Fitter, Slappier

Someone on farcebook just told me I had an axe to grind because I defy the typical fucked up way we’re told to interact with an Aspie. I am aware of no other counseling module that routinely shames women into codependency the way ASD/NT coaches do. We’re taught to manipulate our partners and attempt to control the (future)

outcome

of our interactions to avoid counterattack, defensiveness, and the dreaded anxious meltdowns, what my own partner calls ASD “stuff-n-things.” What is this fucked up advice of which I speak? Let’s go to the tape.

That’s the muttonheaded Mark Hutten, of the ubiquitous FB lookalike pages and paid Skype coaching services. I’m his biggest fan.

Admonishing. Like a fan droning in the background. Warning NT wives not to drone on. Make an appointment to talk to your partner. As if he were a child. Allow him to lead. Or at least be an equal. Keep it short or you’ll lose him. Be concrete when talking about emotions. Pretend my advice is not complete gibberish. You don’t want to make him anxious. You want to keep it short. Short and concrete. Stay calm. Fitter, healthier and more productive. A pig in a cage on antibiotics.

You need be asking permission of your men, who struggle with egotism, dominance and arrogance. You especially want to seek their permission to open up about what they’ve done to crush you by their own behavior. You are primed for this, having learned from day one that bitches ain’t shit. All I have to do is nudge. To wit:

Such as this negative spin? Is this one of the unusual anxiety reduction techniques our beleaguered Aspie might turn to, to ease their unrelenting fears?

As for the next way he decides the Chosen is more special than me: Sorry, I make crazy evil shit up in my head in the absence of sufficient data just like his Aspergian. Everyone does. It’s a survival mechanism. The brain hates gaps and fills it with a parade of horribles, which is why communication is the gold standard in relationships.

Neurotypical reader, ask yourself, if your child is two hours late from school, do you think they’ve stopped to pick a bouquet of lilies for you? Or do you think they’ve been hit by a car or kidnapped, so you start calling friends, police and hospitals?

Jump to that conclusion, mommy. The first 24 hours are a matter of life and death.

This is what happens when you fast-track your degree in a single discipline from a bargain basement Cristian university. The fetishization of one phenotype at the expense of all others. What hell it must be to live inside an autistic skin! Bedeviled with such anxiety they’re dodging paintballs all day! Can you imagine what that must feel like?

Indeed, I can. You know who else ought to? A licensed couple’s counselor.

No cottage industry is about to spring up where Aspies are lectured to by over-confident, e-book peddling scolds about how they are to interact with their neurotypical partners.

For that we must return to John Gottman, who can predict within minutes and with a 94% accuracy rate whether couples will break up or stay happily together. He holds a ridiculous number of national-institute-lifetime-achievement-distinguished-research-scientist–type academic awards. His methods top a 50% success rate in fixing messed up couples and he’s on his tenth book. This excerpt is from The Man’s Guide to Women.

[A workshop leader asks the men in attendance how many of them ever feared for their life or physical well-being.]

All the examples the men gave were from 10, 20, 30, or more years in the past. Next she asked the women. “How many of you have ever been afraid for your life?” Every female hand in the room went into the air. “How many of you have been afraid in the last 6 months?” Again, every hand went in the air. “How about in the last month?” “The last week?” Every hand was raised. Finally she asked, “How many of you were nervous or fearful walking through the hotel parking garage to come to this workshop?” Again, every hand was raised, including Lynn’s.

Mike was stunned. He had no idea Lynn experienced fear. He wasn’t afraid, so he assumed she wasn’t afraid. He thought about the times he had told her he would meet her in the car. The times he walked in front of her on the street when they were out. “That one example,” explains Mike, “changed everything between us. I realized I had been assuming she viewed the world through the same lens I viewed the world through—and it was eye-opening.”

It is a sad reality that women feel more vulnerable in the world than men do —  and by vulnerable, we don’t just mean emotionally. In this case, we are talking physically. Another sad reality is that one out of four girls has been sexually abused by the age of 18, and that number is higher (just using logic makes this true) if you consider unreported cases. In Japan, women ride a special pink train that’s just for them because they fear being groped. Fifty percent of women in the military have been raped or sexually assaulted in some way. Women are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after trauma as men are, which in turn leads them to be even more fearful in the future.

Women no doubt evolved this greater sensitivity to threatening situations in order to stay safe. It’s hard to know how much is nature and how much is nurture, but we also live in a world that conditions women to feel afraid for their safety and well-being. Men are typically not conditioned this way. And because of this, men and women have huge differences in how they view fear, safety, and danger.

It is easy to demonstrate these sex differences in the psychology laboratory. The late Loren McCarter, PhD, a senior research analyst with the Behavioral health Sciences Department, and his mentor, professor Robert Levenson, from University of California, Berkeley, conducted an experiment in which they fired off a gunshot behind their volunteer subjects. Levenson and McCarter were testing the startle reflex in men and women. Both genders had the same startle reflex, but different reactions to being startled. In general, men’s heart rates went up much more than women’s and took much longer to recover. The kicker to this study, however, was this: When they asked men and women what they were feeling after having been startled, women reported feeling afraid. Women felt fear. Men reported feeling angry, and some also had a desire to get even with the experimenter.

Imagine you are driving in your car, about to take a woman out to dinner. A car cuts you off in traffic, coming incredibly close to hitting your front end. There is the initial startle both of you feel, but then you get pissed. You race up behind the driver of the other car and get as close as possible so he knows you are mad. Meanwhile, the woman next to you, who was also startled but felt fear rather than anger, is made even more fearful by your aggressive response to the other driver. What do you do? What does a Hero do? A Hero, realizing a woman’s response to being startled is quite different than his own, backs off from the other driver and turns his attention to making the woman next to him feel safe.

What men need to know is that high stress causes men to get less fearful, but when women feel high stress they get more fearful and are more likely to be afraid in the future. Women are more likely to feel fear in response to a stressful situation than men are. Women also experience much more fear over the course of a lifetime, and once they feel fear in a situation, they will be even more afraid when that situation arises again in the future.

Think about this. Think about the women in that workshop Mike and Lynn attended who felt fear daily. This is the reality that women live in, and a deeper understanding of this can change not only your understanding of women but your relationships with them. In the first chapter, we mentioned that women need to feel emotionally and physically safe with you. This isn’t just good advice, it’s advice based on their biological and physiological needs, which differ from yours.

In a critical study, University of Virginia psychologist James Coan, PhD, together with Hillary Schaefer, PhD, and Richard Davidson, PhD, monitored women in a functional MRI machine while they were subject to the threat of electric shock. In one set of experiments, each subject held her husband’s hand; in another, each woman held the hand of an anonymous experimenter; and in a third, no one held the women’s hands.

When a happily married woman held her husband’s hand, the fear response was completely shut down in her brain (specifically the amygdala, for you neuroscientists). When she held the hand of her husband but she didn’t consider herself happily married, the fear response shut down a bit, but not all the way. When she held hands with a stranger, there was no change in her fear response. It was the same as when she held no one’s hand.

These results show that your touch is very effective, and even holding hands can have a powerful effect on a woman.

So what are you to do, after learning how fear and fear conditioning work in a woman? Where do you begin?

For starters, when a woman is afraid, hold her hand.

Even better, try to help her avoid feeling afraid in the first place.

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