Thinking Outside the Box of Shame: When expectations and disbelief do more damage than the disorder.

Thinking Outside the Box of Shame: When expectations and disbelief do more damage than the disorder.

I know it’s a kids’ movie, but I love Despicable Me. The main character, Gru, is so wonderfully disinterested in everyone else’s view of him, simply content to be socially inappropriate and fulfilling his dreams to be the best villain he can be. As much as I love Gru and could write an entire blog about his character, my favorite part of the movie is The Box of Shame. If you haven’t seen the movie, you can see the scene I’m referring to here: Box of Shame

In short, the true “villain” in this story is Ms. Hattie, the woman who runs a home for girls and threatens the ones who don’t live up to her expectations with, “You don’t want to have to spend the weekend in The Box of Shame, do you?” The girls quickly agree that’s no place they want to  be, and as they exit her office we actually get to see them say hello to the last  little girl who disappointed Miss Hattie, sitting dejectedly inside the cardboard box labeled “Box of Shame” in big black letters.

Anyone who has read my other articles or spent  more than 30 seconds listening to me talk about ADD quickly learns that I adamantly oppose the idea of ADHD being categorizeds as a destructive disorder, handicap, disability or any other number of negative labels. I agree 100% with the perception that ADD is a biological brain difference and any medical or educational professional who claims otherwise is irresponsibly ignoring volumes of medical evidence to the contrary. I will also agree that having ADD or ADHD can be very destructive to someone’s life… but it is not the ADD that does the damage. It is the “box” that we try to fit the ADD brain-type into that destroys lives, strips our self esteem and convinces so many of us that we are “broken.”

Yes, our brains function differently. That does NOT mean our  brains function incorrectly. Back in the early days of human evolution, the ADD gene very likely gave us an advantage over people without those traits. We were the hunters, leaders and explorers. We were driven to find  new places and new ideas. Many ADD’ers have heightened senses of hearing, sight or touch and can often be very intuitive or instinctive. Our brains work exceedingly well under the influence of adrenalin, sharpening our senses and able to think quickly in dangerous or stressful situations. Where would the human race be now if our ancestors had paused to consider the consequences of hunting a cave bear for food?

The ability to sit in a classroom or behind a desk and focus didn’t used to be a necessary skill for human beings. Parents weren’t viewed as inadequate in pre-historic times if children were bouncing off the walls… because there weren’t any. If we still lived an out-door survival lifestyle, the fact that my 8-year-old climbs all over EVERYTHING wouldn’t be considered a “disorder.” Instead, the same behavior would probably be encouraged and the other mom’s would be exceedingly jealous because our family would have the most coconuts! Human beings weren’t designed to spend day in and day out sitting at a desk focusing on the same task. Most importantly, we were not born to live out our lives within the confines of a “box” of expectations that now tells us there is something wrong with us simply because our brains and bodies were designed to succeed in a society that changed it’s expectations.

It’s becoming a well-known fact many of our greatest inventors, explorers and innovators had ADD and/or Dyslexia, two conditions that often travel together. How ironic that the very minds who helped create the advanced, modern civilization we now live in would no longer fit into it. We usually look at great minds like Einstein, Thomas Edison, Amelia Erhardt and Da Vinci as examples of people who became great in spite of the challenges they lived through in school or society. Very few people consider that they may have had great minds and hearts BECAUSE of those traits we now talk about as “obstacles.” A box is only an obstacle if you’re trapped inside it.

Not every person with ADD is as highly gifted as the greatest minds of our times, but there are suspiciously high percentages of people with ADHD who have strengths in common areas. The question that poses to me, is this: how much more “gifted” would we consider those people if they had been encouraged to develop their strengths instead of being imprisoned in an ill-fitting Box of Shame?

My youngest son, Brody, also loves Despicable Me and I sometimes affectionately refer to him as my “minion.” Recently, he impulsively hit his sister and was relegated to spend a few minutes in time out with his nose on the wall. He has a deep love of playing inside card board boxes and has even requested to sleep in one before. Unable to tolerate the utter boredom of standing in one place for long, he began to look around for interesting things to think about and spotted a box of items waiting to be dropped off at good will. With a hopeful note in his voice he asked, “Mom… do I have to put my nose on the wall? Can’t I just go in the Box of Shame instead?”

Of course you can son! If you choose to play in the box for awhile, that’s fine with me. Just promise me that you will ALWAYS leave the lid open and never EVER feel ashamed about it.


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