Was it the cumulative effect of over two years of extensively studying ADHD, or was it the clarity of his explanation? I can’t be sure. I only know that after Dr. Bill Dodson, one of our pre-eminent ADHD psychiatrists here in Denver, allowed me to read the manuscript of his soon-to-be-published book, my understanding of ADHD deepened.
The impact was like the moment when you’re learning a foreign language where you cease translating and begin thinking in the new language. Similarly, instead of seeing ADHD as an object of study, I shifted to understanding it from the inside. Since that moment, I’ve so better understood my own ADHD that my ADHD coaching has taken a great leap forward.
This shift was all the more remarkable since I had been so impressed with the clarity of instruction I was receiving from the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA). During my training with them, no other book outside of their text added much of anything new to my growing understanding of ADHD. I felt like I was garnering such a complete understanding of ADD that I could truly count on it providing me with professional expertise. I had no idea there could be a shift like the one tripped by reading Dr. Dodson’s book.
I would attribute much of the shift to the agreements shared between the school’s curriculum and Dr. Dodson’s view. Certainly there was simply further confidence-building in seeing the match. But I also suspect Dr.Dodson extensively explained one feature of ADD that touched me so personally that it made the difference.
He writes on page 15, “ADHD is a brain-based condition. It is not a failure of character or will.” Epiphany! I’m not a slouch after all! Well, we certainly covered this at ADDCA, but later on Dr. Dodson went on to give this absolution from character flaw a name. Clinically it is known as Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria; basically a big word for defensiveness. He went on to elaborate at length about how this condition develops very early on as a child recognizes that he/she is not learning or responding to the world as “neurotypicals” do. On page 5 he writes:
People from the ADHD World have a hard time with self-appraisal and self-awareness. While they can often read other people well, it is very hard for the average ADDer to know from moment to moment how they themselves are doing, what effect they are having on others, or how they feel. Neurotypicals can misinterpret this as being callous, narcissistic, uncaring, or socially inept. Taken together, this extreme vulnerability to the negative feedback of others and the lack of the ability to observe oneself in the moment create a witch’s brew that makes the development of a firm sense of Self even harder. If a person cannot see what is going on in the moment, the feedback loop by which we learn is broken. A person does not know what is wrong or in what particular way it is wrong, so they have no basis for knowing how to fix it. Perversely, they also don‘t know what they are doing right so they can do more of it. This is why people with ADHD nervous systems appear not to be able to learn from experience. (Emphasis mine.)
The first emphasized trait combines not just defensiveness but also a chronic sense of insecurity. The self-doubt that haunts many ADDers puts a great stress on their lives and and their defensiveness profoundly impacts their closest relationships. The second attribute, the inability to learn from experience, really illuminated for me why and how I have difficulty with administrative tasks like budgeting, and especially remembering how to do taxes every year!
These were revelatory and profoundly facilitative insights. It is surely one thing to learn of such ADHD traits and struggles by reading about them, but a whole other to have someone enable an integration of understanding the condition as Dr. Dodson did for me.
These are just a few of the gifts of insight Dr. Dodson’s book provided me and what you could look for when it is published. But you don’t have to wait to learn from this ADHD Treatment Master. Come see him at Denver-Metro CHADD’s monthly meeting this coming Monday evening. See the details on my ADHD Support link. And you can sign up for automatic notifications of Denver-Metro CHADD’s meetings and events at www.meetup.com/denver-metro-chadd-support.