Neurodivergent Minds

A Distinction Between Avoidance Behaviours and Blocking and Masking

Avoidance – The Chinese Finger Trap – A mindfulness tool that educates clients about the concept of sitting with distress

Struggling with personal pain is like trying to get out of a Chinese finger trap. In the first session of treatment I educate clients that it is our stories about distress and attempts to escape from it, that can amplify our pain and leave us feeling stuck. The Chinese finger trap (a woven bamboo tube) is a tool that I use to demonstrate that when you try to escape being in the finger trap by pulling away, it constricts, trapping your fingers. When you push your fingers into the Chinese finger trap, rather than pulling away from the discomfort of feeling trapped, it creates space and you have an ability to set your fingers free. Clients can visualize that when we learn to lean into discomfort and make room for it in an open and curious manner (as opposed to a sole focus on trying to escape) we make room for healthier ways of relating to distress.

Learning health ways of sitting with distress involves gaining an awareness of the common triggers of distress and understanding the warning signs (that is the feelings, thought, physical sensations and behavioural urges or actions) that signal that we are experiencing distress. Once you become aware of your triggers and warning signs you are in a better position to apply helpful coping strategies

Learning to be mindful of your emotions in a curious and non-judgmental manner allows clients to change how they pay attention to an emotion and sets the framework for managing distress in a healthy way

This process also involves a commitment to dropping escape methods (situational avoidance, reassurance seeking or checking, distraction and suppression, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, binge eating, disengaging and isolating self, etc.) that are unhelpful habits applied when we become distressed.

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Neurodivergent Minds -The Adverse Impact of Blocking and Masking

Neurodiversity itself is not an ideology, it is an undeniable aspect of the rich tapestry of biodiversity which typifies the human species. Neurodivergent individuals are acutely aware of their differences energetically, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Blocking your emotions and masking (repression of emotion, suppressing your natural way of existing and camouflaging), may lead to burn out, disconnection and isolation. Perceived skill deficits, masking and repression (years of bottled up nervous energy) can lead to people believing that they have utilised all-of the responses in their coping repertoire, including seeking help, and develop maladaptive thinking about their plight. Whilst it is important to teach people about refraining (holding back), repression has a different energy in which you are afraid to express your emotions or feel the need to suppress your natural way of existing. To refrain is a healthy response, rather than a reaction, that is a choice rather than a requirement. It is important that clients feel safe enough to reach out for help, before they reach breaking point.

Many clients block their emotions and mask (camouflage) due to societal discrimination and a lack of accommodations designed to meet the neurocognitive needs of neurodivergent minds. An important first step to removing the mask is one of acceptance, before we can identify and embrace the many strengths and beauty of neurodivergent minds. When we can come to accept our whole selves, we can remove the mask that makes us feel hidden, rejected and disconnected.

The Functional Legacy Mindset™ approach is not proposed to replace the important work of the dominant psychological therapeutic interventions. Schema therapy is a powerful therapeutic intervention that allows clients to identify psychological defences and self-defeating patterns that begin early in life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy educates clients on how to challenge problematic cognitions (thoughts and core beliefs) and behaviours that can amplify distress. Acceptance Commitment Therapy encourages people to be mindful of their emotions in a curious and non-judgmental manner, which allows them to change how they pay attention to an emotion and sets the framework for managing distress in a healthy way.

Please note DSM-V diagnosis, psychological and psychiatric (appropriate use of medication and psychiatric care) treatment provides the key to understanding, resources and support. The Functional Legacy Mindset – Five Mind Model™ should not be used to replace a face to face clinical interview to assess diagnosis of mental health concerns and material on this website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing significant emotional difficulties, you should contact your GP to obtain a referral to see a qualified professional. The Functional Legacy Mindset™ approach was designed to address environmental factors that may be adversely impacting different minds.

When you build a healthy self-concept, clients are eager to learn and are more likely to develop a self-compassionate mindset that acknowledges that support is vital and needed. It further promotes a sense of purpose, in which clients feel empowered to embrace their unique strengths and abilities to contribute to society in ways that feel authentic and meaningful to them. Neurodivergent clients have an admirable level of psychological grit.

The Functional Legacy Mindset™ approach was designed by Dr Kerry Chillemi (Clinical Psychologist) to:

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