On Tenter Hooks
Have you heard that turn of phrase before? It turns out that the original reference is to the stretching of woolen fabric after it has been cleaned and washed to remove dirt and oils from the original farm production of wool.
It seems that the fabric was stretched, wet, over a frame called a tenter, and held in place by … you guessed it, tenter hooks.
And there was tension. The fabric was stretched tight. And as it dried, it tried to shrink. More tension.
So that’s where it came from
Here’s a little quote for you:
“By the mid-18th century, the phrase “on tenterhooks” came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.” ~ from the Wikipedia
And it applies to us how?
Have you ever noticed that you, the person with ADHD, is always kind of wound up tight? I have. I’m swear I’m tuned to a high E. (sorry, blatant guitar reference)
And I get the impression that others unwind easily, and I don’t.
And when I don’t get a chance to unwind (because I’m not sure how to do that), “SPROING!” I snap.
And that’s really not fair to others. So I try not to let it happen. And yet, when I end up on tenterhooks, that is to say when I become aware of the tension, it’s usually too late to do anything but snap.
What to do? What to do?
It seems to me that maybe I need to unwind regularly whether I think I need to or not. And yet I’m still unsure as to how.
When I was a youth I have distinct memories of being sat down and kept quiet with conversation and admonitions delivered in the nicest ways advising me to slow down and take a break.
Kind of reminds me of drinking
I seem to have no control over a lot of things. If a little is good than a lot must be great, right?
And as we all learned in health class, life without stress is unlivable. We need challenge in our lives, we need to overcome things. So we need stress. We need tension.
Why do I let it build up?
Yeah, I still don’t know. And I still don’t know how much or how little tension I need. And I swear I can be thinking “This is great!” right up to the point where it isn’t.
Maybe ADHD is the disorder of not being able to tell how much tension you need, or are under … what do you think of that idea?
And maybe, like tuning a guitar (I knew that analogy would come in handy), what we really need in our lives is a tuner, a device that tells us just how much tension we’re under. That way we’d know whether we need more tension at the moment, or less. And then we could tune ourselves regularly.
Hey, a guy can dream, right?
Babcock, K. (2017). On Tenter Hooks. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 13, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-man/2017/07/on-tenter-hooks/