I think this article sums up a few points I have tried to make about stimming, having a healthy sense of identity, and the harm I managed to do to myself alone trying to play extrovert and just fit in.
I know the pages have been silent of late, just moved into a new place and the very first weekend had a pipe go and flood the basement, which is also being used as my office, so my computer has been put up someplace nice and dry for the last week. Add in how difficult it is for me to adjust to new settings, I have just not been in a great place to tend towards my writing. But rest assured the whole two people who regularly read me, I will eventually be back to writing, some very interesting new research on telomeres in urban populations (shortened by stress and adversity) that I want to tackle, but will probably forget. Sorry again for the extended silence.
I did not wear blue today…because I feel the conversation is about us more than with us.
I did not wear blue today, because I do not wish to invite intrusion into my life.
I did not wear blue today because it is a color associated with sadness and pity, and I am neither sad nor pitiable.
I did not wear blue today, because I live with who I am everyday.
I did not wear blue today, because it seems more for them than us.
I am not represented by a color, an appeal to emotion over an appeal to reason, I am far from being blue.
Been extra quiet this month as I had to go to Florida for 17 days for a family medical issue, and trying to get any real work done outside my personal space is really just not likely to happen. I did go to church with my mother one day though, and that got the old gears going in many ways, so I figured I would share this bit, as it was a novel but also strangely familiar experience.
Going to church was every bit as stressful as I could have expected it to be, but not because of the content or message (the church is very very liberal, we are talking quips about Palm Sunday and Gay Pride Parade sort of liberal, actually was quite amusing), but the very nature of the use of space and expectations for socially sanctioned ritual. In regards to that specific experience, I pretty much went into shutdown mode not long after entering the space. The congregation was warm, friendly, and welcoming, which for me was extremely uncomfortable since there were tons of hand shakes, hugs, pats on the shoulder and back, way more physical contact than I was mentally prepared for actually, too touchy and that was just the beginning. The space was acoustically a nightmare, this church was actually in a dance studio, so everything echo’d and amplified. Finally, an entire wall was mirrors and the Pastor stood in front of that, so I was able to see everyone every single time I looked up, I spent almost the entire time hunched over staring at my feet and desperately wanting to cover my ears to reduce the noise. To say it was a sensory nightmare, was an understatement, I wish I could have kept my sunglasses on too, anything would have been a small blessing to use some church parlance here.
The experience also had me thinking back to my youth, and how I am conditioned to not see a church as a sanctuary where all are welcome, but instead a place of ridicule, judgment, and suffering. I can recall in childhood the stares when I could not hold still, how my feet would burn with pain having to stand up, how the noise was a cacophonous roar, all the time I was expected to make eye contact, because failing to do so consistently got me labeled as being untrustworthy. Over the decades that tainted and damaged my view of Church, for a long time it led me down a road not too far off from the view of Richard Dawkin’s and Christopher Hitchen’s, angry anti-theism, attempting to place the ills of the world at the feet of the Church. I was wrong in that, a person’s religious views do not inherently make them rigid and judgmental, it just happens to be a very common occurrence in my life experience and in the churches I attended over the years. As I have stated before, rigid ideology and belief is the underlying issue, religion does not have a monopoly on that, and not all religions are equally rigid in their worldview.
In turn this has had me thinking about autistic meltdowns and church, I had a few in church, many would label it as me being a spoiled brat, some went as far to claim I was or was at least at risk for possession. And it is not just the meltdowns after all, the skeptic in me wants to question and challenge, to seek more data, and when the expectation is that one takes these things on faith, I became inherently flawed as well for not just doing so. One thing I loathe about sermon’s is that the congregation must sit there and just listen to the sermon, it is horribly one sided, this social conformity that assumes a great deal about the person giving the sermon being an authority on the matter being discussed. Listening and absorbing, approaching a religious leader after with questions but never feeling able to actually challenge them for fear of retribution from them, the congregation, or my own family.
I wonder then, based not just on my own experiences, but the experiences of others on the spectrum in church, or parents who are now trying to advocate for their children to a congregation that sees them as a distraction, as individuals flawed and unworthy of being there, how many of us in the past have suffered at the hands of a church’s judgments and assumptions. How many children on the spectrum who had meltdowns have been thought to be possessed? How much have we suffered at the hands of neurotypicals who in their honest ignorance could not and did not know any better, and thus applied their limited worldview in judgment upon us? How many of us have suffered true religious trauma and still do so today? Ostracized, judged, pointed out and denigrated for things outside our control, especially when the very space, the very nature of how we congregate for worship is a horrendous sensory and cognitive nightmare for so many of us on the spectrum, and yet again the onus of our actions is upon us, the focus on the flaws in an individual vs the flaws of the socially accepted ritual and paradigm.
I fret and worry about non-neurotypical children in religious settings constantly, and the judgment faced there diffuses out into the communities as well. In a way, a church can be an epicenter, not just for a solid sense of community, but for the judgment and suffering of those who do not fit into the dominant paradigm, who through no inherent moral fault of their own, cannot thrive in that particular environment. I then see a possible solution as well, through education, through combating ignorance, where the Pastor’s, Priests, and Clergy have the power to disseminate real knowledge and understanding on autism, real compassion, to expand the dominant paradigm’s understanding of who we are and how we unintentionally more often than not are made to suffer in those pews and outside the church doors. And if they can welcome and embrace these children, find time to create a space for them to avoid overstimulation without fear of judgment or damage to their self-identity in the form of feeling they are wrong, unworthy, or even in my personal case, made to feel I was actually evil and flawed beyond words. This would benefit not just the congregation, not just the people of faith, but the overall community as well, it could help address issues of bullying based on ignorance of the difference, it could help mitigate suffering within the community, if only they could see that it truly is not a flaw or fault to simply be different and unable to thrive in certain environments. To understand how both in the Church and in greater society as well, the very environment can be harmful and damaging to those of us on the spectrum. And in doing so, find a bit of redemption as well for themselves, for the untold generations who have suffered for just being different and having difficulty coping, for being wired to not always take things on simple faith, but by their very wiring must question and try to understand.
For all the harm that has been done, that same mechanism could now be a powerful tool to expand the conversation and the dominant social paradigm, so help further tolerance and understanding more in line with the views of Jesus of Nazareth, the church could again help unite community instead of being used by some as a mouthpiece to spread intolerance out of fear of the erosion of their views of morality. I do not understand how so many people of faith pick and choose intolerance, swear the Bible is infallible, yet consistently no longer practice or judge based on many Biblical references, how is it we manage to so blindly cherry-pick our ideology. Homosexuality is an abomination to so many, because of the the Biblical references, but tattoo’s, divorce, slavery, and a host of other Biblical references are now view differently. Logically, if one admits to some of these being flawed, then it is only logical to view other one’s as being flawed, that whether or not it was divinely inspired, fallible humans wrote, edited, translated, and altered this work over time. I suppose this is a topic for another time, the myopia of religious institutions, that overshadow the words of Christ in favor of Leviticus or Paul.
Ok, so I keep around a lot of my old blogs that part of me really wants to delete, see I don’t mind being wrong, I often am, but I don’t always like having a reminder around…but I keep them around for a purpose, so I will not forget about it and keep working at it. So, in my Meyer’s-Brigg’s dissections and a few other points I argue that intuition is a function of logic, which if you read a great deal of science, math, and philosophy that often portrayed in opposition to each other. Now, I still held onto this idea for a bit, knowing that is was contrary to established thought and have be chewing on it. See, the problem for me is that my intuition is very logical, when I have to make an intuitive decision and then revisit it to break it down, I can see logic at the core. So, it was a bit of personal bias all jumbled up in it, but I have been trying to hammer it down.
So, like the word context, the definition of intuition itself is a royal pain in the arse. First, it is all too often confused with instinct, or feelings, or belief, it becomes connotatively and denotatively muddled. Well, I dislike muddled and I dislike ambiguity, these things create barriers to communication and since intuition is a fairly important component of philosophy and human cognition, I am not willing to settle for some vague pseudo-definitions. So like my definition of personal context, which I reduced down to an equation (Inherent epistemology+Socio-Cultural epistemology+Life Experience=Personal Context), I am going to hammer out a definition of intuition as well.
Ok, so the problem with intuition is that everyone has it and thus my earlier assertion of it being a function of logic cannot apply to everyone since not everyone has a mental make up that favors logical thinking, neither is everyone feeling, rational, empirical, judgmental, etc. In short, intuition is a function of one’s personal context. What is intuition then? Intuition is in my perspective a survival function for the conscious intelligence, what replaces a great deal of instinct in beings with conscious thought (interesting test there for a philosophical zombie I am sure, if one has no consciousness and I argue intuition requires consciousness then a philosophical zombie could not exist since it is supposed to be indistinguishable from a non-zombie human, and a lack of intuition would certainly make it different, unless it was replaced fully with instinct….hrmm something to think on). Now Intuition is a subconscious (or preconscious if you like) process, it is reactionary but not a foreign and unknowable agent, we can with some effort trace back an intuitive decision provided we desire to do so. In survival based situations, perceived existential threats, or when just busy and in a hurry and lacking the current mental power to direct out conscious mind towards a particular task, intuition plays an important role in making a decision. Though as with many survival based developments in human cognition, we apply it more broadly than the likely naturally selective factors involved in it required. So, when the proverbial crap hits the fan a decision must be reached quickly, this is the survival role of intuition, which is going to be based on our on individual personal context. See, our conscious existence is not the totality of who we are, we like to think the frontal cortex is in the drivers seat, after all that gives us total self-determination and accountability, and who enjoys thinking they are mere meat puppets to basic neurology? Well, like it or not, and modern neuroscience agrees, we are more often than not just that, see we cannot hold all we know, which is just a tiny of sliver of all that can be known in our conscious minds, we would fail as social organisms and not be able to meaningfully interact with anything if we did, we essentially be something far other than human, and I quite like being human failings, foibles and all that.
Intuition is then a function of personal context, so if one understands their own context and has a decent approximation of another person’s personal context you can more readily grasp how that particular neurotype is going to utilize their intuition when it is required. In this sense too, since intuition utilizes one’s epistemologies, aka knowledge, what we know, how we know, etc. (and a reminder here, it does not matter if what we “know” is right, wrong, or irrelevant) will be influenced in it’s accuracy vs fallibility based upon the individuals knowledge base.; this is why many scientific discoveries have come about via intuition and not just conscious application of logic and the scientific method. Likewise, careers that require frequent and rapid decision making often put individuals with experience in charge, because their intuition is better honed due to a more expansive knowledge base.
So intuition is a sub (or pre) conscious utilization of our knowledge when applicable or how we know things, i.e. epistemology as a survival mechanism. It is suspect at all times, but in reality does not have to be completely accurate, it needs to be accurate enough often enough to mitigate a disaster, keep one safe, and probably was pretty easily selected for biologically since bad intuition can have potentially fatal results. Since intuition is based on personal context, anyone who has a suspect knowledge base, a rigid ideology or worldview, pseudoscientific tendencies, well their intuition should be suspect as well. From a survival perspective then when folks have multiple intuitive responses and no time to reach a consensus, go with the person with the largest or most applicable knowledge base to that situation, don’t let ego get in the way, especially when there is no time for it dealing with an immediate existential threat. Trusting one’s intuition in situations where a quick decision is needed is an important part of human cognition, relying purely on intuition though over rational thought though is not likely to net a high enough long term reliability to be a desirable approach to one’s existence. Yet, since we often do rely on our intuition, it is a good idea to understand how one thinks, processes, interprets, and stores social and sensory data, to better understand how we come to these quick decisions, and remember that our ways of knowing influence what decisions we come to intuitively, so check your facts, vet you ideologies, metacognate, and understand who you are through a healthy sense of self identity and self understanding and not just rote learning, take some conscious control in directing how your subconscious processes work, and then you can eke out more self-determination instead of being an exceptionally predictable culturally programmed rote learning robot, which makes you a potential victim for pretty much any scam artist one can think of.
So, I have spent a lot of time of late thinking about…thinking, pretty much my favorite past time when I am not engaging in avoidance behaviors so that time will just tick by and leave me alone. Recently went over an older post by #musingsofanaspie and it got my brain going again on the question of empathy which I have addressed and speculated on before. That question being, am I empathetic and is my ability to easily read people natural to me or is it learned?
Well, I think I was asking the question partially wrong, I am naturally cognitively empathetic, that means I can use my intelligence to relate to folks feelings and circumstances. This connects back to my writings on being compassionate writ large, or a good choice of word here would be sympathetic. So, i am a very compassionate and sympathetic human being, but I am not particularly high empathy in regards to affective empathy. I feel sympathy pains for people, but that is synesthesia, I read that someone is in pain and as someone compassionate I want to help, but I do not feel with the depth others do in such regards, my rationality means the depths of my reaction is limited. Which, makes me a decent person to come to with problems if you want a good ear and solutions, I have found a balance there, I may not feel that pain or joy with the same depth, but I am able to cognitively relate to it. This is quite probably tied into my tendency to provide personal experiences which may come across as egocentric as a way of demonstrating my ability to …well empathize. For good or ill, I have had a host of horrible and traumatic experiences in my life, loss, suffering, physical pain, I have drank deeply from the well, and as a result of this, I have the personal experience to bounce my cognitive empathy off and thus, I am able to create a kindly and compassionate demeanor that Neurotypicals don’t find offensive or alien. But…it was not natural, not part of my inherent wiring, so in short, I have issues with empathy, but we need to stop confusing that with folks not having any feelings at all, I am not a psycho or sociopath, I just respond to these things differently, a bit distant, but still able to sympathize, and frankly, I consider that a blessing, a bit of both worlds, since I have had to straddle that for my entire life.
What else about my inherent brain wiring? Well, I am literal, a very literally minded person, but I have been able to intellectually and cognitively get around that. For example, I know when I am tired or stressed, I should avoid posting on facebook, I miss subtext at those points and thus find myself getting into trouble or causing a bit of drama. Now, I still like to tear things apart from the literal perspective, why I dislike so many generalizations and also makes me the natural skeptic I am. But, I also had to move away from that, how does one cover up for a natural tendency to be literal, the literal interpretation of things still comes to me first, my inherent wiring dictates that. But like so many other things in my life, I found a work around, and those who know me personally would be able to see and understand the cornerstone of my sense of humor, not coincidentally very much like Maine humorists in general (where I live most of my childhood and teen years). So I make jokes based on the literal interpretation of things, for example my wife says “I’m taking a shower”, my response is frequently “Oh yeah? Where are you taking it too, seems a bit heavy” or something along those lines. My brain takes it literal, I then filter it and put it out as a form of joke instead, and oddly enough I almost have too, if I don’t speak these things out loud, that bounce around inside my head, it connects back to me mumbling and talking out loud, it is not just conversation for the sake of conversation, it is a powerful tool for me to process data and move on.
What else about my inherent wiring then? From the Meyers-Briggs, it has been well stated before that I am an INTP, and I will re-iterate that I do not see this as some form of biological determinism, just a useful tool that folks can look up and get an approximation of my personality, so I am guilty of using folks as sounding boards, always. As a matter of fact, I fail to thrive when I do not have access to good sounding boards, and so lately I am having some issues between avoiding social pressures and stimuli, which reduces meltdowns, but without my sounding boards my mind feels sluggish, I need that witty bit of conflict to force me to double check my thinking and get new perspectives, new data, and new questions, and I love questions more than anything else in this world, I am after all a creature of extreme curiosity.
So, I have sensory processing issues, a complex relationship with empathy and other people, I am literal but not rigidly black and white, instead I am an extreme grey person, or as I like to think the world is not grey at all, but full of colors and vibrancy. It is hard for me to focus my energies, because my interests are so expansive and my mind wants to learn it all, know it all, so I am scattered and unfocused, and this frustrates me to no end. And I am still failing to do what I wish, I cannot function in too much structure with too many asinine social rituals, but at the same time, left to my own devices I cannot focus and get things done, how strange it is to realize how much I am a product of the environment I am in. But the more I learn about my inherent way of thinking and then the creative workarounds I have developed over the years, the closer I come to being able to cultivate the right environment to maximize my potential productivity. So I am still torn, I have greatly mixed feelings on pursuing a PhD and trying to fight my way into academia, I suppose I could contemplate work for a think tank, but the ideologically driven nature of many of them would likewise not be particularly fulfilling to me. But I still need to be productive, it is an imperative to me, a constant pressure that leads to depression and self loathing when I cannot get things done that I know I am capable of, I just don’t have enough structure for someone with my inherent brain wiring, and that ties back to my last post about feeling like being only half a person. I suppose we shall see what comes in the future, but I cannot continue on my current course, it is eating away at me and that leads to meltdowns, and I loathe having meltdowns.
So the title makes this sound extra dire, but it is not really, just part of the reality that is me. Folks will notice that my amount of writing has dropped substantially, this is not just weather and cold making me have issues focusing, it has a direct correlation to no longer going to see a therapist. Now why is that? Well actually it is quite simple, I cannot maintain momentum of thought on my own, in a way I am half an individual instead of a full one, my intellect for all of it’s potential is unable to be applied on my own, I have to be in a proper environment. So, without a weekly chance to have a sounding board, talk about interesting things, and thus get my gears grinding, I instead sink down into indolence, wasting my time letting the days and hours tick past because I cannot focus my own intellect in worthwhile endeavors. See, I can’t thrive just off books, or youtube videos, or even forum discussions. I hate the written word and one sided information, I desire debate and conversation, yet the days of the coffee shop filled with eager young minds are mostly behind us, certainly in my area. Instead it is folks plugged into their computers and social networks and the groups of eager minds in my area are mostly the Free Staters, so consumed with their sense of purpose and anger at the injustice they perceive everywhere, that they ruin their own message with feeble attempts to gain publicity, and hanging out with angry self-defeatists I have done plenty of in my life time and I have no practical use for them. So, I tried to dive into MMO’s again and gaming, and still there I see so many damaged individuals getting their kicks off trolling, griefing, and bullying. Bullying is everywhere these days, harsh judgement and the dehumanizing of others, on the internet of course it is particularly easy as there is far less accountability for one’s actions, and the veil of anonymity helps hide the person. But it does not hide the damage, it does not hide how our society has been so focused on the alpha get it all extroverted individualism, that basic human empathy and understanding has been sacrificed upon the altar of a warped perception of what makes us in the US “exceptional”. I have no place in this world, the anger and ire, judgement and general douche-baggery of it all, I find it abhorrent, and yet I am supposed to function within it. Somehow, I still care what happens to our species, when the vast amount of our species cares shockingly little for those outside of their in-group. Now, that is not universal, there are great many folks who devote themselves to great causes and helping others, but it is a small percentage compared to the culturally programmed robots who go about their days doing just as the dominant social paradigm dictates and so grounded in the hear and now, that their ability to see the big picture and empathize with others is reduced to a small scale, so willing to have their small transitory creature comforts built on the blood on innocents through out the world. And in all of this, I fail. See, I will most likely never write the book I have thought about, not enough data, and I have already pieced it all together, so now it bores me…yes, bores me. I have decimated the MBTI, I have put human context into an equation, and yet I will do nothing with it. I have talked about economics, about attacking the underlying major contributors to mental illness and criminality, pointed out how we use bullying in our day to day endeavors as means of getting what marketing has programmed us to want. Our hijacked sense of self identity, carefully crafted using modern science and tried and true propaganda, we are taking such a short sighted approach to existence. And for all my ability to see the patterns, to test the veracity of my logic, I am stuck, the tortured would be philosopher, the grand thinker who cannot get his thoughts out. And thus, I am but half a functional human being, and given my criticisms and friends who are actively in academia, I would not likely ever be allowed to set foot in such hallowed halls, as thinking outside the box and pointing out such things are not desired by most institutions, and the competition for those that are more daring is fierce. On top of it, I lack the “credentials” since I chafe at the traditional system, one must memorize names, dates, and theories to an extreme to prove that one has the intellect to be an academic, the rule of rote learning has proverbially lobotomized our institutions of higher learning in favor of creating educated laborer’s instead of true innovators and thinkers. The modern group think even ponders if the world needs genius, well unless such genius is in something quantifiable, such as mathematics, we cannot even answer that question, so many brilliant minds, genius or just near, will never make it into the modern academic world to share their unique insights and perspectives. GRE’s, grades, endorsements, the financial means, all these things layer and layer hoops too winnow down applicants, and as a result, inherently limit the kinds of intellects who make it that far. But there are so many other ways of being, ways of thinking that add to our cumulative knowledge as a species, but many of us, just simply will not find a place in the current world paradigm. Many are less defective than I am, me, I am just a sounding board who connects patterns, and as such useless to furthering human endeavor myself without some direction or purpose. Given that many of the places I might stand a chance of getting a foot in the door are urban environments where the barrage of sensory data overwhelms me, I find myself stuck, isolated, and contained. I am unsure of how I will progress from here, an intellect with no outlet, I dream of being lobotomized myself, to be tucked back into “The Matrix” and carry on in ignorance, for then I could endeavor in some small manner that has meaning. I have no followers, no acolytes, no audience or friends with whom to share the constant barrage of my thoughts, and I still refuse to mask it all in psuedoscience and chicanery, I will not become some New Age guru, or cult leader, or a host of other things my skill sets would allow for, my integrity is not for sale, and I will lie down starving in a ditch before I do so. We need more people of principle, not folks just trying to survive in an economy stacked against them, we need to evolve our understanding of the human condition, neurological variations, and the value in folks who are different. But right now, though I see clearly some paths to improving such things, I cannot get it done, I do not have the energy or the focus to do so, and this small blog is all I have to share my meager thoughts with the world, to a limited audience, with no tangible gain. This is the fate of being half a functional person, constantly distracted, ever seeking to assimilate more and more knowledge, and never being able to stop long enough to properly share all that I learn.