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The Traumatic Journey Through Life Without Executive Function Skills - 099

gifted underachiever podcast Mar 30, 2022

In episode 098, I talked about being the Gifted Underachiever and the 5 pivotal elements to become the Empowered Achiever.  While I was creating that episode, it occurred to me that there are many traumatic life experiences, big and small, when we don't have well-developed EF skills.  We need to acknowledge them, in light of our underdeveloped EF skills, so that we can embark on our extraordinary healing journey, and manifest the pure potential contained within us.

It’s not enough for us to develop our EF skills and strategies.  That’s one piece of the puzzle.  The other pieces have shown themselves to me over the past 5 years and are now essentials in the program.  The 5 elements woven into the AIA-FS journey are:  an EF Assessment, identifying and releasing limiting beliefs and outdated identities, acquiring pre-skills, developing EF skills and strategies, and maintaining your achievements for a lifetime, because everything in life requires maintenance.  This unique, transformative 7-month journey flushes out traumatic experiences and facilitates the healing ones by training our core EF foundational skills within the safety of our closed communities.

I studied with Jim Rohn back in the 1980s, and when he said, “for things to change, you have to change”, I didn’t understand this concept to the depth I do today.  He was talking about changing from the inside out, and that we can’t remain as the current version of ourselves if we are to expand into the pure potential of our being.

In this episode Dr B talks about:

  • Our many traumas, big and small
  • We are the meaning makers
  • Reframing your meanings
  • Common traumatic experiences
  • Practice exercise for you
  • Learn about 13 Signs Weak Executive Functioning Is Holding You Back
  • Find out what you can do about your weak executive function skills even without a diagnosis

 

Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and a newfound freedom in your life!

My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses.  And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.

 

Full Episode Transcript The Traumatic Journey Through Life Without Executive Function Skills - 099

In episode 098, I talked about being the Gifted Underachiever and the 5 pivotal elements to become the Empowered Achiever. While I was creating that episode, it occurred to me that there are many traumatic life experiences, big and small, when we don't have well-developed EF skills. We need to acknowledge them, in light of our underdeveloped EF skills, so that we can embark on our extraordinary healing journey, and manifest the pure potential contained within us.

When I first created ADDventures In Achievement in December 2016, it was mostly training and coaching related to ADHD. It became clear to me very quickly that it was our EF skills and not solely ADHD that was the needed focus for the program. Since then, it has evolved into what it is today – a unique, transformative 7-month journey that flushes out traumatic experiences and associations by training our core EF foundational skills.

And, it’s not enough for us to develop our EF skills and strategies. That’s one piece of the puzzle. The other pieces have shown themselves to me over the past 5 years and are now essentials in the program. The 5 elements woven into the AIA-FS journey are: an EF Assessment, identifying and releasing limiting beliefs and outdated identities, acquiring pre-skills, developing EF skills and strategies, and maintaining your achievements for a lifetime, because everything in life requires maintenance.

I studied with Jim Rohn back in the 1980s, and when he said, “for things to change, you have to change”, I didn’t understand this concept to the depth I do today. He was talking about changing from the inside out, and that we can’t remain as the current version of ourselves if we are to expand into the pure potential of our being.

I’ve talked about my vision before and looking 7 generations out into the world and how things look when we are all fully equipped with our core EF life skills. And for those of you who are raising children, you can put a stop to their suffering right now by developing these EF skills for yourself and then teaching them to your children. For those of you who work with children, you can do the same. I have often thought that if we had been taught just one EF skill per year while we were a captive audience in grade school, middle school and high school, we would be fully equipped to move out into the world with all the foundational EF skills and abilities that most of us don’t have these days. And, whether the cause of the derailment of your EF skills is cumulative trauma, or something else, these skills don’t just re-boot up themselves; they need to be taught in a way similar to how we would have learned them growing up.

So, what kind of traumas am I referring to when I think of the traumatic journey through life without well-developed EF skills? Initially, I’m thinking about the smaller and more subtle things like knowing when to introject your thoughts or feelings into a conversation. I didn’t know the cues or timing of social interactions when I was a kid, so I sat and listened a lot of the time. I was describing the experience of learning to jump rope with a long rope, not double dutch, but just the single rope that comes around, and you need to figure out when to jump in so you don’t get hit by the rope. It’s a timing issue, and you need foresight to see when the timing is right and start to move into the space of the rope or wait for it to come around again so you don’t get hit.

It’s similar with conversations between people. We can either talk over each other or impulsively speak because we are afraid of losing our thoughts or ramble through a disorganized mind on our way to the point we want to make. We do have a choice, even if it doesn’t seem like it – we do. We can develop our EF skills and every skill we develop gives us more choices or options in life; not to overwhelm us but rather to live outside of the prison of limitations.

When I created ADDventures In Achievement, it was not my intention to trigger traumatic memories connected with each topic or skill in the program. This is not the case for all students; however, more and more are remembering. With each group of students making the journey, there are traumatic memories arising that are connected with making decisions or managing their time or releasing outdated procrastinating moments or seeing the reality of their life situation and what is possible for them. These traumatic memories are often rooted in limiting beliefs, an outdated sense of self, as well as the skills we didn’t have and how we made it through those various experiences in life.

One of the EF skill that comes to mind right now is Inhibiting. This skill is about pausing, so we can engage our pre-frontal cortex and pro-actively think and act rather than react. Some of us are overly inhibited, others are under-inhibited and many of us are both. No matter what the condition of your EF inhibiting skill, it is a skill and can be developed and refined to serve you, rather than hurt you.

As you can hear, I am not referring to other types of trauma such as abuse, abandonment, neglect or PTSD, since the AIA-FS program is not a therapy program; its modalities include training, coaching and community support. If you are suffering from past traumas of these other types, you can heal and move on in your life with the right healing modalities and professional support for you.

Traumatic experiences can either hold us back or empower us. It’s not the experiences themselves that are responsible for the outcomes; it’s the meanings we give to our traumatic experiences. They can shape us into a Gifted Underachiever and we can continue in this way for our entire lifetime, imprisoned by our limiting beliefs and outdated identities that would have us reliving our traumatic experiences in the now, when they happened decades ago.

Or, the meanings we give our traumatic experiences can shape us into Empowered Achievers, where we use what has happened to decide what it means about us in terms of the positives and use that power to move forward and get our needs met and flourish. When traumatic experiences steal our dreams, it’s because we have decided we are damaged for life. This is a huge limiting belief because you are not damaged for life; you are a human being and you can heal; it’s an innate ability that we all have.

This is the journey if you want your life to be different; if you want transformational changes – YOU will have to change from the inside out. You will need to become, need to be the person who can have those changes you want in an ongoing way. This is how transformational change happens; you release the limitations on you being the person and having the life you are seeking, and build the foundational skills to support you in that life.

So, what’s been traumatic for you my Gifted Underachievers? I’ll share a traumatic experience to help you get in touch with yours, due to the meaning you gave it, and what needs healing for you. 3rd grade was a traumatic year for me and looking back, I can see how I made it so by the meanings I gave the experiences I had.

Event without any meaning; just facts: we moved from one school system to another. The new school system started in September, not February, and so I either needed to repeat half of 3rd grade or skip half of 3rd grade and advance into 4th grade. My parents and the school people decided I should repeat half of 3rd Grade.

Meaning I gave the event; an assumption, not a fact: my parents and the school people felt I was stupid, otherwise they would have advanced me into 4th grade.

Impact on me due to my meaning, not the event itself: I felt stupid and took that one event and used it all the way into my college years, pursuing advanced degrees as a means of proving that I was not stupid. I eventually released this meaning; it was never true – only true to me because of the meaning I gave the event in 3rd grade.

This 3rd grade event may not seem traumatic to you, just as some of your traumatic events may not seem traumatic to me. However, we all create our own realities with the meanings we give things, and we need to respect each other’s realities. Meanings are just that; a meaning or interpretation we give to something and hold it to be true when it is just our made-up meaning. If I had asked my parents and the school people if they thought I was stupid, they would have said no. I asked my mother years later about this and she told me that the decision was made because of my size and that everyone felt I would be more comfortable and fit in more easily by being with the new 3rd graders instead of the 4th graders. Their motivation was to help me adjust to the new school; not to hurt me. This is the power of meanings given without checking with others as to whether or not my meaning was true.

What hurtful meanings have you given to events in your life and kept for years? Can you see some of them now? I hope so.

Let’s move out of trauma experiences for now and into positive ones. That means wins. For those of you who have been long time listeners, you know I am big on WINS and their importance in your life. There’s another important aspect to focusing on WINS and that is you are training your mind every day to notice what is right with you, right with what you are doing and right in the world – in other words… WINS. And especially during a time in our world history when it would be easy to ignore what’s right or good or amazing – this is exactly what we need to be focusing on to keep the level of positives within us high, so it can offset the high level of negatives that we are bombarded with every day.

Having a WINS mindset will transform how you experience your life, if you let it, even during very challenging times, like now. How you experience your life and the meanings you give the events of your life contribute greatly to the quality of your life. Like I was talking about earlier, we don’t always have control over the events or experiences; however, we do have control over the meaning we give them. Remember, nothing has any meaning except the meaning you give it. So, be mindful of the meanings you give your experiences so they can empower you.

We know that what you focus on grows and that it’s important to stand guard at the doorway to your mind and not let in things that don’t serve you. So why focus on anything but WINS? That way, you will continue to attract more and more WINS into your life all leading you to the state of mind and life you want.

You are a precious child of God and the universe; and are called a “human being” not a “human doing” for good reason. You don’t have to earn your value; you were born with it. Your value comes from “who” you are; not what you do. And if you need a place to know that is true, be sure to join the Facebook group, Living Beyond ADHD, so you can be with others who will celebrate yours WINS with you and affirm that you are more than okay as you, the “human being.”

So, what’s it going to be for you today? If you’ve decided to explore the meanings you’ve given to your experiences, and even challenge them, that’s an awesome win! If you’ve decided to focus on learning a new EF skill, that’s a wonderful win! If you decided to reparent yourself with patience and compassion, that’s an amazing win! You get the point; celebrate all of them. And none of this “half- hearted celebrating”; you’ve got to mean it. Exaggerate your emotions. YES!!! WOW!!! AWESOME!!! Be sure to celebrate your WINS – big and small – because celebrating daily builds consistency and makes a faster difference in your Life.

How much time do we have? Not much. So, let’s get to it.

Many of you have taken on limiting beliefs as a result of your past traumatic experiences and what others have repeatedly said to you about you. You’ve also given meanings to experiences from your past that are hurting you currently, and have been for years. You are the meaning maker in your life, and you get to decide what something means. Remember, nothing has any meaning except the meaning you give it. Nothing.

Let’s look at 5 common traumatic experiences growing up without well-developed EF skills and how to start releasing the cumulative stress, or Emotional Distress Syndrome (EDS) I referred to in episode 098.

• You never had enough time to finish your school work or other work
• You never felt you were good enough despite your high IQ or giftedness
• You became a perfectionist so that you would avoid the criticism of others
• You break your promises to others and yourself all the time
• You feel like an imposter or fake and fear being “found out” or exposed

The first thing to understand about these 5 traumatic experiences is that they are literally instructions to your mind, programming you to believe that you will never have enough time, never be good enough, must stay a perfectionist, will always break promises, and live in a state of hypervigilance and fear of exposure. You have literally programmed your mind to give you that life. And it’s not even the life you really want! Remember, the programming of your mind isn’t personal – if you say it’s true for you, then it’s true for you – even if it’s not true for 100’s of other people.

So, let’s get you a little relief from a traumatic experience, if you’re game, with the following steps:
1. Pick a traumatic experience that you would rate as a 1 or 2 on a scale of 10 (like my 3rd grade experience). This is very important because you are learning a new skill. Jumping into a 9 or 10 is abusive to yourself when you don’t yet have the skill developed.
2. Briefly write down the facts of the experience.
3. Briefly write down the meaning that you gave those facts.
4. Now, create a little distance from the experience (perspective) and the automatic meaning you gave it, and see if you can come up with at least 6 other meanings for those same facts. Do your best to come up with 6 empowering meanings, rather than negative or disempowering.
5. “Try on” each of those 6 meanings, one at a time, and allow yourself to feel what it feels like to have that as your meaning for the experience. Note your response or feelings. Continue with each of them and do the same.
6. Were you able to get to a meaning for your traumatic experience that neutralized it as I did with my 3rd grade experience?
7. How do you feel with your empowering meaning for your experience?

If you feel more space around you, more freedom in your mind, from reframing the traumatic experience you chose for this exercise, choose another experience that is also a 1 or 2 on the scale of 10. You want to give yourself plenty of practice time to develop this skill before you move on to more charged experiences. And when you do move on, only move on to a 3 or 4; not a 10. Reframing is a powerful tool once it becomes a part of you.

I’m curious…who will you be without your traumatic experiences defining you? You’ve lived with them for so long, you might feel a loyalty to them and feel strange about the idea of releasing them or transforming them with reframing. If this is your experience, consider what it’s doing for you to keep yourself living in traumatic moments. What is the message you are sending to yourself or others about your life’s journey thus far when you keep yourself stuck in reliving traumatic experiences? That’s a deep question to sit with for a while. Take your time and really give some thought to this question of who you will be without Trauma?

I want you all to know that there is real hope for resolving your traumatic journey as well as the challenges you are experiencing with limiting beliefs, outdated identities, and underdeveloped Executive Function skills.

The widespread needless suffering of millions of adults around the world has to stop, and I am doing what I can to stop it with this generation; with us. We all need to address our limiting beliefs and underdeveloped Executive Function skills if we want to live the life that is possible for us with those changes. We have to be the person who lives the life we say we want; not struggle to live the life we say we want so we can become the person someday who has that life.

We all need to heal our traumatic experiences so that we can release ourselves from our self-imposed prisons and soar with our gifts and dreams in today’s world. If we are saddled with the weight of a lifetime of traumatic experiences, how will we ever fly freeing and live fully?

And, if we can’t plan, organize, prioritize, get started and keep going until the end, or regulate states of overwhelm or conscious focusing, we won’t be able to make good decisions and know it when we make them. The load of disempowering stuff that keeps us stuck as Gifted Underachievers is heavy and costs us dearly.

Please slow down and become a student of your own life. Understand what you need to succeed with the multi-faceted brain you have. Take action on what you learn about yourself. This is the lifework that lies ahead for you if this is your time.

You came to this lifetime with an empowering gift, and I would love it if each and every person on this planet were able to express his or her unique, empowering gifts freely, without the threat of being shamed or criticized. Let’s put an end to that stigma once and for all and live as Empowered Achievers.

A Favorite Quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

What this quote says to me is pretty simple. If it is to be, it is up to me. I am 100% responsible, 100% of the time for the outcomes in my life and that includes who I become. And this is true for each and every one of you as well.

Are you ready to accept the response-ability you have to decide who you will be rather than deferring to what you have allowed external circumstances to shape you into?

Whether you’re learning from my podcast episodes, free resources, or working with me directly, I want you to live your best life, if that’s what you want for yourself. I can’t force you to live your best life, however, I can encourage, push a bit (if that’s what you need from me) and even rally the closed community of your fellow travelers to support you as well. However, the choice remains with you. You get to choose to continue living as the Gifted Underachiever or decide it’s time to upgrade to living as the Empowered Achiever and all that awaits you in that life.

So, here’s the path today. Make it a priority to get your copy of 13 Signs Weak Executive Functioning Is Holding You Back. Next, get on the Information List for the AIA-FS program to learn how you can build your EF skills and strategies the Dr B way. Open Enrollment is coming soon, so get prepared now so you know if this is your time and your opportunity knocking. I hope it is and that we will be working together soon.

And, if you want a place to hang out with like-minded listeners to my show, you can ask to join the Living Beyond ADHD FB group. Be sure you are mindful when asking, meaning, you answer the few questions we ask, so you can be approved into the group. Otherwise, it won’t happen. And, once you are a member of the group, be sure to visit often and engage with us. Joining and never visiting doesn’t help you at all. This is about you following through. The FB group isn’t a training group, although there are great posts to learn from and a supportive community to surround yourself with and that’s worth a lot. As a member of the Living Beyond ADHD FB group, you will hear about training opportunities sooner. If you are also on the AIA-FS Information List, you will hear about training opportunities, as well. However, you do have to open and read your emails in order to know about these new opportunities I’m offering you. I promise that we won’t flood your inbox with tons of emails, however, when we do send them, they have important information in them for you, so be sure you read them if you’re seeking transformation.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share this podcast with others. I would also be grateful if you’d rate the show and write a positive or inspiring review on iTunes so I know I’m meeting your needs. That helps the ratings and more people like you will get to know about the show and be helped. That’s you making a difference in others’ lives and that means a lot to me.

Are you ready to stop your needless suffering? Have you had enough? Be sure to check out the show notes for the links and opportunities available to you. There are real solutions to the challenges you are experiencing. Time is our most precious asset, and none of us have time to waste on solutions that don’t work. I would love to help you realize a new freedom, that is…if that’s of interest to you. Thanks for listening… Until the next time… Bye for now…

Resources referred to in this episode:

• Free PDF - 13 Signs Weak Executive Functioning Is Holding You Back: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/Executive-Function

• Executive Function Information List & AIA-FS Program Information: https://www.drbarbaracohen.com/AIA

• Living Beyond ADHD Facebook Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/livingbeyondadhd

 


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