ABOUT Boggle

The Boggle Book: How to STOP 
screaming at your spouse, kicking the dog,
and losing your cool, 
finally and forever!

© by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
© all rights reserved

Sacks on Shutdown

Oliver Sacks, a scientist fascinated with neurological differences who was brought to public attention when Robin Williams portrayed him in the screenplay Awakenings, has noted that:

“Brain systems in all animals may respond to overwhelming stimulation, or stimulation past a critical point, with a sudden shutdown.  Such reactions have nothing to do with the individual or his motives.  They are purely local and physiological and can occur even in isolated slices of [the] cerebral cortex: they are a biological defense [against] neural overload.”

p. 136, An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks, Knopf, 1995


Anyone who has ever been labeled “emotionally volatile” experiences times when they get so distracted, so overwhelmed, so UN-focused that they simply, literally, cannot get it together to function at all!  This is what some of the experts working with the Attention Deficit Disorder population refer to as “pre-frontal cortex shutdown in response to stress.”

It’s what I call Boggle.

Although ADDers tend to experience it a lot more often, Boggle is not confined to the ADD population.

You are probably already familiar with Boggle.  I’ll bet you’ve been there: those times when you t-totally lose it!

Some of us scream and yell, some of us throw things, some stomp around slamming doors and cursing, some cry, some say terribly mean things even if we know at the time we will be mortified once we come back to ourselves, and some seem to be OK from the outside  — OK, that is, for a person who just landed on a brand new planet!

The focus of my book is to explain why it happens, and to teach you how to set it up so you never need to go there again.

The techniques I developed to work with the term I coined will work for anyone.  They work for me.  They work for my clients and students.  They will also work for you, ADD or not.

Don’t miss this series.

Until publication, I will edit foundational excerpts to get you started, right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com.  Depending on the rules of the eventual publishing format, I may have to take them down, so get ’em while you can.


The experience of Boggle is that it happens to us, all at once, with no warning, like a flash flood.

The key word in the last sentence is the word experience.

There are warning signs of impending Boggle. 

You need to learn to watch for them and short-circuit Boggle before it has time to do its dirty work on your reputation and your sense of control.

Just a bit of important background

Back in the late eighties, so little was known about ADDults I decided I’d have to figure it out for myself if I was going to have any kind of a life worth living. As I read all there was to read at the time, I also began a one rat study so self-focused it bordered on obsessional.

I began to observe that there were nine functional categories that seemed to be the most problematic – for me, and for other ADDers I spoke with. I referred to those categories as The Challenges. I developed The Challenges Inventory™ to identify HOW problematic.

As I worked with myself (and with others), I began to observe that the relationship between the scores was more predictive than than the scores themselves.  I also observed that this relational situation and these Challenges were troubling to ALL of us here on our small planet — although to a lesser degree than with those who struggle with Executive Functioning Dysregulations,

For Challenges help, check out the articles on The Optimal Functioning EBook Series,
available from the menubar above – THIS series is for help with Boggle.

So Here’s the Relevance

Uneven functioning is a bigger problem than the degree of functioning in any one area.   We humans tend to look at ourselves with an expectation that we “live up to our potential,” unconsciously defining that as being able to be equally brilliant at all things.

Whenever a particular Challenge surprises us, we immediately begin the inner dialogue that starts with, “What’s wrong with me?”

Once we initiate that particular line of questioning – BOGGLE  is never far behind.

What just happened?

WHATEVER you do when you Boggle, the instant that it’s over, you know you reacted inappropriately.

• You probably think it is some character flaw in your being.
• Your friends and lovers, the “logical” ones, probably embrace that particular theory as well.
• Certainly the solutions those’ “logicals” propose make sense.

The timing, however, is rotten.

The reasons ascribed to what led up to this state are simply wrong.
And what others attempt to do in reaction to Boggle is even “wronger!”

Once you have Boggled, any additional stimuli will serve to lengthen the time you will spend in that state.  What you NEED is a complete shut down of incoming stimuli so that you can re-center.  

What others always seem to want to do in the face of Boggle is “help.”

And THIS is their idea of help, God Love ’em!

While you stand there shaking or seething or trying not to cry or scream, they offer suggestions, usually with a lot of verbiage.

They try to trap WRAP you in their arms to comfort you.

They try to take over whatever you were trying to do –
the “right” way (now just watch, it’s not so hard, is it?)

They wax rhapsodic about your need to conquer this particular state of
“over-reaction.” (and that word needs to leave human vocabulary
altogether – so those of you who use it, STOP IT!)

They continue to add stimulus — sight, sound, concepts, questions!

I don’t have to tell any ADDer what happens in the nano-seconds following a question.  Your mind temporarily skips a step.  You mentally chase the words for the answer.  The words run.  You get upset at the struggle.  YOU escalate.  THEY do more of what does NOT work, and things get worse instead of better.


Remember pinball machines?  Remember what happened when you tried to force them in any way? The darned things stopped working!

TILT! — sometimes with a lot of bells and whistles announcing that state.

  • Nothing you do from that point on will get that machine working again.
  • You need to start all over if you want to continue to play.

The ADDled brain in Boggle is exactly like a pinball machine on TILT.

Continued talking and prodding and poking and questioning (and logic!) will not accomplish a darned thing but an escalation of the state that EVERYBODY wants to go away.

Unlike the ADD brain, the pinball machine doesn’t feel the effects of accumulated stressers after TILT.  For an ADDer, it is disaster.  And the results are predictable:  BOGGLE!

So what do we need to DO then?

There are five key elements you will need to understand and address before you can count on changing your reputation from “emotionally volatile” to “calm under pressure:”

1.  Time Out
2.  Education
3.  Communication
4.  Sherlocking
5.  Systematizing

In the rest of the Boggle series, I will “unpack” each of those five elements — so stay tuned, LOTs of good stuff to come  – new Boggle articles will post weekly, sometime between Friday night and Monday morning.

If you’d like email notification of new posts about this particular series (or anything new posted to this site), AS ALWAYS, give your name & email address to the nice form near the top of the skinny right sidebar (you only have to do this once, btw, so if you asked for notification on an earlier series, you’re covered).  STRICT No Spam policy

Related Articles on this site

Related Content

Articles in the Boggle Series
**Below: SOME content overlap – different info – Read BOTH

Coming up in the Boggle Series:

A few BASICS of Attentional Issues:

Articles in related Series:

A bit of Related Neuroscience

Articles in the Challenges Inventory™ series

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

4 Responses to ABOUT Boggle

  1. Pingback: Turtlenecks & Wool: Yea or Nay? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Slow-cooking CHANGE | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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  4. andy wolmer says:

    cant get enough


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