Pooky Ponders: Can striving to be authentic about our lived experience of ADHD risk harm? | Anthony McCann

Today I’m in conversation with Anthony McCann – his main work is as a specialist ADHD Coach and  Trainer for ADHD awareness. He also works internationally as a public speaker. He was diagnosed with Adult ADHD at the age of 44 and believes passionately that a deeper understanding of how the ADHD brain-body works can lead us to helpfully transform our personal and professional lives. Anthony worked across the social sciences and humanities as a university lecturer and researcher for 20 years, teaching in a number of different disciplines along the way. 

In today’s episode we explored can striving to be authentic about a lived experience of ADHD risk harm… but we did a lot of exploration of what ADHD is and isn’t first. Anthony was fascinating to talk to and I could have gone in any one of a hundred directions with his ideas; I hope you enjoy our chat! 

Listen here:

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Further resources:

Understand the Biological Underpinnings of Autism and ADHD – on demand course

Spot and Support ADHD – on demand course

Show transcript:

Please note that the transcript is auto generated

Pooky Knightsmith: Welcome to on this, the podcast where I explore big questions with brilliant people. I’m Dr. Boogie nights Smith. And I’m your host today. I’m in conversation with Anthony McCann. His main work is as a specialist, ADHD, coach and trainer for ADHD awareness. He also works internationally as a public speaker.

He was diagnosed with adult ADHD at the age of 44 and believes passionately that a deeper understanding of how the ADHD brain body works can lead us to helpfully transform our personal and our professional lives. In today’s episode, we explored can striving to be authentic about a lived experience of ADHD risk harm, but we did a lot of exploration of what ADHD is and isn’t first, Anthony was fascinating to talk to, and I could have gone in at any one of a hundred directions with his ideas.

I hope you enjoy our chat.

Can we start by, uh, could you introduce yourself? So I sometimes introduce people, but I always think the introductions are more interesting when they come from you, because I want to know what you care about you. 

Anthony McCann: What I care about me, well, introductions were always a difficult thing for me, because what I care about me is, is I get myself into trouble because I don’t like the labels.

I don’t like the hats. You know, that, that we’re expected to wear one hat because it doesn’t confuse people. So the one hat that I wear to not confuse people is ADHD coach. So that’s what I do on a day to day basis. So I work with clients, mainly adults or parents of children, uh, who like myself have had difficulties become because of the kind of brain that we have.

And, uh, I also research that as well. So I worked as an academic for about 20 years in lots of different disciplines. And now I apply that understanding and that knowledge and that kind of method and investigatory habit into thinking about ADHD and trying to make sense of ADHD from the inside out, uh, because one of the things that frustrates me greatly and in a lot of these different mental health conversations is how much.

We are made sense of by other people who don’t actually have an experiential understanding of what we are going through. Um, so that’s very, very important. Um, yeah, there’s 

Pooky Knightsmith: a lot in there. Okay. So can you talk to me a little bit about ADHD and why that’s kind of, you know, a big, important part of what you’re doing both professionally and personally?

Anthony McCann: Well, as you, as you know yourself, you know, when you have a particular kind of brain, it, it, it is your life. It’s your experience is every part of you. So one of the things that has fascinated me about thinking about this conversation about ADHD, um, because it’s complex as to who accepts what, and who says what and where, how, and when one of the fascinating things for me is, is looking back through my history of theoretical work, looking back through my history of interests and unseeing how particular.

Aspects of this kind of brain  aspects of this kind of approach to experience having fused absolutely every single aspect of my life. And, uh, and also how all of the things that I’ve been interested in throughout the years now add up to a kind of cumulative pool. It insight about how this brain works and how this body works and how this personality works.

And one of the things that I’ve been keen to do in, in my work thinking about ADHD from the inside out is to get away from the broken brain model. Um, because I find that very powerful and quite insidious in some ways, uh, not in any conspiracy theory way, but in a, in a deeply unhelpful way. I think of myself in some ways as a recovery coach.

So what I do is I help people design a more helpful approach to their own lives for themselves. Okay. If you have a model that says your brain is essentially an inherently broken, but it needs fixing that it, that it, that it somehow has something wrong with it, you know, disordered or dysfunctional or deficient in some way, you know, with these executive function deficits and with these, uh, kind of dopamine, low dopamine problems and all this sort of thing.

If you have that idea that somehow we need to be fixed a bit to make us more like all the other neuro-typical people. Yeah. I find that, well, first of all, undermines anything you might do in terms of recovery. Uh, and it leads to what is effectively a steady state understanding of whatever these difficulties are that we’re having.

And. First and foremost people with these kinds of brains tend not to like steady state anything. We like movement. We like fluidity. We like, you know, process. We like dynamics. So that was one of the things I, I very much resisted. Uh, as soon as I got my diagnosis was I was, I became very aware of what the orthodoxies were of the stories that people were telling.

I have a deep respect for neuro-psychology have a deep respect for psychiatry. Uh, I am pro medication, um, in a sense that I take medication and it helps me, but I don’t accept the, the narratives that people are using to explain why the medication works, because I’m trying to work at finding other ones because the ones that were there didn’t seem to satisfy my experience of it or more clients’ experiences of it.

So what, what fascinates me about that conversation is that there seems to me to be a very distinctive kind of brain, uh, which makes up about five, maybe as much as 10, but certainly five to 7% of the population. And we experience. In terms of the work I’ve been doing with we experience consciousness and experience itself in a very different way.

And we have certain core features that allow us to make sense of the world in a, in a, in a very distinctive way, but in a way, which leads to quite a bit of dissonance with the world around us, which was not designed with us in mind. And I’m sure you would appreciate these issues yourself. So that issue of having the world not being designed for us for enough, we don’t need it to be designed for us.

We’re not that arrogant. I mean, some of us might not. I might be, 

Pooky Knightsmith: I was gonna say, I wouldn’t mind. 

Anthony McCann: It would be great. But that question of, of, of the interface is where I see the disordering is where I see the disability and the disabling processes taking place. I was deeply disabled by what I experienced.

I was experienced profoundness ordering. I was almost catatonic walking around the house to the extent that my wife believed that I had. Possibly got early onset Alzheimer’s wow. You know, I had pretty much entered a dissociative state where I was wondering around just unable to connect with the world around me.

So the disability can be real. That association can be real. They, the, the, the quality of disorder can be very real, but where we locate that has huge implications for how we think about, you know, treatment, recovery, whatever it is to be located within the brain, in terms of some essential features to be located in the interface between us in the world, to be only located in the world, we have no part in it.

So where we locate that is very important. And for me, I locate it in the interface. And that’s, that’s how I think about the ADHD style brain. As I tend to tend to think about it. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So just to backpedal slightly, I’m always aware that people listening and will have more or less understanding of things. Can you just explain, like, what would be the kind of the textbook definition if you like, of ADHD, what normally people think of when we think ADHD and how does that compare with how you would maybe, um, explain it or explore it with your clients?

Anthony McCann: Absolutely. So people tend to talk about ADHD in terms of what they used to talk about it very clearly before diagnostic changes took place over the last year, they before, um, talk about in terms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Uh, now hyperactivity has the stereotype of the, the, the crazy boy in the classroom and concept still and causes trouble.

Um, the, uh, impulsivity has the. You know, always makes me think of the marshmallow test and the, um, for me rather questionable the consequences of the marshmallow test, where people were saying that people are deeply impulsive and they rush things and they can be reckless and they can, you know, make decisions before thinking about, you know, the consequences of it, or just have no understanding of consequences whatsoever.

Um, and then the third thing would be an attention which would be the, that people just are just always somewhere else, um, and floating off and not interested in what’s in front of them. Now for me, those three kind of diagnostic criteria that people tend to go for, and you can be either hyperactive type, according to the diagnostic criteria, you can be an impulsive or inattentive type hyperactive, hyper combined.

Um, and for me, one of the, the, the difficult things is that that’s. People looking at us from the outside. Okay. That’s that’s and, and you know, it, and it links into a lot of the behaviorists observable symptoms issues going back historically, but, you know, w what was observable about these people? How are they deviant from the rest of us, and how can we find ways to classify them in a way that, that, that maybe makes them a little bit less deviant or, or, you know, puts them in a box somewhere that makes them more, um, kind of understandable and, and handleable with, uh, to make up a very bad word.

So that was very interesting to me, because it’s something in the back of my head, and this is very classic with his brain. Something in my backup, back in my head was going, it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right. Little alarm bells going off. Cause that wasn’t how I experienced things. So the stories that people then use to explain that.

Within the kind of neuro-psychology zone tend to be things like there’s a number of them, but the common ones are one going around that, um, we have low dopamine production. Therefore we crave high dopamine production. And we, we, we, we, we dash off trying to get these dopamine hits all over the place and that we have to be buzzing all the time to be happy and all these sorts of things.

Okay. I’ll say it now, but some myth, let me explain that later. Um, another, uh, stories that we’ve got executive function deficits that, um, that somehow the fronts frontal lobe part of our brain, I’ve said this in videos myself at the beginning of my coaching career on YouTube. If you want to ask them, I wouldn’t recommend it.

About how, you know, our executive functions broken and our brain and, you know, therefore we can’t do administration and bureaucracy as well as other people, but we can take stimulants, which helps us fix that a little bit. And we can reconnect with that. There’s a lot of discussion about what executive function actually means.

Um, and there’s, there’ll be articles written, which identify corrupted 40 different understandings of executives. Also, it’s very, very influenced by, uh, models from the business world where they, you know, the whole question of executive function, you know, also ties into that book, the executive brain, which was re-published and re edited in second edition, came out recently, uh, which, which very much influences this conversation as well as to what are, what are the qualities in executive brain that are connected to this prefrontal lobe and connect it to the ways in which we are in the world.

And then that in turn connects to. Conversations, which are deeply embedded about productivity, which are very common in disabilities, but these conversations, you know, about, you know, who’s, who’s productive, who’s not productive. Um, and, and to jump forward a bit, one of the things that fascinates me about that is that, um, I don’t know if you’ve read the authoring, um, autism book and the neuro queer work.

Pooky Knightsmith: No, but it sounds like I need to 

Anthony McCann: book, but it’s, it’s one of the, it identifies. One of the ways people tend to talk about autism as a kind of a failure of communication. So communication deficit, if, if autism is in the stories that people tell about it is framed as a communications deficit. For me, very frequently, ADHD brains are framed as having a PR and people are framed as having a, a productivity deficit, but that we aren’t, we aren’t working well enough and product producing well enough in the modern world to be, to be good enough at that, the admin and the bureaucracy and the production line and stuff.

And that’s how it tends to be presented is that we don’t fit very well. And therefore we’re not productive enough. And we don’t things don’t do things smoothly enough and frictionlessly enough to, to fit with the modern world of production and industrial industrial life. So, so that’s sort of one of the stories that tends to be thrown around with executive function.

Um, and then there are, there are a number of other ones that have to do with, you know, how fast or how slow the signups is, fire and all that sort of stuff, and various other, various other ones. Then there’s the other one, which is very, very, um, dominant, which is the whole question about, uh, emotional dysregulation, um, and effectively there’ll people, won’t say it out loud.

It’s effectively a narrative about emotional retardation, um, that we are developmentally delayed in terms of our emotional regulation. Um, and again, people don’t say it as they really mean it. They don’t, they call it developmental delay. They don’t call it emotional retardation, but it’s the same 

Pooky Knightsmith: model cause it’s unpalatable or I mean, what 

Anthony McCann: I imagine.

So I imagine certainly get a little bit more bite back and go back. Um, if, if that were the case, Um, if they could call it that. And again, that was something that didn’t feel right to me. Um, and that, I felt that if, if what people were seeing was impulsivity and hyperactivity and emotional dysregulation and all these sorts of things, surely there was something else going on under that, which I could make sense of through my experience and working with clients and trying to make sense of their experience.

And I, I went diving into a rather unfashionable area, personality theory, um, and I went diving back 150 years into bulleted personality theory and, uh, back through the unfashionable for in many ways on political uh async um, and his work, uh, back through there, um, not the IQ stuff and the racism and stuff back into the personality.

Yes, it’s clarified back into the personality theory work back through. Was it, I can’t even remember the names of all these people, but back a good, good hundred 50, sometimes 200 years to try and make sense of the ways in which people were identifying different kinds of approaches and different distinct personalities.

And while I was happy to discount the Myers Briggs stuff, because that was very, very much not supported by scientific research that followed it. The underlying original work of young in terms of extrovert and introvert was interesting. The work that async was doing, which developed that into four types was interesting and seemed to align with some of what I was looking at.

And then I also aligned some of that with sports psychology and aligned some of it with, um, uh, also with some work in clinical psychophysiology otherwise known as it knows this, um, and biofeedback. And, and I kind of mixed it all together with the work I’d previously been doing in academia. And I ended up with a model of this distinctive brain with certain core features.

Uh, and for me that’s been the core of the work that I’ve been doing since. Um, and just to mention three of them. Uh, so I’ve, I’ve identified that the th th these brains seem to have a deep, deep autonomy drive, uh, not in a Freudian sense, just as a steep craving for autonomy to them almost 100% of the time.

Uh, and that this is effectively where all of our energies are going all of the time. What does that mean? An 

Pooky Knightsmith: autonomy drive? What does 

Anthony McCann: that look like? A hundred percent of the time, our brains are trying to make sense of the world experientially on our own terms and that we are effectively experiential learning machine.

Um, and that any time we have to make sense of the world on other people’s terms and other from other times, and other places, sometimes that raises our stress levels because that becomes difficult for us. Um, and the it’s on the one hand, it has that, you know, we, we dash for the improbable effectively. Um, so what we have was, if there’s an inbuilt tendency to head for the improbable, the head for the cracks with the light gets into, I kind of think of it in terms of the princess and the pea that we have this instinct.

For understanding where something doesn’t feel right. Um, I was call it homeostatic intelligence, but, but it’s this sense of when, uh, when, uh, a system is out of balance or when something’s slightly out of, out of balance, out of whack. And we just have this deep, deep sense of that. And that’s what we had four.

So we had four where the greatest amount of experiential learning is likely to happen. Um, which makes it very difficult for us. When the world around us has been designed already with all the policies, protocols, procedures, everything in place, all the traditions in place, everything they all laid out.

There is very little experiential learning available in places where you’re expected to have low autonomy, expected to have low experiential participation. And you’re just expected to follow the rules or follow the followup people tell you to do or follow the instructions or all that stuff. Um, that that’s really at the core of a lot of the difficulties we have with maybe talk about later, but, but for the moment, just that sense of this autonomy drive drives everything.

And it is really the core thing. The second thing, which is related to that, and this comes to the impulsivity and the hyperactivity and, um, um, and also inversely to the inattention. The second thing is that we have this deep, deep relationship with proximity as I call it. So present time and present space.

So our native space is effectively the 10 feet around us on the bodies we live in. Of course everybody’s is, but because of our deep, deep 100% autonomous learning energies that is effectively our safe space. Okay. Okay. As soon as we go beyond that 10 feet, uh, in terms of our attention, then it becomes less safe and it becomes more stressful.


Pooky Knightsmith: That sounds hard. 

Anthony McCann: That is hard because the entire education system is based on drawing our attention to things. Beyond that 10 feet, we are taught to learn what other people have thought we are taught to learn what other people have done. In other places we are taught to, to regurgitate and imitate what other people have done and other times and other places.

So we’re effectively disengaged from our experiential learning systematically. Through conditioning through an educational process, unless we’re very lucky and a good teachers occasionally and, uh, have follow things like, you know, art practice or, or like a 

Pooky Knightsmith: Montessori or Steiner approach, maybe. 

Anthony McCann: Yeah. Some, some Montessori teacher, some Steiner approaches, um, again, things in general, I have a difficulty con championing because particular things in particular places can be very, very dubious.

And, uh, yeah, there are certain things about Steinhardt that in the present time might not be that palatable either. Um, so there’s going to be no one left soon is that, but, but that’s, but that’s actually really important for, for the ADHD brain, because so-called, because what happens is the, the vast majority of the people that I come into contact with and, and certainly in my own experience as well.

What happens is that the constant adaptation to the, to the beyond your 10 feet, the constant adaptation to the rest of the world leaves you just disconnected from your sense of yourself and your sense of how you make a difference. And, and, and for some people can lead to deep depression and for some people can lead to deep anger, Alrighty.

Depending on where they are in terms of their, or their physiological kind of makeup. But it’s, it’s something which is the heart of the disabling process, um, is that disconnection from that 10 feet around you. And that for me is really important. So we’ve got your autonomy and you’ve got your proximity.

And then there’s another thing which people with these brains we tend to have. And again, this is, has only been really identified in giftedness research and in very marginal and, um, not terribly rigorous research on Indigo children from the 1990s, um, is the helpfulness instinct. Okay. Um, this, this deep, deep helpfulness instinct that we have, and it’s connected to the proximity and it’s connected to the autonomy, but it’s about, you know, we, we just, we want to be helpful.

So 100% of the time almost, or maybe 99% perhaps, but most of the time we are intending to be helpful, 

Pooky Knightsmith: that flies in the face of everything that comes to mind with a stereotypical ADHD, you know? Yeah. Tell me more. 

Anthony McCann: So we intend to be helpful. And the thing is that the more unsafe the environment we’re in the more that helpfulness instinct simply becomes about self survival, um, or it can also become about self-denial and total commitment to an external, uh, authority.

Okay, because you want to be helpful there too. So you can, you can channel it in different ways. But the, the, the thing is that the healthier the environment, the more that hyper responsiveness to the immediate time and the immediate space from the proximity kind of stuff, the more that hyper responsiveness is deeply helpful.

Cause you can notice what can be helped, what can be improved. You’re seeing the cracks where the light gets in your you’re, you’re respected enough for people to be aware of what you’re able to do. And so if you’re in a healthy team, that’s wonderful. You’re, you’re the person who sees the things that maybe somebody else didn’t say, you know?

Um, and you’re like, have you thought about this? And you become a little bit of the helpful naysayer in some ways, you know, but you know, in, in some teams, people don’t respect that. And the more intense the environment becomes the greater, the likelihood is that that will not necessarily be respected, but the helpfulness instinct will keep taking away.

You know? And it’s, it’s something that. I’ve had one client who started crying when I mentioned it, you know, because they’ve spent their entire life with this helpful intention and no one had ever noticed it. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So it was kind of clouded out by the way, in which their behavior came across. 

Anthony McCann: Yeah. And just to just, they did fought to be part of a world that, that.

They couldn’t feel partal. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So what do you do then? I mean, what, what, how do you help 

Anthony McCann: it’s back to a strength based approach? So you’ve got the, the, the, the, there’s, this there’s kind of five core, core traits, as well as another one would be very briefly would be, um, this, this deep concern for safety. So emotional safety is one of our abiding concerns that, um, in any environment, which isn’t obviously safe, emotional safety will Trump, any of any would be the main guide in any decision-making, um, unless we are aware of it and unless we are being strategic.

Okay. Um, and that’s, that’s, that’s the important part. So I teach people how to be strategic in, in, in where they feel less safe, which goes back to, um, kind of what we talked about on Twitter. And then the final one would be, uh, the question of authenticity. So. The way I frame it for, for clients is that with this brain, um, we can smell inauthenticity within ourselves or within others the way a dog smells fear.


Pooky Knightsmith: Okay. 

Anthony McCann: Right. So more about that, we ourselves are not acting true to ourselves. And what we feel are our core strengths. We will feel it. We will feel unhappy with ourselves. I mean, we’ll feel unhappy with the situation and if we continue it, we could even get into self-loathing pretty easily as well.

But, but that sense of inauthenticity is we’ve very, very low tolerance for inauthenticity. Um, unless again, either, but unless it’s something we train ourselves to do, it’s one of the things that causes difficulties. One of the things that causes people to walk out of jobs without a moment’s notice, it’s one of the things that, that says, I’m not doing this anymore.

This doesn’t feel right. Um, and, and it’s just this deep, deep feeling of this, this isn’t right. This doesn’t, this just doesn’t feel right. Um, and, and 

Pooky Knightsmith: people that make change happen now. 

Anthony McCann: Um, well, this is the thing, uh, this is absolutely thing. The, the earlier part of my work was my, my, my academic work was very much about dynamics of violence and accelerative violence, um, and about helpfulness.

So I’ve been developing what effectively is a discipline of helpfulness studies. Um, so one of the things I’m fascinated by, and pretty much anybody with this brain tends to be fascinated by is, you know, what counts as appropriate. What counts as helpful when is what’s appropriate unhelpful, when is what’s helpful?

And appropriate. Wow. Um, you say that that whole series of tensions then is kind of at the heart of, of how these brains upright, because we, we, we, we, we love knowing how stuff works. So if people are largely cognitively centered where they largely in their heads and interiorized stuff, then those people tend to be about how ideas work and how they link to each other and how they all connect and how the systems work.

If they’re more kind of bloody centered, then they tend to be more about operations in the world and how well that stuff works and how it can work more helpfully and all that sort of stuff. So, yes, these are the, these are the, the alchemists, the Wayfinders, the healers, the, you know, uh, I like to joke, but I’m not joking that, you know, I think these were the one person in the corner of the village who was either the healer or the, the Lowell giver or the warrior poet or whatever in the village of 25.

That had a more contemplative approach to what they were doing, um, and was thinking more in terms of being helpfully, thoughtful and thoughtfully helpful. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Wow. There’s a lot there. I think I want to interview about eight more times on each of those topics. I I’m interested to know about your experience.

So obviously your experience of ADHD has driven you to understand more about it and that now you’ve explained your, your thoughts on it. I see so much of your work reflected in those traits that all kind of sits and makes a lot of sense. But when, like when did you learn that you, um, What you, how do you even say we’re IDH?

Do you have ADHD? How do you, I’m not good at words? Well, 

Anthony McCann: well, I, I don’t, I, I, you know, I was phrased at the more, the words matter, the less the words matter, which is the idea. But when, when we start quibbling over words, then it’s more to do with the quality of the atmosphere. Is the issue, not the words themselves.

Um, yeah, I’m, I’m a poet. I play with words. I’m happy to play with words now. Um, so I, I talk about us, I, in terms of having an ADHD style brain, so, you know, um, or an ADHD style personality, um, because, but I also talk about it in terms of creative rebels, um, as well. So, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m playing around with the idea of creative rebellion at the moment.

So this, this idea of creative rebels, because effectively people that are creative rebels, who haven’t had the difficulties. Yeah, to that profound degree don’t require a diagnosis, or they might, they might help with a little bit of guidance now, and then, but they don’t need a diagnosis. And they certainly don’t mean to medic, you know, but if you are at the point where your life is falling apart, it’s a bit like the idea of, you know, um, people who say that addiction isn’t addiction, unless it’s something that deeply, deeply affects your quality of life in a negative way.

Um, and it’s the same with ADHD that you have the brain you have maybe start calling it ADHD when the way in which you interact with the world causes you difficulty to the extent that it hugely, uh, negatively affects your quality of life and the quality of life of those around you. And that’s what happened with me.

So for 20 years or so maybe longer, 30 years, I was joking. Well, maybe 30 years ago, they didn’t talk about it. I was joking about having ADHD odd. I just have ADHD, you know, blah, blah, blah. Until such a point as I would walk from one room to the next and couldn’t remember what I was there for, um, until such time, as you know, I hadn’t seen the floor for 30 years.

Um, and I couldn’t do the dishes and I couldn’t put things in the laundry and I couldn’t, which is difficult when you have a wife who’s disabled who can fall over boxes in the hall, um, and kids whose rooms aren’t gonna tidy themselves. Um, and so on and so forth. So one of the things that was really important for me was, uh, I’ve written about this in a poem called, um, first I think, yeah.

First, which is online in various places. I think it’s on my Twitter media feed, but, um, but that was effectively about that moment of acceptance that my wife turns to me and says, I think you need help. Um, and then I absolutely, without hesitation said, yes, let’s get help. Wow. 

Pooky Knightsmith: You are ready 

Anthony McCann: to hear that.

Absolutely ready. I, what happened was I, there was a restructuring, the university of Ulster, um, in the days I think it was one of the first people of that trickle that it was eventually, uh, that eventually took the university of ulcer to, um, to court over it. But I was in the chiclet at the beginning. Um, so I, I took voluntary redundancy while in quietly and secretly offered something else, which I won’t say.

Cause it’d probably cause fluffle and, uh, insert kerfuffle here that would have happened if I had said it out loud. Um, but anyway, I, uh, got out of the university career and I. Had been using my wife very much as a PA in many ways. And when my wife got pregnant for the first two children, which lasted about three years, really, in terms of the effects for her, um, she was just too old.

She was largely bedridden almost for kind of a full two years. Um, and as a result, she wasn’t able to help me, um, because that was suddenly taken away. I hadn’t realized how much support and structure and scaffolding my wife had given me. I might’ve given me for everything that I was doing. Um, my career just didn’t happen.

I had a million different projects that didn’t come off. At one point, I walked in the door and said, uh, by the way, we’re moving to Tasmania. Um, 

Pooky Knightsmith: I’m sorry, it wasn’t funny at the 

Anthony McCann: time, but it wasn’t her. It was entirely, um, earnest on my part. Uh, um, so that, that was very much, we were lurching from one project to another.

Um, I was trying to reinvent myself a million different ways and, you know, constantly finding projects that would take over the world. And, you know, um, I started, uh, I got into a kind of depressive cycle and I started taking the telephone and I thought that for a year, and then it just got worse and worse and worse.

And now I know, well, explain that a second. Um, so I, I went to the, got the ADHD diagnosis and, uh, that was a gateway then to getting stimulants, which overnight changed my life overnight. Um, I went from. Not having any connection to the world to being able to do the dishes and do the laundry, everything within the first 24 hours.

And not a problem. I sat down at the table for dinner for the first time in five years, because you took stimulant because I took stimulants. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Why does it tell 

Anthony McCann: me more about that? Okay. So this is got a deeper work that I’m working on at the moment, but what I’m interested in is why statements work for some people and not for other people.

Okay. Now I’m, I’m fascinated that a lot of the work that people talk about in terms of stimulants often goes back to a study about in 2006, which was done with rats, who hadn’t been diagnosed with or without ADHD, they were just rats sounds like a high 

Pooky Knightsmith: quality study so far. I mean, I can go 

Anthony McCann: on, it was very high quality study.

Um, But a lot of focus for statements has been on dopamine and serotonin and the effect that that has on people. I’m not really interested in that because what I’m interested in is clinical somatics. I’m interested in the degree to which people do or do not have a connection with their somatic sensory range.

And what’s very interesting to me is that people with a kind of a low somatic profile who tend to have a board of, uh, kind of undisclosed of depression, uh, rather than an anxious depression, uh, approach to life that they tend to respond very well to, to stimulants. Um, whereas people with a, a deeper and a higher kind of somatic connection.

They tend to be made anxious by, by stimulants. So 

Pooky Knightsmith: people who kind of just trying to put it in layman’s terms, because I’m very fascinated by what you’re saying, but you’re very clever and use a lot of big words. So people who feel more are more likely to be maker anxious 

Anthony McCann: by, uh, it’s not supposed to feel more because people who are kind of stuck in their heads a lot.

So there’ll be people who are stuck in their heads alone. Um, people have stuck in their heads a lot, uh, tend to have a better response to stimulants. Okay. Um, now my guess is, and this goes into stuff that maybe is a whole other conversation, but my guess is it’s because the stimulants are sort of a,  a surrogate sensory stimulation.

They basically replace a real somatic stimulation with a pretend stimulation where the brain is basically saying, look, I’m not getting enough connection, a meaningful connection with the world. I’ll take anything I can get. Yeah, and this is the closest clean, clear thing for the brain to anything I can get.

Um, so there’s kind of a slight of brain that takes place where the brain just goes, look, I’m not getting enough. The moral I’ll take out of them. Um, um, a lot of the stimulant kind of buzzed stimulation that people go for is, again, the brain doing that. It’s I look, give me anything. I’ll take anything at this stage, cause I’m not getting that connections or taking anything.

So stimulants work for people who have very much down that road who were very disconnected from the world. Um, and what fascinates me is that stimulants can backfire for people who either never had that profile or down the road can backfire for people who have had both the deep. Body connection to themselves.

And then also develop the kind of dissociative depression thing. I slipped back and forth between them. I call it the washing machine. They flipped back and forth between depression, um, and, um, high confidence and depression, high competence, depression like competence, depression, and confidence. So present almost like 

Pooky Knightsmith: bipolar 

Anthony McCann: kind of, you can.

Yes, that’s exactly right. Presents. Um, and, and kind of, so you get that kind of hypomania on the depression limit. So what I discovered was that when I was taking Satalia prom and then taking Conserta yeah, I increased this a teleprompter because things weren’t quite right. And it made me hypomanic for three days, um, which then told me that the reason I got the diagnosis in the first place is because I’ve been taking citalopram for, and it made me increasingly increasingly distractible and disconnected.

Pooky Knightsmith: Wow. That’s quite well. There’s a lot there. Okay. So gosh, so one thing then you’d been studying a ADHD for already quite a long time, and you had quite a deep understanding of it for quite a long time before it occurred to you or your 

Anthony McCann: wife. Not at all, not at all. Um, my study was in the social sciences. I had a deep, I had a deep interest in psychiatry and I had a deep interest in psychology and I knew kind of a background and understanding of psychology back to the William James and, and all that sort of stuff.

Um, but in terms of mental illness, my main experience has been through depression as I understood it. Um, and looking back, I I’ve made attempts as people tend to with this brain had made attempts to diagnose myself with, with, uh, Amie and CFS, chronic fatigue syndrome and various other things because that deep exhaustion yeah.

It’s very characteristic, um, of this brain because I’ve, I’ve, I’ve worked as a translator and interpreter. And I know that when you, when you work in another language all the time, it exhausts you. And that’s why in, in Europe, when people do interpreting, they do 20 minutes on 20 minutes off 20 minutes on 20 minutes off because your brain cannot cope with that intensity.

And that’s one of the things that exhausts us. Wait, you, 

Pooky Knightsmith: sorry. You’ve worked as an interpreter as well. Just you just throw that in 

Anthony McCann: my, my first degree was languages. I worked as a kind of, I’ve done interpreting a lot kind of informally along the way, but I have worked as a translator, um, uh, cause languages was my first degree.

So I started off in languages and then I went to history, literature, folklore stuff, and then I went to anthropology of music, um, on critical legal studies and various other things. Um, but all of those things effectively, what I did looking back was I took a journey from. Hi, top of my head disconnection with the body sight sound and journey back through the body, in all the disciplines I took.

So my disciplines are actually can be staged back down through if you want to talk about chakras, if you’re that way inclined you can. Um, but the, the disciplines are staged a kind of staged return to my body in retrospect. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Okay. So you now are feeling that you’re kind of connected. Johnny, how many, tell me more careers are we going to have 

Anthony McCann: sometimes I think, I think one of my difficulties is that the, for me, one of the reasons for me that, um, So I’ve been, I’ve been building polyvagal theory into a lot of this.

So one of the things that fascinates me is the way in which, um, so I’ve, I’ve built polyvagal theory into work. I was doing on how different levels of intensity leads to different qualities of response in different qualities of expectation. Now I’ll explain, I’ll explain what I mean by that. So as you raise the intensity of, of, uh, of, uh, within a person, for example, the type of thinking that tends to happen will change in quality.

Right. Um, so turn it around as you deescalate the intensity, as you lower the intensity within the disposition, within a person within a kind of psychological profile within yourself, helpful thinking simply starts to happen. You know, this yourself from, from the work you do. I just don’t use 


Pooky Knightsmith: when your brain’s doing that.

You can’t think 

Anthony McCann: that’s exactly. Yeah. Um, and it’s, uh, I can go one saw the, um, was it, uh, Russell brand was talking about in the Oxford union about how, you know, people, people were having camera, people doing that there to other people, you know? Well, if the other person does that they’re to them, there’s just lots of that going on, you know?


Pooky Knightsmith: I’m flapping just for anyone listening on the podcast here, 

Anthony McCann: kind of, um, talking hands. So what’s important is that the. People who people who have a kind of a low Symantec, low body connection response to the world, they tend to default to the, what the polyvagal people would call the dorsal zone. So they tend to default in stress responses to the fight types of the freeze and over react response.

So it tends to go to the place where the blood drains, the essential origin or organs, um, and you, you basically do whatever it takes to survive. And it’s very much a place of existential threat. So, so that’s the stress response default. That was one of the key things for me at an early stage of realizing that for these people, with these particular kinds of brains, That was a particular default response only for some of them.

Yeah. Right. The second. Yeah. So the second personality type of realized was where people with this type of brain have a default to the sympathetic system, which is the fight flight and control response to stress. So that’s very, that’s not driven sort of the top one tends to be driven. It would seem by kind of oxytocin and intensity with the second one tends to be driven by adrenaline and cortisol.

Um, and it’s very much about, uh, fight flight or control. It tends to be very much the, the, the I’m I’m big place. Um, whereas the dorsal zone tends to be the I’m very small place. Right. But then the big insight for me was realizing they weren’t just two types because I assumed I was the, the dorsal type. I assumed I was the, kind of the, the low connection to the world place, because what got me to this work, uh, that particular quality of work was.

But I had always found it very difficult to understand what was going on in my body. So this question of interoception. So what was going on my body was always kind of a bit of a mystery to me. So to the extent that needing to go to the toilet, needing to ate, needing to drink, feeling tired, all of those were felt as sort of a sensory muddle.

Pooky Knightsmith: So you can pick up on your internal cues. I haven’t

Anthony McCann: gotten a chance. Um, so, you know, I’d be surprised by the fact that I was nearly doubled over. We needed to go to the loo, um, you know, some cases

Pooky Knightsmith: and that always been the case for you or 

Anthony McCann: very young. It was certainly the case and I eventually traced it back.

And this is one of the things that got me was I traced it back to biomedical trauma when I was about, um, two, so three days of intense peritonitis and burst appendix when I was two and I was on a boat, a Greek ship in the ocean at the time. And they diagnosed me with the flu, but my parents were having to deal with it.

Um, but my appendix burst and I was, had it for about three days. Worst possible scenario should have died a million times. And that seemed to leave. Leave me with this deep quality of default type essential threat. And this deep pathological shyness that I had throughout my life. Um, but one thing I could never understand and never included in that conversation was something that I, that I realized when working with a different with another client was that I also always had the desire to be on stage and to be seen and always had this deep confidence that I could do something.

I always had this deep sense of purpose that I, that I, that I had really important things to do. So I had the big, big sense of self thing going on too, and suddenly realized I was both. So there weren’t just two types, the relaxed, the, there was also the combination type to get all ADHD about it. Um, but the combination type, wasn’t the combination of the symptoms.

It was the combination of people who do the washing machine between the. Dorsal, um, stress response and the sympathetic stress response. And you get that kind of flip flop, flip flop and the higher the stress, the quicker, the flip-flop. Okay. 

Pooky Knightsmith: That must be hard to manage though, right? Because how you would manage one is quite different a bit like you found with the drugs now you 

Anthony McCann: kind of totally.

Yeah. Entirely. And, and it’s, it’s very confusing too, because it leaves you with a sense of almost jewel personality because you become this inner contradiction because you want to sidle over all swaggery to the girl over there in the corner. If that’s the way you’re inclined, um, you know, at the disco when you’re 16, but then I spend my time half an hour counting down the 10 seconds, um, ultimatums until I go over and never go over.

No. So it’s complete hell. Um, you know, you have this deep inner confidence that, you know, you know, you can do stuff, but then you can never do stuff. Um, and you get stuck in that. So working with that is a very, very, very different kettle of fish. Um, and what’s fascinating about it is that the dorsal response is driven by story.

On the sympathetic response is driven by, by external sensory body response. Um, so the stories of what flood in and bring people back to the dorsal and then the intuition kicks in and brings people back to the sympathetic, but then the stories flooded and bring them back to the dorsal civilian world.

You know, so yes, at high, high, high stress levels that can look like bipolar, 

Pooky Knightsmith: how do you, how do you help? I mean, this is what you do now. You, you 

Anthony McCann: so very quickly, I’ve a kind of a questionnaire that I give people from the research I’ve been doing to kind of work out where on that they sit themselves in terms of what their general stress responses tend to be, what their inclinations tend to be.

If somebody is kind of born low sematic, as you can be, if you’re born low somatic, very rare, but people can be born with a very, very deep, technically they call it Alexa, Sonia, I got a deep disconnection to their, their, their buddies. Um, Then it’s a very slow and patient process of slowly and gently building that relationship relationship up with the world, um, of kind of very simple sematic exercises, very simple connections with the body, very simple sensory stuff.

Um, there’s, there’s lots of different areas. You can look to things like, um, somata sensory psychotherapy, um, uh, some kinetic work, some, but also very simple things like, you know, learning how to boil an egg in some cases, um, you know, because you often have such a deep connect disconnection to the world that you literally cannot do anything for yourself.

And if that then come gets compounded by having traumatic experiences on top of that. Right? So like in some cases, people, you know, do have to kind of go off and do trauma work with other people as well, but. For the stuff that is kind of basically non trauma related some of the trauma response exercises that people do can also be very helpful.

So a lot of the stuff that people, because it’s about reconnecting with, with reality with the world, with what’s there. So it’s about re re association re ssociation with the people who are kind of more sympathetic and like myself who have had, and still have sometimes anger issues and things like that.

And, you know, it’s, it’s a very different thing because what happens is because people with this kind of high body connection, they’re like this raging river of energy or where people who were kind of born with kind of a cognitive head. Inclination, uh, might spend some time in their heads. People who have the raging river energy, who then go into their heads, then spend about 85% of the time compulsively overthinking.

Um, and it’s a huge river of that going on up there. So that can be difficult. So again, that’s about reconnecting them with their core sense of confidence that there’s never gone away. Um, and what’s helpful with, with these clients is they tend to recover very quickly because once they realize that their core sense of self is coming from the confident place, yeah.

They learn to notice when the stories come rushing in, they learn to trust their connection with the world. They learn to trust that exercise and movement and being out in the world and doing stuff out in the world will flow and reconnect with everything. Um, and they, they just learn to be aware of their triggers for getting back up there in their head again, you know, and stuff like that.

So there’s, there’s a number of different things you can do with people. But I find actor training is very helpful. Certain kinds of actor training. Cause that’s that’s about people. Um, it’s been designed for people who are drawn to the stage, first of all. So there, these were people who are, have that big sense of self, but frequently have these head issues as well.

So it’s been designed for people to bring them back into their buddies, to bring them back into certain types of actor training, bringing them back into that sense of being comfortable with their movement and comfortable with ourselves and being aware of that 10 feet around them in terms of qualities of atmosphere, qualities of relationship.

So after training can be very deeply powerful for, for certain people with this brand. Really, really, 

Pooky Knightsmith: that makes sense. Now you’ve explained it, but when you first did it, I thought it would almost be the opposite because you’re sort of what you’re saying. It’s almost like you’re looking to be more authentically connected to self, and then you’re saying, so you do act a training, which to me suggests the opposite, but that yeah, you’ve explained that.

So, so we kind of, the reason we initially were going to talk was this whole idea about kind of. Yeah. Being authentic about your lived experience and whether that’s a good thing or whether it can never be traumatic and having understood your kind of, um, yeah. Take on, on ADHD and thinking about it. Just tell me more, cause you’ve done the thinking on this already.

Anthony McCann: Yeah. So, so one of the, one of the biggest difficulties, um, with this brain is that the people, as I said before, adapt 100% of the time to the world that isn’t designed for them. Now, what happens then is they kind of might not have developed any clear sense of self at all. They might not have any clear sense of kind of, kind of almost dismissed any question of self-esteem because there’s nothing there.

If you’ve constantly throwing yourself at the wall, hoping it’ll stick, you know, constantly bringing the circus to town, hoping people like the circus, you know, and, and, and not shout something wicked this way comes, um, that, that, that’s kind of what you’ve spent your energy doing. Um, and you keep thinking it’ll work next time.

It’ll work next time. And, you know, um, inserts, Einstein quote about, you know, Probably miss miss attributed about, you know, keep doing the same thing that hasn’t worked last time and I’m hoping it’ll work the next time and something to do with insanity and all that sort of thing. So that that’s what people tend to do.

So what tends to happen is they don’t then develop that authentic sense of self while also having this deep radar for authenticity and inauthenticity. So it becomes deeply, deeply distressing. Um, that sense of disconnect. So what I do is I, I encourage people to dial down the amount to which they throw themselves at the world.

Okay. Okay. So it basically get them to dial down the emotional intensity when they throw themselves at the world. So you don’t plant trees with flourish where they’re going to get cut down. Okay. Um, and in fact, you might just. Go and have a chat about chainsaws with the people who are cutting down trees and not try and cut down and not try and plant trees in there at all.

Um, so the idea is that you spend, it’s kind of the 80 20 principle reversed is the 2080 principle. The idea is instead of investing 100% of your energy, throwing yourself at the world most invest 20% of your energy, throwing yourself at the world and at least 80% of your energy working on your strengths, working on what nourishes you, working on, what you flourish with, um, and, and building that world of safety and autonomy and proximity and helpfulness, and, um, authenticity within yourself and within your space, within your, your relationships.

And, and, and that’s the key, but the author, the inauthenticity is that when you are deliberately performing in authenticity and in a world, which was not designed for you and which does not operate on your basis, And this is hugely relevant to conversations about, uh, passing in racial terms as well. Um, passing autism and passing in lots of other areas, um, that you do learn to adapt.

Now there’s a very thin line between adaptation and assimilation, because one key thing to remember about this brain is that it is resistant to paths that are previously well-trodden. I was wondering about that, right? Uh, so what I call it, I call it the performance of the probable. So effectively what you do is you learn to perform the probable of what people expect by doing that.

If it’s a fairly healthy and safe environment to begin with by doing that, you can then build trust that you’re not going to do something off the wall. Okay. I’m shocked people and that when you’ve performed the probable and show them that you’re credible and, and, and, and a PhD, for example, it would be the literature review is the performance of the probable.

Um, when you’ve done that, the more you do that, the more room you build for your autonomy. Okay. Okay. Okay. The more room you build for yourself, because the greater, the trust and safety that other people feel around you. Yeah. The greater, well, the lower, the intensity will be on the more room. There will be for everybody to be experiencing it more helpful way, but the deliberate performance of inauthenticity doesn’t take anywhere near as much energy as throwing yourself authentically into an inauthentic space where you cannot be yourself without causing friction and ripples and trouble and everything else.

Now, sometimes. People will want to make friction and cause trouble and everything else. If there are questions of legality, safeguarding, um, uh, oppression, uh, violence, structural violence, you name it. Okay. So what we’re talking about is the performance of inauthenticity in environments, which are effectively those of professional practice.

Yep. Okay. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So you, you kind of pick your battles, 

Anthony McCann: you pick your battles. Um, and the idea is that you, you perform the probable, you only make a fuss if you’re willing to live with the consequences or walk and you only make it for us in concert in situations of legality. Yeah. Um, safeguarding health and safety, or basic human dignity.

Pooky Knightsmith: And is that, is that how you live? 

Anthony McCann: Um, it, wasn’t how I lived and I suffered badly for it. Um, so I suffered at least it’s kind of four years of bullying at different jobs in universities. Um, and they nearly broke me. They nearly broke me. So one of the things that this is is about knowing how people with these brains can be both prone to being bullied and scapegoated, because they’re the ones that sent to him to say, but hold on a second, but hold on a second.

Um, and if they have, um, some of the, the, if that history of trauma, then that, that also people with a history of trauma can, can be seen a mile away by people who have a radar for these things, uh, and like bullying. Um, so the other thing is that sometimes people with this brain can also be the beliefs, um, uh, which is an interesting kind of flip as well.

Um, but bullying is something that, that often happens in and around people with these brains, whether they’re the ones whose, who suffer from what or ones who inflict it. So. One of the things I think I learned from that. And one thing I went on to do was to look at systems change and I became a specialist in cultural climate and organizational systems, um, and looking at how to either transition to, or, or move to a cultural climate within an organization that allows for greater helpfulness and safety for everyone involved, um, where isn’t just a rhetoric of inclusion and safety, where it is actually, um, a quality of relationship is fostered and facilitated in and through the ways in which they do things.

But the difficulty in that and the difficulty and the reason I, I train people in this is because the work that the Orthodox best practice and standard practice of every professional practice I have looked at institutionally, Hmm, is ultimate. We leading to a space which leads to less helpful relationship.

How that’s a big statement. Yeah, it’s, it has to do with three things in particular, but one is the, the level of intensity that people are encouraged through issues of urgency and productivity and, you know, go, go, go and grow, grow, grow, and all this sort of stuff. Uh, so the, the, the, the levels of intensity are exponentially already on ever being pushed.

Um, secondly, there’s a level of kind of low relational density. If you want to think about it in one way or elimination of uncertainty thinking in another way, but is it the heart of the orthodoxies of most professional practice? Um, and that’s in terms of efficiency in terms of administration, in terms of bureaucracy.

And another thing that becomes very, very important in these environments is very highly directive forms of power. So it should, must need to have to walk to, um, you know, so you talking about, um, uh, essential, essential job. Requirements and job description, those sorts of, so all of that should must need to have to, it’s all about very strong push, very strong pull.

They’re not gentle environments. And those tend to be environments that tend to be associated with the freeze and overreact response in the people I work with. Um, and, and that’s, that’s why it becomes very, very difficult to go in there just as yourself, without a sense of armor, without a sense of some sort of sense of performing a role, which is very clear and where the expectations are very clear.

Um, because also there’s so much to critique in those types of environments. Yeah. That hour there’s something not quite right here just goes, ah, and I’m just goes crazy. So 

Pooky Knightsmith: you kind of either need to change the environment or the person needs to kind of yeah. Adapt and be inauthentic, I guess, in your words, 

Anthony McCann: or do you do both?

Yeah. So, so if you perform the probable at the levels where you need to be in authentic and just totally to just be a call, embrace the cog in a sentence, um, then you might, if you, so if you want to be in that industry, then you can actually perform the probable to the extent that you get promoted. And then you perform it a little bit less.

If we get promoted performance a bit less, if you’re the level of, of executive leadership or a level of any level of leadership, then you can be a little bit more, um, innovative and responsive in the work that you do and be rewarded for it. But if you try and be that responsive at a low level, yeah.

Crushed, you’ll be crushed, you know, just get you into trouble. And, you know, people don’t want to know what your opinion is. That just don’t um, at the low levels. Uh, so unless it’s in your job description, Perform the probable, uh, is basically the idea. Um, it’s it, isn’t it, isn’t in the sense that first of all, it’s self care, it’s about self care and survival on the one hand, if it is in your job description, and if you would like, for me, it is in my job description to help people change their environments.

Then I go in and I perform the improbable. But if it is your job description to just do what you do know, then find other areas of your life. Don’t give it your, all your energies, just, you know, if you want to be the person that changes the system, you’re not going to do it by being in a role where changing the system is not what you do.

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. I see what you mean. 

Anthony McCann: Yeah. Yeah. You know, so, you know, you don’t, you don’t go into the point of highest intensity is the point where you are at least able to make a difference. Yeah. Um, in any system. So that, that’s the, that’s the, the, the counter-intuitive thing that people think, things seem to think that you’re rushed to the point of highest intensity.

Cause that’s where, you know, my, my desire to resist and change the system will be most effective. It’s where it’s going to be least effective because it’s where, what you most value in yourself is going to be least valued. Okay. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And you need to build up that trust, that rapport, that kind of credibility.

So your am I right in understanding that you’re, you’re kind of saying then that essentially in order to sort of live a fulfilling life, if you have a ADHD type brain, then that you are going to, um, kind of practice some degree of inauthenticity in some circumstances, but that you would choose the mains of your kind of life where you would be wholly authentic.

Anthony McCann: Yes, I then put the entire, you know, 80% at least of your efforts into being authentic and being grounded and being as much yourself as you can be. Um, and the more toxic the environment you’re working in less emotional energy, you give it. If you were in a hugely toxic, emotional and working environment, then you give it 5% of your emotional energies 

Pooky Knightsmith: if someone’s in an environment.

So, you know, I get asked about this a lot, um, not, not about ADHD, but just generally about how open and honest we should be about our own struggles. And I think just more widely that, you know, if you’re me, it doesn’t really matter how open and honest I am. Cause I don’t account, you know, I it’s just up to me what I do and no one’s paying my wages and you know, it doesn’t really matter if I, if I rock the boat, it’s just my problem.

If I were trying to hold down a role within a company, then as you say it, it can cause issues. So. People do sometimes say, you know, or should I be more open, more honest and, and actually similar to what you’re saying it’s about often. So it’s about picking those battles. Um, and that actually, sometimes you’re not going to be received in the way you want, and that can be deeply difficult as well when you try to be yourself and it’s it’s yeah.

Not, not well received. So if then we might accept that. Yes. Okay. So we might practice within our work if perhaps we are not in a position to change the environment there, we practicing of this inauthenticity there, which bits of our life, like where can we be authentic? Where is it safe to be authentic?

What’s your experience there? 

Anthony McCann: Well, you know, I, I, for me, it’s, it’s, it’s in the house, it’s in the home. Um, it’s in the work that I do as a helpful professional. So, you know, I can be as authentic as I, as I can within the coaching space. . As a coach presence in the room. Um, and, and I have certain friends that from the get go, it’s always been just, you know, nonjudgmental space.

Um, so there are certain we we’ve, I’ve also been very, very deliberate in gravitating towards those types of spaces in my life as well. I’ve been very deliberately, excuse me, aware, uh, and, and, and finding, uh, a lifelong partner as well. But, you know, I was trying to gradually gravitate towards a quality of relationship with myself.

That would be more in tune with somebody that I would like to be with. Um, and I think that’s, we kind of learn it by default through knowing what isn’t safe through, knowing what isn’t authentic, and it becomes a reversal thing, but in terms of revealing ourselves then in the spaces where we are performing a certain degree of inauthenticity.

Yeah. Again, it’s about reading the room, you know, um, That. And I do temp work sometimes to keep myself fresh. And I was an attempt job where I revealed that I had ADHD and I had a discussion about reasonable adjustments and then they were all ignored. Um, and it was absolutely awful, but the way I had to deal with it was dialed myself down to almost zero and just get on and do exactly what I was required to do to embrace the cog.

And then at a certain point I just left. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Well, what would be, what, what would those reasonable adjustments be? Just for anyone who might be, you know, might have a colleague who is 

Anthony McCann: one simple thing, was that, um, you know, I asked, I specifically asked not to let me near any spreadsheets. Okay. Um, because spreadsheets in my brain just go, right.

And then despite the fact that I had this conversation about, please don’t let me near any spreadsheets. And possibly the only thing I really asked for, um, um, stay away from, keep me away from the finances. It was like, okay, today you’re going to do the finance spreadsheet. I’m like w w w what? But at that point, it got to the point where I knew there were other things going on that I realized I didn’t want to work there, so it wasn’t gonna make a fuss.

So that was the, if you’re prepared to walk, don’t make of us. Um, uh, the, so I just, I just walked out eventually, but the, but there were certain things going on where, you know, so I w with ADHD brains, so-called that you don’t tend to have a very much working memory. So, you know, I would tend to write things down.

Um, if I needed to remember them and I’d be told by the micro managing line manager that time, I didn’t need to do it that way. I had to do it the way they were telling me. You know, or being told that what I was doing on the screen, which was working out the software program by myself or just something I’m pretty good at, uh, was not the right way to do it because I had to do it exactly the way, the way that they did it.

Um, and I’ve come across that before as well. Where, where people, a couple of times where people are telling you how to do something on a computer their way, instead of just saying, you know, sorry, know my brain works differently and I’ve actually said this explicitly something, my brain actually works differently.

It’s much easier for me if I just work it out on my own, um, 

Pooky Knightsmith: struggle to 

Anthony McCann: ignore it, just ignore it and plow on and get angry with me, you know? Um, so that sort of thing is difficult. It’s, it’s a difficult decision. Do you, or do you not reveal that you have ADHD? And I think if you’re in a definitely, if you have a long-term relationship and safe and quite a good quality of relationship with the people you work with and you think this will add to a greater support for you in the workplace.

Fantastic. Go ahead. But read the room. You know, if this is not somewhere where you feel. Um, uh, non-judgmentally that, that people are supporting you. If you feel there is constant judgment, if you feel there’s constant micromanagement, it’s unlikely that it’s going to be a safe space for revealing anything about yourself.

That isn’t about the cog. Um, so read the room, uh, and sometimes people have to stay in work just to earn money, um, on some very well aware of that have been there myself. We have to do a job that you hate just to earn money. If you do have to do that, that’s where it becomes really important to just stay in your box, stay in your lane, do the job, come home, and then have a life that you love.

You know, you know, sometimes you do have to do the shitty stuff. Um, and it’s just, it’s just what you have to do. Um, so you know, it we’re families. We have to put food on the table, so that’s, uh, that’s very much at the heart of it. And it’s about picking your battles that, you know, the more you develop your science of strength for yourself.

The more, you can then bring that to other places where you will be more effective, where you will be more helpful. And the more you can explore that, but that helpfulness instinct to actually, you know, join groups or join, uh, organizations, or just start projects where that helpfulness can really take, take.

Yeah. Wow. 

Pooky Knightsmith: We’ve covered a lot. So I’m really aware of the time and the time has flown and I want to talk to you for about eight more hours. Um, I wonder if we can finish by thinking, I like to always keep things practical as well. Like lots of people who, um, kind of engage with me it’s because they want advice.

And I wondered if you might end with talking to us about, you know, how can we be a good friend to an adult with ADHD or a good parent to a child with ADHD or kind to ourselves. If we think we may have an ADHD style brain. 

Anthony McCann: Yeah. One of the key things is to remember that they primarily, uh, only really work in the present tense and the present space.

Okay. No. So, um, if you’re there going, but you said this and you said that, and you said the other, because they feel the social pressure of needing to thinking you need a memory response. They’re going to perhaps even invent a memory response and it won’t be what they actually remember necessarily. And it may not actually even be true, but because you’re expecting a memory, they’ll give you one.

Um, so you know, when we’re younger, we sometimes become really good at lying because. We’re keeping people keep expecting us to know what happened in the past. So we give it to them. So, so that’s the thing is just that they will work, that we work best when we’re in, when we’re here now, you know, when you’ve got us in the room, it’s that kind 

Pooky Knightsmith: of mindful interaction, essentially 

Anthony McCann: being, yeah.

If you haven’t, if you haven’t got us in the room, you haven’t really got us. And if we don’t respond to your emails or if we don’t respond to two things, you’ve asked us to do it’s because we’re not in the room effectively. Um, and, and so, so these things, any, anything that isn’t about us in the room can be difficult.

Uh, and this isn’t first nature. It’s second nature. And, um, so that that’s, that’s, that’s very important. Uh, so then representing us back to ourselves can be very problematic. You always do this. You never do that. It’s because if people start bringing evidence to us about what we’ve done in the past, we largely don’t remember.

Can’t remember. And we generally responded to the moment in a way that we thought was best. Yeah, no, we make mistakes, you know, and if we do make mistakes, it’s often hard for us to learn, to say, sorry, but if we say, sorry, needs to be in the moment. Um, and sometimes we don’t understand why we need to say, sorry, because we thought we were trying to do something helpful.

Yeah. Um, so again, not assuming that our tendons are bad is very, very important. Um, and just, just generally we can be very, very loving and very, very responsive. Um, but know that if our stress levels are very high, um, chances are, we’re going to be more responsive to what’s in our heads and we’re going to be acting more inappropriately.

And what sort of, in terms of what’s around us. Okay. Um, and this is a huge issue, but, you know, just mention it is that also I find that parenting tends to be very difficult for people with these brains. Ask the parents or the child for the parent. Okay. Because, um, you have a safe, nonjudgmental space where you’re allowing yourself to hyper respond to this kid that you love.

But sometimes the parental role requires you to be in a box and be in a lane. And those two things, you know, go against each other. So you can spend your time trying to be the parent of establishing clear expectations. But then when the intensity rises, because you’ve established clear expectations and they resist them, um, especially if they brains like you, then that can just lead to this blah.

So sometimes being a parent can be very difficult with this brain because there’s a, there’s a, the expectations suddenly become unpredictable. When there’s another person like you in the room,

Pooky Knightsmith: how do you manage that? What do you. 

Anthony McCann: Um, largely by Telegraph to the other person, who’s an adult, but, uh, or taking time outs or, or, uh, largely what works tends to be avoiding words, avoiding 

Pooky Knightsmith: words, say more about that.

Anthony McCann: So, so moving in, instead of shouting at kids move forward and give them a hug if they’re huggy kid or so I have one, I have one kid who’s a huggy kid and I have one kid who’s, uh, you know, not so much I’ll get good, but, um, a brief hug kid. Um, so, you know, just ignore the words if you can manage it. Um, but, but again, the more stressed you are, the harder it is to do.

Um, but, but avoid words and, and move forward. And sometimes one of the kids, I seem to be able to fuse them by just putting my hands out for daddy hug, um, instead of shouting at him, but I’ll probably shelter them at some point as well. Um, we 

Pooky Knightsmith: will have those, these moments, Saint Marie, my, uh, one of my daughters this morning.

I was having a tough morning. I couldn’t even tell you why, but, you know, we just all have those days, same way. I was not, uh, managing especially well. And, um, whatever reason, anyway, got quite snappy and my daughter followed me outside and I said, what do you want? And she’s like, I just thought you might want to hug mommy, but I wasn’t in that moment where I could accept it.

And so I went well, not right now. And then, and then I came away from that and I felt horrible and a theme in his later, but this little knock on my door and it was hot. And I was like, I’m so, so sorry. And she came in and she went and made you a cup of coffee because if a Huck doesn’t work a coffee, but I was like, wow, I have just been a horrible person.

And here’s this amazing middle. Yeah. Parenting 

Anthony McCann: is hard. Just remember that the, of all those things I mentioned earlier, the bridge for people who are out, whether it’s the parent or child or relationship with the child, the bridge to making things better for somebody with ADHD is the safety bridge. Okay.

So if you can, in any way, make it a safer space, they will respond helpfully to that. Um, so that’s where the, um, I’m not quite sure about the term of unconditional positive regard. Cause I think everything is conditional in the sense of it as conditions. But if I weren’t being so pedantic, unconditional positive regard, um, is very important.

That sense of just, you know, people with this brain tend to do their best. They can under the circumstances as do most people. Um, and so when we get scared and stressed and feel unsafe, we can really withdrawal into ourselves like hugely. Like we, we, we can, we can build up huge castle walls in a second.

Um, particularly if we have histories of existential threat. Um, so, but it could happen like that and we can come out of it very quickly as well, you know, but it’s hyper response. It’s always hyper response. So again, that’s something to remember that, that even if we go into a flash response to something, give us, give us space.

We’ll come out of it again. Okay. So w we will respond to the quality of the relationship that we find around us. Yeah. Um, and that is what we will respond to, uh, even if we’ve misrepresented it to ourselves, that is what we will respond to. 

Pooky Knightsmith: So if in doubt, try to create that kind of emotional safety and then the rest of my folder.

Wow. That’s a lovely note to end on. Thank you. It’s been a fascinating and wow. A lot of different stuff. I’m going to need to go and lie in a dark room. Just kind of absorb all that you said, but I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. Um, and we’d like to talk to you for days and your brain is a very interesting place.

Isn’t it? Like you, you think a million miles an hour. It’s brilliant. I love it. 

Anthony McCann: Yeah, but it’s been fascinating to me that, that I now know why that, um, but also it’s great that I live with someone who, um, can very clearly and half jokingly say to me, I understand all your theoretical work. I just don’t really care.

I’m not as exactly the person that I need to be with. Um, she made it very clear from the beginning. She was no fender. Um, so, you know, but that’s the people like us, uh, thrive, I think like, like people kinda kind of brain thrive on the ordinary. Yeah, you know, thrive on that lack of, you know, push, um, and, and that, that we can kind of build our own interests and motivations for what we do, but having someone around who kind of gravitates brings me towards a more gentle place is what I kind of always looked for.

Um, I was lucky to find so, so that, that, that sense of having that understanding to just let us get on with it, um, is very, uh, on now guardian soulmates, that’s a whole other, that’s a whole other podcast. She was in London. I was in Northern Ireland. And, uh, um, yeah, I just, um, I sent her an, uh, uh, said senior a year before that, but I haven’t connect, contacted with her, contacted her and Linda sends her an email and then we were engaged, um, within four months within, well, within five Skype, she was on my doorstep.

So, um, and, uh, we, we got into the top 10 of guardian soulmate stories a few years ago. Um, um, but, uh, yeah, we, we, we got married within, um, nine months and, uh, now have two kids and, uh, we were hitting, was it? I can never remember the year we got married, but, uh, we’re, we’re going on nine, 10 years now, so, wow.

Pooky Knightsmith: That’s incredible. That’s incredible. Oh, it’s lovely. Well, well, congratulations on being in the top 10 guardian soulmates. I I’m, I’m intrigued it. Does it exists out there? Can you send me a link? 

Anthony McCann: Can we, um, I don’t know if it’s still out there, but, uh, we, we, we were very close. I think we were beaten to the top spot by somebody who worked in an office block and got people to vote.

Um, I guess, um, but, uh, That’s just not on it. It was very unfair. Yeah. We liked that we have a whirlwind romance and then we keep it. But our kids are so much part of our lives. Now that we keep looking at wedding photographs and wondering where they were. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. And I bet my kids have no conception of the fact that there was a world before them.

Uh, we, uh, yeah, every night, I mean, my girls are 10 now and they still don’t really seem to get that. You know, the world did exist more than 10 years ago. They made me feel very old all the time. And I think in the scheme of things, I’m not that old, but yeah, they have a, a great way of making me feel old.

Wow. Wow. I hope we’ll speak 

Anthony McCann: again next to date. Enjoy this. Thank you very much for the opportunity and invitation. Yeah, 

Pooky Knightsmith: no. And thank you. And I’ll put links to you sent me a whole bunch of, um, interesting links to things that you do, um, including your kind of creative stuff as well, which, um, is a whole nother Avenue.

We didn’t go so much into, but I will, um, I’ll put those, those links all in the, uh, description on YouTube or in the show notes on the podcast. So people can link through to you and I’ll get your, your Twitter and stuff. So people can chat to you because I’m sure that there’ll be plenty of people. Who’ve got many questions for you.

I still have hundreds, but, um, you know, 

Anthony McCann: well, one thing to say, as well as that, I, I very much speak horses to courses for horses, for courses that have, you know, I can also speak, uh, ordinary speak as well as the theoretical stuff. So, um, you know, I, I generally only speak that theoretical stuff to people who kind of.

Tend to be well able for it. Um, but, uh, I’m kind of like, Oh, you’ve you have color-coded books, 

Pooky Knightsmith: color-coded books. I’m getting out the new site neuro-psychology chat. Yeah. 

Anthony McCann: It, um, so, uh, but yeah, it’s um, but also one of the things that’s always been very important to me is even if I do the theoretical stuff, I try and rephrase it in ordinary ways, as soon as I do it.

Um, cause there are, there are a million ways we can tell stories about what we do and how we think, but, um, it’s uh, and my writing tries to go to a more personable place, um, which is less theoretical, but that’s a challenge. 

Pooky Knightsmith: It brings such kind of, yeah. So much kind of theory and that’s a thought and intelligence to it, but really everything you’ve said comes back to taking it from a very person centered point of view, which is I, in my humble opinion, exactly the way that these things should always be done.

So, um, yeah, I look forward to kind of, yeah. Continuing to follow your, um, your, your thoughts, your theories, your ideas, and kind of keeping in touch and, uh, yeah, next time you have a big thoughts you want to share let’s chat again. 

Anthony McCann: Thank you very much. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Thank you. .