Written by Rod McClure JP   
Friday, 05 November 2021 08:49
Flowers Cras
The ADD Relationship

Excerpts  from CHAPTER 27
( Track 30 Audio Book )

Gabor Mate
What Didn’t Happen:  

“The child who is deprived or rejected will tend to over-react
To successive separations throughout life”. 

– ROBERT W. FIRESTONE, PH.D., The Fantasy Bond

Gabor Mate - 01 cropped
Maté, Gabor.MD  Author:  

Attention Deficit may start early and may also carry genetic DNA influences.

Hyper vigilant nervous circuits contained as & within LIFE are activated whenever
Being Left, Abandoned or Separated.
They are those encoded emotions first experienced when,
As highly sensitive infants OUR  LIFE did not receive

*Unqualified *Undivided * Essential *Loving Attention. 


In this way we somatically  store 



The fear of rejection is not unique to the ADD personality—
No single psychological feature of attention deficit disorder is unique. 

Its importance in attention deficit disorder comes from the
Hyperactivity Of temperament
Everyone with ADD was born with.

In the ADD adult, as in the child,
This hypersensitivity magnifies the impact of
Every emotional stimulus. 

The fear of rejection is never far below the surface. 

People with ADD are exquisitely sensitive to the merest hint of "IT",
Even if the hint is only a figment of their fearful imagination. 

"IT" is triggered by any stimulus that ever so vaguely resembles rejection,
Even if no rejection is intended.
The trigger can be a wife declining to have sexual intercourse with
her husband on a given night, but it can also be as minor as a glance,
An inadvertent comment or an averted look. 

The ADD adult does not know the difference between refusal and rejection. 
When he hears no from a lover, a friend, an employer,
It’s as if the universe is negating his right to exist.

In the above example, the wife may or may not have rejecting feelings toward her husband, But his implicit memories make it impossible for him to feel anything other than rejection. 
Poor self-regulation also disables him from responding like an adult,
No matter whether his partner feels rejecting or only uninterested.
The emotions associated with implicit memories of feeling rejected may be strong enough to Bring up thoughts of life not being worth living. 

“My husband looks so lost when I say no to him,”
A woman reported during a family therapy session.
“He looks completely defeated and crushed. It makes me feel so guilty.” 

The husband’s response is that of the sensitive infant when the parent is emotionally Unavailable, because for the infant life truly seems impossible without contact with the Nurturing parent. 
The other, the one who did the “rejecting,” is seen and thought of as all-powerful and cruel;
The self is experienced as isolated and helpless, utterly unable to escape from emotional pain. 

One man who felt unwelcome in the marriage bed spoke bitterly of his wife as the ice queen—

By implication, he was the abject underling.
We can recall now that the Orbitofrontal Cortex is also thought to play
A major role in emotional self-regulation.
It helps to inhibit the powerful emotions,
Like fear—and fear’s offspring, Anxiety—

That are generated in the Amygdala and other brain centres below the level of the Cortex. 
As we have seen, in ADD the ability to inhibit powerful emotions is impaired because the connections of the OFC with the lower brain centres did not develop optimally

Just as hypersensitivity magnifies the sense of being rejected,

So deficient self-regulation

Due to impaired inhibition by the Cortex

Exaggerates the response to rejection. 

With this in mind, we can understand what comes next. 


The response of the infant to the fathomless anxiety of physical or emotional separation from the parent is either rage or withdrawal, or a combination of both in sequence. 

"This is how I have many times reacted in similar circumstances." writes Gabor. 

In the second volume of his trilogy on attachment, John Bowlby describes what was observed when ten small children in residential nurseries were reunited with their mothers after separations lasting from twelve days to twenty-one weeks. 

The separations were in every case due to family emergencies and the absence of other caregivers, and in no case due to any intent on the parents’ part to abandon the child.
“On meeting Mother for the first time after the days or weeks away every one of the ten children showed some degree of detachment. 

Two seemed not to recognise Mother. The other eight turned away or even walked away from her. Most of them either cried or came close to tears; a number alternated between a tearful and an expressionless face.” 

After periods of briefer separation the infant around one year of age will exhibit rage.
Bowlby also points out that the parent can be
Physically present but Emotionally absent
Due to stress, anxiety, depression or preoccupation with other matters. 

From the point of view of the infant, it hardly matters.
His encoded reactions will be the same, because for him the real issue is not the parent’s Physical presence but her Emotional Accessibility. 

The withdrawal dynamic has been called defensive detachment by Bowlby. 

It has one meaning:
"So hurtful was it for me to experience your absence
That I will encase myself in a shell of hard emotion,
Impervious to love—and therefore to pain". 

"I never want to feel that hurt again".

As a result, ADD adults find it difficult to trust in relationships,
To make themselves truly open and vulnerable. 

Depending on the degree of early sorrow they experienced, the very idea of commitment may make them anxious. Especially men with ADD will, entering deeper into a relationship,
Keep half an eye on possible exits.
“I am always on the lookout for a parachute relationship,” one thirty-year-old man said. 

No matter who his current partner was, he felt safer if he could think of another woman to take her place should the need arise. 

The criticalness toward his partners that "Stephen" experienced once he felt they had
“warmed up” to him was really an expression of his fear of intimacy. 

The other aspect of "Stephen’s" criticality arises from boredom. 

Many adults with ADD report that they quickly become bored with relationships,
As with much else in life. 

They imagine this boredom of theirs to mean that something is lacking in their partner:
The reality is that they are bored with themselves. 

A person not in contact with internal sources of energy and interest in the world
Has to search for outside sources.

Believing that fulfilment can come only from someone else. 

This is the implicitly remembered state of the infant hungry for emotional nourishment,
Lacking the capacity to satisfy his own needs and having to look to the parent. 

The demand placed on the partner in the love relationship is that he or she—the other—
Fills the emptiness within oneself. 

But such nourishment is found only through psychological
And Spiritual growth,
Through self-discovery. 

So long as I expect another person to provide what I am lacking in myself,
I am bound to be disappointed.
The temptation then is to look for another partner,
A new relationship in which, perhaps, I will find what I feel is missing. 
In the absence of personal development this quest is doomed,
As the relationship nomad keeps discovering. 

The fear of intimacy is also a fear of the loss of self. 

There is the well-known paradox that the person with ADD craves real human contact,
feels like an outsider and wishes to belong—
But at the same time is reclusive,
Often preferring his own company to that of others. 

The paradox is due to his oscillating back and forth between two fears:
The anxiety of loneliness and abandonment, and, opposing that,
A parallel sense of danger that if he commits to a relationship,
He will be overwhelmed, swallowed up. 

“It’s only when I am alone that I can really be myself,” said Frank, a fifty-year-old writer who came to see me in the immediate after-math of yet another abortive relationship. 

Such a person is presented with a choice between two alternatives,
neither of which is satisfactory:
One either choses the relationship and gives up the self,
Retains the sense of self but gives up on the relationship—
and, in some cases, on almost all social contact. 

The unsolved problem is how to be oneself in contact with other people

People desperate for a relationship will surrender their sense of self, their true feelings,
For fear of being rejected;
When they have gained the relationship they may pull back,
As "Stephen" repeatedly has, in order to reconnect with that precarious sense of self. 

This dynamic is often seen after the most intimate act of all, sexual intercourse,
When following deep attraction and union,
There is an alienation and a drive to separate which men, particularly, may experience. 

One may be in a long-term relationship, lasting even decades,
Without ever feeling completely committed to it. 

The ambivalence is an intrinsic memory of childhood emotions when a choice had to be made between staying with oneself, with one’s real feelings, and thereby jeopardising the relationship with one’s parent, or going for the relationship, at the cost of suppressing parts of oneself. 

One gauge of persistent problems with intimacy in an ADD relationship is the couple’s sexual life—or the lack of it. “Non-existent” and “What sex life?” are two of the common replies my questioning around this subject tends to bring. 

The lack of sexual intimacy is in most cases an unmistakable sign of mutual emotional shutdown.
Interestingly, I see this not only in families where one of the adult partners has ADD, but also where one or more of the children has it, even if neither parent does. In the latter case, this marker of absent intimacy between the parents speaks volumes about the emotional alienation and tension in the midst of which the child exists. 
Also dampening sexual ardor is the propensity of the ADD adult, the male especially, to behave like an irresponsible child. 

This may lead his spouse to act like his mother—organising his life, taking care of his emotional needs. 

Many a wife of an ADD husband has complained to me of feeling as if she has an extra child in the house—five foot ten, perhaps, balding and with a greying beard. 

Along with that mother role, unfortunately, may come an ever-increasing component of scolding and nagging—which I have heard many a man complain of. The response to feeling that another person is trying to control him—even if it’s a spouse, and even if she has legitimate reasons to be anxious—is to resist. 

Counterwill, described in chapter 20, mostly in regard to children and teenagers, is also a major dynamic shaping the responses of the ADD adult. 

It is a powerful factor in the ADD relationship. The couple find themselves chronically caught in the dense shrubbery of anxiety, control, resistance and oppositionality. One of the problems with such a mother/son relationship is, of course, that no mother in her right mind wants to sleep with her son; nor do reasonably healthy men fancy going to bed with their mothers. 

I have frequently advised couples that if they truly want adult intimacy, they mutually need to give up the parent/child roles toward each other. “People gravitate toward their emotional mirror images,” Michael Kerr points out. 

It is well recognised now that people will form relationships with others exactly at the same level of psychological development and self-acceptance as their own. “People tend to sort themselves by levels of emotional development for many purposes, not just marriage,” writes Stanley Greenspan, “because those functioning at different levels are practically speaking different languages… 

People widely separated developmentally in fact have very little to talk about.” 

What we might call the law of equal development holds true even if the partners themselves buy into the mythology that one of them is more emotionally mature than the other. 

Such an illusion may be created because one may seem to be functioning in the world more successfully than the other. Usually it is women with ADD who tell me that their husbands are better adjusted than they are. By certain criteria, it may seem so. The man may be working, be earning a good income and have much more confidence than his wife when it comes to worldly affairs. 

When such a relationship is examined, it becomes apparent that though the financially rewarding work is being done by the husband, the invisible division of labor charges the wife with all the emotional responsibility. 

Not only is she the linchpin holding the family’s emotional life together, but she also has the secret and mutually unconscious assignment of absorbing her husband’s anxieties, protecting his fragile ego, enabling him to function in the belief that his strength is purely intrinsic to him. 

His anxiety can be noticed, however, as soon as she becomes unavailable, for whatever reason. 
The cause can be something as minor as a three-day flu. Many wives report their husbands to be unaccountably tense and sullenly unhelpful whenever they are ill, which signifies the man’s anxiety—his implicit memory of finding his mother, or perhaps father, inaccessible. 
An individual with ADD choosing a partner on the same plane of psychological growth as herself is unavoidable. 

Since ADD by definition implies underdeveloped emotional intelligence, any such relationship, also by definition, will begin with two people who have both been stuck at fairly early stages of emotional development. 

Although, as with every other aspect of ADD, there will be a broad range of variation, no ADD relationship will avoid the problems arising from the mutual lack of maturity. 

By maturity, I mean here the degree of individuation, the capacity of the person to genuinely sustain herself emotionally during difficult times without having to be mothered or fathered by someone else. 
I interpose genuinely because many people pretend to themselves and to others that they are capable of taking care of themselves emotionally, but they do so only at the cost of suppressing their anxiety. The buried anxiety will not be denied but will assert itself in the form of psychological symptoms or direct physical illness. 

Another rule with almost no exceptions is that our choice of relationship partners is patterned on our interactions with our parental caregivers. This is so even if it may appear superficially that the differences far outweigh any possible resemblance. “Many people have a hard time accepting the idea that they have searched for partners who resembled their caretakers,” writes the family therapist and educator Harville Hendrix. 

“On a conscious level, they were looking for people with only positive traits—people who were, among other things, kind, loving, good looking, intelligent, and creative… But, no matter what their conscious intentions, most people are attracted to mates who have their caretakers’ positive and negative traits, and, typically, the negative traits are more influential.” 

In neurophysiological terms, our choice of mate reflects the early relationship patterns stamped in the neural circuits of the right prefrontal cortex, especially its orbitofrontal portion. The OFC will recognize and hone in on some-one who, on the unconscious level, activates its familiar reactions. This person, after all, will most resemble the persons whose love one so desperately craved all one’s life. 

We are inexorably drawn to marry the individual who is, of all potential partners, the very one most likely to trigger in us the most painful and confusing of implicit memories—as well as the warmest, happiest ones. 

Relationships have to change if one is to create the conditions for growth. “I must be a very strong person,” Jennifer, a thirty-three-year-old woman with attention deficit disorder said to me. 

“I must be, otherwise I could not have put up with what I have had to in my marriage.” Her husband was well-meaning but domineering, emotionally absent and completely closed to getting any joint Counseling or therapy. She felt very alone. I agreed that she had a lot of strength to carry on under such circumstances, holding down a job and taking the main responsibility of raising their children, one of whom has fairly marked ADD. 

She also exhibited emotional strength in recognising, unlike her husband, that she needed help. 

There is, however, an important and oft-overlooked difference between being strong and being powerful. 

Strength is an inner quality; power is a matter of relationship. I may have strength, yet at the same time I may be powerful in one relationship and utterly powerless in another. 

“Which partner in a marriage has to ‘put up’ with stuff?” I said. 

“The less or the more powerful one?” Jennifer’s willingness to accept an unfairly heavy share of the burden was, as always, a reenactment of her childhood status in her family of origin. 

As long as she continued to shoulder those burdens unquestioningly, she could make little headway toward her goal of development and the diminishing of her ADD patterns. 

One of the most perplexing problems for the non-ADD partner is what John Ratey has called “the ahistorical memory” of the ADD mind. 

In other words, the ADD adult (and also of course the ADD child) functions at times as if previous events, even the most recent ones, had never taken place. 

Your ADD partner may have insulted you the night before but this morning greets you with a warm smile, the offer of a hug and the expectation of warm reciprocal contact. 

You are in absolutely no mood, the wounds of the previous night still being fresh. 

You refuse, predictably stimulating in your partner the rage-or-withdrawal response to feeling rejected. Another aspect of ahistorical memory is its either-or nature. 

When, for example, a person recalls the good times in a relationship, it is almost as if nothing bad had ever happened. 

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true: when one is remembering the bad,
The good may as well not have occurred. 

The feeling of the moment dominates the memory. 

In this regard, the ADD mind is much like a television screen: you can’t have two channels on at the same time; when one has been selected, the other is inaccessible. This trait is characteristic of the all-or-nothing mind states of young children and is another marker of incomplete development in the adult.

Of course, the neurological impairments of ADD also impose some extra nuisance. 

It is difficult to live with a partner who may be messy and disorganized, does not remember promises, tunes out in the middle of conversations, forgets events and anniversaries, has a short fuse and in moments of crisis may lack self-insight. 

But all that adds up to only a thimbleful of trouble when compared with the turmoil brought to the relationship by the anxiety and pain stored in the implicit memory circuits of the ADD brain.

With absolute and sincere thanks, gratitude and appreciation we offer total recognition to Gabor Mate and his writing of Scattered Minds from which we have taken these pieces from Chapter 27.
Maté, Gabor. Scattered Minds (p.261 - 270). Ebury Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Further Reading for  TRAUMA Information at

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 11:09
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