How many of your thoughts do you actually choose?

There’s an outright falsehood perpetuated by many in the self-help industry that needs to be addressed.
Its the notion that you choose every one of your thoughts. So if you have a single negative thought its your fault and your mind isn’t disciplined enough.
You have between 60,000-70,000 thoughts a day. About 90% of those thoughts are the same ones you had yesterday and support your habits. They’re conditioned and automatic.
Another 8% may be reactions to sensory stimuli, “What’s that smell?” or “Oh that’s nice.”
You didn’t choose these. They popped up.
For the 1% or less of the thoughts that are anywhere within your realm of influence. The choice you actually have is which ones to believe and act upon.
So don’t spend so much time trying to rid your mind of every thought when only a handful are the ones that will ultimately move the needle.

To the mom who thinks its insensitive to share my child’s successes

I read a post from a mom. It requested greater sensitivity from parents when posting about there child’s successes.
She was appealing on behalf of parents in the special needs community whose children may not be as successful.
Clearly I took issue with this. I don’t believe she thought this request through.
Is she suggesting we not celebrate our children’s progress on the off chance someone else is comparing their children to ours, and might feel bad?
Does she want us to feel guilty about our child’s successes because their are other children suffering?
Listen! The progress my boys have experienced is because of those who have gone before them.
I’ve learned from countless parents and professionals in the pursuit of helping prepare my Neurodivergent boys for the world.
Its the stories of other parents that have clued me into books, strategies, professionals, etc. What works and what’s a waste.
If they hadn’t discussed their successes I wouldn’t know about any of this.
PLEASE, PLEASE, keep shouting your successes from the rooftops.
Keeping your wins to yourself IS NOT an act of compassion in response to someone else’s feelings of discouragement, its an act of contrition.

Making society more accepting for us starts within us too

Many Neurodivergent folks believe it’s society and lack of accommodation that causes our suffering.

I agree that’s a big part of it, though not the whole story.

I don’t think it explains why certain light touches make me feel hostile.

Why I find most things in pop culture confusing and frustrating.

The fact I spend more time feeling confused than people will ever know.

That I work myself to exhaustion sometimes just trying to keep my thoughts straight long enough to accomplish something.

There’s more, but changes in society won’t solve these problems. These are problems of both the condition and my emotional reaction to it.

Not just one emotional reaction, possibly thousands over time.
This accumulation of unresolved emotional conflict can become toxic and traumatic to your nervous system. 

When you can’t trust your own mind to come through for you consistently it’s difficult to be confident in your ability to keep yourself safe in the world.

That can cause an intense chronic anxiety that manifests as hyperactivity.
Society can’t change this.

This work is yours and yours alone. But you don’t have to go through it alone.
Feeling alone in it is a primary reason people stuff these feelings down and spend their lives trying to distract themselves from these feelings. 

I’m grateful to have unlearned a great deal of the resentment and guilt I felt toward my disabilities. I did it with the help of professionals and talking with other people living with disabilities. 

People who were already doing what I wanted to do. Living with peace, acceptance and joy while also living with challenges.

I’ve become more calm and had steadier emotions than at any time in my life.

All without meds. Mind you, I still experience some anxiety and depression, but it doesn’t have the vote it once did.

You’ll see the greatest decrease in your suffering when you prioritize the inside work.

Who knows, your healing may be the thing that helps improve society for all of us.
The Inner Work is the focus of the Inner Circle. A community of women, sharing the journey together and healing together. Learning to let go of the belief that they aren’t good enough. 

In fact! I just promoted two of the members to “Mentors”, because they’ve come so far they’ve become leaders in the group and I’m encouraging their growth in that direction. The Inner Circle has a spot available for you

Your plans won’t be smooth sailing

Your plans and goals aren’t owed because you want them. They are intentions.

You don’t make demands of the sea when you sail. You intend to sail and adjust as you go, depending on what the sea wants.

The sea isn’t working for or against you, it’s being the sea.

It’s your understanding of that, your allowing of that, that creates the conditions for you to succeed.

Working in cooperation with the breakthroughs and the breakdowns. From crest to trough.

You don’t force; you flow.
Instead of anxious, you’re curious.
You don’t feel stuck, you feel progress.

Learning to hold your expectations more lightly makes you less invested in them should they not work out.

This is an important step in keeping feelings of frustration and rejection at bay.

You aren’t broken, you need new shoes

You aren’t broken. I suspect you may walk around in shoes that don’t fit.

By shoes, I mean beliefs.

Beliefs about whom you should be, what you should do with your life.

You work to live up to the expectations of the shoulds to maintain the approval of others.

You may believe their approval is the source of your worth in some way.

Those beliefs come to us from the part of our survival instinct that knows if others don’t want us around, we won’t be safe.

Though correct, there’s more than an all-or-nothing, accepted or rejected way to perceive how you’re doing in life.

You aren’t in a race or a competition of any kind. You’re a living process of growth and discovery.

With a Neurodivergent mind, you have a unique lens that can shed new light on old problems.

The challenge is learning to find the beliefs that don’t fit and replacing with ones that do.

Ones that allow you to be who you are, get what you need and make a difference in your way.

Then what you bring to the world can reduce suffering, versus adding to it.

I wish more people would consider that. Meanwhile, I’ll keep supporting the ones that do.

Don’t let your professional role stop you from being human

I was working as a hospice social worker when a nurse colleague was nearly killed in a car accident. She was in a rural area visiting patients.

Many of us gathered in the E.R. waiting room for news. I felt a combination of panic and rage. Rage because the reason she was out there was lack of trust in our employer.

She couldn’t trust her employer or colleagues to be willing to travel those distances to see patients. So she just did it.

I won’t name the hospice but it was corporate in the office and compassionate in the trenches. The former mindset was embodied in our executive director. A person who chose to make an appearance at the E.R.

I offer you this background for context. The point of this is the following exchange.

When the E.D. attempted to express empathy I heard it as disingenuous. She also phrased it as though she were speaking on behalf of the company. So it sounded more like a commercial for them than comforting for us.

She ended with something like, “That means we look out for each other.”

I snapped at her angrily and said, “You sure it doesn’t mean you’re on your own?” Speaking for how my colleague was feeling. Why she felt she needed to be out there in such weather.

A few days later the E.D. and one of the managers took me aside after a meeting and proceeded to angrily scold me about how I’m the social worker and I’m supposed to act professionally, blah, blah, blah.

She was telling me it was my job to be the model of emotional stability for everyone. When my best friend at the time, was fighting for her life in the next room, I was expected to be calm and objective.

I informed her that I was not there as a social worker, I was there as a friend. I was terrified, helpless and angry. What would she expect under those circumstances. I was acting like a human being.

Fortunately they both saw my point and backed off.

What is the point?

You, me can often put ourselves in roles that give us these false standards of how we’re supposed to show up in the world.

Standards of what emotions we can share, when, how strongly and to whom.

One of the reasons we’re so anxious is we keep second guessing ourselves. Wondering whether what we just did upset someone.

These self and socially imposed barriers to being human are suffocating. A lot of this nonsense can be cast aside.

The world needs more of the quirkiness that’s hiding.

I did an experiment yesterday…

Yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of the day I was told my cancer was in remission.

I decided to spend the day being with the feeling of gratitude for being alive.

What I experienced was a more vibrant mindfulness throughout the day. I felt more aware of and connected to the life around me.

I also was able to look upon things I’d ordinarily catastrophize and instead experience anxiety but with clearer thinking.

I think an aspect of this gratitude was seeing myself connected to “life” which is vast. It allowed me to transcend myself, see myself as part of something bigger. It also made problems appear smaller by comparison.

Its amazing the experiences you can have when you know how to use your attention. When you live with Neurodivergence the message you often receive is that you’re lousy when it comes to attention.

Nonsense! You’re being criticized because you don’t attend well to things that don’t spark your curiosity.

You can learn to discipline your attention so the things that need your attention get it. 

I’m going to stick with this and see what happens next.

If you have thoughts or questions about this, share them on the discussion thread by clicking here

If you rely on urgency and adrenaline to increase your focus there’s a better way

People with Neurodivergence often rely too much on adrenaline to enhance their focus.
This is a reason they’ll overschedule themselves. Being busy increases pressure, and urgency which increases adrenaline.
Procrastination is great for this as well. The time pressure triggers an adrenaline surge.
This is NOT a healthy long term strategy though.
Adrenaline is great for fight-or-flight when you need to focus on a threat and rally large muscle groups to protect yourself from death.
What do you do with all that adrenaline when you just plan to sit and write a paper? A paper cut won’t kill you.
The adrenaline you have pumping through your veins is improving your focus. It’s also increasing your heart rate, raising your blood pressure, causing muscle tension throughout your body, slowing your digestion and heightening your anxiety.
Adrenaline is also a stress hormone that can lead to chronic illness over time if it stays in your system too long.
Also keep in mind that increased anxiety makes memory worse. So whereas you’ve increased your focus with the adrenaline, you may also experience increased memory problems.
What’s the alternative?
I’ve experienced that learning to calm your anxiety increases focus, enhances memory and decreases the amount of stress hormone swimming through your blood stream.
This is the healthier alternative and something I can teach you how to do.
It doesn’t require you to load up on medication either.
It’s a matter of realizing you can shape the lens through which you see the world. The rough edges can be softened when you know how to work through the hard stuff without reliving it.
Learn to understand what drives your anxiety and unlearn it so its replaced with calm and focus. All without the need for constant adrenalin.
How’s that sound?

Why behavioral approaches are a problem

One reason its so difficult for adults to be correctly assessed for ADHD or Autism Spectrum challenges, is because the diagnostic criteria where designed for assessing kids who haven’t spent their lives learning how to mask yet.
Clinicians need to receive A LOT of instruction about those of us who fell through the cracks and went about devising strategies to manage life. Not all of those strategies are healthy mind you.
They may include denial, projection, blame, self-medication or distraction for example.
On the positive side there’s reminders, mentors, organizers, lists and more.
What I really wish is that the professional world in general would STOP treating these conditions like behavior problems.
It would be like calling grief a crying problem. As long as the crying has stopped so has the problem. Yeah! It doesn’t work that way.
Suppressing a behavior may be no more a solution than clamping a lid on a pressure cooker down a little tighter.
Living with these conditions can cause a cascade of affects in the way you feel about yourself, others and the world around you. Behavior alone doesn’t give you insight into all of this.
You can’t resolve it with a few executive function skills. But this is exactly what many behavior focused professionals try to do.
They work to consequence someone into normalcy instead of teaching them how to effectively communicate their needs AND the way they need them met.
These approaches are biased toward the needs of everyone else.
No wonder so few with these challenges reach their potential.
I’ve found the right relationship dynamic between parent and child or teacher and child can calm everyone down and establish the trust needed for each person to grow.

Rest is the foundation for your next action

“Rest is the foundation for your next action.”

That’s what I told a group today as we discussed self-care.
Every muscle contraction, breath and ocean wave has a break, a pause before the next.
We also pause while speaking. A way of resting the voice and tuning in to curiosity for better listening.
You may also take a minute to think about something. Not even to actively work it through, just to sit with it.
Waiting in stillness until an insight presents itself.
Rest can be an instant of darkness as a lightbulb flickers, or a refreshing nights sleep.
It isn’t the opposite of value, work or productivity on its face.
Rest is a phase of surrender that frees you to gather your resources for the next best action.
To keep going without resting is to fight for diminishing returns.
The signs are all around you that rest is a natural ingredient in the movement of your life.
Pauses/Resting everywhere, varying lengths helping set the tempo of life.
Feeling off balance? Perhaps a little more rest will help you find your rhythm.