My Cat Has ADHD : The Hunter vs. Farmer Hypothesis

I was sitting in a comfy chair watching my cat as she happily purred, kneaded and clawed my bathrobe.  Divinely relaxed as she was, every noise, movement or change in lighting, caused an immediate shift in her attention.  Though she continued to purr, her focus was elsewhere for a moment.  Once the interruption ceased or was deemed non threatening, uninteresting even, her focus returned to my bathrobe which she kneaded with unbridled passion.

As I continued to observe her behavior a thought occurred to me.  My cat has ADHD.  Which is of course completely ridiculous.  She’s a perfectly normal and healthy cat, doing exactly what it is that cats do.  In fact, she does “what cats do” exceedingly well.  She hunts everything in sight.  I pity the poor field mouse, fly, or other small creature that wanders into our home.  Their death knell is already ringing and they don’t even know it, yet.

I considered the correlation between us as hunters and ADHD, again.  Originally proposed by Thom Hartmann, the hunter vs. farmer hypothesis, basically states that ADHD is an adaptive behavior from the time when we, as a species, were hunter gatherers.  During which time the “symptoms” of ADHD, spatial thought, adaptability, distractibility, hyperfocus and impulsiveness, would have been highly valued.  Whereas, in an agricultural setting, not so much.  Linear thought, memorization, organization, timing and repetitive tasks are traits valued on a farm.

So, is what we’re looking at a disorder?  A deficiency? A deficit?  I don’t think so.  Unless, of course, my cat has the same issues.  What we’re looking at is an evolutionary difference in people.  One group with a brain more skilled in the processes aligned with farming and one with a brain more closely aligned with hunting.  Since the hunters are not diseased, should they be medicated in order to fit in with a society currently favoring the farming mentality?  Perhaps I should drug my cat, so she acts like less of a cat.

Why would anyone consider medicating a child because they think differently?  Laziness.  In our current educational system, it’s easier to plant a drugged hunter in a chair and ask them to sit still and be quiet than it is to deal with their persistent questions, movements, and interruptions.  Discussions, arguments even, used to be a valid part of the classical education process.  Perhaps it’s time for a reintroduction of the Socratic method.

“You got a person who has a psychiatric illness in a public school that requires medication from a multibillion-dollar industry, but when you put him into an alternative school environment, not only does he not require the medication, but the disease seems to vanish and he does very well. The question is, then, where is the disease? And I have firmly, solidly come to the conclusion that the disease is in our schools. It’s not in our kids.”

Interesting, huh?  One day we’re going to look back at this period in time with disdain, and shake our heads at the ignorance of it all.  Like we do now when we look back at doctors prescribing overweight children amphetamines in the 60’s and 70’s.  …and for what?  Expediency.  We are numbing and shaming the genius out of our children in this country, my beloved United States of America, where free thought and individuality were once admired.  Now we are encouraged to walk lock step with the perceived “norm”.  It’s shameful really.

I won’t be medicating my cat any time soon.  Fierce and wild.  Strong and flexible.  Highly adaptive to change and extremely adept at survival.  She wouldn’t do well in a dog show, as she’s not very obedient.  I love her as she is.  My little hunter.

 

 

S. Conde

 

 

 

 

 

Drugging Einstein

What if ADD and dyslexia are not disabilities?  What if they are actually abilities and only labeled as such because the “normal” (neuro-typical) brain is in greater abundance and simply does not understand the spatial nature of a dyslexic mind nor speed of a brain with ADD?

ADD’ers and dyslexics are non linear, intuitive learners who process information a thousand (some say thousands) of times faster than a neuro-typical person, because they think in images rather than words.  (One of the biggest difficulties with dyslexia where reading is concerned is that they have trouble processing words that do not relate to an image.  Is, or, the, and, but, if…are often substituted for each other as they have no picture associated with them.) People with ADD and dyslexia are both right brained thinkers who can easily establish complex connections and patterns without much conscious effort at all. Despite popular belief, people with ADD are actually able to focus intensely on a subject for great lengths of time, IF they find the subject compelling enough to shut out the distractions they are acutely aware of, all around them.

ADD and dyslexia are not diseases, they are differences in the way the brain processes information and the parts of the brain used to process information.  People with ADD and dyslexia are not sick, their brains just work differently. A psychiatrist explained it to me this way.  The ADD brain is actually older, from an evolutionary standpoint, than the neuro-typical brain.  When we were hunter gatherers the ADD brain was necessary for survival, noticing everything at once, hyper alert, able to zero in on and focus on a singular detail in the environment.  When we moved as a species from hunting to agriculture, the executive functions of the brain began to evolve.  Executive functions deal with planning, verbal reasoning, inhibition, etc. The linear thinking mind became a distinct advantage in planning crop planting times and rotations for example.

It seems to me, the neuro-typical brain is in greater abundance, because it was genetically beneficial…at the time.  But, what about now?  Is evolution beginning to favor the older right thinking brain?

Computers “learn” the same way people with ADD and dyslexia learn, intuitively.  In addition, dyslexics are able to construct three dimensional images in their heads.  These abilities make both the ADD’er and the dyslexic uncommonly good with computers.  As computers and visual communication become more and more relevant in our fast paced world, will dyslexics and people with ADD have a leg up?

Further, is the ADD / dyslexic mind closer to knowing itself?  Free of inhibition, to a greater degree than the neuro-typical mind, and the nay saying rationale of executive function, is the right thinking brain more open to greater truths about itself and the world at large?

I was reading a friend’s blog the other day and stumbled across this quote by Jung relating to dreams:

JUNG – CW 16 para 351: “The evolutionary stratification of the psyche is more clearly discernible in the dream than in the conscious mind. In the dream the psyche speaks in images, and gives expression to instincts that derive from the primitive levels of nature. Therefore, through the assimilation of unconscious contents, the momentary life of consciousness can once more be brought into harmony with the law of nature…and the person can be led back to the natural law of his own being”

According to Jung, the person with ADD speaks the same language as the human psyche.  Wouldn’t it be easier to “be led back to the natural law” if we understood the language in which the law was written?

We are forever told to “live in the now” in order to be happy.  “Now” is the default home of the ADD / dyslexic mind.  Past and future are rather abstract concepts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am married to a man who can close his eyes and picture a room in three dimensions, then spin it around in his mind’s eye and inspect it from different angles.  I have given birth to a child who argued with his sixth grade teacher that the cardinal directions of Earth are meaningless in outer space, (for which he was punished and belittled in front of his classmates).  Our two other children are like me, with higher verbal function, but disorganized and with a propensity for tuning out the would around us, and becoming lost in our own thoughts. All of us in this house are drawn to the arts, and all of us have ADD and dyslexia, that is are right brained thinkers, to a greater or lesser extent.  Two of us were labeled “gifted”, one of us slipped through the cracks completely, and the other two were labeled “learning disabled”.  Do we sound learning disabled to you?

The educational system has failed us.  All of us really, right brainers and neuro-typicals alike.  It is particularly difficult though, for those who simply can not obey the commands of sit down and shut up.  Is this the best way to teach our children anyway, or is an interactive learning experience better for them?

I’d like to share with you a list of people known to have ADD and or dyslexia.  What would the world be like had we medicated them in an effort to make them the same as everyone else?  What if we had drugged them so that they might focus on what society deemed important?  What if they had not been allowed to look inside their own magnificent heads and explore what interested them?

Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winston Churchill, Edgar Allen Poe, John F. Kennedy, Vincent Van Gogh, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Benjamin Franklin, Malcolm Forbes, Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Turner, Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo Da Vinci, Stephen Hawking, Leo Tolstoy, and Louis Pasteur to name but a few.  Do they strike you as learning disabled?  Abnormal…in a negative sense?

I am left thinking of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron”:

“I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.  Good as anybody else, said George.  Who knows better’n I do what normal is? said Hazel.”

Normal, abnormal, able, disabled?  You tell me.

S. Conde