Cameron Gott, PCC
ADHD Coaching for Leaders & Professionals
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The Global Creative Blog

ADHD: Reality Distorter

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Are you prone to destination thinking?
It will all be good when I close this sale!

Do you fall into a kind of binary thinking when it comes to evaluating a key relationship over time?
It's all good...It's not good...It's all good...It's not good...

Do you tend to conflate or collapse separate ideas into one meaning?
Your criticism of this one action is an attack on me as a person and what I stand for...

Do you often discount or diminish information especially from certain sources?

Do you super-size your emotional responses to criticisms?

If any of these ring true it may be evidence that your ADHD is influencing your actual perception of reality. All humans tend to twist and reshape incoming stimuli to fit their version of reality but ADHD with its origins in executive function dis-regulation can really distort reality. This is not a stretch. A recent study suggests that our perception of reality is more illusion than actual reality. This existential dilemma, though, can be exacerbated if you have ADHD.

How?

Destination Thinking
Processes (like time) don't tend to register for Global Creatives and so we focus on what has our attention. Often this is the ultimate prize, the destination. Being goal oriented is not necessarily bad but too much focus on the product or goal and one can miss the nuance of the journey, of learning and the lessons from faltering and overcoming setbacks.  Everything takes time and understanding how things develop over time is a good area to develop.

Binary Thinking
Fueled by black and white or all-or-nothing thinking we can quickly jump to extremes. This thinking fuels destination thinking and super entrenched perspectives.  It's really (almost manic) good or it's in the toilet. I see this a lot with some of my professional clients who wonder why their relationship went from good to bad overnight. Nothing happens overnight. It's hard to see the warning signs when you only have two inputs - good or bad.

Super Entrenched Perspectives
Our perspectives on the world inform how we engage with that world.  Falling into a limiting perspective can severely impact how we take action and how we engage others.  Qualifiers and absolute statements that begin with "If only ...!" or "It's because of...!" are telltale indicators of super entrenched perspectives (SEP).

  • If only they signed the deal!

  • It's because they don't understand me!

  • It's because my business partner is a jerk!

SEP talk reinforces feelings and thoughts of victimhood and powerlessness and will make friends, colleagues and new opportunity scatter in a quick second.  ADHD can play a big part in SEP fabrication by focusing more on emotions, immediate inputs and impulses and focusing less on the actual facts and what really matters.

Collapsed Distinctions
Collapsing or conflating two separate thoughts, emotions, terms or concepts. ADHD makes it difficult to separate and distinguish individual items. This is related to my dirty snowball metaphor where thoughts and feelings tend to mash together. Individuals can collapse these terms into one meaning - responsibility with accountability, urgency with important, setback with failure.

Diminishing or Super-sizing
Everyone is prone to discounting or elevating incoming information. Distractibility and impulsivity (disinhibition) are contributors here when it comes to ADHD. If you are not fully attentive to an input and you don't consider all of the ramifications then you can downplay. It's also a way to make the new information go away faster so you can get back to the thing that had your interest. Super-sizing is the evil twin of contextualizing, an ADHD super strength where we can connect to the bigger opportunity, the bigger meaning, the bigger picture. Super-sizing is going to a bigger context with doubt and fear. Early in my teaching career I would view a subtle dismissive gesture, say a grimace, as something much bigger and much worse - "I must have done something wrong!". A very altered view of reality!

All of these have one thing in common.  They stretch, shrink and contort reality much like a salt water taffy machine twists and turns taffy into a final product.

What to do

First, Start with Awareness
Humans are habitual so be on the lookout for patterns in how you respond to certain situations and certain people.

Are you noticing 'All or Nothing' responses?

Are you wanting fast and simple answers?

Just notice for now and be super generous to yourself. You may respond in disbelief with an "I DO THAT?".  Don't beat yourself up for noticing this behavior for the first time. Right now the goal is to build more accurate awareness.  Only with more accurate awareness can we engage more strategically, more intentionally.

Noticing the behavior is a step in the direction of creating a perception of the world closer to reality.