The Spiritual Side of Attention Deficit Disorder

I was twenty-nine years old at the time. My teens had introduced me to five different schools and two different colleges. My twenties found me living at over a dozen addresses in at least five different cities with over twenty-five different jobs. I had no money to my name, had already filed for bankruptcy once, and had two college degrees. At twenty-nine years of age, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.

Having been suitably acquainted with the concept of ADD during my stints working with troubled youth while utilizing my primary degree of Psychology, I saw the disorder as over-diagnosed, pop-psychology babble. And having been warned extensively about the dangers of self diagnosis in my Abnormal Behavior classes, I was wary about defining myself by its characterizations. But after reading up on the diagnostic criteria in the book Driven to Distraction by Ed Hallowell and John Ratey, and realizing that seventeen of the twenty did in fact describe me, I decided to seek professional help.

Though my situation seemed bleak, my research did offer one glimmer of hope. A writer by the name of Thom Hartmann had written a book entitled Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective in which he clarified his ‘Hunter in a Farmer’s World’ theory. The basic idea is that humankind has historically broken down into two types of civilizations, the Hunters and the Farmers.

Through the iconic shifts in American civilization during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, our society works primarily as a Farming community, and those who do not fit into this schematic and are so quickly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder are actually remnants of the Hunter way of thinking. Mr. Hartmann then expounded on the traits of this Hunter mentality and offered the idea that I may actually possess some strength.

One of the strengths of a hunter is, though he may have waited for hours to engage a particular game, he is quickly able to change course, adapt, and strike out on a new endeavor. The edges of my research had blended into other questions that I had about life, happiness, purpose, and the intangible mysteries of the universe that each of us either answers or gives up on in lieu of easier questions. Having rid myself years earlier of the Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity I embraced as a youth, questions still abounded in my mind on the subject of God and the use of religion and spirituality in daily life. It occurred to me that perhaps there was more to this idea of faith and society than had previously permeated my scope, and that through studying various facets of my culture and universal community, I might gain a better grasp of my place in it.

Along with Mr. Hartmann’s book on ADD came his book titled The Greatest Spiritual Secret of the Century. This seeped into other books such as James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy and further explorations on the new vision of spirituality in America . It seemed that there was a growing interest in things of spirit, not only in my own mind, but also in the mind of my society. I wondered about the concept, so wonderfully portrayed in Hartmann’s book and in U2’s song, that we are all One.

Two years earlier, after a five month road trip to Alaska and my first introduction to Jack Kerouac, I had branded myself with a tattoo of the planet earth with a pen through it, for it was at the time, a heartfelt desire to travel and write, or as I would later put it, to ‘write the world’. With nothing more to lose in the life I had garnered, and bolstered by a version of spirituality that contained only inquisitiveness and faith, I set out on my journey.

Twenty-six states, many adventures, several friends and a few years later, I have two finished books, quite a few more jobs to my resume, and a greater understanding of how the spirit of God can use even a ‘disorder’ to bring out the best in a man through heartfelt inspiration. The steps of my path brought me into the company of Buddhists, Christians, Pagans, and Jews. I stayed with Wiccans, Unitarians, Taoists, and Hindus. Anarchists, Hippies, Faeries, and Homeless kept me company along the way. I can only hope that my presence in their lives had as a great an impact as theirs did in mine.

Though miles got long as I hitched across the country, though weather was often harsh and people were often moreso, the three things I made sure to take with me kept a soft smile on my face through the worst of times. And as Saint Paul assured me when I was a child and first read his letter to the Corinthians, at the end of my journey faith, hope, and love still remained. After all of the steps I took, necessary or ancillary, after all of the eyes I looked into that took time to share with a wanderer, after all of the beliefs I perused, be they mine or my fellow man’s, I was left with two simple truths. Those that Jesus gave as the greatest commandments: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. For however much our attentions may waver to egos, ideas, and the intangible in betweens, when all is said and done, we really are all One.


2 thoughts on “The Spiritual Side of Attention Deficit Disorder

  1. Steve — a Google alert for ADD led me to this entry. We appear to have common ground. I am a professional organizer who specializes in working with adults who have ADD. I’m a big fan of Hartmann’s theory, and am repeatedly saying that ADD is a difference, not a disorder. My book (and approach to organizing) is The Spiritual Art of Being Organized.

    On a separate topic, I too took a hero’s journey of some 15,000 miles. The story of that trip is told in my second book, Following Raven, Finding Ground: A Road Trip in Search of Home.

    Anyway, i was struck by the similarities between us as expressed in this entry, so I wrote.

    Blessings to you,


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