First page from the original manuscript.

Ptolemy versus Copernicus. Integrationists versus Separatists. Both are describing the same reality yet arrive at radically different explanations for the things they observe. For Ptolemy, the evidence  pointed to a planetary system and universe where the Earth is in the center; for Copernicus, the evidence was best explained with the sun in the center of the planetary system. Adult ADHDers are both describing the same reality – life with a broken set of executive functions – yet they arrive at radically different explanations for the things they observe.

Ptolemy puts the earth in the middle (geocentric)

Integrationists try to maintain a strong foothold in the non-ADHD world. They are likely to see ADHD as being a small part of who they are. Sometimes they view it as a nuisance (maybe even a curse) but their eventual goal is to not ascribe any value to it. It just is what it is. Being an integrationist can have a serious downside. With a strong foothold in the non-ADHD world, the integrationist is reminded of his or her shortcomings. To remain an integrationist requires a certain amount of inner-strength to combat this tendency to compare oneself to others. It takes time to learn that any comparison should be made within the context of what your life was like when you were diagnosed and how far you have come since that diagnosis.

Copernicus puts the sun in the center (heliocentric)

Separatists, while they also spend time within the non-ADHD world, do not really see themselves as being part of that world. They see themselves as radically separate from it. They not only accept their ADHD but they come to embrace it, ascribing special value to it as being the “secret sauce” (secret source?) of their success.  Whereas for integrationists, ADHD is a small part of who they are, for separatists it is often the core of their being. Being a separatist can have a serious downside. Their interactions with the non-ADHD world can be a source of cognitive dissonance since their understanding of ADHD conflicts with the understanding within the non-ADHD world. To reduce this source of anxiety, separatists will spend time with other separatists so that they can reinforce their particular worldview. (Certainly this same point can be made concerning integrationists.)

When Opposing Worldviews Collide

Hyperfocus, the ability to remain intensely focused on some task, like playing a video game.

Bryan Hutchinson, of ADDerworld, has dedicated several posts and an e-book to the subject of hyperfocus. In a post about Michael Phelps, the secret sauce to his success at the Olympics was his ability to hyperfocus. [note 1] In the post The gift of Hyper-Focus is yours! Here’s the Secret! he wrote:

Did you know that you have a very special gift? You do, it’s yours and it has been with you all of your life. It is the gift of Hyper-Focus. Some think of it as a curse and some think it has no purpose, but in truth, it is the most important part of our being.

It was his most recent post – Hyper Focus and Writing – that was the cause of a collision of worldviews. I read the post from an integrationist perspective and was startled by what I had read. Where I saw a liability, Bryan had seen a special ability. Further, he had taken this phenomenon – hyperfocus – and made it into a thing, into an important and positive characteristic. In my comment I pointed out that

hyperfocus is not a talent like, say, being able to play the piano from the age of 3. Being able to focus and be productive, is what non-ADHDers call ‘getting their work done.’ I’ve seen it numerous times in the various jobs that I’ve worked. They (non-ADHDers) are able to tune out the distractions and get done what needs to be done. When *we* do it, we are really emulating their behavior, not exercising some sort of in-born talent.

Someone wrote in response, “We’re not emulating their behavior. It’s our own behavior, hard-wired into our brains in a different way than in others. It’s entirely possible that THEY are emulating US.” [Emphasis added]

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

It is impossible not to be judgmental in this particular debate. Each side believes that they, alone, possess the truth. I started life as a separatist (See Have The Gods Lied To Us: The Mythology of The Gift of ADHD) but I am moving towards and adopting the integrationist understanding of ADHD. My goal is not to make ADHD the center of my universe but to relegate it to the position of one of the newly discovered planets way beyond Pluto. I’ll always be writing about ADHD but it will no longer have an exalted position within my daily life. Like that distant planet, at times it will be visible, at times it will be hidden. It will always exist. But from that distance its gravity, its influence, will be weak.

Post Script

1. Rule Number 3

Rule Number 3: Try not to use your blog to attack anyone and never ever attack anyone in comments across the internetTen Lessons In Blogging by Bryan Hutchinson.

2. Violation of Rule Number 3

I told Bryan that I was going to write about my reaction to his hyperfocus post. I did not tell him the details but I wanted him to know it was coming. I hope he understands that this post is an attempt to understand how people who are struggling with the very same issues can arrive at radically divergent “truths” concerning those same issues. [note 2]

3. Another Violation of Rule Number 3

It’s possible to build a successful business by selling the idea of ADD/ADHD being the “secret to your success!” Garret Low Porthole has done just that. You can listen to him here discussing the virtues of ADD/ADHD. Mr. Low Porthole is the gentleman who has tried to tell us that we are budding DaVinci’s, which he defines as “someone who is impulsive, distractible, sensation-seeking and creative.” Those same adjectives could also describe a drug addict. This is also the gentleman who recommends that we become a nation of morons, that we don’t need education because the education system is broken. [note 3]

Source of Images (Ptolemy & Copernicus):

  1. For an alternate view, see Barkley’s video in this post.
  2. Another explanation of “divergent truths” can be found in my post Colors of ADHD.
  3. I had written a highly critical comment about this post which Mr. Low Porthole, not surprisingly, decided to kill. Here’s the unpublished comment: “This repackaged ideological nonsense that strokes our fragile American egos and tells us that we can succeed if we are uneducated idiots does nothing except turn us away from the reality we face and, instead, sets us up for potential heartache when we find that dropping out of college to become a billionaire is just not working for the vast majority of us. This country faces serious life-altering problems and to promulgate this type of claptrap does nothing to move us forward. It is to substitute a lottery mentality (“all you need is a dollar and a dream”) for the real difficult work that must be done.”
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  • Gina Pera

    Jeff wrote that “This country faces serious life-altering problems and to promulgate this type of claptrap does nothing to move us forward. It is to substitute a lottery mentality (“all you need is a dollar and a dream”) for the real difficult work that must be done.”

    Nice ending note, Jeff. I, too, am alarmed at the dumbing-down of Americans. Whereas we used to look up to people who had pursued a rigorous education, now a growing number of Americans disdain them.

    It’s not that educated people have all the answers; sometimes higher education reinforces a deep-but-narrow knowledge base, absent of connections to other issues. (Nowhere is this more true, IMHO, than with medical specialists.)

    But I’m just not sensing a “common-sense” approach amidst this populist rebellion; I’m sensing ego wounds and a profound inner sense of inferiority that is being encouraged by certain media and power mongers to express itself as superiority.

    • Katy R.

      Yes. Yes. Yes. Americans admire mediocrity. There is a part of me that values the public opinion, but another part of me that is frequently appalled by that opinion.

      Let’s take, for example, the American Music Awards broadcast that was on last night.

      Most of the performers, who were “singers”, were literally unable to sing. Not just a few “off” notes. It was apparent that they had no clue how to sing, much less sing in front of a large audience, with a microphone in their hands. When Ke$ha is one of the best performances of the night it really makes the “singers” look bad. Taylor Swift can’t sing her way out of a paper bag…2/3 of a song sung off key and with no breath support, making her sound like the girl that just didn’t make the cut into the junior high honor choir, but wanted to, reallyreallybad. Taylor Swift makes millions of dollars and wins awards right and left. I’m sure she’s a lovely girl, but holy sh*t…America? Hello?

      As for integrating vs. separating, I prefer to strike a balance. To survive, I have to conform a bit. In private, I prefer to ADHD-out all over the place. At home, me, my husband, and our daughter are free to just “be” and to do things in ways that works for us. At work…I adapt my adaptations…

      I guess people can choose what works for them…I don’t like to accept limitations unless I have to. But…all of us have different limitations ;)

  • Scott Hutson

    Integrationists vs Separatists = Scott vs Scott.

    Lately I have been more of an observer, rather than a (whatever I am) commenter, when it comes to ADHD blogs that want to put a “Positive Spin” on symptoms that are the diagnostic criteria needed to be a clinical profile of an ADHDer. Jeff, the response on a comment you made(I will use part of it) “it’s our own behaviour hard-wired into our brains in a different way than in others”. Well that’s just wrong. How bout loose wires in a underdeveloped part of our brains?

    We try harder than NON-ADHD PEOPLE to acheive what may be easy to THEM. Maybe some ADHDers can hyperfocus at will on any task, even something they don’t want to do, but if they can, then they have something else and not ADHD, or they found the cure for it. I don’t know if I’m right about that, btw. It’s just my observation.

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