June 2005 - Volume II - Issue VI

ADHD - "Our United States Heritage"

Thom Hartmann wrote a book on ADHD called “ADD – A Different Perspective” which is a positive look at ADHD from a historical perspective of “hunter” versus “farmer”. The basic premise being that at one point all of the humans in the world lived in “hunter” societies. Somewhat like Nomads who went where the game was in order to eat and survive. This required a very keen sense of knowing all that was occurring in our outside surroundings in order to survive. This is often what people with ADHD report as difficulty in filtering out background noise and distractions when trying to focus. At any rate as “hunters” we had to be able to hear twigs breaking nearby as we snuck up on our prey lest we become prey for someone else. This keen sense of being constantly aware of our surroundings was highly developed and served us well. But, as society began to become more stable and domestication of animals and farming began our need for such highly attentive skills diminished. Society moved to farms and small towns and cities. There were still “hunters” out there but their numbers began to shrink. The “farmers” and city dwellers became more abundant.

Many of these “hunters” who tried to adapt to the “farmer” or city dweller had difficulties in adapting to the slower pace and need for patience. A “farmer” plants his crops or raises his livestock from birth and then has to nurture them and wait for his reward. These “hunters” had difficulty with wanting to stay in one place all the time and patience was not a virtue to them but rather a burden. As more humans adapted to living on farms and in towns the hunters among them drew more frustrated with their inability to adapt. This often resulted in them leaving to seek adventure elsewhere or difficulties with their family and friends for not “settling down”. Many were seen as the “black sheep” of the family and moved away. The constant criticism from family and friends was often too difficult for them so they chose alternative lifestyles.

When the New World was discovered, with its new and exciting frontiers it offered hope to many of these “hunters” trying to live in the increasingly “farmers” world. Although not all immigrants to the United States were “hunters”, you can be sure that their representation on the many ships that brought people here was probably highly overrepresented. It takes a certain personality to risk all and get on a boat and cross the dangerous seas for a new opportunity. Many people who were oppressed where they currently lived were willing to make the sacrifice and many “hunters” were excited about the opportunity with probably little thought given to the dangers and risk.

As has been determined ADHD is an inherited trait. Mr. Hartmann believes that this tendency to have difficulty in adapting to the farmer mentality is passed on. So we had an abundance of “hunters” immigrating to the United States. They were attracted to other like minded people like birds of a feather flocking together. Males were especially attracted to females who exhibited “hunter” like traits. This often resulted in impulsive sexual liaisons resulting in children much more likely to have this “hunter” type genetic makeup. This made for an exciting and creative country producing some of the best artist, musicians, inventors, entrepreneurs, explorers and frontiersmen. Some of the people who had been ridiculed by family and friends back in their home countries would develop into the most successful people in the New World. Others would struggle with similar problems to what they left behind and often resorted to substance abuse, fighting and law breaking behavior as ways of “self medicating”. So we had then, like we do to this day different levels of success among those with ADHD traits.

I believe that almost all people with ADHD are also given a gift in some area such as art, music, computers, creativity, people skills etc. So we have these gifts, we also may view some of them as white elephants that we would like to pass on to someone else. Others we do not want to lose. The result is what has made the good old USA the great place it is to live and the hot bed of progress, technology and innovation.

I have heard an analogy which is not meant to be racist but gives this theory some potential for credibility. If you think of the two ethnic groups in the USA who “stereotypically” are over represented in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse they are Native Americans and African Americans. If you think back you realize that both of these groups are only a few generations removed from their strictly “hunter” heritages. Black Americans being brought over here from Africa and forced to work in “farming” areas. Native Americans being forced on to Indian Reservations and its accompanying “farming” type lifestyle. If you are a “hunter” being forced to become a “farmer” can be a very challenging and frustrating event.

Today we have our school classrooms of 22 kids, 20 of them are “farmers” sitting with their hands folded and listening attentively. The other 2 “hunters” being distracted by the bird landing on the window ledge, the pencil dropping on the floor our other insignificant outside stimuli they seem unable to block out.

So as we celebrate our Independence Day coming up we can be thankful for the gift of living here in the United States. We may have our stresses and anxiety areas but we also have some blessings we need to keep in mind. The melting pot of people and personalities has truly resulted in the greatest place in the world to live.

Thanks and talk to you next month.

Patrick Hurley

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Author's Bio: 

17 years in Law Enforcement, 5 years as Adult Probation officer, 2 years as ADHD life skills coach