Adult ADHD Support
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ADHD child.... boss? or leader?

So one thing my therapist has been really drilling home for me is the following:

"Expectations are just resentment under construction"

I spent weeks seeing that written on his whiteboard each time I came in. It started sinking home for me in so many ways. What are my expectations? Are they all bad? Are some good? Should I just be aware of them or should I try not to have them?

Something hit me- the way my brain works causes me to picture things frequently. Perhaps it's a survival tactic that I picked up so that I could manage the speed at which thoughts flow through my head. Everything for me that I try to keep around has to become a visual of some sort. When I was a teenager, I found solace in putting on a blacklight and listening to electronic music with my eyes closed- just to let the pictures dance through my head for hours on end. People have called me a synesthete. Maybe that's true.. but I find it unlikely. I think adapting the way I think to my ADHD brain has caused me to rely on my mind's eye and the pictures in my head to form my intuitions about the world.

So I get obsessed over things easily when I get excited about them. When this obsession happens, it's often because I'm enjoying the way I'm seeing the world in my head and often those fun pictures that I'm able to form end up becoming... wait for it..... expectations.

I'm pretty sure this is normal for visionaries. Wait... visionary? Yes- you see the world in a new way and naturally you get excited to strive for offsetting your physical reality to match those images in your head.

So what tends to happen during this period? Well.... expectation happens. YOUhave the images in YOUR head. Pair that with the energy of a now stimulated mind, and you've got yourself a Walt Disney. So fast forward a few weeks... stimulation still going strong, images in head are much more clear and concise... the problem solving part has been largely done... in your head. Now you begin to get so excited that your energy radiates and it creates so much excitement for the others around you that it prompts them to want to help. They love the feeling too... it follows the law of conservation of mass... the energy propagates and radiates outward to everyone around you.

But now that people have been energized and decide they want IN... what do you do?

Well... in my case, I try to help them see the pictures in my head so that they can help meet the expectation I've formed, and at this point, worked tirelessly to get out the kinks.

So let's move outside the hypefocused ADHD head and get back out to reality. How does this appear to others? Well that's the choice we all have to make. Two paths can be taken- do you force others into your expectations of this new reality that they are excited to help with? Or do you lead them down a path to understanding those images in your head without force and expectation?

Unfortunately for me, I've spent 34 years doing the former. It's unfortunate and definitely unintentional. At one point during my career, I was told by many peers that I'm the guy with "endless positive energy and excitement radiating outwards to the others in the office". The problem is, that energy put me a position to be a boss, which then put me in a position of stress, quickly turning my positive energy into negative energy and ultimately causing others to back away.

I bring this up, because my oldest son is starting the pattern himself. He's 9 years old and I see in him the same endless struggle with an amazingly creative and visual brain but an inability to properly herd those around him. While many of his friends are telling fart jokes and sitting on curbs passing time until dinner, my son is trying to create the next amazing kids novel series. He's already planned up to the 3rd volume of his wonderful "The Two Friends" story. A month ago he got an idea to start a business with kids in the neighborhood so that they could buy a play house. Just like me, he's tireless with his excitement. Unlike me, I'd prefer to encourage his amazing brain rather than tell him he needs to fix himself.

The problem is, he's bossy. He's such a loving kid- kind, caring, wants everyone to be happy. He cries more than boys his age and has the typical ADHD emotion control (which isn't much) and he throws tantrums worse than his 4 year old (seemingly non-ADHD at this point) brother.

So what do we do? Well- I'll tell you what I used to do. I used to reprimand him and try to correct his behavior by calling him bossy, telling him to stop that and to have more empathy for others and realize that people don't like kids who are bossy.

Don't be too hard on me please.. I'm ADHD as well and a lot of people see my inability to focus as narcissism (I likely have 1 million times the thoughts of a non-ADHD person in the course of a day, so naturally I talk about my thoughts a lot and people find that to be narcissistic).

The more I think about this. My son is EXACTLY like me. And why shouldn't he be? He's been born with the same brain type and watched my same patterns of behavior since he was born. The kid is JUST. LIKE. ME.

So I had a wonderful talk with him about the difference between a boss and a leader. I talked to him about the wonderful images in his head and how sometimes we can get so excited about those images and how we see visions of the world but we need to remember that others don't always see those visions and we might get them excited by our ideas but we need to be mindful of when we start forming expectations through our excitement.

This was a good time to point out a boss vs Jesus. People followed Jesus because they wanted to and they follow a boss because they HAVE to, often by force (e.g. fear of getting fired). We both agreed that a leader is much better accepted and much more likely to have people follow them.

It's a revelation for myself as well. I've done it so wrong all these years and it took my 9 year old son mirroring back my own flaws to teach me a lesson. I think this was a lesson that, had I found earlier, I'd likely have been able to connect with many more people in my career and have many more positive moments, possibly having teams chase some of my visions in a way where other people were able to pursue theirs at the same time.

So while Logan, my older son, was excited about this club house idea, he went to the next door neighbor's house and convinced the two children, whom which he plays with often, to help. Well Logan doesn't know much about money so that's a bust, but he was really excited about offering to sell his Pokemon cards to help with the money. He mentioned $1 a piece to me and I figured his friends would set him straight with supply and demand.

It turns out, these kids next door, who are 9 years old, just like him, bought a bunch of the cards. They even gave him extra money for the club house. Everyone seemed to be excited. Until that night, when my wife received a text message from the mother next door. Seemed harmless- it was about 4 or 5 messages in a sequence that seemed to go from kind and motherly to attacking our child for "targeting" her children and taking their money.

Now I live in a decent neighborhood. I'm not rich, but I've done well for my family. These neighbors didn't seem snobby when they moved in. But at one point, the mother said to my wife "Our children are not equals, socially or verbally" and proceeded to talk about how wonderful her sons are and that they are always looking out for my son in social settings- implying that my son is slow.

Snobby bitch.

First off- lesson learned for my wife: People are too comfortable talking through text. Tell them to talk to you in person. Secondly- wow how I've come to realize how special my son is. Now you have a snobby bitch neighbor who's sons are apparently smarter (it doesn't help that they are first generation America, straight from China) but who did what they did. Second off, the mother isn't too great @ probability because the proximity of my son being next door to them would put him closer to them more frequently and thus would have higher likelihood of having connected with them over neighbors who live father away.

At first, I berated my son- mostly because I was shamed by the way this mother acted and years of being told I'm wrong and I'm not normal caused me great stress. In the moment, I felt I needed to handle that by shaming my son. And I called him selfish. And then I felt awful and I told him he'd never hear me call him that again.

He wrote a letter to the children next door and let them know that he doesn't much about the value of money and that he's sorry. He also gave them many Pokemon cards and their money back. And I hope that mother next door feels like a pompous bitch. She came over to apologize, but the damage was done.

So what I will say, is that I will back up my son and his amazing mind and it's not the last time he will battle shitty people while trying to do the right thing and chasing his goals. But I figured I'd share this story, because I had many very important revelations during this time that have really adjusted how I look at myself and my son.

5 Replies

I think this may be a cultural thing. Chinese mothers have a tendency to elevate their sons to a near godly status. It’s not my bias telling me this. It the daughters of Chinese mothers that have told me this.


I can understand elevating your children by boosting them up. But doing it by pushing others down is just wrong.


It’s more than just boosting them up in a sense we as westerners understand. It goes way deeper in a cultural sense. You and I don’t really understand it and we never will. If she keeps up that behavior, which she likely will, it’s probably best you keep your kids away from her. Your kid could be a subject of real humiliation. The kind we drag into adulthood and makes us feel like damaged good. She has already set the stage by saying it straight out that her kid is more superior than yours.


I'll have to “second” the observation regarding Chinese cultures (there are many, but they overlap as a consequence of shared languages in addition to hundreds of local, native tongues and cultures Mao's regime and its successors failed to homogenize). From what I learned in the course of studying enough of the language and culture to interact more effectively with vendors in mainland China, notions of family are VERY different than those of Western cultures and are much, MUCH more deeply invested in “us versus them”, in-group psychology.

For those not trained from birth to expect this, it can be thoroughly toxic to be treated as an outsider—even more so with ADHD and its frequent symptom of rejection-sensitive dysphoria. There's also a presumption that age places one in familial authority, automatically: calming my late wife after one particular encounter with a Chinese lady a generation older was, shall we say, “interesting”, and she was both (1) aware from the outset that it was probably a purely cultural issue and (2) not afflicted with ADHD (other than her husband's, of course) and its associated sensitivity to social adversity.

Helping your son learn from your own mistakes is a worthwhile endeavor, and I wish you well in that: your similarities will ultimately make it easier to express.

It's also worth teaching him that what our brains are wired to perceive, unbidden, can lead all too easily to the appearance of a “crackpot scheme”, with a rationale that is utterly opaque to others. Based on statistics gathered through preference-typing instruments like the MBTI (all of them useful despite some flaws), we live in a world dominated by a vast majority (about 85%) of “sensing” types that tend to operate on the assumption that what is apparent immediately is the entire truth; but ADHD is one of many differences that can predispose one to falling into the “intuitive” minority (15%) that continually baffle everyone else.

(Incidentally, in meeting with other “N types”—there is actually a Meetup group, in my area—I encounter a noticeably larger proportion of ADHD than in the population at large. Between our extensive, conscious processing of all we observe and our weird tendency to form a surprisingly gregarious subculture, spontaneously, we frequently recognize “our tribe” immediately.)

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There is often a great misunderstanding when culture overlap. It can be very hard to read and there can be a lot of misunderstanding. There is really no right or wrong, it’s just a different way of doing things. Like tradition often plays a big role and people in Western Europe and Americans we tend to have a bit looser ties with cultural traditions. The Enlightenment age in Europe kind made us start questioning things, like tradition.


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