Read My Mind

Resistance to Structure, Commitment, and Accountability

by Don Baker, M.A. on Nov 29th, 2013.     3 comments

resistanceWhen Robert asked me to write about a common ADD/ADHD trait: resistance to structure, commitment, and accountability, initially, I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned over the years that if I want to do something in a reasonable amount of time, I need to commit to someone (not foolproof), or commit to giving a presentation (usually foolproof: there’s nothing like not being ready in front of people!).
But even these aren’t always enough. I still find myself avoiding, rationalizing – you name it – my way around the thing I need to do.
How about you? Are you consciously aware of resisting structure, commitment, and accountability?
I can easily divide my life into two phases:
Phase One: before age 38:
You can pretty much characterize my first 38 years as being a guy who just didn’t do commitment. I was variably accountable. If something popped up that sounded more exciting or interesting than what I’d committed to, I was there. And close emotional relationships were difficult at best.
Still, I finished college and graduate school – though I really can’t tell you how – and held down the same job for nearly 20 years. Apparently, those were commitments I could keep. But to be honest, I felt hollow and empty. I really yearned for something more but didn’t know then what it was. I only knew it had to change.
Phase Two: after age 38:
Since age 38 has been very different. I dedicated myself to change and have sustained it. Over time, I began to make different choices based on new insight. This was painful, but I remember thinking and feeling I wasn't going back to the way it was.
The catalyst was my emptiness, and its memory fueled my new persistence. I can still remember how that felt. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, but I absolutely knew I wasn’t going back.
So here I sit, close to 20 years later, having learned a lot about myself – what I’m willing to tolerate, what I want in my life, and what I don't.
A part of me still disdains certain structures, commitments, and accountability. What's different, though, is my learning to accept and honor it.
In fact, it's more than accepting and honoring – but actually embracing it.
I’ve learned to embrace ADD/ADHD as brain diversity. I now understand the neurobiological wiring that underlies ADD/ADHD traits and drives unconscious reactivity to certain environments.
We who have ADD/ADHD have trouble getting comfortable. We have high sensitivity through our sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, as well as our intuition.
Extremely empathetic, our sensors are finely calibrated, like those of a dog that hears sounds  humans can’t. We sense at levels others can’t attain but, therefore, also suffer wounding others don’t experience.
Once I began to connect my brain and behavior ­– how I was unconsciously reacting to external stimuli – I began to notice how my sensitivities drove a "moving away" behavior. Unconsciously, my senses were overwhelming me, and I was moving away to get comfortable.
Playing with this concept ever since, I have noticed various sensitivities, most significantly in my close relationships: family, significant other, etc.
My default has always been to shut down. So I work on staying present emotionally, psychologically and, yeah, physically. I've learned I don't have to run to another part of the world to recalibrate.
We all must find out how our own brains are made, our particular "brand," and where to utilize them positively. We must, above all, refine our thinking tools to accomplish whatever makes sense for us and maximizes our effectiveness.
I've learned that when I force my innate strengths into living and learning environments that don't fit them, I (and maybe you, if you’re close to me) end up hurt.
Start with this.
  • Identify what you “like” – activities, relationships, experiences, locations, and challenges that activate your brain wiring in positive ways. Actually write them down, make a list.
  • Next to each item on the list, write how you can use these positive dynamics to help you reach the goals important to you in a way that fits your “brand.”
  • Keep revising your list as you keep learning about you.
Use your brain in ways that give you both happiness and success. Once you do, you will gravitate toward activities and situations that are right for you, that draw on your natural skills, and that show you can reach your potential.
Likewise, you will learn to recognize your hesitation to do things that don't naturally fit and are not good for you. As you honor this wisdom within yourself, your life path will smooth out.
You will own your journey. You will increase your pleasure. You will know meaningful success.
Don Baker, M.A.
Creator, Back From Distraction (BFD)

Topics: ADD/ADHD Facing Fear Personal Growth


EddieNYC says ...
Don, and Dr. G., thank you for sharing this.
Ray says ...
I was married 18 years and now divorced over two. I easily meet great women that I like, often get chemistry going, but I have no intention of ever committing. What I want is every relationship to eventually settle into a comfortable platonic friendship with no relationship pressure. I love it most when these old girlfriends call me up to invite me to something I'd enjoy like exercise or a concert. I even like it when they call me to do man-chores for them. I don't like during the chemistry phase, when the commitment topic comes up. It's embarrassing, but I repeat almost every early date that I want a long term platonic friendship. I don't avoid the chemistry because if I never want a marriage again or even committed girlfriend, then I don't want that to mean I'll never have sex. I can't decide if my position on commitment is "good" or "bad". The alternative of a committed relationship or no sex both seem way worse, so I don't care what it's labeled. It's the only position that "works" for me right now. I've had one full sex partner in the last year and one the year before, so I don't feel I'm a slut. Chemistry for me can be holding hands or even just the desire to. I'm trying to see how my relationship commitment fears and plans relate to your article.
Eric says ...
I know this seems trivial, but I think you mean non-monogamous when you say platonic. In any case, it sounds like dating without the pressure of it turning into a long-term commitment is what works best for you right now.
I am also struck by the fact that you were married for 18 years and divorced for two. I am close to that plateau in the marriage years and my wife and I have discussed that if I am not happy in our marriage I can go.
The thing that made me read this article is the ADHD component of making what Dr. G. teaches work for me.
I was diagnosed two years ago and all I can say is the more I learn about ADHD through places like the more I realize how hard it is to be in a stable relationship with the symptoms they describe. While not avoidant of commitment, I struggle with my mind being restless and blaming my wife for not helping me cope. Most times I am not aware that ADHD is causing my discomfort, so it just looks like I am complaining again.
But, in reality, mood lability and sleep are two of the most common symptoms of ADHD and they are both affecting my marriage big time.
I know this post is scattered, but I am really having a hard time knowing what I feel and owning the responsibility for changing. Thanks for sharing and good luck with your life going forward.