing all over the place!

What’s worse, they don’t even work.

They frequently produce exactly the opposite of what the person who says them says they want! They confuse the issue and delay getting to the understanding that will actually make improved functioning possible. It’s not smart to devalue the clues! We’ll start telling you what we know you want to hear, and then where are we?

Invalidation comes from two assumptions that are flat out wrong:

  1. They assume lack of self-awareness — that we are not experiencing or describing our world view appropriately or accurately;
  2. They assume volition well, maybe we’re not exactly doing it on purpose, but we’re not making choices that will allow us NOT to do it either. And we could!

So, once again, we’re back to the underlying assumption that “all” a person who is struggling with one of the invisible disorders has to do is make a commitment to willingness and their world will shift on a dime.

This Chinese finger-trap is a consequence of a failure to listen from a basic belief in another’s experience of the world, their willingness to share it truthfully, and their ability to language it relatively accurately.

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Slow-cooking CHANGE


Metaphors of Mind & Brain Redux
edited excerpt from Our Brains, Crock Pots™ and Microwaves (Jan. 2015)

Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

The way in which my brain is rather like a Crock Pot™ frequently comes to mind. I put more than a few things in “slow-cook” mode, figuring that I’ll be better able to handle them later, and that they will still be “digestible” if I forget about them for a while.

By giving ourselves permission to do things our own way on our own timetables, our brain responds with a way to solve problems and work around challenges that works best for us.

I frequently use the term “slow-cook” as a communication short-cut when I coach. It is especially useful when I work with change resistance.

In my many years working with all sorts of individuals I have observed that what trips us up most is a process akin to denial – that just because something works for the rest of the world it darn well should work for us too!

If you want to understand how you work,
you need to pay deliberate attention
to how YOU work! Duh!

Until we begin to observe the unique manner in which we respond and react, we unconsciously defend or attack ourselves from expectations that, somewhere deep inside, we know are unrealistic, given our particular flavor of whatever is going on with us.

That way lies madness!

Don’t forget that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

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My way IS the Highway?


ALL Kinds of Solutions
for ALL Kinds of Minds

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections from posts from January 2012 and March 2015

Get up Early … Exercise to FOCUS! … Bite the Bullet … Eat that Frog
Give it your ALL … Connect with the Pain … Clean out your Closet
Throw out your ClutterAccelerate your willingness . . .

WHY won’t everybody else do what they should?

Yep! So many people think that everybody else needs to do everything their way. It’s as if they believe that exactly the same techniques that have been effective in their own lives would transfer equally well to anyone else’s situationif those slackers would only DO IT RIGHT!

Everyone’s problems would magically disappear with “simple” solutions, IF ONLY everybody else would:

 — or really wanted a solution and not simply a chance to complain!

As if everybody needed to do the same thing – right?

I know what works for you – uhuh, uhuh-uhuh

More than a few Success Gurus approach the subject of productivity and goal fulfillment from a paradigm that not only is unlikely to work for everyone on the planet, I believe that much of what they suggest does not work very well at all for citizens of Alphabet CityIn fact, it shuts many of us down.

These “experts” certainly don’t mean to shut anybody down – and many find it difficult to impossible to believe that they do.  Still, they speak in soundbites that encapsulate the cornerstones of their systems.

They tend to promote techniques in alignment with the claim that increasing commitment to change, demonstrated by “giving up your resistance” to whatever it is they are suggesting, is the single most important step that turns the tide for many of their clients, students and seminar attendees – and that it would work for you too, if you’d only give it a try.

Different folks and different strokes

  • Tortoises and Hares
  • Linears and Holographics
  • Detailers and Concepters
  • Prioritize First or Do it NOW propronents
  • DECIDE and Do or Follow the Flow

Does anybody REALLY believe that the same “success techniques” are likely to work effectively for each of the examples above?  Their ways of approaching life is at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Who’s to say that one style is the “right” approach and the other is not?

Taking different routes to work

How you get to a particular location in your town, for example, depends upon a great many variables: where you are coming from, the amount of gas in your tank, the time of day, what else you are trying to accomplish on the same trip — even the type of vehicle you are driving and the state of your tires.

I can recommend the way I travel as the most direct route, or the one with the fewest stop lights, or the most scenic.  But it’s not true that one or the other is “the best,” or that the recipient of my suggestion is intractable or doesn’t really want to get where they are going if they choose another route.

In a manner similar to how a city’s network of roads determines how various people travel to the same destination, the connections that make up the networks in our brains determine how our brains operate. Variations in the way we navigate our world – physically or mentally – are a product of our “equipment” and how life tends to work best for us.

Still, we all like to give advice, and it makes us feel great when people take it.  But it doesn’t mean that we know “better.”

During my 25+ year coaching career, I have worked very hard to jettison “I know better” thinking. I have been relatively successful moving beyond the temptation to spread judgment like a schmear on a bagel, but I still defend my right (and yours) to offer advice, raising our voices of experience to offer information and suggest solutions.

It’s not the advice that is the problem – it’s the misguided expectation that others need to take it!

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Accountability & Systems on Auto-Pilot


Systems Development is Part ONE
It’s that consistent follow-through part that’s the killer!

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Treadmill Deja Vu

As I explained in Keeping Up with the Treadmill Tasks, published over 2-1/2 years ago, Treadmill Tasks are those things that are never really done. No sooner do we put a task behind us than its evil twin materializes in front.

If we expect to eat every day, somebody has to fix the food. Then somebody has to deal with the dishes at least once a day or so, and wipe spills off the counters and the floor (at least well enough to keep the Board of Health away from our door).

Oops, let’s not forget to take out the garbage – and how about that grocery shopping?

Then there’s the general digging out: policing the living rooms and the bedrooms, the kitchens and the bathrooms . . . not to mention those home office to-dos, even for those of us who work for wages somewhere else.

SOME-body has to attend to all of those items or everybody must live with the consequences of mounting disorder and disarray that eventually makes life practically unlivable.

When YOU are that somebody – especially if you are one of the citizens of Alphabet City – I’ll bet you frequently feel like your life is little more than one rapidly revolving to-do list, and that you will never be able to cross off anything anywhere near the bottom.

Hang on – help’s coming!

But wait – there’s MORE!

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The Virtues of Lowering your Standards


Consider this a “Track-back Tuesday” post

Late last night (or early this morning, depending on where you are and how you track time), I received a comment from an extremely frustrated ADDer struggling with cellphone and I-pad impulsivity. Most of us can relate, huh?

You can read her comment HERE (my coaching response follows).

Double-checking one of my older articles that I suggested she read, I notice that it received fewer “likes” or comments than I thought it would when I wrote it. It struck me that MANY of you who read ADDandSoMuchMore.com only occasionally probably missed it, and it’s a goodie. It contains more than a couple foundational concepts that create issues that most people find problematic, and those of us in Alphabet City frequently find debilitating.

SO . . . I am reblogging my own post,
hoping it will provide a few keys to turn a few of YOUR locked doors.

If you want to add velocity to your self-coaching efforts, take the time to read the articles linked within that post as well. They will open in new tabs/windows, so you can click them as you come to them and keep on reading.

Enjoy!

ADD . . . and-so-much-more

click image for sourceclick image for source

 When “Good enough” is Good ENOUGH!

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Let’s delve deeper into a couple of foundational problems,
particularly for those of us with Executive Functioning dysregulations:

* struggles with activation,and
* the perils of falling victim to black and white thinking.

Hand in hand, each exacerbates the other,
until it’s truly a miracle we ever get anything done at all!

To the neurodiverse AND the neurotypical

On a very different kind of blog, post-production supervisor and self-professed Edit Geek Dylan Reeve shared his thoughts on the very topic I planned to write about today (the image above is his). He began and ended his relatively brief article with a wonderful synopsis of exactly what I am about to tackle in this article.

In Defense Of ‘Good Enough’

For many people . . . ‘good enough’ is a dirty word…

View original post 2,887 more words

From Impulsivity to Self-Control


Self-Control increases as the brain develops

(but science isn’t exactly sure HOW)

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Self-control is a developmental process.

Self Control — none of us are born with it, and very few of us are able to banish acting on impulse completely. A percentage of us struggle to manage our faster-than-a-speeding-bullet emotional responses for our entire lives: those who retain high levels of what is termed impulsivity.

Not surprisingly, some of the most comprehensive understanding of impulsivity comes from the study of children and teens.

Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, the neuroscientist who led the team testifying during the Supreme Court case that abolished the death penalty for juveniles [Roper v. Simmons], is well known for his research that has illuminated some of the underlying causes of reckless behavior in teens and young adults.

He explains impulsivity as an imbalance in the development of two linked brain systems that he describes in the following manner:

  • the incentive processing system, regulating the anticipation and processing of rewards and punishments, as well as the emotional processing of society’s behavioral expectations, and
  • the cognitive control system, orchestrating logical reasoning and impulse regulation – two important skills that make up what is termed our Executive Functions, which depend on neurotypical development of the PreFrontal Cortex [PFC]

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Low-grade Impulsivity Ruins Lives Too


Identifying “Garden Variety” Impulsivity

The first step on the road to change

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Garden-Variety Impulsives

Serious Impulse Control issues cannot be resolved by attempting to follow advice gleaned from a quick trip around the internet — or any Series of articles written to help you improve your level of self-control and accountability.

If you suspect that your problem with impulsivity is severe enough to need professional help beyond ADD Coaching, THAT is one impulse I encourage you to act on immediately!

But that is NOT what this article is designed to help you identify.

I want to encourage those of you whom I call the “garden-variety impulsives,” to stop comparing what you do to the far end of the impulsivity spectrum.

I’m hoping to be able to convince at least some of you to stop fooling yourselves into believing that you don’t really have a problem, as the joys of life that could be yours remain forever out of reach.

Because “low-grade impulsivity” is something that can be changed relatively easily in a “self-help” fashion or with some focused work with a private ADD Coach or in a Coaching Group.

Life looks up when you do the work.

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Complex PTSD Awareness


C-PTSD Awareness
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Trauma

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Self-Health Series

One of the factors of PTSD is that some people seem to have severe cases while others do not — that some soldiers were more vulnerable to extreme trauma and stress than others.

As an explanation for some of these complications it has been suggested and researched that there is a form of PTSD that is called DESNOS [Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified]. Another term is C-PTSD or Complex-PTSD. ~  Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D

 

Relatively Recent Distinction & Debate

Many traumatic events that result in PTSD are of time-delimited duration — for example, short term military combat exposure, rape or other violent crimes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, fire, etc.  However, some individuals experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time.

There is currently a debate in the Mental Health community that centers around the proposed need for an additional diagnosis. Proponents assert that the current PTSD diagnosis does not fully capture the core characteristics of a more complex form – symptoms of the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma.

Let’s DO It

One of the longest-standing proponents is Dr. Judith Herman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School. She is well respected for her unique understanding of trauma and its victims, and has repeatedly suggested that a new diagnosis of Complex PTSD [C-PTSD] is needed to distinguish and detail the symptoms of the result of exposure to long-term trauma.

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PTSD Overview – Awareness Post


June is PTSD Awareness Month
PTSD Signs and Symptoms

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Self-Health Series

“Emotions are very good at activating thoughts,
but thoughts are not very good at controlling emotions.

~  Joseph LeDoux

Responding in the present to threats from the past

Life itself required the development of the ability to detect and respond to danger – so our nervous system evolved to greatly increase the chances that we will remain alive in the presence of threats to safety and security.

When our lives are threatened, a survival response automatically kicks in — before the brain circuits that control our conscious awareness have had time to interpret that physiological response occurring “under the radar.” Initially, there is no emotion attached to our automatic response to threat.  Fear is a cognitive construct.

Our individual perceptions of the extent of the danger we just witnessed or experienced personally is what adds velocity to the development of fearful emotions, even if our feeling response follows only a moment behind.

Some of us are able to process those perfectly appropriate fearful responses and move forward. Others of us, for a great many different reasons, are not.

Many of those who are not able to process and move forward are likely to develop one or more of the anxiety disorders, while others will develop a particular type of anxiety disorder doctors call PTSD — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Related articles:
When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic
Understanding Fear and Anxiety

An Equal Opportunity Destroyer

While we hear most about the challenges of PTSD in soldiers, it is not limited to those returning from combat.

Individuals have been diagnosed with PTSD as the result of a great many different traumas: accidents, assaults, natural disasters, serious illnesses and more. It can develop in the wake of almost any traumatic event. (Situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, or horror are considered traumatic.)

Trauma is especially common in women; 50% – five out of every ten women – will experience a traumatic event at some point during their lifetime, according to the The National Center for PTSD, a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to VA research and experience, approximately eight million Americans will experience PTSD in a given year, including both civilian and military populations.  That number is quite likely to be low, since many people never seek treatment for PTSD, or even admit to themselves that PTSD is what they are experiencing.

Related Post: Interesting PTSD Statistics

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, individuals likely to develop PTSD include:

  • Victims of violent crime (including victims of physical and sexual assaults, sexual abuse, as well as witnesses of murders, riots, terrorist attacks);
  • Members of professions where violence is likely, experienced, or witnessed often or regularly, especially first-responders (for example, anyone in the armed forces, policemen and women, journalists in certain niches, prison workers, fire, ambulance and emergency personnel), including those who are no longer in service, by the way;
  • Victims of war, torture, state-sanctioned violence or terrorism, and refugees;
  • Survivors of serious accidents and/or natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, etc.);
  • Women following traumatic childbirth, individuals diagnosed with a life-threatening illnesses;
  • Anything resulting in a traumatic brain injury (TBI), leaving you struggling with the ongoing trauma of trying to live a life without the cognitive or physical capabilities you thought you would always be able to count on.

Sufferers may also develop further, secondary psychological disorders as complications of PTSD.  At its base, however, we are talking about individuals stuck in a particular type of FEAR response.
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The Unique Loneliness of the Military Family


…. and the isolation of returning vets
Loneliness & disconnection that can overtake entire families

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
adding to the Loneliness Series

“We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan – [putting] wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives — and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own lives in peace.”
~ Colin Powell – 65th U.S. Secretary of State

It was difficult to decide on a title for this particular article in the Loneliness and Isolation Series, since I hope to explore more than a few of the challenges of the particular feelings of alienation faced by servicemen and women and their families – only some of which will apply to other readers.

In answer to a comment on her comprehensive Military Wife and Mom blog, Lauren Tamm speaks to only one of the many challenges: “Anytime your spouse is gone away for work, it’s tough. Military or non-military, parenting alone presents many challenges.” 

While she certainly makes a valid point, many challenges are compounded when frequent moves are “business as usual,” deployment is actual or looming and, for a variety of reasons, returning spouses may well be substantially different than they were before.

How do you reach out for authentic connection when friends and family may not really understand your struggles?

How do you explain to others what you are struggling to understand yourself?

Related Post: What 9/11 means to a veteran’s family –
about being married to a veteran

When few can really understand

To restate something I wrote in Sliding into Loneliness, an earlier article on this topic, loneliness is more than the feeling of wanting company or wanting to do something with another person. It’s not merely a feeling of sadness at finding oneself alone.

Frequently considered the feeling of being alienated or disconnected, loneliness is also described as a subjective sense of feelings of profound separation from the rest of the people in your world.

Loneliness is a longing for KIND, not company.
~ Original Source Unknown

A search of the internet for any permutation of “military family,” “challenges” and “loneliness” will return many pages of titles addressing one or the other of the many issues faced by Service personnel and their families.  I won’t even try to pretend that a single article here can do more than introduce some of their unique challenges, along with providing a few links to articles that cover them in more depth.

Yet any Series about isolation and loneliness would be incomplete without including the particular flavor tasted by the brave men and women who step up to keep us safe at home – and the strain their service puts on their friendships, families, partners and children.
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When You’re Longing for Connection


Lonely is not Needy – or alone
Mood menders: history, empathy, and support

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
adding to the Loneliness Series – Part 3 of 3

Being alone is solitude; feeling alone is loneliness.
~ Psychologist & noted Leadership expert Manfred Kets de Vries

We are by nature storytellers
who must recount our days and our lives
in order to make sense of them.
For this we need listeners…
but listeners who are genuinely interested in us as people.

~ from Healing Loneliness, a sermon by Reverend Brian J. Kiely,
Unitarian Church of Edmonton,September 19,2012

About the longing for connection

In an article on everydayhealth.com, Dr. Sanjay Gupta suggests that we need to Treat Loneliness as a Chronic Illness.  He includes a couple of paragraphs that summarize the points made in Part II of this article, Sliding Into Loneliness:

There’s nothing unusual about feeling lonely. “It’s perfectly common for people to experience loneliness when their social networks are changing, like going off to college or moving to a new city,” says Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

The death of a loved one or marital discord can also trigger feelings of isolation. But there’s a difference between temporary “state” and chronic “trait” loneliness.

“Many of the patients we see have had situational loneliness that becomes chronic. They have been unable to rebuild after a loss or a move or retirement,” says psychiatrist Richard S. Schwartz, MD, co-author of The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century.

“One of the ways that situational loneliness can become chronic is precisely because of the shame we feel about our loneliness — the sense we have of being a loser.”

Jo Coughlin has written an interesting article about avoiding loneliness in retirement in which she neatly distinguishes loneliness from solitude:

In most cases, solitude is a temporary state that is usually voluntary. The ability to be happy in the absence of the company of others is seen as a sign of good mental health.

Loneliness, on the other hand, is involuntary – an unhealthy state that creeps up on us over time, often accompanied by depression, a feeling of helplessness and isolation.

Successful engagement, according to Coughlin, hinges on gaining self awareness and focusing on empathy for others. She admits that these are traits often in short supply in those who have spent a great deal of their lives escaping into work to suppress their loneliness.  However, she goes on to say, those traits can be worked on and developed later in life, especially with the help of a therapist, a coach or with guidance from a loved one.

Both of the articles mentioned above include the assurance that it’s never too late to change things — that it’s possible to learn the social skills of engagement and connection at any stage of life, even if you’ve been lonely for much of it.
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Sliding into Loneliness


Not necessarily alone, but lonely
How Loneliness can overtake even the most outgoing of us

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the ADD/EFD Comorbids Series – Part 2 of 3
Read Part 1 HERE
– The danger of loneliness and isolation to health

Loneliness is a longing for KIND, not company.
~ Original Source Unknown

Loneliness is not a longing for company, it is a longing for kind.
And kind means people who can see who you are,
and that means that they have enough intelligence
and sensitivity and patience to do that.
~ Marilyn French

The Longing for Connection

I came across the first version of the quote above in the early ’60s. I have long since lost the little book of quotes that contained it, so I have no way to find out who said it originally.

Years later I came across the second version, attributed to the late feminist writer Marilyn French. French’s version expanded on the idea for people who didn’t immediately resonate with the concept.  I needed no explanation.  I realized when I was in the 7th grade that, despite being surrounded by a family of seven, I had been lonely for most of my life.

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The Importance of Community to Health


People Who Need People
Avoiding Isolation and Loneliness

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the ADD/EFD Comorbids Series – part 1 of 3

Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people. ~ Atul Gawande

Problems before Solutions

As early as 350 B.C, Aristotle described a human being as “by nature a social animal.” For most of the time since, that idea has been considered little more than “anecdotal evidence” by most of the scientific community, since there were few double-blind, placebo controlled, replicated and journal published studies to “verify” the observation according to the rules of the scientific method.

Until verified, according to the science field, no idea has been “proven,” so may or may not, in fact, be true.

Related Post: Science Confirms What we have Always Known – again

The Wikipedia article on the Scientific Method informs us that the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” [4] 

Related Post: Science and Sensibility – the illusion of proof

Meanwhile, the fields of sales and marketing, psychology & counseling, self-help (and relatively recently, even the science field itself), have taken a serious look at Aristotle’s observation, proposing theories and “proofs” in their attempts to explain why something so obvious might really be so – and how we can use it to our advantage, individually and as a species.

As scientists explore the workings of bodily functions at the nerve and cellular level, they are confirming that loneliness – the absence of social connection – is linked to a wide array of bodily ailments in addition to the mental conditions typically thought to be associated.

Easy to see with Extroverts

According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI], based on psychology but considered to be in the self-help field, the energy flow of the gregarious extrovert is directed outward, toward other people.  The MBTI goes on to propose that an extrovert’s energy flow is recharged through interaction with others.

It is said that extroverts generally express great happiness in the company of other people, and are at risk of falling victim to depression should they spend long periods of time without the company of a circle of friends.

But what about Introverts?

Supposedly, while extroverts get their energy from spending time with people, introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

However, even the majority of people who consider themselves introverts would find it difficult to impossible to navigate life totally alone.

“It’s a mistake to think that most humans prefer the solitary life that so much of modern life imposes on us. We are most comfortable when we’re connected, sharing strong emotions and stories . . . “
~ Nick Morgan for Forbes.

Jeff Kay, Modern Renaissance Man / Quora Top Writer 2015/16, has come up with a wonderful way of explaining it:

“. . . introverts are not an exception, just a variation on the theme. We function just like any other human in society.  The more extreme cases might be seen as the odd duck at times, but they are still just as social as anyone else, just with a different set of rules.”

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 Isolation’s Link with Depression
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The Brain: Why much of what you think you know is WRONG


Science Marches On
and older information becomes obsolete

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

The Importance of Life-Long Learning

It’s an essential endeavor for everyone with a brain to continue to seek out and pay attention to credible information that will help us delay – or avoid – the onset of dementia, preserving cognitive functionality as we age.

However, it is especially important for scientists, treatment and helping professionals to keep up with new information and incorporate it into their theories, tests and treatment protocols.

And yet . . .

I have been beating this drum – while seeking new, scientifically valid information for over 30 years now – in my futile attempt [so far] to get some traction toward effective care for those of us with Executive Functioning disorders.

A concept known as Confirmation Bias explains part of the reason that my efforts [and those of others] have, for the most part, failed – but timing is everything.

Related Post: Why we HATE to Change our Minds

Getting updated, substantially more accurate information to “the professional down the street” simply takes far too long, as the continual explosion of partially-informed new coaches, bloggers and pinners confuse and confound the issue further.

They all seem to be well-intended, albeit at least partially misguided, spreading obsolete information all over the internet at an unprecedented rate.  For those who make an effort to continue to learn, it seems that the more that new information might persuade them to update their theories and methodologies along with their information base, the more tightly they hold to cherished beliefs – the very essence of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory makes predictions that are counter-intuitive — predictions that have been confirmed in numerous scientific experiments.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept or the term, you will probably be surprised to see how widely it applies. Once you learn to pay attention to it, you will also be surprised at how it changes your behavior as well as your perception of your world.

Embracing its reality might also encourage you to investigate brain-based information further, allowing your mind to incorporate the latest in scientific findings, rather than repeating information that is, sometimes, decades old.

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Productivity, Focus & Follow-through


What helps & what hurts
– so that you don’t unintentionally
make accomplishment harder  –

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

The Motivation/Activation/Focus Continuum

As I’ve explained in the Activation articles, cheerleading – or any other attempt to motivate someone who is struggling with activation – is likely to backfire.

There are many tips and techniques that can help a person who struggles with Executive Functions initiate action and stay on track to completion, but most of them are counter-intuitive. The “typical” advice only works for the “typical” person.

Attempting to explain the differences between the neurotypical and the neuro-diverse, I’ve said many times, “The reasons they don’t do things are seldom the same as the reasons we don’t do things.”

Different causes mandate different approaches and ideas.

One of the best ideas I know is to make use of the services of a Body Double – as long as both partners are aware of some of the unwritten rules of the game.

Body Double Confusion

An ADD Coaching technique I introduced in Body Doubles for Activation & Accountability, the Body Double concept underscores how simply having another person in the room can make things easier to do — because it is an externalized reminder of the need to stay on track for the person being doubled.

Haven’t you ever noticed how much easier it is to stay on track on certain types of tasks when somebody is observing?

Some repeat information from the earlier article:

  • It’s important to note that the Body Double does not actively help, advise, disrupt concentration or comment outside of a structured, agreed upon set of circumstances.
  • The Body Double’s only task is to sit quietly out of the way, reading or writing while the ADD/EFDer attends to work (unless it has been agreed in advance that s/he will interrupt a hyperfocused worker-bee occasionally to ensure that s/he stops for periodic breaks or for meals).
  • Frequently, the Body Double brings along a compatible task of his or her own – like journaling, knitting or catching up with email on a laptop or tablet.  They’re only there to externalize the observing ego of the person they’re doubling – the witness self of the person they are assisting.

I have observed for almost three decades now that having another person in the room actually helps those of us with activation and follow-through struggles focus on the task at hand, and stay on-task to completion — provided that the person in our space doesn’t feel it is their job to “help” us with what we are doing.

THAT’s where the confusion begins

In general, people tend to think about “helping” as an active state: donating food, clearing the table, fixing a flat — DOing something.

So when they are asked for help as a Body Double, they tend to be as much an active off-task distraction as a passive partner who helps to improve the odds that someone with Executive Functioning struggles will stay on track.

  • They often assume they are at least supposed to ask how things are going, or for a report of what has been done so far, or to remind the person of the items still undone (or something else that also needs to be done).
  • Unfortunately, intruding on the process in a manner that might be intended to be  “actively helpful assistance” actually makes things harder – sometimes much harder.

To be really helpful to someone already struggling with attention, focus and follow-through, a Body Double needs to be passive.

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Starting early – making it easier to decide & do


Planning for NEXT Christmas
(What better time than when the weather blusters?)

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decisions, Attention Series

Reviewing a Planning Concept using Christmas as a model

If you ever hope to live your life as an organized person – or even a more organized person – you need to think in terms of making sure you jettison the dead weight – those things that are working against you. Begin with a vision of where you’re going and the “somethings” that are keeping you from “gettin’ up and gettin’ on it.”

As I told you in several earlier articles

the further away from the moment of need the decision is made

  • the easier it is to make . . .
  • and the fewer the distractions that will disable you.

It’s always a good idea to front-end the decision-making process for any task you can’t seem to make yourself do early enough to avoid the last-minute scramble.  Planning in January is about as far from next December as possible.

Be sure to write it down, write it down, write it down. On paper.

Handwriting uses a different part of the brain and activates different pathways than typing into one or the other of our devices.

It also feels less like “doing” so is less likely to set you up for activation agita.

Most of us can follow simple “directions” fairly well – one at a time. Planning is like leaving breadcrumbs for yourself to follow later: directions!

Christmas Planning Lessons

Since, for many of us, it’s too cold to play outside much anyway, lets play an indoor game: planning.

Grab a planner, a pencil with a decent eraser and your favorite pen or hi-lighter, then snuggle in with your favorite cup of something warm and wonderful. Let’s plan next Christmas.

I can almost hear some of you moaning that Christmas comes too early already, but anyone who knows me will tell you that I start thinking Christmas the first time the temperature dips below 70 degrees.  January weather is clearly colder than that – where I live, at least.

Anyway, what better time than January to review the Christmas in our rear view mirror before it disappears from sight: what worked, what did not, what you wish you’d done, and where you put everything you just took down?

If you wait much longer you probably won’t remember much of anything very clearly – except the very best and the very worst.

Let’s use planning for next Christmas as a model for up-front planning for other things in our lives (like packing for a trip, finally organizing your kitchen so that it works for you, labeling the boxes and bins that you’ve stashed ladder-high, no longer sure what’s up there, and so on).

Christmas still up? Even better!

  • That means you haven’t stashed things away before you considered how best to store the items (and whether anything you used this year isn’t worth storing at all).
  • You can also still use your eyes to jog your memory. Since our emotions leave tracks, pay attention to any tightness in your body to tip you off about what didn’t work well this year.

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Getting up and Getting Going


More on ACTIVATION
(versus Motivation)

© By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Foundational Concepts of the Intentionality Series

ACTIVATION can be a BEAR!

From my favorite illustrator, Phillip Martin

As I illuminated in three earlier posts of this Series of articles – ABOUT ActivationIs Activation “Seeking System” Dependent? and Procrastination: Activation vs. Motivation – struggles with activation are a common occurrence in the AD[h]D/EFD/TBI population (vs. garden-variety “procrastination“)

What’s the Difference again?

  • ACTIVATION refers to the initiation of an action — the process that gets you up and doing, apart from what inspires you to WANT to be up and doing.

Insufficient motivation – REALLY?

Many (if not most) of the “get it done” gurus believe that insufficient motivation is a primary source of the problem for individuals who procrastinate endlessly.

  • For them, maybe, but my extensive experience with hundreds of individuals with Executive Functioning struggles of all types doesn’t support that simplistic conclusion.
  • In the population I work with and support, I see more than enough motivation and way too much heartbreaking agony over struggles with activation.

According to Wikipedia, “Activation in (bio-)chemical sciences generally refers to the process whereby something is prepared or excited for a subsequent reaction.

Alrighty, as I’ve said before, that definition works for our purposes well enough – as do a number of explanations of terms outlined in various Wikipedia articles on the chemical process – so let’s explore their concepts a bit more.

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