I had the opportunity to speak most honestly with a precious 8 year old while traveling the metro system in a large city recently. She told me her name was Gabby, and said she’d been given the perfect name for her because she liked to talk so much! She was traveling with her dad and he warned me that “once Gabby gets started talking she doesn’t stop.” That was ok with me. We had a twenty-five minute commute and I was all ears.
I mentioned something about how lucky she was to have such a good life and she quickly dissented, saying, “not really.” I was a little shocked at her quick rebuttal, and asked her, “so your life is not a good one?” to which she shook her head w/ a look of sadness and said, “No, because I am ADHD.” — As if that explained everything.
So I asked, “is that a bad thing — to be ADHD?” Gabby nodded. I said, “Why? What about being ADHD is bad?” She then explained, “because it means I can’t focus and it means that I lose my temper easy and that I can’t control myself.”
I stated, matter-of-factly, “Oh those are just some of the downsides of being ADHD … what about the good things that come from being ADHD?
Gabby looked totally suprised, prompting me to ask, “Did you not know that there are some really great gifts that come with being ADHD?!”
She shook her head dramatically and asked, “what good things?”
I preceded to click off the following benefits: “ADHD means you are very smart and that your brain works really fast. That’s why it is so easy for you to get bored — because you have so many ideas coming into your mind so fast that you can’t even remember them all at the same time!” Gabby nodded her head in complete assent, and I continued:
“Being ADHD also means that you have a lot of energy and are always ready to go and do.” It means that you are very creative, and that you probably come up with new ideas all the time. It means you have natural abilities as a leader and that you don’t mind trying new and different things. These are the good things about being ADHD — are they true about you?”
Gabby nodded her head thoughtfully. Clearly she was interested, but not totally convinced. Obviously there had been minimal emphasis on the gifts of having ADHD — as a matter of fact, it did not appear that anyone had even mentioned to her that there could be anything good about being ADHD at all! As a result Gabby appeared to be carrying a largely negative impression (or story) of herself as being defective as a result of having Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder. As she sees and describes herself, she is simply a problem.
Her plaintive response was this: “But I can’t control myself when I get mad.”
I paused a moment to consider her plainly spoken, self-fulfilling and life-limiting prophecy. My heart reached out to this beautiful child whose path mine had no doubt purposefully crossed. I knew that I had been given a precious few moments to introduce her to another option or possibility of seeing herself.
And so I said; Oh I know what you mean, I, too, have had trouble at times controlling my own temper. That is until I discovered the secret. Do you want to know what that secret is?”
Gabby nodded hard, her shiny brown hair bouncing up & down, her dark eyes, big as saucers. “It’s simply knowing this: anger is caused by what we are thinking. Did you know that?” She shook her head no.
“Well, it’s true. I noticed that whenever I was mad, I was always thinking unhappy thoughts and that the thing that could make the anger go away faster than anything, was choosing to think happier thoughts.”
Gabby said, “You mean like thinking about the things I like, and places I like to go and my friends and stuff like that?”
“Yes, thoughts just like that and remembering to think about the things you are thankful for!”
“I found out that it’s hard to stay mad when you are thinking happy thoughts! Do you think you can do that the next time you start feeling mad? All you have to do it just notice the unhappy thoughts that are making you mad … and choose happier ones instead.”
We parted company about then … the last thing I heard Gabby say as she & her dad hurried off at their stop, was “I can choose to think happy thoughts…”
Of course, we do not know for sure that Gabby will remember to apply her newfound wisdom for peace — but you can choose to apply this seemingly simple and totally revolutionary idea of choosing to be happy no matter what your challenges may be. Look for the gifts inherent in your life challenges and focus on those instead of seeing only the negatives.
Blessings to all who, like Gabby, are discovering ways to affirm life challenges. May you too experience the peace that comes from the practice of choosing happier thoughts!