Many people have an old-fashioned notion of willpower, leftover, I think, from a Victorian notion of morality. Technology, science, and medicine change rapidly, but culture and social structure, in many ways, change at a glacial pace. Slavery ended in 1863, yet we arguably still feel effects of this scourge today.
Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” published in the 1890′s is about post-partum depression/psychosis and the popular “rest cure” for well-off women of that era which consisted of nothing less than solitary confinement. In the story, the narrator complains to her husband that although she may be getting better in body, she’s not making any progress in her mind and may be getting worse. His reply:
I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours.
This dialogue belies a belief that many people have today. If one is depressed, the advice is “just don’t let it bother you,” that one can just shut it out. Likewise, the common advice for those suffering from ADHD is to “try harder.” (The better advice is “try differently,” but that’s for another post.)
Part of intellectual maturity is to recognize that people are different in mind and see the world and function in different ways. This lesson comes to me all the time when I grade papers with students. I’ve had students thank me for a D and storm out of my office for a B+. I’ve always thought that personal essays are more fun and easier to write than research papers, but I’ve had students tell me the opposite is true for them. Having autistic children helps me understand different minds too.
(Next: Everyone is a little ADHD. Especially professors.)
All my posts on ADHD Fakeness.