Return of the Wild: ADHD

The term Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a controversial way of conceptualizing a group of behaviors and neurobiological patterns in some children and some adults who struggle with behaving (doing as they’re told by the authorities in their lives), and focusing (directing their attention to tasks that the authorities in their lives would like them to focus on).

As the name implies, ADHD has been predominantly stigmatized and treated as a disease, and has been treated as such with medication (prescription stimulants like Ridalin and Adderal). Although prescription stimulants have been effective, to a point, in getting wily children to focus and behave, it has also resulted in a generation of children who were set up for addiction problems later on in life, amongst other impairments in neurobiology introduced by using stimulants before the brain had completed its development.

The diagnosis has gained traction since it first started being widely used in the late 90s. Earlier names for the diagnostic grouping of behaviors existed as early as the turn of the 19th century, where the phenomenon was already given a moralistic slant, applied to children considered “morally challenged”, where the morality in question was demonstrated by their willingness and ability to submit to the authority of their educators.

Today the number of children reportedly manifesting the so called “symptoms” of ADHD is on the rise. The discussion is being had, luckily, whether or not these children are really disordered, or merely inconvenient to our existing social order and its main aims.

We have all suffered from social training to reject, or at least subjugate to the authority of reason, our inner authentic, original, childlike and impulsive self. The part inside who says “Who says?” and “Who cares?” and asks “Why do I have to do this?” There is a natural, wild genius part within even the most socialized of us who longs to break free from all the rules, who wants to recover from being forced to learn ways of thinking that feel oppressive to our inner, more natural being.

Interestingly, studies of ADHD brains indicate an “impairment” in what’s called the executive functioning. The executive functioning part of the brain is the one that, like an executive of a company, or the executive of our nation, commands and guides the rest of you. The executive functioning is the part inside you that gets you to behave and do what you’re told. To think ahead and not do things that will get you into trouble, to obey authorities.

Our society loves executive functioning – direct, targeted, ordered action that kills off anything that’s too wild– almost as much as it loves corporate executives. There is far less value placed, monetarily and otherwise, on those elements of our world that are more intuitive, natural, creative, spontaneous, nurturing, and connective – all the typically “feminine principle” properties of our world. In that sense, people with ADHD represent the return of that which has been socially repressed since the industrial revolution, and probably long before that: the spontaneous, the self-pleasing, the authentic, the untamed.

Although many ADHD children are treated as though they have developmental delays, or retardation, there has been no correlation between IQ and ADHD. Ironically, in fact, ADHD is correlated with high intelligence and qualities desired in many creative workplaces. Innovation, adaptability, intuition and general brightness are qualities which the HR departments of many of our most desirable workplaces increasingly look for, due to the rise in need for creative thinking in the tech world and other expanding industries. Increasingly, it is those among us who don’t need orders to follow, who are skilled at listening to their inner source of guidance without stopping to apply overly tedious tests of reason, who will inherit the earth.

It’s understandable that parents trying to get their kids out the door and in bed on time, and teachers attempting to get large classrooms under control so that they can make them perform to standard at the next state test, pray for children who will be quiet and listen. Our families and our teachers need love and support. However the fact that our schools and families are under-supported and isolated, placed under great pressure and criticism without having any resources, kindness, or celebration of their role, is not an argument for stigmatizing the children who do not fit well in it. The structures our caregivers are charged with imposing on children are not sustainable and go against the grain of soul.

Children with ADHD have been punished for being different than what our society has needed us to be until now. They have been punished with medication and with stigma. The education system was developed as a way to instill early values and behavior which were beneficial to the needs of industry. Industry at the time depended on people doing mundane, repetitive tasks and obeying a centralized authority. Many of these values are still taught – listening to authorities, listening to the wisdom of others who have gone before instead of your own intelligence, overriding your natural impulses of body mind and soul to sit quietly and receive instructions. Even though these qualities are becoming less crucial, as our collective evolution leads to balancing out our brains and behaviors with more right brained, now-moment abilities, where ADHD people thrive, many of the children of the ADHD era who are now adults need support to undo the ill effects of being raised in a context which opposed who they are.

Adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as a child usually suffer impairments in their self-esteem due to having been labeled, marginalized and treated as being disordered, rather than embraced and loved for their differences. In addition, people with ADHD may suffer other challenges which come from the fact that our society currently works well for people whose brains are differently programmed, programmed in ways which people with ADHD literally cannot do without undue strain. Our society turns on the assumption that we will work within arbitrary constructs of time, at a high level of productivity on essentially uncreative tasks, which require attention to detail, the ability to sustain focus on something inherently boring.

For people with ADHD whose brains literally don’t work that way, they can suffer enormously in a world that rewards and works best with those gifted in executive functioning. This world is a punishing, difficult, non-cooperative place for individuals who aren’t good at planning, focusing on boring things, and overriding our natural impulses, as nearly everything about our modern life depends on it.

People with ADHD have usually been trained to reject themselves and their specialness, as well, instead of seeing their brains as just the way nature intended them to be.  If you have ADHD, please know that you will be warmly welcomed and celebrated as you are within the walls of VKM. We are not interested in adapting you to the demands of a sick society – as J. Krishnamturti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”. Rather, we would like to see you succeed and help change our society to better fit who you are – that would be good for all of us. We all want to be a bit more free of the inner, tyrannical authority that bosses us around, telling us how to behave and forcing us to think specific thoughts that don’t feel good to us.

If you, like many other women with ADHD, have found yourself in an addiction scenario, please understand that the underlying low self-esteem likely instilled in you whether conscious or unconscious, alongside the impact of stimulants on your neurology if you have been taking prescriptions to help you “focus”, has especially predisposed you to developing an addiction pattern.

All is not lost, however! By the same path that all people have the right to free themselves from addiction, you can also connect to a loving community and to your loving inner source, who will help you find a place in this world that adequately celebrates your special contribution, rather than rejecting you. We would love to help you on this journey!

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