Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Asperger's Syndrome and the Importance of Expressing Oneself Honestly

I had a really interesting conversation with a group of people who have Asperger's syndrome about whether or not they found it easier to express themselves online. Several of the comments caused me to think about how many of the obstacles they face mirror those of people who don't have Asperger's, but the ways in which both groups handled these obstacles differed.
When you communicate in writing, you basically are posting something which contains past, present and future. As people with ASD tend to gravitate towards others with similar interests to their own, if they're reading a post which is long and they get to a boring bit they can easily skip to the next interesting part. A bit like taking a remote control out and pressing the fast forward button at someone rambling on about their passion for drainpipe design in real life
One person recalled that they were always the only person in class that would put up their hand if they knew the answer. To them it seemed like "everyone else was too scared to contribute anything to the discussion". Often in lectures at Uni, I watch the lecturer ask basic questions to check whether the students are up to speed on the essential elements of a subject and be met with a hundred blank faces staring back at them.
Often in the real world people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will struggle to respond immediately or need a bit more time to respond so they can gather their thoughts. Being online means that they can take as much time as they need to say precisely what they want to say.
Things got really interesting when on the topic of expressing yourself honestly a person wrote "Without the social programming, I don't think we are as aware of societal pressures. Being partially mind-blind also helps with not knowing or caring as much about what people think.
It's kind of like how humans aren't embarrassed or hyper-aware of themselves around their pets. When there is nothing in your brain that "connects" you to a certain species you feel free to do as you please (not in a bad way). It's like how you can still care what your pet thinks, but also not care. You certainly don't care if your pet thinks you look fat or if he questions your career choice. That's what it's like to have ASD, for me at least."
Another person said "I am the opposite of mind speaking because I don't get exhausted, I just get mad at myself and feel like a coward for not speaking up and I feel dishonest. I also refuse to have opinions about things I care nothing about and I don't have opinions on lots of things so people won't really get an honest answer out of me because I don't care. I don't care what you have on or what you have on your head so I won't really have an opinion about it if nothing is on my mind about it. You just catch me off guard if you ask "What do you think of my hat/outfit?" and my automatic answer is "I don't know.""
Other people were more direct: "I say what I want when I want to. I'm a good person so if I step on someone's toes I assume they will give me the courtesy to explain myself. If not, fuck em."
The most intriguing response for me was by someone who almost saw their Asperger's as a gift, bestowed upon them in order to help them thrive in the new world that is rapidly being created around us:
"I know I am fairly alone in this camp but, not only do I not believe that ASD is any kind of error or aberration to the progress or evolution of human-beings, but I also believe it is occurring for many reasons to point us towards greater advancement.
Regardless of how easy or difficult it is for someone to accept their own nature, transcend a lot of the outdated social norms or ways of thinking and being, I believe those with ASD have specifically chosen to be born in a way where any deviation from authenticity will be acutely felt. They will not be able to lie to themselves or others about who they are, what they think, feel or want.. without experiencing tremendous awareness of this falsity, and it is in this awareness, this driving force to honor themselves, that a lot of anxiety, depression and suffering is born.

Point being, neurotypical and neurodivergent people can both suffer from the sometimes crushing presence of external expectations and standards, but the neurodivergent are coming forward in large number, as a large conscious energy, to move beyond it, to complete a paradigm shift."

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