By Michelle Frank, Psy.D.
According to Neil DiGrasse Tyson, heir to Carl Sagan, and his Cosmos colleagues (along with numerous other astrophysicist geniuses), if we were to condense the history of the universe into one year, referred to as the “Cosmic Calendar,” where the Big Bang took place January 1 at midnight, and the current moment is midnight, December 31, most everything we study and talk about in human history would have occurred in the last second of December’s last day. On that scale, the longest human life would pass in the blink of an eye, about one quarter of one second.
Think about it. Be blown away by both the majesty and the insignificance of your existence.
Our lives are at once miniscule and incredibly powerful. Our minds even more so, for they experience the world and help us understand the limits by which we are bound. Understanding that our minds and lives are simultaneously microscopic and infinitely expansive, subject to biology yet also incomprehensibly dynamic, we begin to see that our perception is malleable and powerful. Our experiences, the thoughts we have every day, are just a tiny part of existence yet they can also feel like everything. One second can fly by, or it can feel like such a long, long time; it can feel like forever.
Our lives become what we make them. What beautiful, terrifying freedom we have. It makes me wonder about how I spend my energy every day, in the midst of such an awe-inspiring existence. In the true spirit of ADHD, this in turn makes me wonder about the power of the stories of failure that often come with challenges and how much space those stories take up if allowed to grow roots. It’s amazing, and scary, that something so seemingly inconsequential as a thought or story about ourselves can turn into the way we see our entire history, or the world.
Our thoughts and beliefs may not always be up to us, but they always matter. Have you ever wondered how something as amorphous as a thought can provoke an all-day (or life-long!) string of negative, unhelpful beliefs and uncomfortable feelings? One thought or feeling can harken others, gathering a constellation of ideas, becoming an accepted wisdom, joined in a diatribe of self-deprecation or, on the other hand, a celebration of worth and possibility.
While it may not always feel that way, you choose what you focus on and where you put your feet every day. If you have ADHD, you may feel you need help maintaining consistency in those choices. Brains generally don’t like to remain still; add ADHD and you have a ping-pong machine of cognition. It’s important to maintain perspective. Remember, a thought is just a thought, or you can allow one second to become your entire universe.
If we allow it, one thought, mistake, feeling, interaction, or memory can become as large as the outward expanses of the cosmos. It becomes your reality, even though it may not be accurate or helpful. Recall that we once believed our planet, the history of human life and a few thousand years were all that ever existed. We were wrong. With a life of perceived shortcomings and failures, it is easy to create a story of not being good enough or not living up to expectations. As true as those stories can feel, they are just as wrong as the theory of a flat earth.
The one thing that has absolute power to disrupt any progress you make is the story you tell yourself about it, if it’s a story of failure, loss, inferiority or incapability that stays long after symptoms abate. It is important to honor and learn from the past, but that is not where change happens. Change happens now. Now is the only place every good thing worth imagining can begin growing so that when you look back upon your life you will know you did not waste your time talking yourself out of being great. You will know that one thought, one belief, one diagnosis is not all there is to you, no more than this little blue planet or human history is all there is to the Universe.
You are more than your bad days. You are more than your symptoms. When you examine the origins of the universe, as Neil DiGrasse Tyson explains, you are literally made of stardust. Since you get to choose what you believe in, believe in that. It will propel you further than self-doubt ever could. One person’s belief in their ideas or abilities can change the course of everything. Whenever you feel unsure, watch an episode of Cosmos, and remember.
Dr. Michelle Frank is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist located in Chicago, IL. She specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and related challenges. Dr. Frank understands ADHD and takes an active and empowering approach in helping clients live successfully in spite of challenges. Learn more at: http://www.chicagotherapist.com/michelle-frank-team-10.php and http://www.drmichellefrank.com