Do you have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? In this article, we’ll explore a view of ADHD termed the “hunter-type approach” that turns the commonly held perception of the condition on its head, offering a path to empowerment, personal growth, and more effective life management.
This approach views ADHD not as a medical disorder but as a neurological type that can be effectively managed by using the right tools. Those tools are presented in the book, The Drummer and the Great Mountain, a Guidebook for Transforming Adult ADD/ADHD (2014) by Michael Joseph Ferguson, and explored in the related podcast, Adult ADHD ADD Tips and Support.
Different Perceptions of Adult ADHD
Living with adult ADHD can be challenging. Its symptoms of distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and oversensitivity can be inconvenient at best and crippling at worst. But, in fact, by using certain techniques you can neutralize — and transform — the negatives of ADHD into positives.
It starts with reframing the way you look at your adult ADHD. This makes it possible to engage processes that release the toxic emotions that arise around the condition, which can include shame, anger and inadequacy, opening space for greater health and increased self-esteem and self-confidence.
For years, the focus of the traditional medical community has been on treating ADHD’s symptoms while failing to provide a broader perspective in which a person with ADHD can appreciate their experience (and themselves) as valid and unique.
Indeed, the commonly held view of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder often leaves out the positives that come with this neurological type. In fact, many of society’s highest achievers have adult ADHD.
Neurodiversity views the innate differences in brain physiology in certain individuals as expected “variations” rather than as deficits. Conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and Tourette Syndrome are then not stigmatized as disabilities but seen as qualities and variations that should and must be accepted.
The Hunter-type Approach — Why It’s Important
Why do some people have ADHD? And why does it present its unique constellation of symptoms?
The “Hunter vs. Farmer Hypothesis” entered the mainstream in 1991 with the publication of Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception by Tom Hartmann. The theory posits that people with ADHD have inherited the evolutionary traits that made hunters in ages past so successful. What appear to be “symptoms” in modern times—i.e., hyperalertness, intense focus, etc. — have actually been great advantages to hunters.
Hartmann also writes about farmer types, who are themselves unique. People with farmer traits generally tend to be patient, adept at performing routine tasks and focused on long-term goals.
Imagine you are a hunter living in the upper Paleolithic period of about 20,000 years ago. Natural selection has favored you due to your “ADHD”-type abilities, and have helped you survive. You are sensitive to the sound of a twig crackling that could give away an attacking tribe or the small movement of a prey animal. While these traits were useful then, today they may be inconveniently keeping you up at night hearing the sound of a car door slamming out on the street or an air conditioner humming softly in your neighbor’s window.
Are You and Your Significant Others Hunters or Farmers?
Hunter traits include a knack for scanning the environment, near and far, for threats, a quality that today is called distractibility. The hunter-type is perpetually sensitive to infinitesimal movement and possesses the capacity to be totally focused “in the moment.”
The hunter’s reality often consists of times of high energy during the hunt, followed by periods of deep relaxation. Time to the hunter-type is measured not in hours and days but in seconds and minutes.
The farmer type, on the other hand, embodies an opposite set of skills. The farmer can perform the same task day-in and day-out, maintaining prolonged focus without distraction, ideal for producing successful crops, helping ensure survival. The farmer enjoys a steady, day-in, day-out even output of energy and a time horizon of weeks and months. For farmers, rewards come slower than for hunters. The farmer naturally returns to “the big picture.”
Though the Hunter vs. Farmer Hypothesis has not yet been validated by the traditional medical community, as a psychological framework it offers many helpful strategies for living with the symptoms of ADHD.
Transforming Adult ADHD, a Guidebook
In 2010, author Michael Ferguson set out to write a comprehensive, holistic manual based about living with adult ADHD, based on his own experience, using the Hunter vs. Farmer Hypothesis as its key foundation, combined with an acknowledgement of ADHD as a neurological type. His book, The Drummer and the Great Mountain, a Guidebook for Transforming Adult ADD/ADHD, has captivated a significant readership.
Ferguson coined the term “hunter-type” to describe a person with adult ADHD. In The Drummer and the Great Mountain, he explores the qualities of the hunter-type and offers strategies for dealing with its challenges. Ferguson has been highly successful in transforming his own ADHD, including its tougher aspects.
Ferguson’s podcast, Adult ADHD ADD Tips and Support, offers ideas, suggestions and discussion based on the hunter-type perspective and expands on the Hunter vs. Farmer concept. The podcast is resonating with a growing group of followers of this alternative perspective of ADHD. Thousands of people worldwide use these techniques to troubleshoot ADHD-related issues. One advocate, Zac, in the UK, calls the approach “a Haynes Manual for my rather odd model.”
The Hunter-Type in Society
Culturally, people with adult ADHD often (but not always) embody creative and imaginative ability. In large numbers they are artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, entrepreneurs, marketing experts, actors, comedians, medics, sales people and high-tech innovators.
Paulo Coelho, bestselling author of The Alchemist, writes of his experience of ADHD, “I can guarantee you: I would be immediately diagnosed as a severe case, because being a child (and even as an adult) I pay attention to everything and nothing.”
But many hunter-types struggle mightily, tragically never gaining a secure foothold in life or any kind of stability. They are in disproportionately high numbers society’s addicts, prison inmates and homeless. Often, in people with adult ADHD, the line between gaining worldly success and falling to crushing hardship can be gossamer thin.
Transforming Adult ADHD in a Positive Direction
If you have this neurological type, it’s possible to shift your adult ADHD from a negative into a positive. How?
In undertaking Ferguson’s approach, the initial step is to adopt its foundational principle that you’re not “ill” or malfunctioning but simply being your neurological real self, as you were born and meant to be. You are not at fault. If you’ve suffered or feel shame about things that have happened in your life due to the influence of your ADHD, though that suffering is very real, it doesn’t have to define you, create your future or continue to limit you.
Gain Ground in Your Life
Ferguson’s book presents details on all the essential areas.
Diet, says Ferguson, is one important key. It’s highly beneficial to cut out all processed “artificials,” as numerous medical studies have shown these ingredients to exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Get yourself on a healthy, high protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Protein contains a vast array of amino acids, specifically l-tyrosine, the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine that’s so important to the hunter-type physiology.
The lack of dopamine receptors, among other brain chemical anomalies, gives hunter-types their restlessness and distractibility. When you take in higher levels of protein, you literally feed your brain and improve your ability to focus. This doesn’t mean you have to be a meat eater. Vegetarians can easily follow the hunter-type protocol using other protein sources.
Dealing with Ups and Down
Physical exercise is another key, according to Ferguson. It’s one of the most important ways to reduce the negatives of ADHD. You may not be a world-class athlete, but you can find great advantage in any level of aerobic movement.
Emotional highs and lows are common in hunter-types. Typically, the greatest challenge can occur at a low-energy point, often early or late in the day. That’s when the hunter’s “filters” are at their lowest, and people can lose their cool emotionally. It can be embarrassing and disappointing, taking a toll on self-esteem.
Try to avoid scheduling mentally intensive or overwhelming tasks at these times of day, which can do wonders to reduce stress and foster greater rejuvenation. Ferguson recommends a planned wind-down time at the end of the day — perhaps a warm bath, a turning off of all technologies, and an acceptance of life and your personal reality to the best of your ability.
A Cornucopia of Useful Techniques
The book and podcast offer scores of practical strategies designed to help hunter-types transform the negatives of ADHD into positives, including life visioning, time management, self-empathy, breathwork, dealing with “the down day,” working with overwhelm, using a whole systems approach, tapping moments of inspiration as fuel, and many more.
To learn more, visit:
The Drummer and the Great Mountain, a Guidebook for Transforming Adult ADD/ADHD:
Podcast, ‘Adult ADHD ADD Tips and Support’: