Several decades ago in a college sociology class, I first encountered the concepts of the inner-directed person and the other-directed person. I gained the clear impression that to be inner-directed was preferable. But it was also clear to me that I was pretty far into the other-directed camp.
Over the years, I have thought back to that moment, one of the standout incidents among my few memories of my college classes. Until quite recently, I have staunchly retained the belief that inner-directed people, people I imagined lived according to their own internal gyroscopes, unswayed by the opinions of others, were superior. They knew who they were and lived authentically, I believed.
But recently, as I have learned more about ADHD, I have begun to ponder another way of looking at other-directedness. Rather than describing a chameleon-like person with a weak sense of identity who changes as the winds of external circumstances blow, the phrase could describe a person who is energized more by engaging with others than by engaging with his/her own thoughts. In other words, it could describe the location of a person’s energy source rather than of a person’s identity source.
As I have begun to pay attention to this phenomenon, I see that many ADDers lose focus and energy when they are alone or without clear external direction. We, since I count myself as one of this group, can even seem depressed at times when external stimuli are lacking. Then the minute another person or interesting external stimulus arrives on the scene, the ADDers’s energy level can rise and what seemed to be depression can lift.
I don’t actually know what the psychologists and social scientists might say about this observation, but it’s something I’m curious about. I’ll keep my eyes open for any references to it as I read and will post anything relevant in future blogs.
Feel free to weigh in if you have thoughts!