ADHD Beyond Gifted

I don’t usually put such long items by others on this blog (my own are often long enough!) but this one by Thom Hartmann, that I read a long time ago, I just came across again in doing some research for an event tomorrow How Giftedness Can Cause Learning Challenges with Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide
that I’ll be a panel on. Thom’s latest book is Screwed: The Undeclared War On the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It.

Thom has written several books on ADD and other topics, and is a former psychotherapist and founder of a school for children with ADD, and has done a wide variety of other things.

I was in India in 1993 to help manage a community for orphans and blind children on behalf of a German charity. During the monsoon season, the week of the big Hyderabad earthquake, I took an all-day train ride almost all the way across the subcontinent (from Bombay through Hyderabad to Rajamundri) to visit an obscure town near the Bay of Bengal.


In the train compartment with me were several Indian businessmen and a physician, and we had plenty of time to talk as the countryside flew by from sunrise to sunset.


Curious about how they viewed our children diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I asked, “Are you familiar with those types of people who seem to crave stimulation, yet have a hard time staying with any one focus for a period of time?


They may hop from career to career and sometimes even from relationship to relationship, never seeming to settle into one job or into a life with one person — but the whole time they remain incredibly creative and inventive.”


“Ah, we know this type well,” one of the men said, the other three nodding in agreement.


“What do you call this personality type?” I asked.


“Very holy,” he said. “These are old souls, near the end of their karmic cycle.”


Again, the other three nodded agreement, perhaps a bit more vigorously in response to my startled look.


“Old souls?” I questioned, thinking that a very odd description for those whom American psychiatrists have diagnosed as having a particular disorder.


“Yes,” the physician said. “In our religion, we believe that the purpose of reincarnation is to eventually free oneself from worldly entanglement and desire.


In each lifetime we experience certain lessons, until finally we are free of this earth and can merge into the oneness of God.


When a soul is very close to the end of those thousands of incarnations, he must take a few lifetimes to do many, many things — to clean up the little threads left over from his previous lives.”


“This is a man very close to becoming enlightened,” a businessman added. “We have great respect for such individuals, although their lives may be difficult.”


Another businessman raised a finger and interjected. “But it is through the difficulties of such lives that the soul is purified.”


The others nodded agreement.


“In America they consider this behavior indicative of a psychiatric disorder,” I said.


All three looked startled, then laughed.


“In America you consider our most holy men, our yogis and swamis, to be crazy people as well,” said the physician with a touch of sadness in his voice. “So it is with different cultures. We live in different worlds.”


We in our Western world have such “holy” and nearly enlightened people among us and we say they must be mad.


But as we’re about to see, they may instead be our most creative individuals, our most extraordinary thinkers, our most brilliant inventors and pioneers.


The children among us whom our teachers and psychiatrists say are “disordered” may, in fact, carry a set of abilities — a skill set — that was necessary for the survival of humanity in the past, that has created much of what we treasure in our present “quality of life,” and that will be critical to the survival of the human race in the future.

I could say a lot about this, but besides saying I strongly agree I thought I’d leave this one as a stand alone.

What are your thoughts on this article?

28 thoughts on “ADHD Beyond Gifted”

  1. Kathy Vickey

    hey there folks…..reading this article moved me. I have occasionally sought out spiritualists and psychics who insist I am an “old soul”. In addition, at a recent meeting with friends who enjoy learning spiritual info., a medium told me that he immediately knew I was an ‘old soul’ because apparently, he saw the number ‘9’ when he met me. I have ADD rather severely..and am the youngest of nine children. I have been feeling ratber defeated lately…and for good reason. Reading that article just did wonders for my head and heart. Thank You. Kathy

  2. You’re welcome Kathy, there’s so much out there on the negatives of ADD it’s important to realize there’s also positives

  3. Its amazing I have read one of Hartmann’s book.
    Healing ADD. That I keep with me. I would really like to read it.

  4. When my first son was born, the first thing I thought as he was shown to me was “He’s an old soul!” He has ADHD and dyslexia. It took me a long time just to get his teachers to test him for dyslexia and no one mentioned ADD! Apparently at this time in his life Doctors here didn’t know very much about ADD. As he approached his teen years, I was hearing about ADD. My son and I dealt with his ADD and dyslexia as best we could. He was always inventing things, (still is) but has yet to patent anything (not by choice). He has grown up to have a heart as big as outdoors but has problems with his relationship. He’s been married for a little over 12 years now (with the same woman), has 3 children and struggles to maintain a “normal” life. He sent me this aricle and after reading it I cried! By the way, I know of Thom Hartman and respect him greatly. I will be buying his books on ADHD, ADD etc for my son, his wife and myself. Thank you for this article.

  5. Bran Koseda

    There should be more articles like this, I’ve got what’s reffered to as a full house case of ADHD, meaning I tick every box in diagnosis. Everyone knows me as a ‘special’ but the implied definition varies from meaning spiritual and gifted to being one big screw up. It frustrates me being extremely bright and quick yet being virtually incapable of doing a lot of normal every day stuff required to live day to day such as filling in government required paperwork etc. This article has picked me up quite a bit, I can get horrendous depression and feel useless at times. I searched ‘coping with adult adhd’ in goole and turned up this article. Perhaps I should be looking at embracing ADHD and thinking that way instead of viewing it as something to be ‘coped’ with

  6. Pete,
    Why haven’t I come here sooner? We’ve traveled the same internet circles for a few years now, and now that I’ve found your site, the more I read, the more I love it. I’ll be reading more and posting more of your blog now, and probably RT’ing you in twitter as well as sharing in FB.

    I’ll go kick my self as I make dinner now. It’s only 9:20 pm. LOL

  7. Hi Kat, don’t know but glad you’ve found it, and like it. Thanks in advance for spreading the word about my content here on other sites, I appreciate it. No kicking required:)

  8. Wow, being recently diagnosed at 38, all I can say is thank you for helping me see that there is somwhere that my creativity, ambition, and desire to learn everything I can during my life would be welcome and cherished. I’m so glad I came across this story.

  9. Hello. I am the sister of Kathy Vickey, who responded to your article back in March of 2007.
    Kathy passed away yesterday, on June 8, 2010 as a result of advanced lung and brain cancer. She did indeed have a difficult life, not only because of ADHD, bi-polar disorder and severe depression, but especially lately as she bravely struggled through each and every day with all the symptoms of cancer. Since Kathy’s diagnosis in October of 2009, we have gotten closer as sisters and I will miss her. She was incredibly brilliant and understanding. It was always amazing to me how perceptive she was with regards to people’s behaviors. I couldn’t hide anything from her and I believe she was an “old soul.” I am so saddened by her passing, but I am so glad that she is no longer suffering.
    Thank you for being there for Kathy.

  10. Lisa,
    I know I speak for all of us who read Pete’s blog when I say that we are saddened to hear of your loss, though I am glad that you had the time with your sister to grow closer before she moved to her next plane of existence.

    Cancer is a horrid disease, but the silver lining to that incredibly dark cloud was the time you did have to grow closer to her. I lost a previous husband to cancer, his was already stage 4 when it was discovered. I didn’t know your sister, but I saw the wisdom in her words, as we both saw wisdom in the words Pete had shared in this blog & article.


  11. Hi Lisa,

    I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you had time get closer to her and see all aspects of Kathy, including her good ones, which all too often many of of us often forget to notice.

  12. This article confirms my spiritual journey
    I have embraced the hypothesis that I may have ‘chosen’ to return to earth at a specific time(astrological influences) and picked my parents and environment .
    Being an aquarian sunsign with a cancer moon indeed offers challenges that I have begun to accept
    The question is….what lessons do I have to learn here
    Is it to learn how to be like ‘normal’ people or to use spiritual insights as well as ‘down to earhth’ techniques to balance myself

    Am I a willow tree….moving with spiritual breezes this way and that,,,who just has to make sure I am firmly grounded
    and that my roots support me

    Lots of questions,,,any way,,,I resonated with this article,,,,thank you

  13. I was recently diagnosed with ADD after three years of therapy due to recovery from a domestic violence situation with my ex-husband. Apparently, I always had ADD, but managed in different ways and lived a false and stressful life. I have a great breakthrough and realized that embracing the (idea) of ADD brings me closer to my spiritual freedom and release from the torment of an abusive past.

  14. Hi, this was cool. I’m glad I found that story. I think that my ADHD friends are some of the more perceptive people that I know. They frequently seem to be more perceptive and therefore have a harder time fitting into a world that doesn’t recognize what they see/feel. Being ADHD myself, I think what we perceive is definetly valid >> like the energies of people, the feel of an environment, larger pictures of things. I like the quick creative unexpected ways that we get to communicate with each other, in our sillyness, in our depth, in our expressiveness. Not all ADHDers are the same, by any means, but those are some qualities that stick out. WE ROCK!! also, some of my ADHD friends are the coolest craziest people ever. they do things NO ONE ELSE WOULD EVER DREAM OF DOING. and i love them for it. they give a better perspective of what life could be like, if we loosened up a bit.

  15. Well, after skimming over this article several times in search of what or who I really am, I stopped and read it through for the first time. What a revelation. I always wondered what my problem was, and it wasn’t until I turned 68 that I realized it was ADD. It isn’t a problem, but it is difficult for most people to understand. I have been the weird one out for most (all) of my life. But now I am beginning to feel the freedom it gives me. I will stay tuned to learn more….

  16. BRILLIANT! I cried. I am an adult recently diagnosed as ADD, and as a child I was “Gifted.” I’ve been aware of my being different from the norm since as far back as I am able to remember (age 2). As a child, my intelligence was no comfort for me since socially I was ostracized, and as an adult it’s only turned that into jaded bitterness and frustration. In my head I’m constantly saying “Why can’t they appreciate me for what I’m worth?!!!” Since the diagnosis of ADD, I’ve been put on Adderall. I know the verdict is still out on diagnosing Gifted from ADD, and that many people feel the stimulant meds can waste your abilities of you are Gifted. However, sometimes it can help to be able to feel more emotionally accessible and to have that push of energy that it requires to focus on being more human around other humans. It’s a learning process, and IMO, the meds are a tool (not a solution.) And once I’ve mastered being more human, then I can start to feel more well adjusted about being an extraordinary human. This article made me cry because it touched that part of me that I instinctually have come to lock up and protect from negative outside judgement/misunderstanding. I think it’s beautiful that there is an entire culture that views and appreciates our extreme differences as valuable, special, and potent! You don’t have to believe in a god, or in reincarnation to understand that, as human beings, that if we can just observe, objectively, those differences, we are all speaking the same language and we are all connected.

  17. Amazing….as I was tooling around the house today – everything in disarray and knowing I will soon need someone to come in and help organize..I realized I AM ADD and upon accepting this decided to explore the positive side of this symptom…viola – I found your site…interesting part is that I have been to India received initiation by a Guru and many other spiritual modalities which have led me directly into the Heart of God and even heard this spoken to me by Source…my life has been bittersweet but it was all orchestrated to bring me to this place/space time continum…SALU’

  18. Hi! Thank-you for the article. It was very uplifting. I have finally decided to research ADD. Feeling I was different since I was 4 or 5 has been challenging. But from somewhere, I have always been confident and felt wiser than my peers. I always feel as though things will work out, even thru diar straights. Academically I was below average. Graduated High school, Jr. College Hours. My father always told me I could do anything if I set my mind to it. I have always been athletically superior, which I know helped me academically. Turning 46 on April 7th has inspired me to research ADD, which I think I have always known subconsciously I suffer from. I have 3 boys and they are amazing. My middle son is such a mirror of me and I want him to be the best he desires to be. But remembering so many of my past sufferings, I hope I can guide him with true intelligence. I tell him he is very smart, but needs to put his blinders on at school for focus. So funny to repeat what my father always told me that when I was young. I was the middle of 3 girls and always wondered why I needed blinders like a race horse and my other sisters didn’t. I have been very blessed with a wonderful husband & 3 boys. I am taking the first step to educat myself so I can be the best mom & wife. My mother did the best she could, but I realize how much fell thru the cracks. I just found out I was such a dominate lefty that the teachers would beat me with a ruler to write with my right hand. I had erased that memory until my older sister started talking about it last January while we were at my parents. Now I remember why I have a scar on my left hand. Very strange memory and sorta funny, but at least things are beginning to
    make sense to me now. The article was like the icing on the cake, but in a good way! It just gives me more confidence to keep researching and educating myself on ADD. Thank-you again!

  19. When i was diagnosed with ADD, i was happy since i made a big transition from “what’s wrong with me?” then to know exactly what it is, i now decided to study it further, and your blog seems to be the right place for it.

    When i started reading the comments on this page, i was not just reading words, but even feeling them with depth.. That’s something that i missed whole my life.. i thought i’m the odd one, everybody is going along with their lives normally, then why can’t me.. i’m at the right place, thank you..

  20. I’m a college student from Sri lanka.(English is not my mother tongue).I have a difficulty in staying still since I was a kid. all of the above comments are common to me too (actually they describes me) I cannot concentrate at one single task unless it is
    interesting in depth. well I am a born buddhist. main objective of our religion is to be enlightened. so I’am interested in this spiritual path. my college colleagues do no’t show any interest upon religion. so I see a similarity between this article and my self

  21. Bless you, Pete. Thank you for publishing and commenting on the upside of adhd. Indeed, many of us though gifted and enthusiastic , are frequently ostrasized. I came across your site when googling adhd & altruism, adhd and psychic abilities and adhd gifts. I will peruse your site and follow your links. I love to read more about these things. Take care

  22. I don’t personally believe in reincarnation, being Christian Catholic, but I like the way the three Indian men described people with ADHD. Maybe what they were saying was that people like us (I am strongly ADHD) think outside the box, to use a western phrase? I love history and when I read about the people who actually turned the tide in history I can see traits in them that might mark them as ADHD or OCD. Leonardo da Vinci could not stop working on the Mona Lisa even up to his death, hence it remains unfinished to this day and is considered a masterpiece. Martin Luther – well, if anyone had OCD I really think he did. I wonder whether Thomas Edison had ADD, although he could concentrate (many times people with ADHD/ADD can hyperfocus). Edison was married and told his bride that he needed to check on an experiment on which he was working in the shed. He forgot about her and the wedding (ADD) and played with his experiment all night (hyperfocusing). When all was said and done they had a very loving marriage. Just my take on things. I myself have ADHD. I am no genius, but it’s nice to know that the three men with whom you conversed would see me as someone to be admired and not admonished 🙂

  23. this is beautiful, beyond my understanding while others pointing toward me ADHD kinda big enemy for these days society i deeply knowing and take it as gift. Far before i start my soul journey i understand my intuition always telling me its not just about disorder, the more i learn about myself the more i understand myself and others. It might be worse thing in world reality but this gift help me strive to the best version of me finding my life purpose. We living in a duality, things might be vice versa but i believe we all know how to balance it.

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