There’s been a big debate among the neurodivergent community, especiallly around ADHD, about whether or not neurodivergence is a superpower.
A lot of coaches spread toxic positivity saying that ADHD is a superpower because we think faster, hyper focus and have more creativity. While these things may be highly correlated with ADHD, not everyone with ADHD has these traits, and even when they do they often can’t choose to direct their energy in a productive way.
It also ignores the very real executive dysfunctions that often accompany various neurodivergencies. Even in an ideal world without capitalism, I would still have a tendency to ignore my body forget to eat!
The thing about superpowers though is that most superpower origin stories involve powers that are suppressed or out of control, and they are only an asset if the hero gets the support, and even sometimes physical tools, to help channel their energy in a positive direction. Having those supports and tools comes with a certain degree of privilege that not everyone has access to. So often we try to push ourselves to “be better” through sheer force of will.
Self control is a limited resource, so if we focus entirely on forcing ourselves to do something or be a certain way, it becomes depleted and we often burn out. By focusing on self-regulation instead, we can help put the supports in place that we need to make things easier for ourselves.
This can be especially challenging for folks who are twice exceptional, or gifted and additionally neurodivergent, because they have some areas of such extreme strength and skill, they feel like a failure when they can’t do the more “basic” things.
Identifying our strengths and learning how to channel them can help us to work WITH our brains instead of against them. That doesn’t mean our challenges magically go away, but as we build our tool box we can hopefully help ease them a bit so we can celebrate what we are good at and enjoy!
Intensity and Neurodivergence
One of the things that helped me to connect with my own strengths was learning about the concept of overexcitability, which is an intensity in how we perceive and respond to the world. Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski defined 5 areas of heightened excitability, which include intellectual, imaginative, emotional, sensory and physical (or psychomotor).
I first heard the term overexcitability when looking at behavior challenges with my gifted kid. It was shared in many gifted education and parenting circles as a common trait with giftedness, but not all gifted people demonstrate heightened excitability, and it is not a unique trait to giftedness.
It was adopted by the gifted community due to Dabrowski’s associating heightened excitability with high developmental potential. He also believed that what he called “neuroses,” which we might call neurodivergence, anxiety, existential depression etc., can be positive if they move us towards our higher selves.
According to Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration, before you can develop as a person, you must first break down your existing internal structure. Basically, you must fall apart before you can come back together into a stronger whole.
Part of this process involves breaking down the coping skills we’ve developed over the years to navigate in a world built on neuronormative standards.
In my Ignite Your Power Series, I walk through some strategies to help use your intensity in a positive way, and release old patterns that may no longer serve you, using the STAR process (Stop, Think, Act, Request).
Stop – Build up your self regulation toolkit so that you can respond to new challenges rather than react.
Think – Clarify your priorities to better meet your own needs, and examine coping skills that may no longer serve you.
Act – Find strategies and routines that work for you to move forward on your goals.
Request – Communicate your needs effectively to get the support you desire.
You can find my first book on Harnessing the Power of Your Intensity free here!