Familiarophilia

If you’re scratching your head and saying, “Huh?” at the title of this post, you’re not alone! It’s a neologism, a new word. In pondering the phenomenon of human beings preferring other human beings who are as much like themselves as possible, I thought there should be a word.

My first choice was homophilia, but that has apparently already been used to describe people who like homosexuals. That’s a fine use for that word, but I still needed a word for my meaning. After consulting with my son (who has a master’s in philosophy), I decided on “familiarophilia” and define it this way: “the tendency of most human beings to prefer/like/love that which is familiar to themselves and in many cases that which is as much like themselves as possible; also including the opposite tendency to dislike/fear/hate that which is unfamiliar to or unlike themselves.”

We see that phenomenon playing out everywhere we look these days in the realms of race, religion, nationality, sexual preference, political beliefs, etc. The resulting conflicts and wars cover the globe. Today the arena that is on my mind is neurodiversity.

When we see another person who behaves or learns differently from ourselves or other people with whom we are familiar, we often have a reaction. Instead of seeing that person as simply another human being with unique brain wiring, we often have a tendency to judge. Even knowing as much as I do about differences in brain wiring among people, I have what seems an automatic negative reaction to behavior that doesn’t seem “normal” to me. I might experience initial fear or anger or at least rush to judge: “Why doesn’t he get it? It’s so simple!” or “What is the matter with her? Why can’t she just sit still and pay attention?”

If you recognize this in your own experience, I’m sure you can come up with many of your own typical responses to seeing or experiencing something that is outside your comfort zone. My guess is that the fundamental reaction beneath the overt horn honking or eye rolling or put downs is fear–fear of the unfamiliar or unknown. We are wired toward safety and protecting ourselves; most of us feel safest in conditions that are closest to home, to what we already know.

I’m hoping that the scientific revelations about neurodiversity are making their way into the popular media so frequently these days that people are starting to accept that some seemingly unusual behaviors are not the results of moral failings or of failures of parenting. Some people are different from us because their brains are set up differently. Rather than putting them down, we could ask ourselves what we might learn from the way they see things. A new perspective can broaden our experience. Knowledge leads to tolerance which leads to acceptance and empathy which might just lead to “diversophilia.” Looks like we need  another new word — for liking or loving things that are different from ourselves, things that broaden and enrich our experience of life if we let them. Think of the possibilities! Peace on earth?

Linda Williams Swanson is a partner in Free To Be Coaching, LLC, in Warrenton, VA. Her website is freetobecoaching.com; visit the site and contact her or her husband, Neil, for a complimentary exploratory session. They are presently accepting new clients from age 13-90. (Linda and Neil do most of their coaching either in person, or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. High school students are usually coached in person.)

 

 

 

Books, and Actually Reading Them

Books have been a bit of a challenge for me lately. I have always loved reading and still do, though the subject matter that interests me has changed dramatically over the years. Now I am almost completely drawn to non-fiction. I loved reading novels from childhood into middle age, but they don’t usually engage me now.

The issue for me today is that I have a lot of books (Amazon makes that  easy to accomplish). They are all books I ordered because I want to read them, but I have never opened a few of them. Many I have started to read, but pencils are now distorting them to mark my partial progress. Some books are standing in alphabetical order (by author’s last name) on my book shelf, since I did finish reading them.

Books sit on flat surfaces and shelves in my office. They sit on my bedside table and our kitchen table. They sit on the coffee table and arms of chairs in the family room. True confessions: the vast majority of the books are somehow connected with ADHD. There is so much information available (see our latest newsletter through a link on our website) that it is just not possible to keep up with all of it. It is all so interesting!

I’m trying to accept the fact that I can pick and choose from among and within these new resources. It is not imperative that I start at the beginning of a book and read straight through to the end. I can look at the table of contents or index and find pages with information to answer an immediate question. I might find a chapter title that makes me think that section of the book will have helpful information for a client. I’m learning that there are more ways than one to approach books. My old belief about cover-to-cover is not serving me well these days.

My father used to put paper bookplates inside the covers of his books. They read, “Books are my friends.” I feel much more friendly toward my books when I don’t see them as demands: “Read me!” I’m experimenting with hearing something much more like, “Come visit with me,” from all those flat surfaces around our home.

One book that I have been visiting with quite a bit this past week is new this year, and I’ll mention it in case it interests you. The title is long: I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not: Successful Living With ADD & ADHD by Dr. Wes Crenshaw. My marker shows I’m only about one-third of the way through it, but this  feels like a book that I’ll stick with to the end, and perhaps re-read right away to retain more of the valuable information in it. (Retaining the information is a topic for another post!)

Linda Williams Swanson is a partner in Free To Be Coaching, LLC, in Warrenton, VA. Her website is freetobecoaching.com; visit the site and contact her or her husband, Neil, for a complimentary exploratory session. They are presently accepting new clients from age 13-90. (Linda and Neil do most of their coaching either in person, or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. High school students are usually coached in person.)

 

 

 

Anxiety in Adults and Children

This afternoon I tuned in to a webinar hosted by ADDitude magazine. The guest was Dr. Thomas Brown and his topic was “Signs of Anxiety in ADHD Adults and Kids — and How to Get Help.”

I was quite surprised to learn from Dr. Brown that anxiety disorders show up in about five percent of the entire population of children (in the US, I assume), but anxiety disorders are a challenge for between 25 and 35 percent of ADHD kids! (The range of 25-35 percent is due to varying results from different studies.) That means that 5-7 times as many ADHD kids are troubled with phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder as their peers who don’t have AHDD.

Anxiety is even more common in adults than in children: 18 percent of adults in the general population suffer from anxiety disorders, but between 38 and 63% of ADHD adults experience anxiety of one form or more! Does that surprise you? It does me.

Though I haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, it is in my family (as well as my husband’s family). As I learn more about ADHD, I see many of my behaviors and ways of functioning as very ADHD-like. I don’t feel the need of a diagnosis, but I do find it reassuring somehow to know that things that have been issues for me over the years can be explained at least in part by ADHD.

One of those things is anxiety. I have experienced several of the types of anxiety that Dr. Brown listed. I have experienced phobias and panic disorder and perhaps a bit of social anxiety disorder as well. My experience with panic disorder was prior to its becoming a “household word,” and I thought I was going crazy!

Information is so important! For years I tended to keep my head firmly buried in the sand as if I were responsible for the issues that challenged me. What a relief it can be to know that others have also experienced these things and that they may come along with a certain type of brain wiring–something over which we have no control!

What we do have control over is what we do once we understand more about our brains. There is so much information and support available. If you are reading this blog post and would like to learn more, please visit my web page at freetobecoaching.com and sign up for our monthly newsletter. The issue that will be going out later this week will contain links to several sources of valuable information. Give yourself a holiday gift of better self-awareness–and maybe even consider signing up for some coaching!

Linda Williams Swanson is a partner in Free To Be Coaching, LLC, in Warrenton, VA. Her website is freetobecoaching.com; visit the site and contact her or her husband, Neil, for a complimentary exploratory session. They are presently accepting new clients from age 13-90. (Linda and Neil do most of their coaching either in person, or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. High school students are usually coached in person.)

 

 

 

 

ADD Success Stories

Books related to ADHD are a bit of a temptation for me. I probably purchase more than necessary, so I have quite a collection. Some I have read front to back, but many are bookmarked or hold pencils marking the pages where I left off reading. Most likely I didn’t dislike the partially unread books. It’s probably the case that something new came along and appeared more interesting in the moment, so I switched.

This past Tuesday I was creating a resource list of books for a presentation we gave at our local library. I came across a book that has been around so long that I don’t remember purchasing it. Since it was published in 1995, my guess is that we purchased it around the time Neil was diagnosed with ADHD about twelve years ago. At that time we were looking for anything that would educate us.

The book is ADD Success Stories: A Guide to Fulfillment for Families with Attention Deficit Disorder by Thom Hartmann, with a foreword by Dr. John Ratey. It’s paperback and our copy looks a little old, but it also looks unread–or at least it did until the middle of last week when I picked it up and have had a hard time putting it down.

This book was written in the relatively early days of the internet. CompuServe (remember CompuServe? I do!) offered an ADD forum that at the time had 40,000  members in dozens of countries. Hartmann, a ADDer himself (and a man of vast interests, knowledge, and talents) was the head systems operator for the CompuServe ADD forum. He sent out an “electronic mail message” to the list asking for success stories for use in his presentations and in an upcoming book. The brief testimonials that make up a large part of the book were apparently submitted in response to that request.  They are stories of how ADD (as it was then called) affected the lives of the writers. But more importantly, in these short accounts the writers share how various strategies helped them.

The individuals who responded used pencils and paper and watches and alarm clocks rather than smart phones and computer tablets, but the strategies that helped them nearly twenty years ago are in large part applicable today. Certainly some of the reference material is irrelevant because much has changed in our understanding of ADHD during the last twenty years. But ADHDers of today struggle with the same challenges experienced by ADHDers of the mid-1990s, so there is a lot to learn from their examples.  It’s fascinating to see how differently each individual resolves his/her challenges!

Amazon still sells this book. I recommend it. If you decide to read it, please post your thoughts!

 

It’s Never to Late to Find Your Tribe

Today I find myself thinking about the approximately 85 percent of adults who have ADHD but don’t know it. To feel outside the mainstream, unlike your peers, and to have no explanation can leave you feeling like a wanderer in uncharted wilderness.

To be criticized and looked down on by others for being different can lead to low self-worth and a general sense of inferiority. We all need to feel appreciated and understood. For many adults who have lived with ADHD for decades, feeling understood and valued is not a familiar experience. If they don’t know about their ADHD, they think there is something wrong with them — a moral failing, a defect, whatever.

Neil and I were in that place for the first thirty-five years of our marriage. We could find no explanation for some of the ways that Neil functioned that made life extremely challenging. After seeking help from psychologists and educators and anyone else we could think of, we eventually stumbled upon the correct diagnosis on our own when Neil was over sixty years old.

We were in a restaurant. Our conversation, as it often did, went to our distress over how challenging our lives were. Suddenly the word “attention” popped into my head as being related to something Neil had done (or perhaps had not done!). One of us remembered having heard of something called “attention deficit disorder,” though neither of us knew anything about it. We quickly left the restaurant and headed home to our computer.

Right away we located information about ADHD and screening tests for Neil to take. We chose one of the screeners, and as I read off each description Neil checked every single box. Not one characteristic was foreign to our lives. At the same time that we found our unofficial diagnosis, we also found our tribe. We had a name for what Neil had been living with for over sixty years and because there was a name, we knew other people were living with the same challenges.

Shortly after that evening, Neil was diagnosed with ADHD and began seeing a psychologist who was experienced with ADHD. Several medications were prescribed by a psychiatrist, one after the other, but none seemed to help him. (We now know that for about 20 percent of people with ADHD, there is not a drug that is effective.) We began attending CHADD support groups in our area. We began reading about ADHD. I began seeing the same psychologist because the impact of ADHD is not confined to just the ADHDer.

Even though at times our progress has seemed much slower than I would have liked, we have lived the last dozen years of our life together differently from the first thirty-five, because we have a name for one of our biggest challenges and because we began to know other members of the ADHD tribe. We didn’t feel so isolated, confused, or ashamed.

Today we learn from our ADHD friends and mentors and are supported by them. We also reach out to offer support to others who are much like we were when we rushed home from the restaurant to check out our latest theory. If you or someone you know thinks ADHD might be affecting them, I encourage you or them to boldly reach out to a professional who really understands ADHD. It’s never too late!

There is no blood test, so a lot of questions need to be asked about your life experience, sometimes even involving family members who can attest to your childhood behaviors. Each ADHDer is unique, so you won’t find anyone else exactly like you, but you will find a tribe of enthusiastic, creative, bright, supportive people who have walked in shoes very much like yours, and you’ll start marching out of the wilderness. It’s quite a wonderful feeling!

Linda Williams Swanson is a partner in Free To Be Coaching, LLC, in Warrenton, VA. Her website is freetobecoaching.com; visit the site and contact her or her husband, Neil, for a complimentary exploratory session. They are presently accepting new clients from age 13-90. (Linda and Neil do most of their coaching either in person, or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. High school students are usually coached in person.)

Are You Ever Too Old?

It’s not just for kids anymore! What we know as ADHD was originally understood to be a condition that affected little boys. Over time it was recognized that girls could also have ADHD, though more often girls have the inattentive type as opposed to the hyperactive/impulsive type that shows up more in boys. Around twenty years ago, ADHD was finally accepted as something affecting adults. Some children do seem to grow out of their ADHD symptoms as their brains mature, but in more ADHDers the symptoms change and they learn to compensate as they move into their 20s and beyond.

How are older adults diagnosed with ADHD? Often they see it in their families. PsychCentral reports here that there have been over 1800 studies regarding the role of genetics in ADHD. A 2009 review of those studies showed that genetics accounted for 76 percent of the risk of having ADHD. Some parents discover their own ADHD when their children are diagnosed. In just the same way, some grandparents or even great-grandparents begin to question whether they might have ADHD when the youngest generation in their family has some children who are diagnosed. If that has been your experience, you might want to follow up and find some answers! A diagnosis or at least greater understanding of ADHD is worth pursuing at any age, because it is never too late to learn more about how we function and because there are treatment options available to ADHDers of all ages.

Some of the baby boom generation and even those who are older (my husband and I were born during World War II rather than after it) had no idea that the challenges we faced could be explained by an ADHD diagnosis. My husband, Neil, was diagnosed after turning 60, following decades during which we sought help for behaviors that he couldn’t explain and I couldn’t understand.

A combination of medication and coaching has been suggested by some as the best way to proceed with treatment, though many other things such as nutrition, exercise, and good sleep habits are critical.

Stimulant medications have been on the market since at least  the 1930s, and I understand they are actually safer than aspirin when used as directed. They help around 80 percent of those who try them, though each individual will have a unique response and may need to try more than one drug in more than one dose to achieve the optimal level of help.

Coaching is also helpful for people over 50, because they have habits and self-concepts that have been in place for decades. A coach using a strengths-based approach can help a client question whether those habits and beliefs are really true and whether they are serving the client well. The coach can also help the client become aware of the many strengths that may have been unappreciated over the years but that may point the way to a new life that builds on the positive qualities of the ADHD brain.

The bottom line is – you are never too old to check out any hint that you might have ADHD. Your life experience can improve dramatically. Neil and I have seen the truth of that statement in our lives and are delighted to help others like us through our coaching! Our web page is freetobecoaching.com.

Linda Williams Swanson is a partner in Free To Be Coaching, LLC, in Warrenton, VA. Her website is freetobecoaching.com; visit the site and contact her or her husband, Neil, for a complimentary exploratory session. They are presently accepting new clients from age 13-90. (Linda and Neil do most of their coaching either in person, or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. High school students are usually coached in person.)

Beginner’s Mind

Recently I have been giving some thought to the Buddhist concept of beginner’s mind. Not being a real student of Buddhism, I had to look the phrase up and found it in the first sentence of a book by Shunryu Suzuki called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. That full sentence reads, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” I haven’t read the book, but the first sentence speaks volumes.

We’ve had the joy of spending quite a bit of time with our grandchildren since the first one was born twelve years ago. What could be a better model of a beginner’s mind than the curiosity and inventiveness of a small child for whom everything is new and fascinating? There is such openness and wonder and joy as they learn about all things!

Somehow we come over time to believe that it is important to be the expert and that there is something negative about asking questions and revealing that we have gaps in our knowledge — as if we could ever know everything there is to know about anything!

There are a couple of wonderful books that address this issue using different terms and I recommend both. One is Marilee Adams’ Change Your Questions Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work. The other is Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Adams describes what she calls the “learner” mind as opposed to the “judger” mind, and she emphasizes the importance of the type of questions we ask. I see the learner mind as somewhat similar to the beginner’s mind, and the judger mind as similar to the expert’s mind.

Dweck uses different terminology, but she seems to be getting at the same point. Her terms are “fixed” or “growth” mindsets, and it’s pretty clear from the terms how they relate to the Zen concepts.

I’ve learned in my coach training the vital role of curiosity in coaching. A coach approaches each client as resourceful, whole, and complete, so the coach’s job is to ask curious, open-ended questions that help the client find the answers within him/herself. Of course, there is a lot for a coach to learn about how to ask the best questions at the appropriate time, and that involves learning how to listen attentively to the client. There is also a place for sharing some knowledge that the coach may have about, for example, ADHD. But in general a coach asks curious, open-ended questions of the client in order to help the client discover the best answer from within him/herself. The coach is not an expert on the client. The client is.

So you see, there’s a special place for a beginner’s mind in coaching. I’m going to try to learn from my 8-month-old grandson!

Linda Williams Swanson is a partner in Free To Be Coaching, LLC, in Warrenton, VA. Her website is freetobecoaching.com; visit the site and contact her or her husband, Neil, for a complimentary exploratory session. They are presently accepting new clients from age 13-90. (Linda and Neil do most of their coaching either in person, or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. High school students are usually coached in person.)