Yeah, you know me… Ok, maybe a lame joke, song reference here. (Old school like “You down with O.P.P” Don’t ask me what it means — I don’t even know. Ha! I like dancing to it.) I love it when I am going through something and all kinds of resources, or other people share and it connects altogether. Last week my friend Lisa discovered resources (one of her other blogs) about Executive Function Disorder. If you would like a quickie visual before reading on I suggest this video (3:10) ADHD and Executive Function. I had been on a trail with seeking information about it, and I understood it to some degree. I had not applied it to a specific situation for myself until I started analyzing my behavior with my new social encounter recently. Let me say first, after my social outings with our neighbors I have not had any anxiety, or social/conversation looping with them. That is huge! I enjoyed myself, and genuinely like them. Bonus! Now comes the part for me to understand the degrees of friendship.
As I read this article Executive functioning and the troubled brain this paragraph popped out.
“Executive functioning, put most simply, is the ability to plan and complete a task. It is a higher cognitive process that involves communication and organization across multiple brain sites and pathways; it is the interconnecting virtual pathway that brings all aspects of brain functioning together. Executive functioning is involved in planning complex cognitive behaviors and expressing one’s personality. It allows individuals to differentiate among conflicting thoughts and filter out unimportant information; it also helps the individual anticipate future consequences of current activities and work toward a defined goal. And, most important from the judge’s perspective, executive functioning inhibits impulses that could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes.”
When I read this, I realized how much my brain is trying to process.
However, it gets all jumbled and unable to do any of it. This most assuredly happens with unexpected or non-scripted events. My brain does not know what to filter. It cannot determine what the most important thing is and categorize. Everything is important! All of the input matters, especially anything that is odd, or indeterminable. My brain does not know how to let those things go. It is not sure how to filter my surroundings, and/or people. The whole dynamic can trigger anxiety, which causes the executive function to be even more blurred. Then it can rise into faultfinding (normally blaming myself) or protection mode to try to stop the anxiety. In some cases, depending on other factors, I am able to pull out of this and get through the event. It does not stop the brain processing the event. It only delays it until my brain has enough time to catch up. From the 5 Executive Functions described in the video above I will try to explain what is happening in my brain.
I think others may be able to relate.
- Inhibit Your Behavior: Simply stated “hold in check, or discourage from spontaneous activity.”
- Visual Imagery: Non-verbal working memory. Mental maps to help guide/direct behavior. Hindsight, Foresight, Sense of time.
- Talk to Yourself: Verbal working memory that helps with goal setting/problem solving.
- Control Our Emotions: The ability to control/moderate strong emotions.
- Plan and Problem Solve: “Mental play- the ability to manipulate information in the mind to discover novel combinations that might serve to overcome obstacles.”
All of these things are going on in the mind of any person that we are interacting with. In short-term these actions are taking place in a matter of seconds for a mind that is not hindered by multiple factors. I am only using myself as an example let me share what my brain is also processing while it is trying to use its executive functions:
Environment confusion/unfamiliar surroundings
Unknown/unwanted people in safe environments
Lack of positive scripts
Inability to forget negative experiences
Distorted self-talk consuming my mind with trying not to be/do anything wrong
Looking/waiting for an attack (On guard)
These all can contribute to multiple forms of anxieties.
Those came to my mind while going back in time replaying my first conversation with my neighbor. (I am sure there are more.) I was able to suppress all of these things to function at a “normal” level. I have learned to hide most of this, unless I have already had too much stress/anxiety/confusion going on. If I am already stretched thin I can seem very quirky/odd/and speak out of intense emotions. My neurons feel like they are a bunch of bumper cars, hitting the walls of my brain and each other, causing the inability to think, problem solve, or discern very well “on the fly.” What I have learned to do is shutdown.
Stop talking, wait, and observe.
If I am with people where I feel the need to manage their emotions or behaviors it becomes impossible for me to even have my brain focused on myself. If I am with others who are not calm, or cause me high-stress in social situations I have to focus on other people, things, distractions anything that will help me not have a meltdown or explode with emotions. (good or bad) This explains many of my shutdowns in social settings, I have to in order to survive. Hello, conversation loops explained! There are not only conversation loops, but it is a movie that is playing over and over again. Apply full on sensory to the movie, reliving the encounter. This can be for a good experience or a bad experience. My past pattern has been to mostly loop on the negative because I was trying to trace what I did wrong, or try to figure out what a person meant (confusion). Those loops would be all-consuming and take away from positive loops causing me to forget good experiences that I have had.
I need positive scripts to be repeated.
I have plenty — I am talking plenty of negatives scripts that have caused it to be very difficult to trust the good ones. My brain does not allow me to stop what I am doing to let my other functions to guide me into goal directed problem solving. I think this is why I have to write everything down, keep lists, blog! For instance, my neighbor suggesting we do something, but not giving a clear direct day or time was an impossible task for me. I was only able to come up with a day last week because I had been pondering it for about a week already. I had been scripting it for a while, and semi planning for it. If I had been surprised by it I would have gone blank and felt confused, not able to respond…again.
My visuals get jumbled when I do not have a script.
My brain does not seem to have mental maps guiding me into the next direction for social situations. I have mental images, and I seem to get distracted by all of the images filling my mind while a person is talking. My energy goes into trying to discover similarities so I can have some sort of guide to have a conversation. I need connections and similarities because those are my (positive) scripts. I am not sure what to do next in a situation most of the time. I am usually looking to the other person as a guide and I use them to tell me what to do. I mirror unless I feel completely comfortable and safe. The threats of verbal attacks are always lingering. I am constantly waiting to be told that my words/actions were wrong/hurtful/mean/ or rude. It is not the only thing that I am thinking about, but it has been a large part of my self-talk. Although, I have come a long way at stopping this self-talk, it still lingers with each new encounter.
My hindsight can come years later.
My foresight is limited and my sense of time is virtually nonexistent. I need concrete time frames otherwise — I can be filled with anxiety, leading into fears because of anticipation and the unknown. It feeds right into my lack of self-awareness. Some of these fears have been enhanced because of my inability to know myself. The only guides that I had were jaded words, actions, and my own misinterpretations to tell me who I was. I have the ability to self-reflect. I do it throughout this blog. However, I am not attached. I go over it and over it again because I forget who I am! Not entirely, I am getting better with each cycle that I am going through. There are so many things to filter through when I self-reflect that it can take a long time to process. My emotions can take years, in certain situations. Many things play into that as well, detachment would be one that has caused the most hindrance in emotional processing. I have had to detach because emotions have been too confusing, too painful, too overwhelming, too disturbing, and too whatever else you want to add here.
It is hard enough to be consumed by other people’s emotions.
To “feel” people is overwhelming and draining, to try to add feeling, and understanding to my own emotions was devastating at times. I have been working through this, and I am happy with all of my progress. I have faced many of my fears, I still have more, but I am sharing them and working through them. The ginormous awesome difference this time around is that I am gaining so many positive scripts that they are starting to drown out the negative scripts that have been ingrained in my head for all of these years. They started as a child and continued to pile on top each other year after year. It did not help that I was manipulated, and controlled by others, and could be extremely gullible at times.
I gave my trust to people who abused it.
I still had walls and did not give away all of my trust to people, but it was enough to instill fear of being hurt again. As I have been pondering all of this, it occurred to me that Executive Functioning Disorder could tie into lack of self-awareness. Having a faulty system distorts the ability to problem solve and set goals. Many times, it is hard to even reflect inward and seek out self-awareness, how do you even start problem solving things like self-discovery? (Wiki reference self-awareness page) “Moreover, a series of recent studies showed that self-awareness about cognitive processes participates in general intelligence on a par with processing efficiency functions, such as working memory, processing speed, and reasoning.” I found a basic list of self-awareness (excerpt below) here:
Why is self-awareness important?
Self-awareness is important because when we have a better understanding of ourselves, we are empowered to make changes and to build on our areas of strength as well as identify areas where we would like to make improvements. Self-awareness is often a first step to goal setting.
Examples of self-awareness:
Preferred learning styles
Aptitude for specific career fields
Natural academic ability (athletics, mathematics, English, etc.)
Personality traits (introvert, extrovert, sensitive, judgmental, etc.)
Values (ethical, with integrity, scrupulous, etc.)
All of these examples in my life have been blurred.
I received no direction, or my natural abilities were not encouraged. If my parents did not understand them, they did not exist. I was left on my own to try to discover my own religious beliefs — I was guided by none or condemned by the other. I wasn’t able to discover on my own perspective or views, I became mixed and stayed away from certain things and obsessive about others. I later adopted the views of those around me because I did not know how to process on my own to find my thoughts. Whenever I stepped out to try I was corrected, ridiculed, or rejected. My natural abilities were misunderstood because I did not do things the way others did, and they were not encouraged. I had only one person in my life who spoke words of encouragement to me about my writing until recent years. It was my sophomore literature teacher, unfortunately, her words were taken from me and distorted by all of the other people who dismissed, or ignored my writings when I tried to share.
I still struggle with writing as being part of my identity.
I understand that I am a writer because I live, breathe, dream, ponder words and write them out, but I have creeping negative thoughts about my abilities at times. I do not let them stop me – I face them head on and tell them it does not matter. Every new sentence is a step at getting better, even if I make grammatical errors. Life is about practice, not perfection. (Easy for me to say in the moment. ) This brings me to one issue that can cause my social confusion, and executive functions to go all awry when I encounter people I do not know how to keep my identity. I do not know how to stay me while interacting with others. I have gotten better with this, but what I have discovered is if we have things in common, my mind can drift into thinking we are the same. I do not hold my own identity because I have a tendency to think, “I am wrong” I can begin to adopt things about the other person without realizing it. I read this today as well “People with autism ‘have problem with self-awareness” and this popped out.
“Navigating social interactions with others requires keeping track of the relationship between oneself and others.”
I didn’t learn how to keep track of my identity I learned how to act. I have only become aware of my own identity in the last year. This is helping me to be more comfortable at being myself with others, still I have the jumbled words bashing with each other in my head. (Unless I feel safe.) I understand that everyone is doing some form of acting when in social dynamics. I am learning this stuff do not get me wrong. I have come a long way in my self-discovery, but I struggle with it. I think there are many components that Executive Function Disorder can play a role in with the issue of self-discovery. I am still pondering all of that. The Autism Discussion Page has helped me in so many ways and continues to do so. I gained so much from reading about Executive Functioning Skills. Also, The social and emotional growth through the 30’s and 40’s really helped me.
I was able to come to terms with my feelings about going through my teenage years at the age of 39!
I struggle with that so much because I am expected to understand certain things that I just don’t if it is not explained properly. The frustrations of others can make me feel so foolish for not understanding. I know that it shouldn’t, but it does. I will stop there and work on my meltdown post it will be addressing some cognitive issues. I think it is important to note that this list provided about Compensating for Cognitive Deficits can give great clarity to some of the reasons for shutdowns/meltdowns. The more I read the more I am understanding/accepting myself and feeling such relief that I can help guide and direct my children. Such a time as this to live in the days of information! Woot!
I linked to the full Google documents for EFS on the image below.
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