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Do Aspies Have Empathy For Others?

Almost every definition I’ve ever read about Asperger’s Syndrome lists among the traits and/or characteristics attributed to those with it as not being able to feel empathy for others – as not having empathy for others. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I have tremendous capacity for empathy for others. I have continued to increase my ability to express that empathy. Do Aspies really lack empathy or is it felt, experienced, and expressed differently? Perhaps in ways that neurotypicals (NT’s) do not recognize as empathy or do not experience as being the way they expect to be given empathy.

As I’ve likely written about in other contexts related to Asperger’s Syndrome, it seems reasonable to say that there are many differences in those who have Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Men and women seem to have differing ability and context as well as understanding when it comes to something like empathy and compassion as well. (Attwood) There is still a difference not only in the way boys and girls are socialized, what those social norms contain, but also in what society expects from boys versus girls. Attwood, in his book,  “The Complete Guide To Asperger’s Syndrome” talks about this and concludes that females find ways to learn to express and to care-give in ways that perhaps many aspie males don’t.

In my own experience with empathy, as an adult with AS, I know that I feel tremendous empathy for others. That can be someone I am talking to, sitting in a room with, or someone I see on the evening news who has suffered a tragic loss. There is also a very profound sense of connectedness to humanity in its macrocosm that means I experience a lot of empathy and compassion for a lot of world events and things that I see on the news and so forth that aren’t a part of my own life.

A lot of this empathy that I have and feel that is palpable within me there isn’t maybe as much expression of it at times. It depends if I am coaching with someone, or writing. If I am just in my own world, doing my own thing, in the splendor and wonder of my narrow focuses of interest (which are in themselves paradoxically vast) then there is much more that I feel that others can’t know – that isn’t measurable.

The way that Asperger’s Syndrome is defined, like many other pervasive developmental disorders, or even mental illnesses pathologizes and categorizes differences in what are highly divisive and negative ways. There is little if any consideration given to the different ability of many with Asperger’s in and through which things are felt, experienced, processed, and expressed differently. Not being the same as the feelings, experiences, processing, and expression of neurotypicals (NT’s) the presumbed NT’s who set out the defining criteria of Asperger’s Syndrome fail to give consideration to different ability. What is different about those with AS in the minds of those defining it and those who continue to forward that narrow definition of it, despite endless individual manifestations and expressions of AS from all the people who have it, is that there is a tremendous lack of tolerance for difference.

It’s as if there is some segement of society, “professionals” (?) that are charged with defining the ever-illusive “normal”. It’s flawed  logic to begin with. It leaves no room for each to march to the beat of his or her own drummer, to be introverted versus extroverted without scrutiny and/or without penalty of judgment and being patholigzed.

I don’t happen to think there is anything particularly horribly wrong with my brain as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Again, the differences between aspie brains and NT brains, see the NT’s pathologize the aspie brains as “dysfunctional”. Why not just different? For all that people with Asperger’s have contributed to this world through the unique genius that is a bonus to our differences, geez, I don’t see that being categorized as negatively as the ways in which we “don’t get NT social”. Who needs it? I mean I straddle that line. I have pushed myself way far to “get it”. However, “getting it” to some extent, and being able to connect socially, feel and express empathy and receive it doesn’t mean that I want or need to be in that “space” that often. I just don’t. I do find myself in that space often in terms of the work I do, writing I do, and knowing what others need from me at times. The rest of the time, time I can have for me, in my splendid aspie world, is time cherised in that world. That is not a statement about egocentrism or being unaware. Again, it’s difference.

The egocentrism of my Asperger’s is something that I am now very aware of. There are ways around it. Do they feel natural – no. Will they ever – I doubt it. Does it matter to me – not any more.

There are also many feelings, such as love, empathy, compassion, and so forth, that are compromised to varying degrees with individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. This does mean they can’t continue to learn ways to increase understanding  these emotions and their expression. Within the social impairment (so called – I’d say again, different ability) of Asperger’s Syndrome in terms of social relating does feeling or expressing empathy become more challenging or difficult for many with AS, yes. This has to do with the different ways that we process information. It has to do with the NT social context that most with AS, even when we understand it to varying degrees, do not find it to be the way that we engage, the way that we would relate that would be first-nature to us.

Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a capacity for empathy. Some more so than others. Some maybe not so much. Again, Asperger’s Syndrome is not the same for each and every person who has it. However, the blanket statement in the pathologizing DSM-IV definition of Asperger’s Syndrome (which by the way is not even slated to exist as such in the up-coming DSM-V professionals now preferring it just be lumped in with autism so that everyone can get even more confused) that people with Asperger’s lack empathy is not all that accurate. It is a statement without explanation. A statemment, black-and-white as it is, that doesn’t take into account each aspie’s individuality, and the reality that people can feel more than you can know. This is especially true when much that can be felt by those with Asperger’s Syndrome isn’t met with the same need for expression, socially or otherwise, often as it is for those who are neurotypical.

This begs the question how professionals can even really accurately assess what someone with Asperger’s feels or has the capacity to feel. How can you know if I lack empathy just because perhaps I didn’t express something that was wanted, coveted, expected or that NT’s define as a “social norm”?

You really can’t, can you?

Should we as people with Asperger’s Syndrome, make up some book and pathologize NT’s who have a greater need and/or desire to relate many things, empathy being perhaps one of those feelings, to others more often than we do because to us that is not “normal” or necessary?

I believe that most aspies do feel empathy. I also believe that they want to experience empathy from others but that often both are lost in terms of expression and reception to the different ways in which we think, process information and to the different degrees to which we feel the need to actually “socialize”.

That does not a lack of empathy make. That makes for difference. More difference that is not understood, not tolerated and that is pathologized by the “powers that be” who decide how it is that we are all “supposed” to relate to one another.

Small box that, don’t you think?

 

© A.J. Mahari, April 13, 2010 – All rights reserved.

 

 

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Aspie Confession – Personal Update March 2010 – to The Pardox of Social Impairment and Profound Social Disconnectedness

This is an up-date to the article I wrote in 2005 entitled, “The Pardox of Social Impairment and Profound Social Disconnectedness”

2010 Up-date

It’s now been five years since I wrote the above article, orginally posted on my website. I am in the process of moving those articles over here to this blog.

I have learned even so much more in the last five years. The paradox of it all, however, continues to be an important and palpable one. Why? Simply because the more I learn about certain aspects of neurotypcial socialization – which is itself somewhat of a continuum – the more I also continue to maintain some levels of still not getting it, exactly.

What Does This Mean?

Well, it doesn’t mean that I don’t understand, to some degree, what most neurotypicals describe their social experience, goals, wants and needs to be. Intellectually, yes, I get that. I have asked many friends about that and what they socially enjoy and why. In fact, they’ve come to be somewhat entertained by this in a loving way.

The paradox that remains for me, however, is that even though my understanding, my exposure and my ability to socialize have continued to increase, what hasn’t changed is that I really am not drawn to do it – according to my friends – often enough. But, often enough for whom? Them. What might seem like not often enough for my friends is often more than I even care to entertain myself. It’s often more than I want to be that connected. And so the journey continues.

Does that mean I am a hermit. No. Would I like to be? In many ways, sure. Maybe I’m part-time hermit?

There is such a rich reality to having Asperger’s and to being blissfully involved in my own world and the pursuits found within that world and my narrow focus of a few keen interests. I am not, however, totally limited to that. It’s just the most comfortable place to be.

I have long-since realized also that the way that I am – ooooh, what does that really mean eh? The way that I am in terms of not desiring a lot of social contact for the sake of socializing means that I have more time to pursue my passions and purpose. My work. I think that is important. And yes, I have found much more balance between my world and planet-neurotypical in many ways. I have found much more balance between my interests and work (one in the same really) and taking time away from that do to other things.

I am left still though with a knowing, if you will. It is okay to have Asperger’s. It can still be challenging, absolutely. But I have come to appreciate the growth that each challenge brings with it. Sometimes over and over again. Sometimes in ways that cannot find freedom from the circle of moving in and moving out and what it actually always mean to be someone with Asperger’s versus those who are neurotypical. It’s much more peaceful than it has ever been.

Yet, there are times when I can still feel the differences. Times when I encounter the stigma or prejudice of those differences. Times when some may think me rather odd when really I am just not sharing some things in common with vast numbers of people who are sharing their social desires, wants, and needs in common.

The paradox is one of a deep and profound connection, a very compassionate and caring connection I have with humanity in the macrocosm and the reality that that doesn’t unfold often the same way in the day to day microcosm that is my “social” or “relational” life. It can when I want or need it to. I just don’t want or need it to that often – or as often as many neurotypicals do. This of course, doesn’t mean I always get my way. No. I am here for the person I am seeing (in a relationship with but don’t live with) and I am here for friends. I like and prefer as much “my world” time as I can have when I can have it.  But, I do not neglect to stay in touch with my friends. They just know what a great thing it is that I finally joined the iPhone universe and we all are grateful for texting. This means they can reach me more often and easier than, say, in person or on the phone.

Is There Room For Me to Be Misunderstood?

I have no control over the answer. The answer to that question lies with anyone and everyone I will ever meet, relate to, talk to, work with or be in anyway known by, to the varying degrees of what being known is and means in various types of relationships. It lies with those who know me personally. It also lies with you, the reader.

Why?

Because understanding and respect, or lack thereof,  for that matter, are dependent  upon where each person is in his or her own thinking. Are you in the pardox? Or are you someone still thinking in black-and-white ways that will lead you to need to have me, in this case, be one way or its opposite and not the mixture of this and that, that I actually am. Do you want to know the humanity, imperfect, like yours, that lies with me, on the other side of the screen that you are reading my words on? Or, is the paradox of “both-and” not as straight-foward to you as “either-or”

Many people may find this aspect of me confusing in the broader context of my life as an author, and life coach. In fact, even up until recently I kept trying to keep my “worlds” separate online. I didn’t realize why. I was hiding. I actually was hiding, in some small way, that I have Asperger’s for fear of judgment. For fear that many in the Mental Health world in which I also work online would judge me as not recovered from the mental illness and abuse issues of my past. Well, I boxed myself in. No more. Will some continue to judge me harshly or fail to understand the pardox I speak of, yes. Is that okay with me? Yes. I accept it fully now. I am now ready to be more fully me in total in every aspect of my life. I will share what I have to share. Write about what I write about. Continue to work with my life coaching clients helping them to achieve their goals and wanted change. I will continue to believe in all the gifts and skills I have. Gifts and skills that are strengthened and broadened because I have Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s that paradox again.

The journey of trying to be understood, for me, in my life, continues. The journey of further self-understanding as well, absolutely. However, what I care most about, really, is not being stereotyped by all that Asperger’s Syndrome is defined as. So many of those traits do not describe who I really am. I am compassionate. I do care about other people’s feelings and opinions. I can love very deeply.

That contrasts with the amount of time that I am not expressive of that in inter-personal ways. The amounts of time that I love to spend either in my interests and work or with my dogs out in the yard alone. Alone with them. They get me, they really do. No judgment. No stereotypes. No “social” expectations. Just the joy of each unfolding here-and-now moment.

Simply put, what fills up and motivates most neurotypicals (certainly not all) empties me out. That doesn’t mean I can’t be there, interact, socialize when I choose to – albeit with some inherent lack of “getting it” in the actual interactive moments – but that is just my experience, I compensate for it. Some people understand and others don’t. At the end of the day what matters most to me is that I get me. What needs to matter most to each and every person with Asperger’s is that they “get it” about themselves and know that our differences do not make us “less than”. Our differences aren’t even that much about disability. Having Aspergers is that living paradox of understanding so much, being blessed with amazing intellectual and thinking capacity – a very quick mind – and yet, that not mattering, socially at all.

The more I embrace this paradox and understand that for me some socially awkward feelings are “normal”, the more I can accept who I am and be truly free to be me. After all, most of the time, my social awkwardness is mostly unfolding with me because I have learned, as many aspies do, to map out the “social conventions” of interactive reciprocity and mutuality. What I mean by map out these “neurotypical social conventions” is that I do really feel and care but that I am naturally unlikely to show that in “neurotypical social convention-type ways” and so there is effort there that is purposeful and sometimes forced. However, what I am describing is not about being fake or unreal, it’s about giving to “neurotypicals” what they expect and understand, socially. The best way to explain it would be to compare it to you and I talking. I speak “social” English. You are “socially” French. I know some French, you don’t know any English (you if you are neurotypical don’t get “aspie-speak”). So, I as an aspie try to speak your “social” language to connect with you in what is your wheelhouse – your comfort zone. This means that I have to make an effort that doesn’t come to me naturally. Speaking your “social” French, isn’t my wheelhouse or my comfort zone. Therefore, socializing, even though I can enjoy some of it, it can be fun, it can be very interesting, is something that I have learned to map out. This is also why it is depleting to me and not as natural as my own inner-world of pursuing what is natural to me – my narrow focus of interests.

To Those Who Might Wonder – Does this Contradict My Recovery From BPD?

In a word, no. Has this long been a concern of mine in the work that I do online. Yes. Was this easy to admit in a public way. No. It has taken me years to get here, to this day, to this point. I felt this important to express now for me, personally, in my own personal growth. I also hope that it will help others in some way. I am also tired of hiding. And, hey, this has all been in plain sight so perhaps the hiding has really been only how I have been holding myself back, inside. I don’t know.

I do know that many who have Borderline Personality Disorder, and even many non borderlines, (anyone can really) think in black-and-white ways. So, I have long been concerned that this might somehow contradict an “all-good” perception of me – which really wouldn’t be anymore accurate about me then it is about anyone.

There are also those, who for their own personal reasons, out of their own pain, on both sides of  BPD, that do judge me harshly and share it with me in what are most often anonymous emails or anonymous comments posted to my blogs or YouTube videos. These people are few and far between.

There are then others who think that somehow this trait or that of having Asperger’s Syndrome is just like having Borderline Personality Disorder. That’s just not correct. Are there simularities, I don’t know. It may appear so in the definitions. However, then again, what is lost to that narrow way of thinking is the individuality of how Asperger’s effects me or to the degree to which I “manifest” it.

What I’ve learned is that people will think whatever people want to think. What I have learned is that I have no control over that and that’s fine. What I have also learned is that too many people spend too much time trying to diagnose themselves and/or others when really that needs to be left to mental health professionals in the case of BPD and to those who assess people for Asperger’s Syndrome, which for the record is not a Mental Illness at all.

I did recover from BPD 15 years ago, 1995. Ironically, as life would have it, just as I was consolidating that recovery, in 1997, I found out I had Asperger’s Syndrome. Irony and paradox. I’ve written about this on my website (from 2001 on – so guess i wasn’t really totally hiding right?) and will be posting those articles to this blog as I get to moving them. It felt like I was robbed at that time. To have recovered from BPD and to feel as if I had finally achieved the long-coveted “normal” – it doesn’t exist by the way – cool after all really. But, to have worked so hard to recover from BPD with the idea that I would then be “like everyone else” only to find out I had Asperger’s and then slowly learn what that actually meant and to realize what it had always meant in my life that I had no way of understanding or knowing prior to finding out was not easy to cope with.

I did, however, come to find, over those first few years of learning to cope with Asperger’s after recovering from BPD, that there really is no such thing as “normal” and there really is not an “everyone else”. It’s really all about the journey of self-discovery and being connected to authentic self. From there, I am just who I am as is anyone else.

So in conclusion on this issue, I am a paradox for sure. It is from that rich paradox in my own life that I believe I have been blessed with the ability and desire to help others. It’s just that profoundly-simple.

The Lesson I hope all will take from this

Each and every one of us has the right to be who he or she is. There is not one of us that must be the same as everyone else – again, whoever everyone else really is – do you know? I sure don’t.

Society’s need to have its masses conform doesn’t have to intrude upon each person’s right and need to be individually who they are, differences and all. Each of us has the birthright to be who we authentically are.

A diagnosis of any kind is just that. It is not the sum-total of who any individual is. It is not the single determing factor in what our skills are. It just is not who anyone is. It is just one aspect, one label, one truth about someone to varying degrees too by the way. We can make the best out of anything if we are open to doing so. We can do this when we empower ourselves by valuing more what we know and what people who know us, know about us. We empower ourselves when we stop letting other people’s judgment or lack of understanding define us or hold us back in any way. Unburden yourself of shame that really isn’t even yours. You may just have let someone else dump it on you. Or taken on the shame someone else left you with when it actually belongs to those who judge and those who refuse to tolerate difference. It’s not yours. You can let it go. You really can.

I for one, tired of whatever hiding I was doing, (even though I’ve have had my website about Asperger’s and videos up now since 2005 and articles on another site of mine since 2001) though I was inside myself, hiding to some degree, it feels so freeing to just open up to this paradox and actually just write about it and put it out there. Whatever comes as a result comes. Whatever others think they think. I know my own truth. I honour it. I tell the truth. I share what I have to share from all that has made me who I am today, from all that has and that continues to teach me on my own personal journey of enlightenment and personal growth. Change in many areas of my life and compensation and coping other areas.

And what a great teacher Asperger’s has been and continues to be in my life. As was Borderline Personality Disorder, when I had it, a teacher in my life when I let it be. I would not be on the journey that I am on in my life now if not for Asperger’s, having had BPD and recovered, if not for having been sexually abused and recovered. Yes, you see, I, like you, have been wounded. Most everyone experiences some woundedness. I like you, am not at all perfect, thank God! I hope that I embody and share the wisdom of many a wounded-healer. All that I do and share comes from my heart to you.

Know this, you are worthy. I am worthy. We are all worthy, whether you have Asperger’s Syndrome or Borderline Personality Disorder, (or something else) or not, and apply it honestly and openly in and to your life in full appreciation of what is a living breathing paradox within you.

Our challenges and our pain are sacred. They seek to show us the way to heal – ways to continue to grow. We can heal even that which we cannot change. In the case of Asperger’s I can’t fix it. (Wouldn’t want to fix it by the way) I can’t recover from it like I did BPD and sexual abuse. However, I can continue to change, learn, and grow in spite of it and often because of it. I can value the contribution that Asperger’s makes to the sum total of who I am.

© A.J. Mahari, March 5, 2010 – All rights reserved.

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The Pardox of Social Impairment and Profound Social Disconnectedness

There is an inherent and burdening paradox within the reality of being an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome. Central to the most devastatingly-challenging reality of Asperger’s Syndrome is its synergistic social impairment intrinsic to or juxtaposed to a profound social disconnectedness.   


A.J.’s March 2010 – Aspie Confession – Personal Update – CLICK HERE to read it.


 

The intricate labyrinth of this paradox exists within the assumption that a social impairment in and of itself, however that is defined and experienced in each individual (AS) life is tantamount to social disconnectedness   

Gregory B. Yates, in his writing, “A Topological Theory of Autism,” – the website – www.autismtheory.org/topotheory.html explains that the three founders of “autism”, Eugen Bleuler, Leo Kanner, and Hans Asperger, “clearly saw other features of autism as secondary to social disconnectedness.” and emphasizes that this disconnectedness “…is the central, eponymous feature of autism it is the primary feature…”– “it is social disconnectedness that most defines autism…”   

The degree to which there are differences, generally, between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), more specifically, in terms of this social disconnectedness varies greatly with each individual. It has been my experience that the manifestation of this social impairment and social disconnectedness also varies greatly between those with more classic forms of autism as opposed to those with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Even within those with AS the extent to which this paradoxical synergetic syndrome is present depends upon many individual factors including age of diagnosis, intervention, support, counselling and general educational intervention.   

I experience this social disconnectedness, as an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), in ways that I imagine are more difficult for me and others like me than they may be for those with more classic autism. It is the awareness that one has with AS that often brings with it a more painful lack of connection. Many, like myself, with AS, to varying degrees, have strong desires to try to be as social as we can. This is, however, coalesced with what is an equally strong aversion to being social.   

This paradox of simultaneously desiring and feeling aversion to social connectedness is born out of a lifetime of difficult and painful experiences in the social realm coupled with a lack of understanding and difficulty in truly being able to feel a sense of joining in what others are experiencing as a shared experience.   


A.J.’s March 2010 – Aspie Confession – Personal Update – CLICK HERE to read it.


 

I am keenly aware, in the social realm, that while I have learned to do many things that one is supposed to do from all accounts and appearances I do not experience them in the same way that neuro-typicals (NTs) do. There is still this feeling of not totally understanding the feeling experience of the shared social experience. This reality is accompanied by the anxiety and the stress (overload to my system) that much of this activity produces within me. To state it outright and forthrightly, I do not derive joy from anything social.   

My experience of joy is very much a by myself internalized proposition. Knowing this can be, at times, a source of frustration and pain. Even when I am social I am not really totally there. It’s difficult to explain this but as Yates explains, “Autistic people live like Tantalus*, with the fluent social interaction of others suspended before their eyes, out of reach.” I can relate to this. To try to actually join in and feel a shared experience socially is like reaching for forbidden fruit that moves ever so slightly back every time I reach up and forward toward it. I have been in many a social situation where I do just end up observing because the social interaction of others is suspended out there before me and for me is out of reach in terms of experiencing it the way that others appear to be and report experiencing shared meaningful times that fill them up. Trying to socialize, which I don’t mind in small doses, despite the pain of it all, for me is so stressful most of the time that unlike my NT friends empties me out leaving me just wanting to retreat back into my own world.   

The fact that most NT’s describe socializing as being a “filling up” experience that adds something to them and I know that it is the opposite for me, I don’t see this as needing to be defined as anything else aside from a profound difference after its recognition.   

Yates continues with the assertion that, “Social disconnectedness is the horse of autism: Secondary features are baggage in its cart.”   

Not everything about this social disconnectedness is experienced as baggage. That said, I think it would be highly negating if I were to say that this disconnectedness doesn’t in fact leave an adult with AS with some baggage. It does.   

The most difficult aspect of this baggage, which I’m sure varies with each adult with AS, though having, no doubt, some common themes, is that we are left to fend for ourselves with it. There are (with rare exceptions) no services for adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.   

In my own experience, the mental health issues and co-morbid issues that can exist with AS and its incumbent or subsequent baggage, are not effectively being dealt with by traditional Mental Health delivery systems. While there are some therapists who will assist adults with AS they are not accessible to those without the funds and even then they are rare as most, if not all resources are currently focused on children with autism and/or Asperger’s Syndrome.   

Today’s children are going to be tomorrow’s adults. The baggage that they will encounter as adults will still be sitting here, as is mine and that of other adults with AS. I continue to not understand the lack of services for adults and for those who are transitioning from adolescents to adulthood with all its more complicated issues.   

I must stress here too that not all that AS brings to my life is about baggage. In the arena of social disconnectedness and trying to navigate the world of social beings however, yes, I have some baggage that I am continually aware of, working through, and trying to come to terms with. In this area, this baggage does impinge upon my self-acceptance, still, though I’m getting through that more now too. This is the reality of a paradox that adults with AS must not only live with but wrestle with in order to not be left feeling less than. This is why I stress that we are differently abled as opposed to the common societal stereotypical assessment that we are just disabled   

Yates also asserts, “While some secondary features of autism are unpleasant, in a social world one autistic trait is truly devastating. That is autism’s defining characteristic itself — social disconnectedness.   


A.J.’s March 2010 – Aspie Confession – Personal Update – CLICK HERE to read it.


 

I have found this trait quite devastating. While I continue to make progress in terms of what I have learned about mapping my social efforts I continue to find them often as painful as they are anything else. I am still in the process of dealing with this fact. The fact that I have to live with a high degree of social disconnectedness that I have enough insight about to feel saddened by at times. It is here, I have learned, that my self-acceptance depends upon my ability to continue to learn and grow in my ability to use compensatory strategies to meet my needs in the adult arena of relating.   

Yates states that, “Autistic people vary in their desire for social interaction. However, even those who do not desire social contact can be devastated by its lack, for thriving in human society depends on social ability.”   

I agree totally with Yates here. I have known other adults with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’ve seen vast differences between them and myself in many respects. I’ve also noticed that there are numerous and vast differences between men and women with Asperger’s as well. (More on this in an up-coming article)   

I have been devastated by “its lack”. The lack of socialization in my life. By what remains (or certainly feels like) despite my best and most fervent efforts to socialize, relate, and be available in my primary relationship, a feeling of disconnectedness that often brings me back to a familiar pain that like a brick wall sitting between me and the world of social ability, has and continues to affect my thriving in the way in which most people define and value thriving   

All is not lost here however. I am a great believer that even when diagnosed with AS in adulthood, as I was at the age of 40, we can make progress. I have learned a great deal. I continue to learn to compensate and to let those closest to me know what I need in order to be able to build bridges to them and have them build meaningful relational bridges to me.   

I also believe that despite not experiencing a kind of social ability that clearly indicates thriving to our human society, I am thriving and will continue to build upon this thriving in my own way as defined by my own understanding, needs, wants, and my continued dedication to straddle what is at times a very unforgiving philosophical paradox.   

What is defined as social impairment, again, can be construed as disabled or contrastingly as differently abled. One must take to task the notion that we are all supposed to be the same or that we all must have the same values and capacity in the social realm.   

Having Asperger’s and knowing it should be a gateway to understanding not some societally imposed label that implies lack and that sees that lack pathologized.   

It is my hope and my intention the more I come to understand my Asperger reality and the more I write about it that my readers will come to appreciate the differences that manifest in many ways that are the indicators of difference in brain functioning. That NT brain wiring is not superior to the brain wiring of those with Asperger’s and visa versa. This is all about difference and more specifically, acceptance of that difference and allowing each group of people to live as they must and flourish as they will.   

To this end, coming out of this most basic difference in social ability and social connectedness or defined disconnectedness it is my hope that the system and parents of children with AS will stop believing and insisting on trying to normalize the autism/asperger’s out of their children. We are born the way we are for good reason. Let society expand its definition and understanding of worth, and change itself, and stop requiring that those of us on the autistic spectrum change or have to fit the NT mold in order to matter, to be functional, and to be able. We are very gifted and talented in our own ways. Who we are needs to be “good enough”. It needs to be “good enough” firstly to parents, secondly to society and equally to each adult diagnosed and left to fend for themselves, with Asperger’s, in adulthood.   

We need bridges of understanding to and from each other. We do not need to be the same. We are all okay as we are, differences and all.   

© A.J. Mahari February 2005    


   

•Tantalus – (Greek mythology) a wicked king and son of Zeus; condemned in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink and beneath fruit that receded when he reached for it. (Source: www.dictionary.com)   


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Is Self Help Effective For Asperger Syndrome?

Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association) under the general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in 1994. It is named after Hans Asperger, of Vienna, who wrote about this cluster of characteristics as early as 1944. Are self help principles, ideas, and practices effective for people with Asperger’s Syndrome?

  • “Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.
  • Although Asperger Syndrome can be first detected in childhood, many individuals are not diagnosed until well into adolescence or adulthood.
  • The cause of Asperger Syndrome is not yet established, but a leading theory at this time points to genetic causes. Many individuals diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome identify similar traits in their family members.” 

             Source: Aspergers Society of Ontario

You might think well, if Asperger’s Syndrome is genetic and on the autism spectrum and since it is a pervasive developmental disorder that that may mean there’s nothing that can be done to help someone.  For those of us diganosed in adulthood there are even more challenges because any chance for early intervention, counselling, psycho-education, social skills training and so forth has been missed. And, once in adulthood there are very few places one can go for this assistance, if you can find anywhere at all that works with adults.  Most of the resources used in treatment and managing Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) are in place only for those under the age of majority. So, are you just stuck with it? How can you change anything when there isn’t a way to actually get rid of it? Mind you, most aspies I know, and I include myself here, would not want to get “rid of it” even if it was possible to do so.

Not everyone diagnosed with Aspergers is the same. Not everyone diagnosed with Aspergers has all the traits or has certain traits as strongly as the next person. It is important, if you are an adult with AS, to look at what your strengths and weaknesses are. For many with AS common strengths include a high intelligence and strong interest in a least one area of narrow focus. While this narrow focus can have its drawbacks it can also be harnessed as quite a strength in many ways. An obvious and quite common so-called weakness for those with AS is social impairment. However, I have come to realize that the way that is defined is very genernalized. Each one of us needs to examine our own abilities and challenges in this area particularily. I say so-called because to the degree to which one is socially impaired or not can depend quite a bit on your own idea of what that means for you as an individual.

One of the major aspects of self help that can be of great assistance to those with AS is learning more about self-acceptance and respecting differences, to the degree that you understand the ways in which you are different from the average NT. Even if NT’s around you don’t understand or respect your differences its important to not take on the judgment or misconceptions of those who cannot understand what its like to have AS. NT’s are often very confused by a lot of the ways in which we think. Just as those with AS find many of the ways that NT’s think a little other-worldly too. It is equally important to realize that a lot of what we do differently, or the ways in which we may think differently, can be positively framed in realizing your capability to function in and through what is a different ability.

I have come to realize in my own life that having AS doesn’t mean, for me in my life, that I am disabled. I am differently abled. I may have many differences in how I function – known as aspie lack of executive dysfunction – which I have found through my own self help efforts can really be transformed into different ways of functioning. Again, the key is changing the way you think about difference and being the one that is different. What NT’s call dysfunction can be turned into your own undersanding of many different ways that you actually do function – this aspie functionality is just not well understood by NT’s and of course is not the same as NT functioning.

You really can create change in your life like anyone else – like your neurotypical (NT) counterparts. Change for some with Asperger’s means personal growth and evolution in understanding and learning for many. For some it might be more about finding productive and workable compensatory strategies. Social strategies are also important to explore and implement. They can take practice. However, if you learn to be kind to yourself and avoid judging yourself you will find that what you practice and what you apply from self help philosophy can and will be very helpful.

As a life coach I have learned to apply self help strategies in  my work with many clients with Asperger’s Syndrome. I have, of course, also learned to apply much of these same self help strategies in my own life. The first step in ensuring that you can make the most out of the self help you can learn much more about is to have an open mind about how much you can empower yourself to find ways to cope and ways to compensate for what isn’t exactly entirely changeable. Adaptation is a key facet of applying self help to your life journey with Asperger’s Syndrome.

 ©  A.J. Mahari, February 5, 2010 – All rights reserved.

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Asperger’s Syndrome – The Challenges

There are many challenges experienced by people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Many of these challenges are heightened in the area of socialization. Each person with Asperger’s Syndrome has his or her own set of unique challenges despite the common traits associated with the diagnosis. One of the main challenges for adults with Asperger’s is just to be able to become aware of what the challenges and differences of having Asperger’s (AS) are. Some with AS are more able to be made aware of and learn about these differences and the compensatory strategies that can help.

The most central challenge of being an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome is self-acceptance. Closely followed by radically accepting what having AS means in terms of being different from those who don’t have AS – neuro-typicals (NT’s).

It is important to realize that as aspie’s it can seem like there is this NT-everyone else out there, as if all NT’s are alike or as if all NT’s have the same abilities or levels of functions – they aren’t all alike and they don’t all have the same level of function at all.

It can seem like you are marginalized if you have AS, and even moreso for women with AS. The truth about that is just that there are more NT’s than there are those of us with Asperger’s. Having a practical radical acceptance of how that tends to create and for some support their stereotypes can mean giving yourself the gift of not twisting yourself into an upset pretzel at that the reality that you are different from someone who is NT. We have to remember that the differences aren’t all stacked against us. In fact, having Asperger’s does mean having some unique skills and in most cases a very high IQ.

©  A.J. Mahari, February 1, 2010 – All rights reserved.

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There Are So Many Paths

Asperger’s Syndrome is a journey within the over-all journey of life. For those of us diagnosed as adults the journey may have a few added challenges to it. Life is a journey, not a destination. Within this journey there are as many paths that lead to connecting points, junctures of mutual understanding, as there are people living lives.

This applies whether you have Asperger’s Syndrome or whether you are a neurotypcial (NT). So, you see, we do have something in common after all.

There are many different paths and individual differences among those diagnosed with Asperger’s as well. I believe that along with these individual and personal differences are interwoven the many distinctive ways that AS manifests or is evident in males and females.

Just as there are a plethora of differences between those of us with Asperger’s and those who are NT, there are at least that many differences between each one of us with AS. While we share many traits in common and are thusly identified and diagnosed as having AS this does not make us anymore all the same then all NT’s are all the same just because they are neurotypical.

There are so many paths. There are paths that we choose to take, in life, and there are some paths that are chosen for us. I see having Asperger’s Syndrome as a path that was chosen for me. It is a reality that has taken much but that has also given much and promises to give much more to me in the future. A road or path less traveled apparently. It is a path that encompasses a journey very far from ordinary. Having AS presents challenges that highlight and only serve to strengthen my most inquisitive resolve. Difficult to explain. Complicated to live with and process. Interesting to call upon in all the social/relational situations in which I am impacted the most by it.

I have been told by professionals that AS is actually the source of a lot of my strength and that as I continually seek to profoundly understand myself and how to relate to the NT world better there are ways that I can take this path and have it be an enhancing experience. I am just beginning to tap into this now as my self-acceptance continues to grow. This is a newly formed realization and belief of mine now based upon enough NT input combined with my own AS understanding. This is a testament, for me, to the reality that there are so many paths. I think ever since I was diagnosed I had a mindset that there was only one path or one way and that was the NT way. I had believed that any other way was less than, flawed, dsyfunctional, and abnormal.

It is so freeing to be opening much wider to seeing my path and journey in life as valid in and of itself. I am able to do this now because I can esteem myself for who I am the way that I am. I no longer feel like I have to apologize or make excuses for who I am or how I am. I don’t feel or believe that I am in any way less than because I am not NT.

Finally, the soothingly-sustaining entrance opening up paths not realized in my previously tormented and pent-up existence.

I have also been told by professionals that I am “very high functioning”. Okay, well, I am still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Truthfully, I realize there are many blessings in being high functioning. It is my experience that there are also considerable challenges associated with this reality, this path, this way of being AS in an NT world. It is not without heart-wrenching pain. The pain of knowing one is other, outside, different, and being profoundly aware of all the times in the social/relational NT context I simply don’t get it. In the past it has been disgustingly devastating to me over and over again that no amount of applied intellectual prowess on my part has been able to ameliorate what I refer to as asperger lostness.

It seems clear right now though that I stand on the precarious precipice of evolving edgy contradiction – correlating my high functioning AS path with the indefatigable paths of the NT world of existence, connection, and communication. I feel compelled to continue to push my limits.

Through this ardent approach to the challenging of my limits I have found that there are a myriad of archetypal paths to be discovered and synthesized as I now consciously travel this barren wasteland, this seeming vacuum of void, this largely collectively unmapped adaptation of paradoxical dualistic survival by creating my own algorithms.

The algorithms that are relevant to my enterprisingly energetic exposure to all that is non-aspie-like are step-by-step problem-solving procedures that I am continually processing and mapping out to assist me in developing a stronger sense of the lay of the land on planet NT. Specifically the lay of the social/relating land.

In my qualitative quest I am now buoyed by my new understanding, and more importantly, my new acceptance of the fact that I, being on the autistic spectrum and having AS, need to acquire my knowledge base and working understanding of socializing and relating cognitively. I am not able to acquire it or understand it through observation, or the trial and error that NT’s learn social skills by. What a pivotal piece of the over-all ever-unfolding puzzle this is for me. It seems and feels strange and yet it is a huge relief to finally get this.

Clearly, there are so many paths each of us can choose to travel that will facilitate our connecting and communicating capacity and capability.

© A.J. Mahari, March 1, 2005 – All rights reserved.

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This Aspie Isn’t Quite Getting Online Social Media Interaction

As a woman diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in adulthood, perhaps I am still finding my way in some respects. I don’t know. However, this aspie is not quite getting social networking. I wonder, is it just me? I’d love to hear from other aspies about what they get or don’t get about social networking and social networking sites. What do you like about social networking and what don’t you like and why? Could it be that the word social, even from behind a computer screen, still packs a punch that leads to similar confusion online as it can so easily, socially, in “real life”? There’s something about being in my own world behind my computer screen that leaves me not so enthused about too much interaction what seems often intrusive interaction. Interaction that the purpose is at times not very clear.

The explosion of social networking sites like Facebook and others – and I’m not talking about dating-type sites – that’s a whole other thing – has brought with it the idea that the internet experience should be interactive. I wonder why. I truly do. I have been told by NT friends and others on the internet as well what is so wonderful about all of this interaction online. I don’t think I get it. I mean I blog, okay, but I have never been one to blog to get comments or to blog and wait for comments. Not that comments aren’t welcome, they are. It’s just that for me blogging is about saying what I have to say – period. It’s about sharing what I have to share. It isn’t that interactive for me. Ironically most of my blogs are not crammed with comments. I don’t know why.

Social networking sites and even twitter – in terms of personal tweets – leaves me scratching my head. I have thoughts about it, I observe it, but I really must be missing something. I got on Facebook the other day for the first time in months. I noticed in the feed that many of my “Facebook Friends” like apps for sure. They are starting zoos and doing something or other in some place called “Yoville” or something like that. Honestly, when I see these messages I’m like, okay, whatever that’s about. I mean I understand what apps are but the devotion of the masses – nope – that I don’t get? Anyone else? I wonder if my not getting it is just an Asperger thing or if it has more to do with the fact that perhaps many others, even NT’s don’t get it?

What do I mean by not “getting it”? Well, technically, that’s not the problem. I can interface with the actual technology. It’s more the logical purpose part that seems to be missing. I mean that I don’t see the reason or purpose to be ‘apping’ as a means of what appears to me on my screen to indicate some combination between some kind of “gaming” and perhaps something that is socially pleasing? I don’t know. Do you?

What really is puzzling to me in some way is the socialization aspect of social media. From an aspie point of view it seems without purpose to a large extent. However, it is likely not thought of as such by NT’s. I have a very busy and active mind. I am not usually lost for words. Even socially in my life, I keep pushing my limits, and I’m doing okay. The things is though, when I go to Facebook or even Twitter, and I see that little box looking back at me that says, “what’s on your mind?” on the screen, my mind goes totally blank. Unless I am posting to my Twitter or Facebook Pages (re coaching, self help, education, writing etc.) I can’t think of a darn thing to say. I mean why would I want to tell a couple of hundred or more people that I just ate a piece of toast or something? Why would they want or need to know that? Why do people want to know such personal details about or from others. That rat-a-tat-tat of social-chit-chat leaves me with an uncommon stilling of my thoughts – thoughts that suddenly do not seem relevant, social enough, or interactively-applicable. Thoughts that flourish in and from another dimension, world, or planet, as I experience them in the context of all that I read that others enjoy sharing with each other.

I understand that to some degree social networking for business or web endeavours has merit. I must admit, even that I do very little of. Am I really missing something? Beyond even that however, I the more I get messages from people, from networking sites and apps and stuff everywhere I turn on my computer online, the more I absolutely don’t get it. So, what am I missing exactly? Is this app-networking like a real-life social situation wherein people join in some activity for the heck of it because it’s what everyone is doing? Because it’s the “in thing” – the thing to do?

Okay, I’ll stop guessing. I wonder how many others with Asperger’s Syndrome find themselves puzzled by all this social network app and seemingly endless communication? Is it a world onto itself? This aspie is resisting it becoming a part of my world as hard as I can. I really am. Intellectually I get it but socially or inter-personally, I have to admit I do not get the value or the reason or the purpose.

I long for the good ole online days where I could just write on my sites or blog or what have you and receive email. That was simple. It’s purpose rarely complicated.

© A.J. Mahari, November 30, 2009 – All rights reserved.

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Does The Social Isolation of Asperger’s Ever Push You to Despair?

Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome often struggle with a profound social isolation. Some feel it more than others. For some it is managed but for others it leads to despair and for still others it could factor into feeling like one wants to commit suicide.

If you have Asperger’s, have you ever felt this way? I heard recently from someone with Asperger’s Syndrome who wants to remain anonymous but who asked me to post something they shared with me on this blog.

The person who sent me this email is a 44 year old woman who says she just is at a point of such emotional pain – an emotional pain she described to me as seeming not only endless in terms of her social isolation but an emotional pain that she realized recently she has always felt and struggled with.

This 44 year old woman asked that I just call her E. E and I had a long conversation about the reality and nature of social isolation in Asperger’s Syndrome. I know myself, it’s an isolation that isn’t always felt as isolation as such but it can bring about many different feelings. I think that for many with Asperger’s Syndrome issues within the social realm of life cause varying degrees of emotional pain and bouts of despair and/or loneliness that need to be coped with. They can often come and go. More and more in my life they seem to come rather than go though.


E writes:

“I am not a person who thought that I would ever want to take my own life yet I find myself feeling this way a lot lately. I don’t think I want to take my life. I know that sometimes there is just such a deep pain that I have absolutely no idea what to do with that it pushes me into feeling total despair.

I watch people socialize, as if it was a sport or something – a sport I can’t play, don’t get, and that makes no sense to me. A sport that I sure don’t have the rules to or for. Whatever it is that people are sharing seems important to them. I don’t get it. I really just don’t get it. It is foreign to me. But then I look at my own life and I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I am not connected to anyone, place, or even thing. Sometimes that matters and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to articulate.

All I really know about these feelings of despair is that they come out of feeling like I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t feel like anyone cares about me. I don’t know anyone. And to be honest, at least a lot of the time, I don’t know that I really care about others – not the way it seems you are actually supposed to, if that makes any sense?

I’m writing to you A.J. in the hopes that you can talk to me because you have Asperger’s Syndrome and because you are a life coach. I don’t know who else to even try to explain this to. I don’t want to put my feelings on to you but I figure you must at least understand what I am talking about at some level.

Do others with Asperger’s Syndrome, if they are really honest with themselves, ever also struggle with this painful place that can rise up out of nowhere and leave you feeling that you just don’t belong anywhere? Do others feel as invisible, weird, and unimportant as I do? Even sometimes? Are there others out there like me who have no friends and no family and just feel like society sees them as worthless as a result?

I really feel like I want to just quit on life. I have no plan or anything right now but when I get to this place where I hurt so bad, I cry, the tears juts pour down my face. And I know that there isn’t anyone to help me with this. I know that this cannot be changed. I have Asperger’s and what that mainly means, among other things, is that I am lost socially. I stick out somehow. I have been bullied all my life. I am a freak. People see that I am different. I don’t even understand how they figure that out when they don’t even know me. I feel socially helpless and so clueless – just totally lost and that means painful despair for me”


If you have Asperger’s Syndrome and you are reading this and relate, I’d sure welcome your comments so that E can get some feedback other than the feedback I gave to her. I wonder if we don’t all know this place of despair when it comes to the reality of that intersection between Asperger’s and social struggles to varying degrees?

I hope that some readers will share their feelings and/or experience about social struggles and/or being bullied or teased and having Asperger’s and if that leads to feeling so frustrated it ends up going all the way to feelings of despair and/or hopelessness.

I have known 3 people with Asperger’s Syndrome who did take their own lives. Do we talk enough about Asperger’s Syndrome and suicide?

I must say that I strongly identified with most of the despair that they felt, at one point or other in my life. I myself sometimes do feel a significant amount of pain at the difference that I know I own when it comes to social “stuff” because I have Asperger’s. Not that that means the same thing every day or in every single social situation.

I also wonder if there aren’t aspects of socialization, whether understood, cared about, desired, or wanted at all, that still somehow end up effecting us in ways that leaves us feeling less than in the face of what is often a glaring difference. I must admit that there are times when I realize later how unaware of my own glaring difference I can be. And when the awareness arises later I can’t deny that it can be extremely painful. There is something very cyclical about this that continues to unfold in my own social experience, at times, that I may somewhat intellectually understand or have some insight about but that still, in the actual unfolding moments of, I remain mind-blind to.

Does the social isolation of Asperger’s ever push you to despair? If so, what do you do when you reach that place? What do you feel?

If you don’t want to share a comment here on the blog, but would like to discuss this, please feel free to email me at aspergeradults@yahoo.ca

© A.J. Mahari, May 8, 2009 – All rights reserved.

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Asperger’s Syndrome – Living in Another World

Many who have Asperger's Syndrome are either described by others or describe themselves as living in another world. What does that mean? Is that true? What is it about having Asperger's Syndrome that leaves us, at least part of the time living in another world?

In my experience I get this "other world" feeling or have this "other world living" experience primarily within the social context of what it seems to mean, to the average neuro-typical, to be "in" the world or connected to the world out there. The world out there meaning the social "world" out there.

I really do not have a problem or issue at core with the awareness that I do often experience living in "another world". It is my inner world. It is the world of my narrow focuses (2 or 3 of them) of interest. It is a world that makes most sense to me. It is a world that holds within it the experience of my purpose, and who knows maybe even "the" purpose for my having Asperger's in the first place.

I think the problem, or the rub, if you will, for many with Asperger's about this living largely in another world comes from the reality that any world other than the neuro-typical "social" sphere such as it is, is somehow a less than way to be or place to be or both.

I think it is important to realize if you have Asperger's Syndrome (AS) that living in another world is part of who you are. It is part of how you are as well. It is part of your way of experiencing life. That doesn't make it less than the neuro-typical way of experiencing or living life – just different.

Different needs to be dissociated from meaning less than. What we do not understand about each other and each other's "worlds" needs to be accepted and validated and not judged.

Living in another world, my aspie world, doesn't mean that I do not have any connection to the "outside world" or to the neuro-typical world. I do. There are many ways and times that I have this connection. It is not a connection that I need per se. It is not a connection that fills me up by any means. It actually empties me out.

I do, however, continue to be most puzzled at the neuro-typical social world and all that entails. Do I connect to that some times? Yes. Do I always get how? No. Do I feel lost in that connection often, socially, yes. Does it matter anymore? No, not to me, not really. How come it doesn't?

Simply because I realize the importance of letting go of ever thinking that I will ever get that neuro-typical social world. I know I won't. So many times I have tried. So many times I thought I did get it, for a few minutes. So many times I thought I was in an experience of it only to come to find that, no, actually, it was its own version of hit and miss. That's okay. It is what is. And actually each and every time I experience the awkward feeling meeting of my aspie world and the neuro-typical social world I think that I do gain more insight and awareness into the differences – the ways in which I am different.

Does that insight and awareness mean anything in the actual unfolding of relating or experiencing neuro-typical social world? Nope. Intellectually, yes. In the unfolding of the relational dynamic, each and every time, no, not really.

I can map out more each time I gain more awareness but the truth is I make some of the same – what neuro-typicals may well think of as "mistakes" each and every time I leave aspie world to connect with their social reality in the not-so-effective ways that I actually do that.

There is a truth, in fact, though about living in another world, living in my aspie world and that is that even when it seems I can unstep it or escape it - it is a painful and often times frustrating type of desired (at times) illusion.

The trick is to first accept living in another world. Secondly, it is important to not allow yourself to feel shame or wrong or less than when you realize later or it is pointed out to you later how you didn't quite get to where you had hoped you had gotten to, socially.

It is what it is. Its meaning is only imposing if we let it be. We don't have to engage the idea (or what can be painful feelings) that we are less than because we aren't the "norm" or the average social majority.

Living in another world is just a part of having Asperger's Syndrome. I as someone with Asperger's Syndrome don't value or need or even really want the same type of socialization that most neuro-typicals seem to want, need, and thrive with. I thrive in different ways.

Have you ever stopped to really think about how many different worlds there really are within our one over-all world? There are likely more than you've ever even thought about. We are divided and sub-divided many times over by what we have in common and more often than not by all that we do not have in common.

It is and will be okay the minute you just accept that for what it is. Accept it. Celebrate who you are. Let go of the idea or concept that we all have to be the same. We aren't and we don't. No one is right and no one is wrong. That's the true beauty of difference.

© A.J. Mahari, May 3, 2009 – All rights reserved.

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Real Freedom in Asperger’s Born Out of Living Outside the NT Box

Adults with Asperger’s Sydrome (AS) really know what it is to live life and to exist, be and differently function outside of the Neuro-Typcial (NT) box which is all-too-often held up as the measure by which we all must be held to standard. It is the measure used to determine value and worth, success and failure. It is the box that traps the NT and those with AS live much richer lives and should not be tarnished with this brush of judgment.

Monism, which is the doctrine that mind and matter are formed from, or reducible to, the same ultimate substance or principle of being, can be assimilated into an understanding of what it is like to be an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). It speaks to the reality that life is not some “other defined box” into which we must all fit. We, as beings, within this human realm with all of its incumbent nature cannot and should not be reduced to a single principle or way of being.

Human nature to varying degrees conditions human knowledge. Knowledge is inherently derived from what we are taught and what we experience. It can also be postulated that knowledge is also derived from our intuition, our spiritual essence. How we learn, how we process, how we experience concepts, precepts, and datum drive the ways in which we come to a working and ongoing understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Ashok Tiwari – in “Real Freedom, A Philosophical View”, on his website asserts that, “Monism does not see, behind man’s actions, the purposes of a supreme directorate, foreign to him and determining him according to its will, but rather sees that men, in so far as they realize their intuitive ideas, pursue only their own human ends. Moreover, each individual pursues his own particular ends. For the world of ideas comes to expression, not in a community of men, but only in human individuals. What appears as the common goal of a whole group of people is only the result of the separate acts of will of its individual members…”

So, what I am driving at here is simply this: People with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) live outside the box of the “whole group”, or society in general. This is seen, viewed, and defined by most as being “less than” and/or dysfunctional. When, in truth, what this really means is that those with AS are living lives that are of a different nature than those who are neuro-typical (NT). What the majority, in this case, NT’s, have in common, is all-too-often (if not always) seen and defined as “normal” leaving anyone, anything, or any difference in values, morals, goals, life choices, paths in life and so forth being categorized as unsuccessful or not valuable in accordance with a monistic view that rejects the metaphysical philosophy of freedom.

Freedom like a stone, in the eyes of some perhaps, but freedom nonetheless.

We are only as free, in this world, as our thoughts and understanding will allow us to be. Those of us with Asperger’s are in some ways freer than the average NT who ascribes wholly to the datum which espouses the kind of like-mindedness required to chase the 9-5 definition of both functionality and success.

To live outside of this cherished box is seen as the equivalent of being a failure. To society, it is defined as failing to do what an adult is supposed to do. It is viewed as a disability. I have struggled with this freedom-robbing reality all of my life. I am just now coming to a place of burgeoning freedom, understanding, and personal acceptance. I am coming to truly accept what it means to have Asperger’s Syndrome, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am now a strong believer in the inherent difference between how I process information, view the world, function, contribute to the world around me, play my part, accomplish, and so forth, as an individual. No doubt that the Asperger way is much more unique (often seen as “weird”) but it is nonetheless totally a worthy and valuable way of being firstly, being in the world secondly, of processing information thirdly, and fourthly of relating.

If some of us didn’t live outside of the box, whatever you define that box to be, how would the rest of you come to know that box so well? I don’t judge those who live in the box so why judge me for not living there?

It is the inability that I have to be a part of the masses in many ways that actually is valuable and makes me tick so to speak. The reality of the metaphysical masses assumes that reality is a unified whole and that all existing things can be ascribed to or described by a single concept or system. A single way of doing things. A single way of being in the world – being social – being driven by a set of common values, morals, and a code of conduct.

Those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome, to varying degrees, live outside of this single way conceiving, thinking, understanding, acquiring knowledge, functioning or being. This reality does not make us any less. In fact, many would argue it makes us a whole lot more. It makes us more individual. We walk to the beat of our own drummers. Not all that is eccentric is negative. Not all that is not part of the main is negative.

Those of us with AS have a different nature. We have to be true to our natures just as NT’s have to be true to their natures. To all adults, like me, with Asperger’s I say, be sure to celebrate your differences and not get caught up in the “I’m supposed to be like everyone else” kind of thinking. There truly is not, despite the rhetoric spouted from so many areas of life, any everyone else, at all.

Gregory B. Yates, in his writing, “A Topological Theory of Autism,” says “Autism emerges as a major feature of brain evolution: It is generally not a disease. Autism has been with humans as long as humans have been and has marked human history.”

Yates makes it clear that the central defining feature of autism is social disconnectedness. Yates points out that, “The name “autism” derives from the Greek word “auto” for self, and proclaims the apparent mental involution or self-absorption of autistic people.”

As one who has to a certain degree experienced (and I continue to experience) what Yates describes as an “apparent mental involution” along with a dose of “self-absorption” I do not agree that how these are from the inside out are the same as how they are defined from those on the outside, looking in and trying to understand.

There is an awesome gift in the form of AS mental involution. I experience that gift in many different ways not the least of which is the way that I crave and process information.

I would also assert that not all that is involuted is negative either. Just as all that is exuded is not all positive or negative.

Just as the words of Ashok Tiwari, in “Real Freedom, A Philosophical View, “…men, in so far as they realize their intuitive ideas, pursue only their own human ends. Moreover, each individual pursues his own particular ends. For the world of ideas comes to expression, not in a community of men, but only in human individuals…” point out self-absorption is not reserved only for those who are autistic of have Asperger’s but is to some degree a part of the human condition.

What then, I ask, is the difference between the pursuits of those with Asperger’s, such as myself, for example, and the pursuits of others? Though some want to make these worlds or realities so different I postulate that there is more similarity than difference.

Being in one’s own world, to whatever degree one is socially disconnected, or different, can be one of the most single freeing experiences that a human being can hope to atta
in. Not all that glitters is gold. Just as not all that appears to be negative or is judged as negative or a lack is in fact the negative lack of anything.

Conversely, what I know about Asperger’s Syndrome from the inside out is that the reverse is actually true more often than not. What professionals and others deem to be such lack of functioning (which is really more to speak to a lack of “fitting in”) is for me the antithesis, of free-thinking, freedom of self-expression, a very strong ability not only to process information but to assimilate it and take things further than most give effort to thinking about in a 9-5 box.

Living outside the box has its inherent burdens but the benefits, in my experience, far outweigh them.

As an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome the freedom that exists outside the box is profound and cherished. As I keep pushing the limits of my box-free existence I continue to find more and more to celebrate and less and less to feel inadequate about.

Feelings of inadequacy often arise out of taking on the imposed “should-be’s” of others. They can also exist and be painful if one continues to believe that having Asperger’s and what that means in terms of being different makes one “less than”. Feeling “less than” is often a response to the negative experiences that accumulate when difference is not met with acceptance or understanding.

This process of self-acceptance is very much about not buying into the “party line”. Know that what appears to be the “common goal of the whole group” or a norm of our collective culture is really underneath it all a reflection of a mass mentality that seeks to undo the inherent essence of spiritual being — and our freedom to be as individual and different as we want to be or need to be in what it means to just be who one is.

© Ms. A.J. Mahari January 11, 2005 – with additions February 13, 2009 – All rights reserved.

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AS - Executive Dysfunction

Executive Dysfuntion is, in my opinion and experience, a different way of functioning.