Internalizing

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been discussing this month Autism Awareness Month and I’ve been trying to give an insider’s perspective on the topic as a person who has Asperger’s. Please note I have Asperger’s. I don’t suffer with Asperger’s. There are times that there are difficulties, but overall, my life is good.

Tonight, I’d like to talk about the topic of internalization. This is not the philosophical debate but the simple fact that what we can tend to do with data is to internalize it to an unhealthy extent. Thus, if a friend of mine doesn’t seem to be speaking to me about something and it could have nothing to do with me, I will be thinking about that detail for awhile and thinking “Did I violate some social rule? Why is he not speaking to me?” It could be he didn’t notice me or he’s just tired or any number of reasons, but it will be internalized.

And yes, I will go to the worst possible scenario.

This can make group interactions very difficult since every facet of what happens in the group scenario has to be understood. If something happens at school or church, you can be thinking “Is the professor or the pastor thinking about me when he says that?”

Please note that when I talk about things like this, I am not saying that the behavior is right or wrong. I am simply saying that this is the way that it is. Most of us can think about that way with worrying, and I assure you an Aspie definitely can. When we are worrying, we know that we ought not to worry. We can know at times that we ought not to internalize things, but like the worrying session, we do that.

Thus, for you, what could be a simple and innocuous gesture for the Aspie can become something that requires much analyzation, and analyzation is something that I plan to talk about in this series. Since we don’t understand society many times, we will misunderstand the reason that you who are neurotypical, as we say, do and say certain things.

What’s the solution? For one thing, we can’t live in paranoia. One aspect of this is that if we are struggling with this, we need to get over it. However, we can be helped in this in that Aspies need people who we know can be open to us and able to be approached and be able to say something like “The other day I did this and you did this in response” or “I said this and you said this in response” and then “Can you explain this to me? I’d like to understand.”

Second, be careful to make sure you’re not adding a barrier. How will your actions be interpreted? The first end is on us here to make sure that we are interpreting you right. However, the other end is to further watch the message you’re sending and remember when being around an Aspie, they could be especially sensitive to comments you make.

And of course, forming communication easily will be an important part in reaching that Aspie for Christ. Again, is it not worth it?

We shall continue next time.

Extroverts

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Lately, I’ve been going through the experience of being an Aspie in honor of Autism Awareness Month. I have received feedback that this is being helpful to some and I am indeed trying to be as transparent as I possibly can. While most of what I’ve dealt with has been directly about us and our relation to the world, I am going to write tonight about an external response to us.

When I go to a new place, someone who is an extrovert can scare me. At a job I had at a grocery store, there was someone who immediately came up to me upon finding out about my joining and wanting to greet me and shake my hand and find out everything that they could about me.

It’s the kind of thing that makes us want to run screaming.

Of course, people can’t know this about us in advance which can be a disadvantage and I do realize some people are this way naturally. However, while we all must practice self-control about some personality traits, I urge you that if you are outgoing and very talkative that you do your best to avoid this behavior when seeking to minister to an aspie.

It is ironic what happens in these situations and the same can happen in marriages with a wife who is talkative and a husband who is more quiet and analytical. (Our marriage is not like that. We’re both introverts.) In fact, this could be a good tip for those who are in marriages like that. (Note I’m not saying that extroverts and introverts shouldn’t marry. By all means do so. Just like any marriage, be aware of difficulties. Two people can’t live together without them)

Here’s what happens. The wife wants to have a good talk with her husband about just anything. The husband doesn’t really want that at the time. He’s not comfortable with it. The wife will start talking and talking and the husband will get nervous not wanting to talk as that’s not his personality. This makes him be more quiet. Unfortunately, the wife when she gets nervous talks more. As a result, she talks more and he talks less. Of course, this could be reversed in most any case as there can be talkative husbands and quiet wives.

This is the way it is with us as well. If you come out being really exuberant and excited, we will just wonder what to make of you and in fact, not trust you. Picture it the way you picture a salesman who really wants to talk to you a lot. “What’s the pitch?” Does that mean we really think there is a dark ulterior motive behind your wanting to talk to us? No. It just means that we can’t understand that kind of behavior and it makes us nervous.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. To reach your friend on the spectrum, you will have to move slowly. That person is worth it however.

Being Nonverbal

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been blogging throughout April on Autism Awareness Month. I hope that this is going to open some peoples’ eyes to what it means to be on the autism spectrum. Aspies are often misunderstood and we need to remember that we’re in the image of God also.

Last night, I wrote on how we need to avoid small talk when dealing with an Aspie. This includes with family. I was even on the phone last night with my mother and she was asking if I was being quick in conversation because I was busy and I said that I was a bit, but I just mainly wanted to talk about something, which led to us discussing politics some, a just fine topic to discuss.

However, having said we don’t do small talk, in many ways, most of us prefer to be nonverbal. Someone from our church once asked my wife and I if we wanted to be door greeters there. For us, that was a thought that gives us terror. Of course, I don’t mean anything negative about the person who asked us. They did not intend us and I don’t have a problem with greeters per se. It’s just that for us, it is an extremely difficult position to be in.

Why? We don’t like to talk if we don’t have to. Now if there is a topic that we want to talk about, we will talk about it. Even with just the two of us, we can be nonverbal at times. My wife knows that she can best determine my mood not so much by what I say but by any nonverbal sounds that I make.

Answering more than that puts us in an awkward position as the conversation involving small talk is not our area of expertise. Based on the way we think, it’s extremely difficult so without the intention of being rude, our goal is to simply move on past that point of the interaction as quickly as we can.

I do admit that this is an oddity of us. After all, we want people to understand us the best we can without being verbal, when all the while we say that we can’t understand people unless they tell us what is going on and I can admit that that is something that I and other aspies like myself need to work on. For all of us, we need to remember that most of our communication that we do will in fact be nonverbal.

What does this mean? When the Aspie is quiet around you and not saying anything, that does not mean that he is not care. As one autism pin I’ve seen has said “Just because I don’t speak doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say.” It could just take time before your aspie friend will be able to warm up to you and talk. However, if it can lead to bringing him into the Kingdom, isn’t that time worth it?

We shall continue next time.

How Are You?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Right now, it’s Autism Awareness Month and I’ve been focusing on giving us an insider’s look at what it means to have Asperger’s as my wife and I are both diagnosed with the condition. Tonight, I’d like to look at the question that I can’t stand the most to be asked.

When we participate in small talk in public, one of the first questions someone gets asked is “How are you?” Now I do know it’s not just an aspie thing to not like this question, but I believe it’s particularly grating for someone who is on the spectrum. It has always been a question I’ve had difficulty with and when I’m out in the social arena, one I have to deal with the most. I’d rather be asked one of those questions Christians supposedly hate to be asked rather than have to be asked this question.

First off, when I’m asked this question, I feel like I’m under an obligation by the person asking the question to disclose myself in a way that I do not want to. That can be the case even if the person is a trusted friend. If I do not spill my guts on what is immediately on my heart, I can have a feeling that I am being less than honest in what I am stating. On the other hand, there are times that if I did state such a feeling, I am certain it would not be well-received.

Second, the question is vague. When someone asks me the question, I really do not know how to answer because my brain tends to think in only specifics. I do not accept vague generalities for answers. I need to know the connecting reason for something and if I can be able to quantify something, then all the better for that.

When I lived with my folks, I used to have this kind of problem. If I was sick, my parents would ask me the next day if I felt better and found it quite odd that I couldn’t answer that question. The problem for me was that I had no idea how I would quantify such a feeling. I can understand feeling good and feeling bad but I could not really compare feeling better and feeling worse. That’s still a difficulty.

My advice to the person in this case then wanting to reach the aspie is to not ask the question. The aspie could feel under an immediate social obligation. Instead, go and find out something that the aspie is interested in and talk about that instead.

Of course, I do realize that people mean well when asking the question, but it is still a difficult one to answer. In my case, I typically make some sound in reply that is really hard to understand, and most likely because I don’t even know what it really is. I just want the conversation to move on past that question to something that I believe can actually be talked about.

It might sound strange but hey, it’s the world of the Aspie.

We shall continue next time.

No Eye For An Eye

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve started doing some writing on Autism Awareness Month and giving my insider’s perspective as an Aspie. I want everyone to keep in mind that that is all that it is. I do recommend more thorough research for those interested.

A month or so ago I was involved in a Facebook debate with someone on matters of culture when this person said something to the effect of “Consider that in our culture, we highly value eye contact.” I had to laugh then and let him know that he was talking to an Aspie and I hate eye contact.

Does that mean I always avoid it? No. However, I have to prep myself if I’m doing something like a job interview. Of course, there are other exceptions where eye contact is not hard, such as when my spouse and I spend our time looking into each others’ eyes and not be intimidated by it. There are times however where it’s especially important, such as I want to tell her something really special about herself or deal with some negative attitudes she has and say “Look at your husband” and she’ll turn and look me in the eyes. Of course, she does the same to me.

Generally however, the person like myself will not look at you in the face, and this can be for a number of reasons. Eye contact in some cases can be intimidating. Some people don’t do it because of a sensual overload that they get. However, the person I was arguing with was right in saying that it is expected in our culture and that is something that can often make the Aspie be seen as rude.

The reality is that this is just a different way of thinking. I go see a counselor on a monthly basis. When I’m in his office, I sometimes look at him, but often, I’m busy looking around at everything else. Part of it is just gathering a sense of my surroundings and wanting to know what’s going on. When I have to say something really deep, I can often close my eyes as it can seem to give a better focus. I could also just say that I don’t understand half of what I do, but I do it anyway. Somehow I doubt that’s just an Aspie thing.

What is the lesson to learn for the neurotypical? Realize that when you meet someone who is not looking you in the eye, it is not best to presuppose that they are rude. It could be that they are an Aspie and they will not appreciate eye contact. Now of course, there are times that we Aspies do have to bite the bullet and do such, but keep in mind that if you are a complete stranger to us meeting us at a place like school or church, we will likely not do so to begin with. Keep trying. If you get an Aspie looking you in the eyes, it could just mean you’ve earned his trust.

And that’s quite a thing to earn.

We shall continue next time.

Asperger’s: An Inside Look

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I stated that I would begin another project today. In case you don’t know, April is Autism Awareness Month. This month, I’d like to give an inside look at Asperger’s as an Aspie and as one married to an Aspie. Note that I am not claiming to be an authority for all people on this topic, but just giving my perspective on what this condition is like.

To start this month, I’d just like to say to be aware. This is a real condition and more and more Americans are having this condition. There are various levels of ability on the spectrum and no two people are alike. Some people are very much incapacitated by this condition. Some aren’t. It varies. The rule of thumb has been that if you’ve meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

I like to refer to the condition as an invisible condition. I have a friend who is a member of my church who has Cerebral Palsy and is in a wheelchair. Naturally, you don’t walk up to him and challenge him to a foot race. That would just be totally uncalled for. However, when you look at people like my wife and I, you cannot tell just by looking that there is anything different about us. Perhaps a skilled examiner could tell by looking at us or looking at photographs, but chances are, you and most others are not skilled examiners. (I recognize however some could be who read this blog on a google search.)

Thus, a lot of times people can think we’re rude as an example. Now I won’t deny that there are times that we can be rude, but why assume that prima facie just because we don’t play the same game as everyone else plays? It is a real challenge for us and a lot of times, the way the world acts doesn’t make us want to get out and play the game with them.

At the same time, saying this is not a call for pity either. The last thing people like myself want is pity. I have often made it a point of mine to seek to do as much as I can on my own. This does not mean that I do not seek the advice of others in many situations and I have a number of excellent counselors. However, when I reach a goal, I want it to be known that I did indeed earn that success. I may have a condition that holds me back in some areas, but it does not hold me back indefinitely.

And finally, remember that people like my wife and I are indeed just that, people. We have feelings and thoughts and goals and dreams and hopes and fears like other people do. While we can surely learn much about the way you interact from you, this could be a two-way street and I think should be. The “neurotypical” world can also learn something from the way we act in the world. This can be a mutually building up of one another.

As we go through this month then, we will look at various topics from a personal perspective including God, marriage, love, hobbies, etc.

Come along for the ride.