Stuckness and movement, Part II: movement begets movement

One of the little aphorisms I regularly offer to clients is the following: movement begets movement. Problems of movement and stuckness are problems that all client populations face, but it has been my experience that they are particularly common in the population of people with adhd. It is endlessly and bitterly ironic to me that a population of people with the diagnostic descriptor “hyperactive” should so regularly experience the foundational problem of stuckness. If you’ve read any of my past posts, you’ll know that I find the problem not in the population itself but in those who developed the naming conventions that describe the condition: Kill the meaning, keep the name.

defeat

Working with a new client, I was reminded of my little aphorism recently because I saw it in living action. When I first met them, as is the case with many clients, there was stuckness and despair. Stuckness was evident in their cognitive, emotional, and bodily expression. And for those of us who have experienced this sort of stuckness and despair, this is familiar: everything slows down. We become less expressive in our speech and facial expressions. We become less creative and make fewer connections between things. And we tend to move our bodies around the world less. But with the application of a little movement, more movement became possible. And when I met with them most recently, I noticed a wholesale change: more flexibility, more spontaneity, more creativity of thought and expression, greater emotional range, and more resiliency.

For clarity, nothing in their situation has changed. Their material conditions are the same. They are still confronted by the difficulties they came to counselling to solve, and those difficulties are complex and difficult. But when a problem is named and described, it can be faced. The more amorphous a problem is—nameless, shapeless, formless—the more difficult it is to face and solve. In this instance, we have worked together to name the problem, prioritized some things ahead of others, and that has produced movement. They were stuck. Now they’re moving. Movement doesn’t solve the problem: it makes the problem solvable.

The story below was sent to me some time ago by a client. It is a beautiful telling of my aphorism, that movement begets movement. It is the story of a race, climbing to the top of an obstacle, how they became stuck, and what ensued.

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climb

Imagine being up high, on top of a structure. You climbed there, not because you love heights, but because you want to be part of something, anything that gives you a sense of accomplishment. It seemed like a good idea. I mean, if other people can climb up there and move on to the next obstacle, you can too. The other ones were a piece of cake, even though your friends struggled. The climb was easy and you didn’t think about what would happen when you’re at the top. But now that you’re up there, you suddenly realize you made a mistake, and you want to get back down. You want to scream for help, but your screams are drowned out by everyone cheering you on. You’re pounding-hearttoo far up for them to see your panic, to hear how loud your heart is pounding. You want to close your eyes and hope that it all disappears and pretend this isn’t happening. They don’t understand why you’re not smiling. You’re at the top, way up above the trees and you can’t even enjoy the view because you’re too busy freaking out, asking yourself how could have been so stupid to think you could do any of it.

Imagine being up there and people cheering you on, and now they’re waiting for you to come down.

“Just climb back down!”

“Just swing your leg over!”

“Don’t be scared! Open your eyes!’

“Look at everyone else getting over! Just do what they do!”

“Get down already or we’ll finish last!’

Their encouragement quickly turns to confusion, frustration, and some even anger. They don’t understand why you’re frozen, why you can’t “just swing your leg over.” They don’t understand your panic, nausea, dizziness, and the swarm of bees in your head. You’re supposed to be having fun. You’re supposed to be smiling, show pride, excitement. You chose to be there. You’re the one who climbed up there. You’re letting everyone down. I bet they’re all regretting inviting you to be part of their team and you’re sure everyone will be angry and disappointed and won’t ever want to include you again.helping-hands

You also never ask for help because let’s face it, no matter how much you want and need the help, you couldn’t imagine asking for it because you wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone. Risk something happening to them while helping you. You wouldn’t be able to absorb that guilt. So forget asking anyone to come to your rescue. You’d rather be stuck up there at the top terrified, than risk burdening anyone.

While all this turmoil is going on in your head and you’re physically, emotionally and mentally at your limits, only imagine the worst scenarios and you’re too focused on, how much of a f*ck up you are at this point, something else happens. Something you never imagined would happen, or could happen.

It was subtle at first, but you see someone climbing up and moving your leg over. You didn’t ask them to. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. They move your leg over, and it takes you a moment to realize that you’re not frozen anymore.

You realize you can slowly make your way back down. Your heart is still pounding, and you’re unsure, but you can start moving your body and you make your way down. You don’t know what’s waiting for you at the bottom. You’re holding on to that rope, and for the first time since starting this obstacle, you take notice of the texture of the rope and even the fact that there have been instructions where to place your hands and feet. You even notice simple things like the wind blowing, and you fill your lungs with some much-needed deep breaths. You start to take in more of your surroundings and continue your descent.

Suddenly, you find solid ground. It feels strange at first. You’re taking a moment to stand there, almost waiting to trust the new feel of that ground beneath your feet. It’s almost like when you step off an escalator and the ground is still moving, so you’re waiting for everything to slow down. Take it all in. It’s almost overwhelming at how much you’re suddenly aware of. There may be new emotions showing up like pride and dare you feel, excitement. You may even question it all because it’s so alien to you.

There might even be embarrassment to finally be standing and wonder what everyone must be thinking of you and why you’ve made such such a big deal of it.

But you are starting to understand why and believe me, even those who matter will begin to understand why. The next steps are up to you.

You decide what happens next. You decide what you want to tell you group about your experience up there and how you want to approach the next obstacle.

empower

That stranger saw you and made it possible for you to get moving. Whatever the speed is not important. What’s important now is that you CAN.