And this is where the experience of working with an
adhd population has been so instructive in my thinking. Increasingly, my fundamental description of the experience of being a person with adhd is in terms of being relatively more open and undefended vis a vis one’s environment (please see my previous post on The No of ADHD). The result of that undefendeness (again a state of absence) is that those of us with adhd experience a much greater degree of noise in our environments. As I wrote earlier, that noise can be actual auditory noisiness, but it can also be emotional/relational noisiness—the experience of not being able to distinguish other people’s desires and emotional states from your own—the noisiness of perceived disorder, spatial noisiness, and even the noisiness of our own bodies and pasts, i.e. our memories. Taken in total, this produces in people with adhd a discordant symphony of noise. That is what it means to live as a person with adhd. It is not that people with adhd are fundamentally inattentive and or hyperactive. Those are simply the downstream behavioural effects. They are the effects of living in that discordant symphony of noise, day after day, and year after year.
I make this comparison cautiously, but I think you can see the relationship of this technique of torture to the experience of being a person with
adhd: the experience of being unable to turn the volume down on your environment. Notice what Ahmed says here: “you lose the plot… because of all the music.” What’s the plot? My reading of his use of “the plot” is something like the narrative of his life or sense of self. If the only thing that you hear on a loop is the theme song to the children’s show “Barney” or “Fuck your God” by Deicide—both compositions that were used for the purpose of torture in Guantanamo Bay—you might forget the story of your life. You might even forget that you are a person. That’s what it might feel like to “go mad.”
Is “madness” an outcome of
adhd? Generally it is not. But for certain, there are many difficult outcomes that are regularly associated with adhd. The technical term for these outcomes is “comorbidities.” I generally don’t like the use of “comorbidity,” because the term suggests that they are phenomena “that present at the same time” (link). The reason I mostly reject comorbidity as a descriptor is for the following: it is my hypothesis that these phenomena do not present at the same time but, rather, flow from others. For instance, a list of outcomes that are listed as comorbidities but I think are actually consequences of adhd are the following: depression, dysthymia, panic disorder, PTSD, sleep disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Anxiety is a different type of phenomenon that I will discuss in full in a later post.
The experience of people with
adhd speaks so directly to the discussion of confidence, because it brings to the fore the question of whether the experience of a feeling of confidence is a positive or a negative attribute. It further speaks to the question of whether the characteristics regularly attributed to people with adhd,—e.g. hyperactivity, restlessness, inattention, and forgetfulness to name a few—are also positive or negative attributes. It is important to reiterate that positive and negative do not have any relationship to judgment, i.e. goodness and badness. Positive here simply means present and negative absent.
Let me conclude Part I here by restating my hypothesis: confidence is the absence of doubt. It is the inability to see the ways in which things can go wrong. Through a certain lens, confidence can be seen as a lack of imagination. The corollary of that hypothesis is that doubt precedes confidence. Doubt is the starting place. Doubt is the place in which we fundamentally dwell. Confidence is the ability—not a conscious ability—to inhibit the noise of doubt.
In the posts that follow, I will return to the way in which confidence can be an intervention through a discussion of a Counsellor’s relationship to confidence and doubt and knowing and not knowing.