The "ADHD itch" is a concept I learned from Edward M. Hallowell, author of the book Delivered from Distraction, which had a huge impact on my life.
This book helped me see my ADHD in a positive light and as a source of strength rather than an impediment. The "itch" he refers to in the book is the feeling at our core that we want to change our inner state. It's a feeling of discontentment and a desire to constantly seek out new things.
The feeling of constantly seeking is often thought of as restlessness, which sometimes comes with a lot of negative attachments. However, this negative connotation may not be fair. Research shows that the seven core human instincts (in no particular order) are:
3) Panic or Grief,
4) Maternal Care,
5) Pleasure or Lust,
6) Play, and
So, seeking is actually one of the most important core human instincts!
Just as with many common human behaviours, the desire to seek tends to be enhanced in people with ADHD and we're conditioned to think of seeking, or restlessness, as a bad thing. But what if this natural instinct isn't necessarily a bad thing?
We've been taught that constantly seeking is not good, and that it leads to discontentment. But what if seeking was thought of as creativity, resulting in new relationships, new opportunities and a pathway towards innovation? We all know that these are good things!
We can scratch this itch in different ways - either in productive, adaptive ways or in destructive, dangerous and maladaptive ways. The way we do this is naturally impacted by our individual circumstances and influences, as well as our openness to seek and explore. The important thing to remember is that we can choose to act on this instinct in positive ways if we're mindful in our actions.
Contentment is arbitrary and very individual, and we have to grant permission to allow others to make us feel bad about ourselves. By believing the social construct that restlessness = discontentment, we're giving away our power. If we stop seeking, don't we essentially stop living? The more we associate the desire to seek with discontentment the more discontent we tend to become; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have to enjoy the journey as much as we do the destination. "Seek and ye shall find" is a very valid sentiment because to stop seeking is to stop living life to its fullest.
Those of us with ADHD tend to beat ourselves up for that feeling of restlessness, so we need to learn to scratch that itch in productive ways. I've learned that the instinct to seek is very real and very strong and if we try and suppress it because of a social construct that tells us it's wrong, we'll end up with more problems than if we embrace it and try to identify positive ways to use it.
So, you have a choice. Will you choose to see your "ADHD itch" as a source of discontentment, or will you see it as a personal strength that paves the road to opportunity?
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