Happy Halloween. No more horror stories about the ASD partner who settles into a well-worn rut, vegetating, going through the motions, flatlining. Perhaps all this (exhaustion?) comes from a need to eliminate distractions due to sensory overload. But if you don’t ask your partner if he has fireworks shooting off multiple tracks inside his head he’s unlikely to offer glimpses that would make you less forlorn.
I’m reading the ND blogs. Learning. Those social deficits might be the effect of a physiological cause — excessive connectivity in certain areas of the brain — resulting in an onslaught of dizzying sensory provocation that has no off switch. Something like that. Autistic brains create 42% more information at rest than the norm.
That’s a lot of noise.
Too much stimulation creates the need to winnow extraneous input. Sorry about that, Mrs. Extra.
No wonder they don’t like small talk. No wonder they are so maddeningly incurious. If you’re burdened by inescapable brain busyness you too might kick any stimuli off your representational field that you didn’t put there yourself. Become risk-averse, small-minded, insist on sameness, closed to new interests and experiences. Dismissive of what you don’t instantly grasp. Defensively stuck inside your own head. Lacking discernment. Hate ambiguity. Hold to a rigid, inflexible, binary mindset. Warding off what others could teach you with an epistemic mistrust, and peculiar reliance on literal and concrete facts.
Same clothes every day. Same food, same TV, same routines, no poetry, a controlled environment. If I’m exaggerating this, and I am not, why would they clap? What is there to applaud? Getting from Point A to Point B without having to start all over again?
MY WAY OR THE HOW DARE YOU?
This rigid, absolutist stance explains in part the difficulty in shifting perspective from himself to another. Experiment. Ask gently, and with kindness to take your perspective. Look closely at him trying. See for yourself, he is not being a dick. Wiring keeps the gears from meshing.
Keep asking, for there’s a secret to empathy no one ever mentions. Trying to understand another’s point of view is the same as understanding it. This is not a trick. But they really have to try.
The perseveration and continuation of unrewarding behaviors and thought patterns. That’s neurological. The one right way to do something. Even when it’s not working? Also, not necessarily being a dick.
Autistics seek the one right answer and they want it to be the same answer for all time, which is impossible. A poor predictive ability drives that quest. It leads to rule-making, earning them the reputation for being stubborn and domineering. They bubble over with maladaptive coping mechanisms to handle the anxieties linked with not knowing WTF is around the corner on the baffling NT terrain.
Then their loved ones become triggered. Now everyone’s activated and shit-coping in response to one another.
The problem with black and white thinking is if something’s not black it has to be white. If it’s not right, it has to be wrong. If it’s not good, it has to be bad. There’s no middle path with a binary worldview. No maybes, no gray areas. Someone who perceives things as right or wrong is going to see a lot of mistakes that need to be corrected. All those enervating neurotypicals who need straightening out.
Which is another way of saying autistics are prone to inventing codes of conduct based on logic, then misapplying them to social situations. Observing this play out, it can almost seem they’re fully committed to their own mistreatment. Maybe they just don’t know why things are going so badly, no matter how many times they’ve been through something similar. If it’s not a literal, exact experience, then this is new. If you don’t comprehend social codes (but everyone thinks you do) what recourse is there? Double down on your efforts at resolving the disruption by doing the only thing you know. Frustrating? I’d punch people in the face if I was autistic. I’d land in jail.
Yeah, don’t call me an enabler. It just makes sense to knock off the rule-worship and as the socialized partner, lead social activities. Let him make it a struggle for power. Expect it. Aspies score off the charts in neuroticism. You are not autistic. You know what to do. Even when it looks like you don’t.
EMPATHY GUIDES BEHAVIOR
To empathize is to recognize and respond. I recognize that slightly raised hand. It suggests you want me to hold the door open so you can get on the elevator. That’s a guess, an iffy gray area. I respond and hold the door, see what happens. Maybe you enter, maybe not. Maybe I misinterpret that raised hand, but holding the door open is not a mistake. Neurotypicals don’t think in these terms. It’s a dance. Missteps are built in. Eye contact, micro-expressions, intuition, and body language keep strangers from bumping into each other as we navigate a fluctuating landscape. It works pretty well most of the time.
The autistic person’s flailing attempt to create a universe without variation and uncertainty is here to stay. As are the boundaries set by respectful assholes who see attempts to bend people to their will as treachery. It’s unfair for one to take out on another their frustration caused by demanding the world be something other than it is. Puts both in hella distress.
Is it time for a mental health intervention, or does the Autist take one for the team?
Autism acceptance doesn’t mean enabling magical thinking. We live in a random universe. We all think we could do a better job running it. No one gets to.
You want a life that fits on the back of a postage stamp? Don’t get married. Don’t have kids. Live in a hut. Let a matchbox hold your clothes.
AUTISM ACCEPTANCE: CHECK.
Acceptance is a given between two people sharing the same bed. Even as we enter relationships with a willingness to be transformed by them. We have to work on these relational skillsets our educational systems failed to provide.
Marriage is therapy. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
OTOH, plenty of groupthink self advocates and high functioning elitists denounce the very idea of their peers eyeing Maslow’s ladder, reaching their human potential. One scolded me on a NY Times thread how the growth mindest is a form of abuse and only the brainwashed believe in neuroplasticity. These people take without giving. Let them go.
Meanwhile the wretched Cassandra is posting on Reddit. Ask her anything. Snuggle Muffin’s still crashing house parties and arguing loudly with random guests that all lives matter. Wearing out his welcome, snarfing an entire pizza alone in a darkened pantry. Staring creepily at some teenager’s growing breasts. Maybe one day she’ll lean forward and let him get real close to them so she can spit in his face.
Didn’t Temple Grandin cover all this in Unwritten Social Rules for Autistics? Rule number 8: Know When You Are Turning People Off.
THE STRAW NT: BURN HER
I see women on social media who ask about a treatment plan for their narcissistic/grandiose/negligent/hoarding/pompous/distant/etc partners admonished for trying to fix their husbands. “Autism’s not a disease, there’s no need for therapy.”
This is a straw argument. Beating back an assertion that hasn’t been made. Autistics are not being persecuted by couples counselors. They are not being rat-fucked by their wives or singled out as disagreeable.
Allipsticks can be narcissistic dickish bombastic angry hot and cold and distant control freaks too. No one gets a pass on turning your marriage into a shitpile whatever your neurobiology.
It’s absurd to claim neurotypicals aren’t susceptible to personality problems when they developed the modules to overcome them.
Most therapeutic fix-it plans come out of the NT handbook. Including fix-its for autistics, which are meant to make them look, smell and act pretty, so they can get along with the rest of us. Cosmetic treatments, not to ease suffering or make people feel valued and understood. They’re involuntary, often coercive, a double-whammy considering autism is ego-syntonic. That’s fancy talk for saying this disorder is fucking up my life and I am totally cool with it.
Lots of us have diagnosable ego-syntonic wreckage to climb over before we make it to Easy Street.
Have a look at the successful, healthy love lives of the happy-go-lucky smart set living it up over there. Don’t you feel a duty to partake? Out of spite?
WE’LL SHOW THEM
So give yourself an order. Throw away the brainwash. Keep our eyes on the prize. Good therapy is no one-way ticket to hell. It’s a supportive process, you silly billy. Like earning a PhD in yourself.
They’re making evidence-based modules to serve all of us these days. Here comes one now — RO DBT, tailor-made for people on the spectrum. Perhaps this seems like an overstatement. I’ve got my own malarky meter on high alert and I can’t find anything wrong with this therapy.
The RO therapist is less directive, encourages independence, and emphasizes self-discovery. It’s not widely known in the states yet. I aim to proselytize as my understanding about it deepens. My better half has hinted at writing a guest post once he’s completed the 30 week program to report what RO DBT is doing for him.
But first, forget whatever you know about its cousin DBT right now. That therapy is for undercontrolled (UC) ragamutts like me. Meet its polar opposite:
Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (RO DBT) is a treatment for those who develop disorders associated with an overcontrolled (OC) personality. OC individuals are often described as reserved and cautious, not very expressive with their emotions, and great at delaying gratification. OC individuals tend to be strong rule followers and feel a high sense of obligation in their lives (i.e., go to a birthday party because they feel they have to rather than wanting to do so). However, at times, they may experience “emotional leakage,” or emotionally breaking down once they are in private after holding it all together all day in public.
An OC personality can be really helpful in some ways. These are the people that get their work done no matter what, show up to work on time every day, work through all the nitty-gritty details of a project, and follow through on their word.
They can be very organized and methodical, and they are great at planning for long-term gains (i.e., saving to buy a house). However, they can be rigid and inflexible at times (i.e., get very upset if a restaurant lost a dinner reservation and struggle with figuring out where else to go to eat) and may have difficulty receiving feedback.
Patients that may benefit from this treatment include those with chronic depression and anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, and Anorexia Nervosa.https://lindnercenterofhope.org/blog/an-introduction-to-radically-open-dialectical-behavioral-therapy/