The Impulsivity Rundown™

Widening the gap between Impulse and (re)Action

(from an upcoming book, The Impulsivity Rundown © – all rights reserved)

Impulsiveby Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of The Challenges Inventory™ Series

Garden-Variety Impulsivity

Let’s be really clear about the focus of The Impulsivity Rundown™.

While ADD is included among the list of diagnostic Impulse Control Disorders, we’re NOT going to focus on the more extreme end of runaway impulsivity.

Impulsivity that leads to the kind of serious harm where you are likely to spend some time in an Institution, or spend more than a few years on an analyst’s couch, or wind up on a first-name basis with every Police Precinct in your area, is beyond the scope of ADD Coaching or this Series — things like:

  • kleptomania
  • pathological gambling
  • pyromania (fire-starting)
  • disfiguring skin picking or hair pulling compulsions
  • out-of-control buying sprees of manic proportions
  • substance abuse at the level of uncontrolled addiction
  • sexual acting out likely to make the front page
    if anyone found out about it
  • lack of anger-management so severe it borders on uncontrolled rage or leads to physical abuse

Serious Impulse Control issues cannot be resolved by a blog-trip around the internet or any Series of articles written to help you improve your level of self-control and accountability.  If you suspect that your problem is severe enough to need professional help beyond ADD Coaching, THAT is one impulse I encourage you to act on immediately!

But that is NOT what this Series is designed to help you deal with.

So why mention it?

Because, for many of what I call the “garden-variety impulsives,” as long as you compare what you do to the far end of the impulsivity spectrum, you tend to fool yourselves into believing you don’t really have a problem, as the joys of life that could be yours remain forever out of reach.

And that’s something we CAN change in a “self-help” fashion or with some focused work with a private ADD Coach or in a Coaching Group.

We’re looking at the kind of behaviors that the Wikipedia article on Impulsivity describes as

“a tendency to act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of consequences — actions that are poorly conceived, prematurely expressed, unduly risky, or inappropriate to the situation, that often result in undesirable consequences which imperil long term goals and strategies for success.”

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Working on the Life Spoilers

OOpsFor THIS article, we’re going to examine the kind of impulsivity that might almost “pass for normal.” 

It would, that is, if only it didn’t happen so darned OFTEN, in one or more arenas that make you feel so darned lousy about yourself afterwards, so immature and out of control, so stupid, so incredibly – well – impulsive, impairing the ability of others to trust your behavior, your word or your intentions.

Check off any of the following ten things YOU can relate to:

  1. Retail therapy that leaves you chronically late paying your bills because you simply can’t resist a bargain
  2. Running out to the store for one or two items you suddenly realized you needed for tonight’s dinner party and coming home with four bags of groceries and so little time to get ready that you’re not very nice to the guest who arrives early
  3. Fits of “mouthing off” that continue to ruin relationships you care about
  4. Your inability to overcome your sweet tooth, even though you are desperate to lose weight for an upcoming reunion
  5. Your immediate agreement that “Yes, you DO have time for just one drink before you have to leave”  without a thought for the promise you made to your parents or your spouse that you would never drink and drive again after your last little fender-bender — until after the glass was already empty
  6. Breaking things “accidentally” as a result of rough handling when you’re angry
  7. Repeatedly getting into hot water with your significant other because you can’t resist the lure of your iPhone™, even when the timing is clearly inappropriate
  8. Accelerating rapidly to get through every yellow light before it turns red, or angrily honking your horn at the idiot in front of you who stops on yellow
  9. Sleeping with your Ex – again – even though you truly know the relationship is over and you’re ready to move on
  10. Blurting out an item you swore you’d keep secret, telling the entire story “before you can stop yourself” – like somebody’s age and why they lie about it, or the fact that friends are considering adoption because they haven’t been able to conceive, or that Joe was shopping for engagement rings already, even though it had only been a couple of months since . . .

YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DO! (are you laughing or crying?)

Deconstructing the Dynamic

The items above span a selection of sensory modalities and arenas of action, but they all have two things in common:

1. acting with little to no deliberation

and, in the heat of the moment,

2. choosing immediate to short-term benefit over long-term gains.

Beyond “Response Hyperactivity

As you may recall from an earlier article, ABOUT Impusivity —

One of the most important tasks of “growing up” is the maturation of the ability and the development of techniques to over-ride a great many of our sudden impulses, along with the habit of doing what we know.

We’re talking’ BRAKES here. Reliable brakes!
But HOW do we get those on board?  What’s involved?

Until we take a look at what’s going on “under the hood” — as we attempt to figure out what’s really going on with faulty brakes — we have only those theories from psychology to look to for help.

So let’s start THERE, and add in a little brain-based information for seasoning.

Ready-Fire-Aim (oops!)


Phillip Martin — artist/educator

Have you ever noticed that you tend to live life as if, for you, traffic lights never turn red — and the caution signal means “HURRY!”

It’s almost as if you are afraid that if you stopped to think, you’d agonize over making the wrong decision — a situation you would, literally, risk your life to avoid.

The truth is, given our difficulties sifting, sorting and prioritizing, most of us with ADD (and family) will go to great lengths to avoid having to make a decision at all.

We aren’t actively avoiding the process, but our subconscious mind sure sets it up for us to try to circumnavigate the anxiety of the process of actively CHOOSING whenever possible.

Danger, Will Robinson

With the perception of a threat to our well-being, our bodies are designed to respond rapidly and efficiently with what is often referred to as the “fight or flight” reaction.

The survival of our genetic ancestors depended on their biological ability to respond effectively to dangers where strength and speed of response needed to be marshaled immediately.

  • Individuals who were able to pause for a moment to check to see if their perceptions were accurate lost the advantages of speed of response, and it frequently cost them their lives.
  • Most of them didn’t live long enough to become our genetic ancestors.
  • As a result, few of us were born with the ability to pause for a moment to check to see if our perceptions are accurate before we rush to react.  For MOST of us, learning to pause before we act must be developed.

Our Response Mechanisms

Think fast!

A hair-trigger response mechanism in reaction to a threat is “hard-wired” into our brains, initiated by the alarm signal from our amygdalas – the part of our brain that triggers the Danger, Will Robinson alarm.

It is not our only response mechanism, but it IS the speediest, because it is primarily subcortical — more of a reflex than a decision.  It is the “default” in situations where there is a perception of danger or threat. This fast stress-driven system was developed to respond to imminent predatory danger and to fleeting feeding and mating opportunities.

  • Our emotional/attentional systems are primed for practically immediate focus on any loud, looming, contrasting, moving, obnoxious, or attractive elements that signal potential danger, food, or mates — and to rapidly signal the information to our solution systems.
  • In the modern world in which we find ourselves now, the relatively superficial analysis of the faster system often leads us to respond fearfully, impulsively, and inappropriately to situations that don’t actually require an immediate response to ensure our safety.
  • Black and white thinking, judgmental assessments, labeling and stereotyping, prejudice, road-rage, regrets and back-end apologies are only a few of the costs we pay for the use of this powerful survival system.

Think twice!

As our brain evolved, we also developed a comparatively slow, analytic, reflective system whose pathway is primarily cortical (meaning that incoming information is processed through the pathways of the brain’s cortex — that wrinkly outer layer that evolved last, develops last in the womb and matures last once we are born).

  • The cortical pathway is the one used to explore the more objective, factual elements of a situation, compare them with past experience, then respond “rationally.”
  • This response mechanism is best suited to non-threatening situations that don’t require an instant response, and the one we need if we expect our future to ever be any different from our past.

The Deck is Stacked

Anonymous_Cards_Aces_carteTo make things even tougher for those of us who like to think of ourselves as intelligent, rational beings, our cognitive deck is stacked in favor of what used to be most important for survival.

Phillip Martin, artist/educator

Our old friend Mr. Amygdala, that older part of the brain that sounds the alarm and marshals our quick-response survival mechanisms, holds all the aces.

The Amygdala has the power to pull resources from parts of the brain that aren’t directly involved in fighting or flighting – like the parts necessary to access our reasoned responses and our sifting and sorting mechanisms – effectively “shutting them down” to ensure our survival in the presence of eminent threat. 

So we’re not actually thinking in the moment, we’re reacting with a “pre-programmed” set of responses.

It Gets WORSE 

Impulsivity builds on itself.

Once we’ve jumped in impulsively, the neurotransmitter and hormonal “stress” discharges associated with strong emotions (originally, fear) conspire to make the emotional components of our memories stronger, as they weaken our factual memories of the associated event — making it likely that we’ll respond even more quickly the next time Mr. Amygdala sounds the alarm.

If the stressful situation is serious, significant or chronic, we develop a hair-trigger reaction to something without really understanding why, because our reflexive pathway operates below the level of consciousnessbefore our reasoning pathway knows what hit it!

ScarlettOharaDON’T think about it tomorrow, Scarlett

DECISIONS are prefrontal cortex intensive – using the conscious pathways in our reaction/response mechanism.

For most of us with Executive Functioning deficits and dysregulations, the decision-making process is tethered to so many experiences of disaster and disapproval that our amygdala is primed to sound the warning signal loud and early.

What we identify as impulsivity is only one way that decision anxiety plays out in our coping mechanism today.

Others included black and white thinking, hyperfocus on an unrelated activity, and agonizing endlessly, gathering related “evidence” far in excess of what is necessary to make a relatively sound choice.

Our “slow down and think” impulses and pathways keep us alive too, so some of us have experiences (and brains) that are “wired” to dig in and defend rather than jump in without thinking.

  • Both strategies are useful and necessary, just not in every situation.
  • We each need to develop more of what the other brain-style has!

Here’s the deal:

Decisions do need to be made at some point, but let me reintroduce you to the mantra that can change your life:

Within reason

  • the further away from the moment of need the decision is made . . .
  • the easier it is to make, with more direct access to our slower,
    rational response pathway . . .
  • and the fewer the items that will disable you.


NOT necessarily.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell about choices that seem to be made in an instant: in the blink of an eye.

Like ANY strategy that might seem to be suggesting a one-size-fits-all solution, whether something is a great idea or a lousy strategy depends on any number of factors that are as varied as the individuals searching for solutions.

  • Decisions made without forethought are good only when there is enough experience with the issue to have a pretty good inkling of what makes things better and what makes things worse.
  • In that case, the decision is practically made before the need for it arises.  Your job becomes one of recognizing strategy fit, more than deciding what to do.
  • Effective strategies must also take into account where you are coming from as well as where you are trying to go.

Rewiring the Impulsive Brain

The best bet, for those of you with brains already wired for impulsivity, is to make a few decisions in advance. Then, like an actor on a stage, memorize your lines so that you don’t charge off, yet again, doing what it is you KNOW that you do.

FORTUNATELY, we can “rewire” our brains, just not once the alarm has been sounded.

  • The more often we utilize new pathways (even in our imagination), the more strongly entrenched they become.
  • The less frequently we access old pathways, the less effect they have on our behavior.

But it takes time and usage – “rehearsal” – which is why developing a new habit takes so darned long!

Predict it and Prevent It, 1-2-3

Take a moment now to identify a situation that triggers your version of one of those “garden variety” impulsive actions you usually think about only once it is too late to undo the damage.

1 – Remember the scenario — imagine it as if you were watching yourself in a home movie

2 – Stop the “playback” at the point where you “did what you always do” that gets you into trouble.

3 – Identify the long-term gain — the item you were just about to sacrifice for an immediate to short-term reward.

  • I want my family to regard me as a trust-worthy adult, not like an impulsive teen who drinks and drives.
  • I don’t enjoy entertaining when I’m frazzled before the evening even begins, and I want all my friends to LOVE it when I entertain
  • I want to improve my credit score so I can qualify for a mortgage, and paying my bills late doesn’t help
  • I want to be in a relationship where both of us feel loved and respected, even if it means ignoring my smart phone to pay attention when it matters to Beloved
  • I want to be able to relish the memory of those admiring glances when I walk into my 20-year reunion the same size I was in college
  • I’m uncomfortable thinking of myself as one of those people who breaks promises or gossips – I want to be proud of how I conduct myself in the world

Rewrite the Script

triggerDisable the Trigger

What “rules” can you make for yourself now to avoid getting to your impulsivity points in the future?

How can you manipulate your environment in advance to avoid a situation where you are likely to break your “rules” — at least long enough to establish a new “habitual” response?

I don’t drink and drive

  • If you’re meeting your drinking buddy in a place where they serve alcohol, do you have to drive?
  • If you can’t avoid driving, could you meet somewhere they don’t serve alcohol?
  • Could you stop by the bar on the way to the table and order a non-alcoholic beverage before it becomes an issue?
  • Can you create a white lie that will encourage your buddy to avoid making it more difficult for you refrain?  Something like, “I’m taking an antibiotic for an upcoming root canal, so I can’t drink. It’s a Coke™ for me tonight.”

I don’t leave the house within two hours before anything I am hostingso I have plenty of time to get ready and am relaxed enough to enjoy my guests from the moment they arrive

  • Can you do an ingredient check the day before or early in the morning?
  • Can someone else run to the store if you realize you are out of a few items?
  • Can you do without those few items, or substitute something else?
  • Can you call the store to have those items waiting for you to pick up at check-out?
  • Can you shop with a list, walk directly to the service desk to ask where those items can be found and avoid the temptations of wandering?
  • Can you set a timer and play “beat the clock” – ten minutes in and out?

In other words, mentally rehearse a few options about how to respond to a likely trigger situation in the future, rather than simply responding automatically in the moment.

triggerREMOVE the Trigger

Can you avoid some of your trigger situations entirely while you are “rewiring” your automatic responses?

  • If you tend to “mouth off” on certain subjects, can you rehearse a few lines to avoid getting sucked into a conversation where your impulsivity is triggered?
  • Can you make it a rule that you and your ex will have all discussions by phone in the future?
  • How about avoiding having anything sweet in the house, and avoiding anyplace you are likely to indulge between now and your reunion?
  • Can you change the subject when a friend begins to confide something you know you might have difficulty holding in confidence?  Or, perhaps, rehearse a partial truth, followed by a diverting question for that friend who always brings out the gossip in you?  “Gee, I haven’t talked to Joe lately, but I’m really eager to hear about your visit with your parents — how’s your Mom?”
  • Can you agree to a situation or two where you and your spouse will turn OFF your smart-phones, so you won’t be tempted to tweet as you redevelop the habit of paying attention to the live body in the room?
  • Can you freeze your credit cards in a bowl of water so you have to thaw them out to use them?  Can you make a rule that you don’t allow yourself to shop UNTIL this month’s bills have been paid, and you can only spend what’s left after you handle the grocery shopping?

Practice and Rehearsal

By mentally rehearsing new ways to respond to old situations, you will begin to notice that the gap between impulse and actions is beginning to widen in “real life” too, making it more likely that you will react differently in the moment.

Studies have also suggested that selective attention can alter emotional responses arising from affective (feeling-based) representations active within working memory. (Thiruchselvam et al.)

You are “priming” the cognitive pump that will allow you access to new options in the future, strengthening the response pathways you CHOOSE to use, rather than jumping to Mr. Amygdala’s tune every time he strikes up the band.

Not only that, your self-esteem will increase and you’ll be happier.

According to psychologists and Psychology Today bloggers Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd B. Kashdan [What Happy People Do Differently]

“Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness
[ . . . ] requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone.”

STAY TUNED – We will continue to explore various “back-stage, under-the-hood” dynamics in future articles in the Impulsivity articles of the Challenges Inventory™ Series, along with some additional ways to manage the various presentations of several types of impulsivity.

© 2011, 2013, 2017, all rights reserved
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(reblogs always okay, and much appreciated)

Shared on the Senior Salon

BY THE WAY, if you will let me know where your struggles with impulsivity lie (in the comments section below), even if I don’t have time to respond to your comment comprehensively, I will make it a point to include suggestions targeted specifically for YOUR challenges with impulsivity in the upcoming series.  

That amounts to Free Coaching if you’ll make the time advantage of it!!

And don’t forget that you can also hire me for some one-on-one personal attention to your challenges with impulsivity – or just about anything else. Get in touch if you want to talk about it. I have a few openings in my coaching schedule, and I’d LOVE to be your coach.

Graphics gratitude: blessings on artist/educator Phillip Martin
for allowing the cost-free usage of the Mr. Amygdals & stoplight graphics above
PLEASE observe his copyright restrictions
Other graphics from openclipart

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Challenges Inventory™ Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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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!"

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  12. andy wolmer says:

    well done


  13. busydarling says:

    Why so much text? My ADHD brain can’t follow this.
    I have ADHD and impulsive behaviour is the result of hyperactivity and attention deficit: I literally act before thinking it through.
    None of the solutions here are going to work for me, it focuses on making me do what I can’t do very well.

    I have no problem with making decisions.

    I do stupid things more often when my ADHD is not well enough managed; this I’ve noticed. Managing aDHD is one hell of a chore.

    Most of the measures I’ve taken -because I figured out that ‘changing the response’ and ‘removing the trigger’ could be an idea all by myself- backfired.

    So is there anything that doesn’t focus on the same old same old?


    • BOY can I hear your frustration, busydarling, and my heart bleeds for you, but aiming your anger at ME won’t help (and makes me feel crummy!)

      Sorry this format doesn’t work for you – the BEST I can do without a budget (or sponsor) which would allow me to record the content in a professional manner, is to share it in writing (which works for many besides myself).

      Since I don’t charge for this content, I don’t make a cent for the MANY hours I spend here, nor can I use those same hours to do something I DO charge for, so I simply cannot justify or AFFORD spending money AS WELL AS time to give away the product of 20 years of reading and research (says she, rah-ther defensively, feeling unappreciated & finding it difficult to stay on the helping-for-free hobby horse).

      Everybody needs and deserves time to make a living, eat and take a bath — INCLUDING me! I am NOT a one-woman foundation who is SUPPOSED to give it all away.

      Check your sense of entitlement – it won’t give you the help you need and deserve. There is a healthy “gray” place between the black and white of groveling and/or insisting/demanding (which reads clearly beneath the belittling tone of your comment)

      Nobody *really* feels better about through making anyone else feel worse – LIFE doesn’t WORK that way)
      Because EFD/ADD is a complex subject with many layers — it simply CANNOT be tweeted.

      Even though I AM aware that many ADDers struggle with text, reading “from rock to rock,” I spend A GREAT DEAL of non-billable time coding the content to make it easy-er to get through the articles here – in a manner that works for many, even if it makes YOU crazy.

      I have ALSO gotten many comments that the content is WORTH reading – which is possible, even for many of those who usually struggle. Perhaps you might find it so as well if you took it slowly, bit by bit.

      RE: “figured out” “all by myself”

      The MAIN point I make on this site is that no two of us are alike – so there ARE no cookie cutter solutions.

      VERY little on this site is something known or figured out *only* by me — MOST ADDers who stay out of jail and drug addiction figure out a great many coping strategies all by themselves.

      The “answer” – if that is what you are looking for — lies in “rewiring” the brain to work *around* Challenges — which means, essentially, “taking the TIME to develop new habits” ONCE you have taken the time to “rewrite your owner’s manual” AFTER you understand every nuance of your own ADD.

      Practically NOTHING will work “right out of the box” and/or the first few times you try it.

      The necessary change-process is Sherlock and TWEAK – bit by bit. The ideas here help readers understand themselves and their neurology better to find starting points for that process. Since you’ve already “started” – where, EXACTLY, did it begin to go wrong. Tweak that and try again.

      Since I’m not sure what you already know, I have no idea whether or not there is “anything that doesn’t focus on the same old same old”.

      If you truly can’t stay well-enough tracked to click around and check it out, and don’t know ANYONE who can read it TO you with a sincere desire to help and not make fun of, KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN for announcements of upcoming teleclasses (where you will be able to ask specific questions) and LISTEN to the content (just not for free – which is what you get reading the articles on

      (listening to content ALSO doesn’t work for everybody, btw, so I get similar complaints about THAT too from time to time).

      THAT is no more anyone’s “fault” than the reality that shampoo for blondes isn’t great for brunettes.

      TOUGH LOVE: Getting my hand slapped when I reach out to help hurts, wears me out, and takes time I could be spending on someone who has the expectation of things WORKING. And it does VERY little to help YOU, does it?

      If you want things to improve, change your strategy and your come-from. Life with ADD will probably always be tougher in many ways than it seems to be for those who haven’t had to deal with Attentional & Executive Functioning Dysregulations long-term, but life CAN get easier, better and more satisfying.

      You are RIGHT ON, however, about the importance of managing ADD effectively, as well as how difficult it is to find the right combination. Check out Dr. Charles Parker’s CorePsych blog for some content that might be NEW to you – but his content is primarily written as well.

      Now, I’M d-o-n-e for the day and am off to recenter in a hot bath.


      PS. This comment is intended for the rest of you reading, btw. I DO realize that busydarling will probably take one look at my reply and RUN.

      I hope not – she doesn’t HAVE to live frustrated by EFD/ADD — and neither do YOU.


      • busydarling says:

        Actually, ‘she’ is rather surprised at the elaborate response… And does not feel hurt when someone responds frustrated on her own attempts to help someone, but rather uses the opportunity to see if they’re on to something.

        I did actually spend quite some time trying to get through the text and failed.

        Have to get going now.


      • busydarling says:

        And I honestly don’t know how you interpret my cry of frustration as me having a sense of entitlement -I don’t, at all, rather, the opposite- or of me being demanding after you stated that you hear the frustration to begin with.

        Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to ask for help time and again, and only get turned away or end up not being helped by the offer because it is made to fit someone standard and nobody cares enough to listen to see how they can help YOU? It’s like trying to find a 28E sized bra in a world of 32-38A-D. And I am sorry, after a few years I am easily irritated.


        • YES – I *do* have an idea of how frustrating it is to get “round hole” advice when you’ve always been a “square peg” – that’s why I’ve attempted to do what I done for the last 20+ years WHILE I continued to hunt for a “bra” that fit ME as well.

          AND why I am currently rethinking what I do.

          I am sorry that I, too, have reached a reactionary point – disheartened more than frustrated, but expressing it helps me get past it more quickly.

          My BEST to you – I truly wish I could be more helpful to YOU.


          • busydarling says:

            Thank you. All the best to you too.

            Maybe this can be helpful to you:
            In my humble experience -also through talking to others with ADHD, having many friends with ADHD seems to be a diagnostic criterium!- people with ADHD tend to be extremely visually orientated, often not even thinking in words. I’ve noticed this in my near and dear, and also in some of my patients with ADHD.
            Give me directions, and I get lost. Give me a map and I’ll likely memorize the way, only pulling it out when the road seems to be different from the map: sometimes angles of streets and bends seem different in real life. Yesterday I got lost after the third detour left me with ‘follow 1 to go in the direction of this-and-this street, follow 2 to go in the direction of that-and-that avenue’. I had no clue because I didn’t memorize the street names, only the ones where I needed to pay attention.

            I graduated from a problem-based-learning university with an active learning style and the freedom to learn in a way that works best for me. It allowed me to choose textbooks that worked: rather than the Dutch textbooks so much beloved by my fellow students I chose English textbooks which were colour-printed, and had many images and schemes, and clear lay outs. Same information, and my Dutch is good enough for it not to be a language problem. I just could not get through the textual explanation. I also had the opportunity to spend more time attaining hands-on experience which allowed me to rapidly learn. I did at some point get in trouble because I had the Latin name of something on the tip of my tongue, but couldn’t get it right… (But, I knew exactly what I was seeing, what the risks were and how to treat it. )

            Anyway. Take care.


            • RE: “Maybe this can be helpful to you” – more than you’ll ever know! THANK YOU, Ms. busydarling for hangin’ in with me.

              In addition to helping me understand why my attempts to “help” are so lousy for you, and how wrong I was about the source (yes, she actually copped to ‘wrong’ in public, and on her own blog ::grin::) THIS comment has sparked some new thought about an older curriculum and current eBook in draft — The Modalities Method™

              MY brain can’t “read” a map UNLESS I translate it to directions in words (written is best – spoken, if simple enough), THEN put the map away and NEVER reference again.

              Brain seldom survives the 2-D to 3-D jump intact, and I get so lost in the “spaghetti” of roads on the map that even a YOU ARE HERE marker wouldn’t help MUCH. (And no, hi-lighting doesn’t help with that. Not for ME.)

              TEXT is best for cognitive-dominants, and (based on comment above) I’m guessing you are a VISUAL-dominant (even tho’ we have to “see” the text, brain-processing is different). NOT that it means we process solely through a single modality, btw, just that our brains prefer to organize around a different kick-start. Based SOLELY on comment above, I’d also guess you have a kinesthetic filter (mine’s verbal).

              WAY too much to go into here

              Bottom line: There ain’t no IS about ADD™ — EVEN though we are made up of similar stuff, we are as unique as snowflakes

              Sincere thanks for the nudge to reconsider where I place my next foot – time-wise. I had put Modalities on the back burner, but I’m thinking that maybe it needs to be further UP on my list (to mix metaphors). If I DO shuffle all to get this one ready next, I’ll credit you in the intro!!


              PS. In addition to being “jealous” of your educational flexibility, I admire your linguistic proficiency — On my bucket list is fluency in several languages (the U.S. is *lousy* with language education, and most of us speak only one – English – many don’t even speak THAT well!)

              Just ordered the Pimsleur Approach for Spanish (VERY rusty/never fluent), French and Italian. This time next year, who knows?!


          • busydarling says:

            Interestingly enough there’s no reply button under the comment I WANT to reply to, your response about ‘modalities’.

            I figured you’re a words person.

            I’m intuitive, a do-er, an experiencer. That’s not even a word.
            I’m imaginative, and that helps too. I read a lot as a child, reading is more active than watching TV, but reading stories isn’t the same as being a verbal processor: words are used to paint.
            I prefer a movie over a book, especially on the big screen, but that’s ADHD and it’s distractability. I have ADHD, the H being quite prominent.

            I’ve somewhat mastered language, despite not even thinking in one. I’m creative with words, but words are always used to sketch, not to do whatever other people do with words. (Had I not forgotten to add a title, I would have had the highest mark of my class for the ‘writing’ exam in Dutch class, despite being the one with the least experience with the language.) I’m a chatterbox, but don’t necessarily say useful things.

            I grew up bilingual: Afrikaans and English. Learned Dutch at age 12-13. I somehow ‘figured out’ some French and German, scoring pretty high in reading exams, and I am now supposedly learning Spanish.

            Good luck with your writing. And languages.


            • I am a WordPress foreigner – I no sooner learn how things work than somebody changes something and they either don’t work at all or work differently. Maybe it’s the theme? Anyway, can’t help with the missing reply button, but I do eventually find the comments.

              Experiencer may not be a “word,” but it IS a “term” in one of the learning styles systems (don’t recall which, however, because I wasn’t that enrolled in it). Modalities (in my system, anyway) aren’t quite the same as learning styles – they’re processing filters – the way your brain intakes stimuli to make sense of it.

              I think of them as start-buttons (i.e., your brain has learned to organize your processing around it) – something I’ve been playing/working with for several decades now, on and off, waiting for science to get a study going with a hundred 12-year old boys to “prove” what I can only theorize via the dreaded “anecdotal.” ::wry grin::

              Rant warning: I get REALLY on it when a thousand ADDers can say something about their experience of life’s struggles and it’s discounted as “anecdotal” until the science boys and girls get a study published — and it seems a great many of them involve 12 yr. old BOYS (and 100 participants is considered “credible” enough to represent the rest of us.)

              ANYway, decades ago I noted that, in addition to the many ways ADDers functioned differently based on symptoms expressed through environment, they PROCESSED differently, and that the “learning styles” stuff wasn’t exactly what was going on (based on what I observed AND on how I worked with myself and other ADDers).

              I intro’d my theories and a beta Modalities Inventory at ADDA and in the OFI curriculum (WITH clear copyrights), yet a couple of my students took it and set up a business around it — why I focused elsewhere, even though I’m not sure they actually understand the nuances that make it useful as a coaching tool, and they certainly can’t know where I was headed with it.

              My plan was to keep the new stuff to myself until I PUBLISHED it in some form, but I have a ton of content & curriculum that’s kept me busy and slowed down development on The Modalities Method™.

              I was thinking that The Challenges Inventory™ certification and licensing curriculum, Mid-Life Make-Over™ and an ADD Lens™ version of Thomas Leonards amazing Personal Foundation™ would be my next areas of focus, but the recent exchange with you brought the importance of the Modalities stuff to the front of my brain again.

              Now you have the back-story.
              RE: multi-lingual — were you aware that, statistically at least, growing up bi-lingual (or more) seems to be seriously brain-protective? (Dementia stats are lower)

              Since none of the Journals would publish Merzenich on neuroplasticity until relatively recently (“inconsistant” with the body of knowledge in the [neuron-doctrine] field), I don’t imagine science will have enough “proof” to feel like they can risk postulating a theory as to WHY until the boomer generation is in their 80’s – but I know what I believe would make SENSE, given the prelim stats. 

              Gotta’ put myself to bed now, but YOU can sleep tight with the “knowledge” that you will probably remain sharp as a tack all your life.



            • busydarling says:

              Ah, interesting. Makes some sense now.
              I think information processing is multi-factorial, and has so many things influencing it, ADD being one of it. Intelligence, learning, environmental factors, linguistic vs visual-spatial abilities, abstract vs concrete etc.
              I think we’re all missing the point by trying to outline it.
              My problem with text should be ADHD related:text doesn’t ‘wake me up’ enough to fully focus. I need to be active. But, to illustrate it: my brain is more like Google Maps than the long lines of text that came up with MS Dos. I need to get the point.
              I have enough IQ to keep up with my rapid ADHD brain, and apparently my brain works more in a ‘male’ way.

              Apparently being multi-lingual (from childhood!) holds many benefits, supposedly arising from increased plasticity in the brain or something like that. A multi-lingual child has more brain power. Or so they say. I don’t think they’ve conducted these studies in Soweto, where the average person speaks at least 2 languages from early on, yet can hardly read and write. Not that you have to worry about dementia if you’re dying of gun shot wounds or AIDS by the time you’re 40.
              I had decided, if I ever have kids, to raise them bilingual. If anything, bilinguals are able to learn new languages faster than those who aren’t; by bilingual I mean learning two languages WHILE learning to talk.
              Ironically, my grandmother was a bilingual who raised her children in Afrikaans only, because back then they were told it’s bad for kids to learn two languages at once.
              Extroversion vs introversion is also important in language development: I learned English outside of the home, while my sisters spoke ‘twin language’ for too long; they still speak primarily ‘twin language’. My boyfriend has trouble learning Dutch, he’s half spanish half dutch, and is more of a verbal processor than I am.

              I don’t know how we”re going to solve the language problem though.


  14. Madelyn,
    Again, surpassingly well done! Looking forward to seeing that book in action! As you well know, hyperactivity is there, obvious, but is out the door as the main criteria for ADHD/EFD. The main criteria, as you so aptly point out, are tied up with details of living in a changing world… and Impulsivity is absolutely not sufficiently addressed for use in the office. Acting without thinking: subtypes matter!

    More offline…


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