About AASN

The Gate of Self-Acceptance

And Asperger's Syndrome

By A.J. Mahari

My self-acceptance begins with the gifts I have been given (as a direct result of having Asperger's Syndrome "AS") and with the song in my heart and the strength of how that matters more than the "norms" defined by society based upon some narrowly defined, perhaps misguided, notion of what it means to be connected.

I enjoy my ďislands of abilityĒ very much. I intend to make the most out of them in my life while doing the best I can in areas where I lack the kind of organization and strengths that one might like to have.

The song in my heart is one of individuality. It is a song that sings when only I listen. It is a song whose strong beat speaks to the endurance I have for the aspects of AS that do hurt, have always hurt me and likely will always, to one degree or another prove frustrating and hurtful. Being open to the pain of the melody of the song in my heart enables me to continue to grow in spite of having Aspergerís Syndrome. The song in my heart is one that stresses the value of uniqueness and difference.

Self-acceptance sits at the core of my own connectedness, firstly, to myself. If I am not connected to myself there can be no true connectedness with anyone else. There are many things in life that adversely affect my ability to connect. For anyone experiencing any such challenge, connecting might mean more work and a much more stubborn and focused effort on learning how to connect, but, that does not render connectedness impossible in most situations, for most people with AS.

After years of judging myself, less than because I have not been as connected as I am told many people are, I have finally come to realize that, for me, a lot of what connectedness is, for others, is not of as great an importance to me as it is for them. This is not to say that I don't, at times, deeply desire more connection than I may be able to experience, reach out for, feel, or accomplish. I do have these desires. I do have many, if not all, of the same feelings that those who don't have Asperger's Syndrome have. The profound difference, as I've come to understand it, between myself and the Neuro-Typicals (NT) that I know or have known, is a matter of expression. It is a matter of my ability, at times, to express or communicate in relational or social ways and how my desire to pursue my own interests in my inner-world often conflicts with what is expected of me in terms of what society deems "age-appropriate behaviour" or goals or tasks that I "should" be engaging in and/or accomplishing.

There are many people that each of us will encounter in our lives that donít know how to deal with or be open to difference. So, there the times when we are not understood and many people do not want to help us build a bridge to them. These experiences can and do hurt. However, they are not reasons to put ourselves down or to think that we canít meet and know some people who will put for the effort required to build the kind of bridge to those with AS that enables us to build bridges of communication back to them in meaningful ways that do see us engage and connect, care and love outside of ourselves.

There is also no doubt that the very core of what Asperger's is, a developmental disorder, has left those of us with it not as developed, usually in areas of socializing, relating and communicating. This lack of development, is the root cause of one of the more challenging aspects of AS (for both the Aspie and others), namely, egocentricity.

The Gate of Self-Acceptance swings painfully open the minute that an Aspie can contemplate and fully understand his/her own egocentricity. Simply because this is the point of self-understanding upon which relating to others successfully or unsuccessfully hinges most.

Ego is Latin for "I," and centric in Greek is kentrikos, meaning "center". Egocentric means self-centered. This view of egocentricity connects with the idea of perception, which holds that each of us has a unique point of view. In the realm of perception then egocentricity is the opposite of critical thought. Critical thought is based upon as much objectivity as can be gathered when applying one's own perception to anything. Being focused on oneself (more often than not) is, of course, very subjective.

For me, a very large part of my self-acceptance was held hostage to my own egocentricity. Firstly, for years I didn't have any idea that I was egocentric. I had no objective way of evaluating or realizing the consequences of my perception from a subjective self-focused view point. As I came to be told this over and over in many not so nice ways, and actually started to hear that I was egocentric (often) I didn't have any frame of reference that I could compare this to. I was being told that if I wasn't so "into myself", so "self-absorbed", so "selfish" so "self-centred", it would be far more desirable and possible for others to relate to me and for me to relate to them.

Sadly, and unfortunately, for me, like so many others, I first began to learn about this aspect of myself in a very negative way. I was told that I was NARCISSISTIC. Despite this being more or less a buzz-word in popular culture today, basically ever since the "me-generation" of the early 1970's shifted the focus from more innocent and simpler times in humanity to the much more complex quest for self-actualization and self-fulfillment at all costs, NARCISSISM is still very much viewed negatively. It is also the result of the type of character flaws apparent in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and often present in other of what are known, in psychology or psychiatry as the Dramatic Personality Disorders".

In my opinion, while some of the features of egocentricity and/or narcissism can appear to the same experiencially, what is not the same is the intention or reason for those egocentric features in those with Asperger's. I think that people need to take this into account as do those with AS. The difference is far more than semantics and it is one that more people need to become far more aware of.

The difference, as I see it, between Naricissism and Egocentricity as it manifests itself in Aspeger's Syndrome. (Coming Soon)

Also coming soon Monotropism Is Aspie egocentricity a form of it or not?

I now fully accept and know that I am often (not always) egocentric. I live the battle for self-awareness that must be continually manifested in order to relate to others with some measure of reciprocity or mutuality. I often don't get there. I often have to process the input of information from others in a way that is experienced as "about me" first, before I am then able (often, not always) to filter that out and hear what someone else is actually saying about themselves or their experience that has nothing to do with me.

This does take work. It can take patience on the part of those I relate to at times as well. It is not my greatest strength. I do, however, make very concerted efforts at hearing what others are saying or feeling and trying my best to respond to them without getting totally self-focused.

I also do have ways that I show those I care about how I feel and that I do care for and about them. It takes a lot of work and effort but I can and do find ways to relate to others from a giving place.

Coming to terms with this central aspect of Asperger's has enabled me to further accept myself. It is the central area of my experience (or lack of experience) in relating, socializing and communicating that has most greatly affected my connectedness to others. It has played a very central role in the separation I experience between "my world" and "the world".

I now also know that I donít intend to negate or hurt others as the result of my being egocentric. In trying to compensate for it as best I can those who know me see my honest efforts to give and to care outside of myself.

I have also come to accept that those who know me well will tell me when I have not succeeded in situationally or relationally conquering my egocentricity. Often, now, when this is pointed out to me I can then work harder to make the necessary shift to listening or to focus on the other person and hear what they are needing from me.

Accepting who and what I am, including what my strengths and weaknesses are, has enabled me to have a healthier, more rounded view of myself. It has helped me to understand who I am. With this understanding and acceptance I have found the ability to relate to others in ways that until a few years ago had eluded me.

Coming to more fully understand the difference between myself and others, between what I think and feel and what others think and feel has made it possible for me to learn more about myself from how others experience me. This is a big part of how Neuro-Typical (NT) individuals learn how to communicate and how to relate to others socially and relationally.

In my experience, as a person (and woman) with AS, there is a lot about the basics (what is taken for granted amongst NT's) of relating and "sharing" with others that I still don't fully understand or have a need to experience often. I am okay with this now. I am okay with the inherent differences in myself and others. This is the foundation of how I have opened the gate to self-acceptance being an adult with AS.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari February 22, 2004

Next Article: Holidays and The Power of One

as of February 22, 2004