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.
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.