- It takes three primary colors – red, green, blue - to create every type of color.
- Each primary color is differentiated from the others based on where it falls within the spectrum (the scale) of electromagnetic radiation.
- It takes four ADHD archetypes to create every type of ADHDer.
- Each ADHD archetype is differentiated from the others based on where it falls within two scales: Delusional/Realistic and Pessimistic/Optimistic.
Delusional/Realistic Scale: this scale is a measure of an ADHDer’s attitude towards ADHD. Those at the extreme “delusional” end of the scale see no downside to ADHD. For them, it is like manna from heaven. ADHDers at the “realistic” end of the scale acknowledge that it has a downside and is likely not the source of any magical powers or gifts.
Optimistic/Pessimistic Scale: this scale is a measure of perceived likelihood of success in life. “Perception” is the key term here since it is the perception of success – or perception of the likelihood of success – that is being measured.
Taking these two scales and putting them on a grid, we get the four ADHD archetypes.
- Delusional Optimist (DO): views ADHD as a gift (or special power) and believes it will help them achieve amazing success in their life (they will be the next Richard Branson or Leonardo da Vinci).
- Realistic Optimist (RO) : views ADHD as a problem that can be controlled and is generally optimistic about their life even though they may never be a Branson or Da Vinci.
- Delusional Pessimist (DP) : views ADHD as a gift (or special power) and is pessimistic about their likelihood of success in life. Often believes the world is against them, blocking them from their true potential.
- Realistic Pessimist (RP) : views ADHD as a problem that can be controlled but is not very optimistic about achieving much in their life.
It is important to keep in mind that the archetypes are not meant to be scientifically measurable. They will likely never appear in the DSM. They are more of a rhetorical device that makes it possible to classify ADHDer viewpoints and an ADHDer’s feelings about oneself. Despite the connotations implied by the terminology used (see Nota Bene below), one archetype is not necessarily better than another. In fact, ADHDers embody all of these archetypes but not at the same time. Keep reading for more explanation.
About The Archetypes: The archetypes are not rigid categories but are highly fluid. Though displayed two-dimensionally, they should be thought of as being three dimensional and in continuous motion. Perhaps the best visual analogy would be a lava lamp with four different colors.
Morphing ADHD Archetypes: One archetype can morph into another. This can occur over a long period of time but more often it can happen within short periods of time (see Archetype Oscillation below). During the course of a day – even during a ten minute period – one can morph from one archetype to another with each shift being of various “degrees” of an archetype, e.g., RO (Realistic Optimist) tending towards DO (Delusional Optimist).
Archetype Oscillation: There can be a rapid switch from one archetype to another. You can be RO (Realistic Optimist) during your work day and then, in the middle of a project, you rapidly switch to DP (Delusional Pessimist), then minutes later, you are RO (Realistic Optimist) again.
Archetype Dominance: Perception of color is dependent on the quality of light and what is reflected back to the observer. As a result, a particular color may be perceived to be dominant in one type of lighting and not dominant in another type of lighting. The dominance of any one archetype can change, in an analogous way, depending on shifts in social context. For example, you may be seen to be more RO (Realistic Optimist) during your work day but more DP (Delusional Pessimist) in your personal relationships.
Archetype Tension: Internal tensions can occur when a situation requires that the ADHDer be more RO (Realistic Optimist) or DO (Delusional Optimist) but seems only capable of being DP (Delusional Pessimist). For example, a pressing deadline may require RO (Realistic Optimist) or DO (Delusional Optimist) in order to succeed but DP (Delusional Pessimist) becomes the dominant type. The ADHDer can overcome this tension but overcoming it may come along with a price: angry outburst; carbohydrate overload, or some other action that releases the inner tension. This can, of course, be overcome in a positive way, such as taking a twenty-minute “mental health” walk outside of one’s office or home. Whether the tension is overcome in a negative or positive way is dependent on one’s position – at that particular moment – along the Optimist/Pessimist scale.
The Archetypes “In Action”
Example 1: You are coming to the end of your school semester. The number of projects to be completed is so overwhelming that you are frozen, unsure as to what to do next. You gnaw at your fingernails as you oscillate between DP (Delusional Pessimist) and RP (Realistic Pessimist), though neither of these archetypes helps to solve the problem. You know that to complete these projects you REALLY need to be somewhere between DO (Delusional Optimist) and RO (Realistic Optimist). An internal tension occurs as you try to switch degrees/levels of archetype prevalence to the one that is required to complete the tasks. You finally make that switch but that comes at a price – you lose your patience with person(s) X and have an outburst of anger.
Example 2: You have a new household project to tackle: installing a wood floor. You research the techniques needed to complete this project and conclude that it is not very difficult. [note 1] DO (Delusional Optimist) becomes the predominant archetype as you enthusiastically begin this project. However, as you get further along in the project you encounter unanticipated problems: a problem with the subflooring (unevenness or a moisture problem). As you go further along in the project you feel yourself sliding toward the pessimistic end of the Optimistic/Pessimistic scale. Eventually your enthusiasm for the project fades as you become more pessimistic. You walk away from the project.
Example 3: You have written a blog post that is so brilliant it will go viral. You remain in a state of DO (Delusional Optimist) for several days as you bask in its brilliance. (Of course, only YOU see it as brilliant.) As you carefully monitor the hit statistics for that particular blog post you realize it is not going viral. You slide towards DP (Delusional Pessimist) and oscillate between that archetype and RP (Realistic Pessimist).
The term “delusional” was selected as the opposite of “realistic” as opposed to using a word such as “unrealistic.” (Some antonyms of realistic are chimerical, delusive, kafkaesque, phantasmagorical, surreal, surrealistic. (Source: http://www.synonym.com/antonym/realistic)) Unrealistic has an Orwellian Newspeak sound to it, much like an untruth which, of course, is a lie. But when the word truth remains a part of the word, we think, on some level, that there is some truth in there. I selected the word “delusional” to really portray the complete absence of anything that is realistic. However, the word delusional also has a pejorative connotation and I want to back away from that pejorative tone to some degree.
My use of the word “gift” in this context is meant, in part, to convey the sense that others use this word when speaking about ADHD or other disorders. The intent is to see it as something special that has been given to them, a special challenge. However, there is a tendency to take the word “gift” in its literal sense and it is at that point when “gift” – as something resolutely positive – drifts into the world of delusional. I am also implying this sense of the word “gift” though, I must admit, I may be one of the few who interpret “gift” in this context in this way.
- You find something like this – http://www.hometips.com/diy-how-to/installing-hardwood-floors.html – and think to yourself: “How hard can this be if the person in a drawing can do it?”↩