There are things we cannot change about ourselves and the people we love. We must accept these things, love through these things, surrender control of these things, and we must develop healthy strategies to cope with these things.
For years I thought my aversion to criticism and rejection was a character flaw that I could (or should be able to) control. I’ve since learned that it is not; rather, it is a result of the wiring in my brain. According to William Dodson:
Nearly everyone with attention deficit disorder answers an emphatic yes to the question: “Have you always been more sensitive than others to rejection, teasing, criticism, or your own perception that you have failed or fallen short?” This is the definition of a condition called rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD), which many individuals with ADHD / ADD experience.“Why ADHD Makes You Feel. So. Much.”
There is nothing I can do to change the function (or dysfunction) of the neurotransmitters in my brain. Nevertheless, with this knowledge, I can offer grace to myself. With this knowledge, I can foresee inevitable consequences of my emotional dysregulation, and I can develop strategies and implement procedures to perform when I perceive or intuit criticism and rejection.
Having lived in Southeastern Lousisana, I can easily liken the experience to that of hurricane readiness. Residents develop evacuation plans in the event of natural disaster. No one can prevent the storm, change its direction, or even predict, with certainty, its ultimate path. None can know with certainty the outcome of a hurricane’s journey across land. However, anyone can take precautions to mitigate the consequences of the storm on life and property. You can evacuate. You can board up windows, secure loose objects, remove valuables from your home in advance of the threat. You still may come home to find your property flooded or your roof torn apart, but the damage would be greater, had you done nothing to prepare.
I believe this is the approach that can be taken on behalf of those of us in the world with neurological disadvantages.
My little boy (at age 7) is terrified of being teased by classmates. I cannot stop him from worrying about peer acceptance. I can’t prevent little jackasses from affirming his fear of rejection because little jackasses are going to act like donkeys from time to time. I must focus, instead, on preparing my son with strategies he can implement when faced with criticism and rejection. Instead of shaming my son for emotional responses over which he has little control, I can equip him with tools to compensate when his emotions overwhelm.
Truthfully, I think, if we all took this approach with friends, family, loved ones, we would see much greater results. Coming from an evangelical Christian background, I was poisoned with the notion that I could control myself–that it was my duty to control others. I reject that notion, now. I think the fullness of love can only be delivered through total acceptance, and the most loving assistance can only be delivered via proactive preparation for that which we know is inevitable. If you cannot prevent it, instead, prepare for it. Make this your mantra. I have made it mine.
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