Monday, April 11, 2011

Change Your Thoughts

People with ADHD tend to ruminate. Something unpleasant happens and they focus on it, imagining the worst. These negative thought can take over our minds, keeping us awake at night and preventing us from getting on with our lives. Martin Seligman has a process for Disputing Negative Thoughts, and it's as easy as A B C D E. I'd like to share it with you. The steps are:

A - Adversity
B - Beliefs
C - Consequences
D - Disputing
E- Energizing

Do this exercise with a pen and paper, and make detailed notes for each step. Let's use a job application as an example.

A - Write down a recent Adversity that has occurred in your life, causing to ruminate. Be objective when you describe it. Resist the urge to become emotional about it.
For example - I've just heard that I didn't get a job I recently applied for. I managed to get through two rounds of interviews, but they have just informed me that the job has been awarded to someone with more experience in this particular field.

B - Record your beliefs about this situation. What are you saying to yourself in connection with the Adversity.
For example - I'll never get a decent job. Nobody wants to employ me. I must have said something stupid in the interview. I guess I just don't have what it takes.

C- Now record the consequences of your beliefs about this Adversity. Be specific, listing everything you said and did. Be aware of the emotions you are feeling and list them as well.
For example - Well I felt really low when I thought about it. I decided that there was no point applying for jobs, so I haven't been putting my resume in for other positions. I just keep looking through the available jobs and convincing myself that I won't get them.

D - Ok, now it's time to dispute those beliefs. Challenge yourself to find one truth to prove your beliefs wrong. Write it down
For example - Actually, I did get through the first round of interviews, so I must have had some qualities they need. In fact, I received some very positive feedback from their HR department. Also, the person they employed has been working in this field for 5 years, as opposed to my 2 years. Another take on this could be that it wasn't the job for me. Which means the job for me is still out there.
E- Now that you have disputed your negative beliefs, what has happened to your energy? How else could you approach this situation and turn it into a positive experience? List your new thoughts.
For example - Well I feel more hopeful now. My energy has lifted and I feel capable of getting a good job that is suited to my strengths. I reckon I can spend the afternoon applying for more jobs.

Try the ABCDE model for yourself. Remember that your thoughts are not necessarily truths. Dispute them. Turn them around.
As Mike Dooley says in his inspiring Notes from the Universe:
Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.


  1. You know Michelle, one of the problems with ADD "sticky attention" is that one does not necessarily ruminate about negative things.

    IE I may lock my attention on learning a new piece of music to learn to play and then find that it is still replaying in my head at 4am if I happen to wake up. There's nothing especially negative about it but it can be very inconvenient- especially if it results in sleep deprivation- which does not help overall functionality.

    I rather suspect this habit of locking onto anything that is in any way compelling is a deeper aspect of the ADD problem than the ability to lock onto negativity.

    I have my own solutions to this aspect of the problem but would be interested to hear your ideas.

  2. Hi Andrew
    I agree totally that this tendency occurs in situations other than negative thoughts.Somtimes the ADHD 'hyperfocus' can result in high levels of productivity. However, sometimes even that can be counterproductive, which is certainly the case with your music composition. Have you tried doing a guided meditation at night as you're going to sleep in order to shift your attention to something else? Or, alternatively, do some reading or listen to an audiobook - it might help you to transition your brain from the highly stimulating activity of composing to music to the less appealing activity of sleep.Michele