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Revolutionizing ADHD Management – Exclusive Interview With Bas den Blaauwen

Bas den Blaauwen is an entrepreneur, leader, coach, and trainer in the field of ADHD. He is laying out a different path to be walked for people struggling with ADHD.

He moved from The Netherlands to Sweden, upgrading his well-visited ADHD-coaching practice, where he has trained and coached over 1000 people by himself. In Sweden, he gained time and space to be able to create ADHD Masters. Doing what he loves most, he now leads a team of specialized ADHD coaches in The Netherlands. ADHD Masters is currently expanding to other countries.

image photo of Bas at the forest sitting on rock

Bas den Blaauwen, ADHD Masters

Please tell us something about yourself

Well, I am 37, married with two kids. In my spare time, I love playing music amongst all my other interests, I have many. After dropping out of school and a lot of drifting between jobs I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 24th year. I grew a great passion for mental health, especially how you can influence it, in the long term. I started an ADHD coaching practice called Puur Blaauw in Holland. I noticed that there were many people in need of different approaches to ADHD. Because they were stuck in the system and did not know where to get the help they needed. So by, taking courses and coaching a lot I learned and developed different ways of looking at ADHD which seemed to do a lot of good for my clients. So I built it out. Working together with Psychologists and coaches in other fields and my wife, who is a trained physiotherapist.

What inspired you to start ADHD Masters? Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.

Growing up I was very distracted in school, just wandering around in my head all day. I never finished my work in time so I had to stay late in school almost every day. Growing up I got pretty good at staying in my head all day. I got a lot of comments and lectures about being messy, making a lot of mistakes, and that I had to focus more. After middle school, I dropped out after one year of college. I thought I was depressed, but, in truth, I was very under stimulated. I started working and found some drive, but the general feeling of not being good enough took the upper hand. I thought; ‘I don't have anything on my resume, nobody will hire me’. So I started working at an entry-level for an American international company. I worked my way up until I noticed I could not get any better somehow. Like there was a glass ceiling or something I couldn't get through. At home I was still messy and unorganized, not being able to get myself off the couch to do simple chores.

I started getting tested for ADHD and some weeks later I got diagnosed. It felt pretty good at that time. A big weight fell off my shoulders. I started medication and before I knew it I got promoted two times. After that, there was no way up anymore and I wanted to be able to do all this work without medication. So I stopped. From that moment on I was a different person. I couldn't get myself to that job anymore and I did the minimum amount of work I could. It seemed that was very out of place at that job. I had been adapting for so long.

So I started working with a coach myself. She worked with the method of Cathelijne Wildervanck, who created the foundation of what we do. I found out that I wanted to help people grow instead of emptying pockets in sales. My job was the opposite of what would work for me. Getting that insight and heading in that direction, wow, that was a pivotal moment at least. I found the direction I wanted to go. All my attention just went there. I started working on myself a lot. I did several Self-development courses, and I loved every step of the way. A few years later I felt like experimenting. I got myself tested for ADHD again. And I did not have it, according to that psychologist. That made me wonder what ADHD really is. Later, coaching so many people with good results, I could see that the mainstream knowledge about ADHD just doesn't add up a lot of the time, there is a lot of truth, but also a lot of presumptions and missing bits. So this story began. Hoping to help many people get a better sense of themselves and the world around them. By giving them tools to help them thrive instead of symptom control.

How do you look at other methods?

There are so many ways and methods to cope with ADHD out there. Everyone knows best. It’s not crazy that so many people with ADHD just kinda give up looking for ways to help them. The thing is, most of those methods seem to be quite high on the surface and are not suited for everyone. They might help a little, but most people are not able to stick with it, which only gives more feelings of failure and doesn’t work long term. Sometimes people with ADHD traits will even receive well-meant tips like; ‘just plan better, make your bed in the morning, set an alarm, clean your desk, create a rhythm or just start’.

If this worked, we wouldn't have a problem anymore, would we?

Most ADHD methods are based on assumptions made in science. We see a lot of ADHD running in families so ADHD has to be in the DNA, right? But it has never really been proven as far as I know. On the other hand, there is some great progress in other fields. We know a lot about the Autonomic Nervous system now, mirror neurons, and brain plasticity. Why not integrate this into the treatments or the way we look at ADHD?

How does ADHD Masters grow so fast? How does it differentiate itself?

Yeah, it is kind of crazy. We started officially on January 1st, this year and are already able to expand to other countries. I really did not see that coming, when starting up. Our website is still in Dutch, but Google can translate it for now.

When we started, we created a Dutch podcast about the causes of ADHD behavior. It is not exactly mainstream but it just blew up. People are sitting down with their headphones on with pen and paper, listening to our podcasts. That's really cool.

So we differentiate ourselves mostly by the way we look at ADHD. We look at it from a different perspective and we coach that way too.

We only have coaches and trainers with ADHD traits. We help people get their grip back on their minds, and give them authenticity back, without necessarily having to rely on external sources. This is a big difference in ADHD mindset and can bring wonderful things besides a more clear head. Like self-confidence and making good choices. All the good stuff that's hidden inside you can get out. They will become your wings to fly.

Most people with ADHD traits haven't found their wings yet. Many of them experienced a lot of disapproval from their surroundings growing up, trying hard to do it right, whatever that is. Creating a lot of branches to hold onto, but never really learning to fly. That is a pity and a big loss for both the person and society I think. Because most people with ADHD traits are very smart, creative, and sensitive. Just what we need at this time.

Now they have to rely on what experts say and prescribe, to be able to cope in a world that does not suit them. I know from my own experience it takes a lot of energy to constantly be on your toes, trying to fit in and being ’normal’. I’m really not normal *chuckles*.

So how do you look at ADHD? How did you get to this vision?

It would be great if there is one cause that we can point at and make better. We try that now with medication, but when the pill stops working, the effects are gone too. Meaning to me, that where the pill is for, is not the cause of the problem. Making ADHD not the cause, but a symptom of something else. This thought seems so logical to me, but what then? What causes it?

When I started learning about the autonomic nervous system this all finally started to make sense to me. In short: When your nervous system gets tense, the Sympathetic nerve system thinks you have to survive something and goes into ‘survival mode’. I’ll explain, bear with me.

What is the worst thing that can happen to you when living prehistoric? Being placed outside the group. Think about it. No group means no food, no reproduction, and being a target for predators. This is why we try to adapt so hard and walk on our toes to fit in.

The sympathetic nervous system will find a way to get out of danger, but still be ok for the group, so you can still survive.

Now this thing doesn't realize we don't live in caves anymore while about 99% of our behavior comes from this part of the brain. When it thinks we are in danger we can see freeze/fight/flight behavior. instead of actually fighting, running away, or playing dead, we adapt in modern ways.

The modern Freeze/flight/fight responses can differ per person. But I’ll name some that are typical for ADHD:

Fight - working harder and forgetting boundaries. Hyperfocus and fixation are here too. Overthinking, impulsiveness, chaos for example.

Flight- Bring our attention elsewhere. (distraction). Avoiding, going away, excuses, daydreaming, zoning out for example

Freeze - Not able to do things, stuck, feeling overwhelmed, no choices, ADHD Paralysis, functional freeze, for example, and feeling really tired, guilty, or empty after or during.

Now here is when it gets interesting: Have you ever thought about something happy and got a little happier? Have you thought of anything sad and gotten sad yourself?

That is because our primal brain lets us feel what we think. That's why we can feel differently about the same things.

Now suppose we created survival behavior in the form of thoughts. Thoughts that once helped us get through a situation, we might think in a present situation, even if it is irrational or unnecessary. If that thought is problem-based. We will feel it and survival mode kicks in. Showing ADHD behavior. This is one way the nervous system gets more tense.

Another way to tense up the nervous system is by carrying tension from others. This is where our mirror neurons come into play. Ever felt the room? That’s them! Being in an environment where tensions are high as a child can raise its general tension, to fit that environment. Popping in survival mode more easily. We keep this tension in case it is necessary to get through a situation like that again. Can you imagine what happens when you are in the womb and your parents have a lot of worries? you are one with your parent at that point so whatever they are carrying, you are carrying.

So it makes you on edge and in a very ready ‘to go’ state going through life. Or we see the Functional freeze or ADHD paralysis state. Both states are exhausting. You can imagine what that does to sleep and concentration being in survival mode all the time. The brain won't just let you get out of these modes. Fear of what can happen when letting go might thrive and chances are it has not learned how to get out of these states.

When the tensions are high in the nervous system, it reflects on the body too. Muscles cramp up. You’ve probably had headaches after a stressful period. that's neck and head muscles cramping up. The muscles around your lungs and intestines cramp up too. you can feel it in your stomach when realizing you forgot something important. And don't forget about your heart, which has to work harder to get the blood to all the cramped up places. There is your connection to breath and heart problems. Did I already say that when in survival mode, the part of the brain that makes us conscious gets less blood?

We know that every behavior and thought has a good reason to do it. Our brain is with us, not against us.

Do you have a person in your life that's always trying to help you, but it doesn't really help? Your brain does that too. It just wants the best for you and hopes to keep you from getting or feeling hurt.

Even being distracted, unfocused, impulsive, or not doing anything has good intentions, but the way those intentions manifest in our behavior is old behavior and thinking and can work against us now. Just like me when I'm staying in my head too much, I learned that as a kid and tend to do it now whenever I’m bored or overstimulated, it's survival mode. Good to know: We don’t do that consciously, the brain will not consult you when thinking you need to survive.

Why does this work?

Looking at it this way creates other possibilities for change. For instance; instead of focusing on the behavior we can now focus on the intention. We can explore what works for you to meet that intention. Giving you direction, the focus shifts to what you do want or need because you know now. The rest just does not get attention anymore so it becomes smaller and less obstructing. It's a simple process.

When the focus shifts to possibilities and the other good stuff we are less fixated on the negative stuff. We stop building up new trauma that fogs our head and we get more happy particles in the brain. Maybe we clean up a little after damage, if needed, creating a more relaxed nervous system altogether that doesn't go into Freeze/fight/flight mode so fast. So you feel more in control of yourself and your moods.

A cool thing; The way we do this also actually creates new pathways in our brains. That is called neuroplasticity. The brain can make new connections, where the right particles go to the right place.

What strategies or approaches does ADHD Masters employ to help individuals manage and thrive with ADHD in their personal and professional lives?

Although the behaviors we see with ADHD can look pretty generic, the cause of tension that causes these behaviors are very personal and depends on the context. That is why a broad spectrum of different methods are used during our sessions and training days. However, the things we usually work with are finding and using a person's blueprint and working with the autonomic nervous system while giving them the ability and tools to help themselves. We also notice that a lot of people that come to us have high sensitivity towards themselves and others. Making it important to work with that too.

Instead of asking ‘Why am I in my head all the time?’ you can ask something like ‘I notice my head is getting foggy, what makes my nervous system tense right now, and what would relax it a little?’ There is no one solution. It is up to us to guide you to what works for you. Of course, this takes some work, it's a personal process and it takes one step at a time.

In other words, you learn to recognize your coping mechanisms as something good. That awareness calms down the nervous system and gives you the steering wheel back.

Among other things, we might use NLP, system work, basic coaching, timeline exercises, and bodywork in our coaching and training days. Anything that suits the client's goals and needs to relax the nervous system long term. We have shortcuts for a clear head, if necessary, but we like to help the client by restoring authenticity and giving them the tools and ability to use everything they learn themselves.

We see that every change in thinking creates a ripple effect, making new changes in every context of your life. If you work in the context of your relationship, you might just get stronger connections with your colleagues too. Not the same kind of connection, hopefully, you get what I mean, right?

Are there any success stories or testimonials from clients who have benefited from ADHD Masters' programs that you can share?

Some special cases come to mind, I’ll tell you about this one.

About a year ago a young man came to the practice. He was about 22 years old. He acted very quiet and shy. He dropped out of school and looked just sad to me. He had a big binder with him. And I mean big! This binder was filled with notes, conversations, diagnoses, and writings from all kinds of different therapists. He wanted me to read it. When I asked him why he replied; ‘otherwise you have no idea what is wrong with me and what to do’.

He handed me the thick binder and I started browsing a little. Now he starts telling me about all the medication he has to take to feel ok. Antidepressants, Ritalin, and high dosages too. He had been so fixated on everything that is wrong with him that it just became who he was. And without that, what of him is left? That was a scary thought for him.

He wished to be self-confident so we started working. About 8 sessions later he had completely stopped using ADHD medication and took half of the antidepressants he did before. Not by my suggestion. He just felt like he could, so he contacted his doctor and did it. Hello, self-confidence! The next challenge was feelings. Being medicated for so long can numb your feelings and he did not really learn how to cope with feelings in his life from his environment. So we started practicing with that. He turned out to be a pretty sensitive guy. We started learning to use it instead of avoiding it.

He did the work and was medication free after 10 sessions. He started making friends, talking to random strangers, applying for jobs, and feeling generally well. This whole process just took 20 weeks in total and he is still a happy fellow. It shows how much someone can achieve when pressing the right buttons in the right way. In this case, we removed the focus from the problems and directed it to what it was he wanted. I never read that binder, by the way, I believe he threw it away.

If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be and why?

I don’t know where to start here. If I was a wizard, I'd create a Utopia where everyone could be themselves and receive praise for their positive sides. That just gets people going, you know? But sadly, the client I described earlier was not an exception.

He was completely lost in the land of diagnosis, numbers, and averages. When really, there was nothing wrong with him.

There is a lot of great research out there, not being published or shown in the media. There are so many new insights about the brain and generational trauma we can use to help.

It says a lot about the mental health industry where everything is so money-oriented right now. Sadly ADHD has become a bit of an earning model.

I just feel all this should be about helping people more instead of getting so much from them. But hey, maybe I'm just an ideologist.

Getting out of our comfort zones, looking past the label, and working with intentions and actual causes can change a lot for the person. In the big picture for all of us. It leads to different questions and other, new solutions. If we don’t explore those we won't advance in this field. We have to stop measuring people by averages and numbers and help each other find themselves and their wings. We like to be part of this change and do precisely that. Be the change you want to see, right?

What if I want to know more?

If you are ready to start, you can check out the website to start your progress towards a clear mind. You can translate the website for now in your browser. We speak good English, so don't hesitate to contact us. You can also follow us through our socials or become a member of our new online community. We will start English-speaking workshops soon.

I will be writing more articles this year for Brainz Magazine about ADHD, so make sure you keep track of that. We will post any new articles on our social pages as well.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, and visit my website for more info!



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