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Dr. Ned Hallowell - A Psychiatrist Specializing In ADD
Have you ever done something or promoted a cause that you just knew there was no way it was going to fail…especially because you believed that your vision would align with someone else’s thinking or mission? Only to find out that it didn’t!
This unanswered letter was just that, and it only confirmed what my brother Scott once told me: “And hence Dave, there lies your problem. Because I think nobody thinks like you do. Nobody thinks like you do, and every time you think you’re going to do something and somebody’s going to have a reaction to it, it’s never the reaction you expect because you think they think like you.”
I wrote this letter to Dr. Ned Hallowell, a highly-recognized psychiatrist specializing in ADHD; he’s also an international speaker, Best Selling New York Times author who has discussed such varied topics as ADHD and relationships, childhood roots of adult happiness, forgiveness, and strategies for handling the fast pace of life on PBS, NPR, CNN, 20/20, 60-Minutes, The Today Show, Dateline, Good Morning America…not to mention that he’s been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show several times.
I was hoping that he would help put me in contact with influential people who might share my vision for a full-length feature film that would highlight cognitive impairments like ADD and depression that would ultimately show the need for Homo sapiens (i.e., “the wise ones”) to get in charge of ourselves psychologically in order to avert widespread ecological and social calamity. Obviously, Clayton and Brook - two psychologists - think that incorporating psychology is key!
I’d read Dr. Hallowell’s book Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood many years ago, and it was quite helpful in getting me to better understand some of my more frustrating times.
There were three principle reasons I wrote to Dr. Hallowell.
The first one has to do with something an old Forest Service crony once told me, “You got to know sin to preach against sin.” Having ADD myself, a self-diagnosis anyway, I see the human race running around in so many different directions – not unlike someone with ADD – not being able to focus on any one thing well enough to find real solutions. Look at American politics – the immigration issue politicians have been trying to address for decades, the total failure of the penal system, gun violence, just to name a few of the big ones. Don’t even get me going about the topic of climate change which is a major focus of my proposed movie!
The second reason has to do with an article I wrote in Best Self Magazine titled The Environmental Cookie Thief | Our Environmental Liability. Influential people like Oprah, Harrison Ford, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger need to step forward and publicly admit that they are, indeed, Environmental Cookie Thieves (ECT’s). In my mind, that’s the best way to get the anti-enviros to begin acknowledging that climate change and other environmental concerns are real…their biggest argument has always been that people pushing environmental messages are hypocrites.
I’m a dreamer, and I was hoping that he’d be able to put me in touch with Miss Winfrey and she’d help me get my message out.
Why? Because everyone must realize that when it comes to our most pressing environmental woes (from climate change to plastics in the oceans), that we are all part of the problem in one way or another…therefor, we all are part of the solution.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, is Dr. Hallowell’s focus on the fast pace of life (what I refer to as the FPOL), which I believe is the number one impediment we biologists face in conveying the need to live more sustainably…it also contributes greatly to the dysfunction noted in the first reason. This article by Dr. Hallowell in the L.A. Times highlights how the frenetic pace of life affects those who don’t have ADD, causing similar symptoms as those seen in people with that challenging malady. Consequently, the FPOL is the bane of mankind’s ability to communicate effectively; that’s why I contend that we need to start getting back to the basics.
The letter written below was written to Dr. Hallowell in 2016; and like most other inquiries, I never heard back from him. However, as shown below, his personal assistant did pass my plea for help on to him.
Here is the letter I sent Dr. Hallowell:
Hello Dr. Hallowell,
My name is Dave Cannon and I’m a fish biologist in rural Alaska; a place that you can’t drive to…you must fly in. I read your book Driven to Distraction many years ago and it helped me immensely; that was shortly after I realized that I was afflicted with ADD. But, as you often point out, ADD is not necessarily a bad thing and may have a “powerfully positive aspect”. In fact, that perceived malady may be what actually allows me to get a powerful environmental message out in a positive way like no one before has done.
I’ll cut to the quick here - I’m looking for help. If you agree to help me get my environmental message out, then that message could help you achieve your mission to raise greater awareness of ADD. I’ve got a plan that if actualized, can help a lot of people in ways we’ve probably never imagined! *
You’re not the first person I’ve asked for assistance in getting my message out, but I’ll bet that you’re the first whose immediate reaction won’t be, “This guy is crazy”. I’ve been contacting all kinds of people whose main focus has been environmental concerns, but I’m afraid that they don’t take my vision seriously because they misconstrue me or my approach (thank goodness I don’t have rejection sensitive dysphoria!).
My most recent plea was to a well-known and influential nature photographer. Several weeks ago I took a photography workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Tom Mangelsen was one of several highly acclaimed instructors. I’ve actually known Tom since around 1980, but not extremely well because I was too intimidated by his prominence to establish a friendship. During the opening introductions I was honest and stated that I was really there to network to get my all-important message out. Tom approached me afterwards and said that we’d discuss my plan sometime during the week, but because of what you wrote about in Quick, slow down! Why are we so busy all the time? that opportunity never materialized. **
However, during the final night’s social event I told Tom that I’d send him some information, and I’ve included that here as an attachment (my introductory e-mail follows this E-mail). But he, like so many others, has yet to respond back. These lack of responses do make me wonder whether or not he - or the others - thinks that I’m a quack. At a minimum, he must feel it’s not worth his time.
Now if I can’t convince you that “my story” can help make a big difference regarding increased environmental awareness while improving people’s perception of ADD and other learning difficulties, then my sensitivity towards rejection may unfortunately cross that critical threshold! (I hope you can see my dry sense of humor…sometimes it’s drier than a popcorn fart!)
I believe that you have some influential connections that could help bring this dream to fruition. I don’t know what your thoughts or concerns on the environment are, but I truly believe that there is a sense of urgency…we are losing biological diversity at an alarming rate and if we keep on going down the same path, humanity will feel the pinch in a big way. At a minimum, I’d just like to discuss this further with you.
*The following quote from Driven to Distraction encapsulates my efforts over the years to make a significant difference regarding the need for a collective cognitive shift in the way that Homo sapiens see themselves and their place in the environment: And yet their capacity to hope and to dream is immense. More than most people, individuals with ADD have visionary imagination. They think big thoughts and dream big dreams.
** I’ve been a fish biologist for over twenty-five years and have always attempted to heighten the public’s awareness of environmental concerns, but have learned that the largest impediment I – or anyone trying to “save the planet” – am up against is what I refer to as the dreaded FPOL, or fast pace of life. I was once told, “You got to know sin to preach against sin.”, and who better than someone with ADD to point that out to the masses? The story that I’m trying to convey involves one biologist’s journey trying to get in charge of himself psychologically, knowing that mankind must do the same if we are to avert some pretty serious consequences because most things in life are only a matter of scale.