Dyslexic Ants — ADHD Honey Badgers — Autistic Pigeons: Metaphors Explaining Who We Are

Dr. Jamie Schwandt
Sep 21, 2018 · 6 min read
Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

My wife unknowingly planted an idea in my mind this morning. She shared a podcast with me — Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. In the discussion, Dax Shepard and Joel McHale (both men have Dyslexia), discuss an analogy for Dyslexia and ADHD.

This discussion with my wife motivated me to write this blog post on metaphors for who we really are. In fact, I am working on a book with a phenomenal group of people (Derek and Laura Cabrera, as well as Kathryn Ratey) on a similar topic — tentatively titled Superpower Not Disorder.

The idea for the book was brought about to share how these so-called “disorders” are actually superpowers. So this discussion with my wife and listening to Shepard’s podcast fit perfectly with my thoughts this morning.

Scout Mindset

Shepard’s discussion possessed two specific metaphors: Bees and Scouts. The scout metaphor fits perfectly in line with a brilliant Ted Talk by Julia Galef. Galef has a excellent metaphor for understanding two different mindsets: Soldiers and Scouts.

The Soldier needs to fight to survive. They are trained to be defensive and combative. She informs us that the Soldier Mindset is one of feeling safest when we are certain. On the other hand, the Scout Mindset is tasked to get information and to identify what is truly there. Scouts are curious and value questioning long-held beliefs and assumptions.

I recently came across a blog post on Galef’s Ted Talk by Mike Clayton. Clayton points out the following (for which I agree):

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

Cynefin Metaphor

Image via Richard Shy @_richardshy

Shepard also discussed how those with Dyslexia and ADHD are similar to Bees. I think they were correct with their analogy; however, I want to take it a step further.

I could be wrong (and I know it wasn’t designed for this purpose) but Dave Snowden’s Cynefin framework (to me) is the perfect way to visualize an analogy or metaphor for this discussion.

The Cynefin framework is a sense-making device helping us to identify our perceived situations and make sense of our (and others) behavior. The framework provides us with 5 decision-making domains: Obvious (previously known as Simple), Complicated, Complex, Chaotic, and Disorder.

In my opinion, these domains can show us how we react to situations and the simple rules we intuitively rely on. Essentially, it mimics how we make sense of our world.

So I decided to identify four specific groups or behaviors, the rules each group uses, and a metaphor for each group. I will use the Metaphorical Eye to describe these to you.

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

Complex: Dyslexic Ants

In this domain, we find people with Dyslexia. They are like that of a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) (or superorganisms) found in an ant colony.

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

Positive versus Negative Traits for Dyslexic Ants

Positive: Creative, Great Spatial Awareness, Excellent Memory

Negative: Environmental Constraints, Understanding of Written Material, Problems “Fitting-in”

Complicated: Autistic Pigeons

In this domain, we find people with Autism. They are like an intelligent Pigeon.

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

Positive versus Negative Traits for Autistic Pigeons

Positive: Understanding of Fundamental Rules, Extremely Intelligent, Direct and Straightforward

Negative: Lack of Understanding of Emotions, Misunderstood, Overly Candid

Chaotic: ADHD Honey Badgers

In this domain, we find people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They are like the aggressive crazy-nasty Honey badger!

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

Positive versus Negative Traits for ADHD Honey badgers

Positive: Spontaneity, Crisis Driven, Great with Innovative Ideas

Negative: Attention to Detail, Only Focuses on Things of Interest, Overly Aggressive

Obvious: Normal Mice

In this domain, we find “Normal” people (or those who do not have Dyslexia, ADHD, or Autism). I am not using “Mice” or “Normal” in a negative way (although I do recognize how it could appear that way), but this group is like those found in resourceful Mice.

Created by Dr. Jamie Schwandt via Plectica.com

Positive versus Negative Traits for Normal Mice

Positive: Resourceful, Sensible, Intelligent and Meticulous

Negative: Linear Thinkers, Tend to Replicate rather than Innovate, Overly Plan

Who Are You? Ants, Pigeons, Honey Badgers, or Mice?

If you haven’t figured it out already… I am not in the “Normal” group. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but I think it’s important to recognize who you are. I truly believe that each and everyone of us possesses something special.

My greatest asset is the fact that I have ADHD. One of the areas I am researching is a gene variant known as DRD4–7R (which is commonly linked to those with ADHD).

DRD4 is a dopamine receptor that assists with the control of dopamine levels in the brain. The 7R allele is linked to risk taking, curiosity and ADHD (among others). If there is a linkage here, then this might explain the superpower linked to those with ADHD.

Answering the Call…

Finally, I will leave you with one last thought. It is important to truly understand who we are and what ultimately drives or inspires us. After reading the following story, my hope is that you will hear your call and fly out of the chicken coop.

From The Da Vinci Method by Garret Loporto — Answering the Call…

“Once upon a time an eagle’s egg was found by a farmer and mistaken for a chicken egg. The egg was placed with the other eggs in the incubator at the hen house. Some weeks later that egg hatched. The baby eagle was born and raised as a chicken with his peers.”

“This eagle made a miserable chicken. The other chickens found him disruptive. After years of struggling to be a normal chicken, this poor eagle’s self esteem was pretty low. He hated himself.”

“He began to do more and more disruptive things just to get a little hit of excitement. He was starved for action and adventure, so he tried to make up his own thrilling dramas around the chicken coop. Other chickens caught on to his discontent and called him selfish, disordered, and a troublemaker.”

“One day, high overhead the young eagle saw another eagle soaring high in the sky. It took his breath away. For that moment he felt a surge of recognition. he felt something inside him stirring and he felt more alive than he ever had. In his excitement he told his family of chickens what he saw and they scoffed at him. The young eagle was shamed and disheartened.”

“The next day, to his delight, he spotted that same eagle soaring up above. And this time the soaring bird let out the cry of an eagle. The moment the young eagle heard this cry something unexpected happened. The young eagle raised by chickens found his body lurching and his throat contracting. Uncontrollably his entire being responded to that eagle’s cry with his own majestic eagle cry.”

“The young eagle, finally aware of what he truly was, stretched out his wings for the first time and flew. He was no longer imprisoned by the chicken coop, because he was no longer imprisoned by the idea that he had to be a chicken. Nothing could contain him anymore.”

So, as Garret Loporto asked in this story… Have you heard your call?

Dr. Jamie Schwandt

Written by

Dr. Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an American author, L6S master black belt, and red teamer.

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