Sometimes life goes in directions that makes me forget or “put-away” that I have Asperger’s. I not only struggle with Asperger’s, but I also struggle with the list of traits. Some of these in the video below make me wonder… doesn’t everybody have issues with this stuff in this culture? It seems I hear more all the time that people are struggling with isolation, depression, and etc. I am in Women’s Studies, and the main running theme in subjects is the system we live. It begs me to wonder, am I Aspie because this is how I reacted to the system, just like normal people who recognize the system for what it is? Or am I Aspie because there is something very different with my brain and it would be so in any culture?
Having good social skills is the difference between people that succeed and people that don’t. No matter what your focus is in life, there are people all around you. The more you know how to get along with them, the more you are going to succeed in life. And if you do this well, you’ll help everyone on your path succeed in life as well. No matter if you’re a person that likes to be alone, or a person trying to build a business, or your an Aspie trying to learn social skills, or a person trying to find their life mate, this applies to everyone. We all need to work on our social skills and keep them refined. Not for just our sakes, but for the sake of living in a better world.
This was taken from a discussion on Facebook. I responded to a woman that was a little exasperated that people called her rude and offensive when she felt she was just presenting facts as we Aspies tend to do. She didn’t go into the nature of the subject but kept asking why. Why did people treat her this way? Many of us responding thought she was referring to some sort of discussion or argument where she was telling someone their faults, as we also tend to innocently do. However, the truth was it was just a simple matter of word usage and the person got mad at her. In spite of that, I still wanted to post this section because I feel it is valuable to anyone that has these struggles in life, Aspie or not, and wants some insight to overcome them. Several other Aspies has also come to these same conclusions. Please leave your thoughts and comments below if you have other suggestions that would help others have better social skills.
I’ve studied many years of personal development and what it comes down to is that we all develop core beliefs about things. When it comes to truth and facts you could possibly be touching on things that people believe very deeply. There is also a lot of information on the internet that can make truth and facts look questionable. Politics and religion are two prime examples that people joke about not talking about because it is such a sensitive issue. If people feel like their core beliefs are being challenged they are going to get defensive no matter if the subject seems personal or not. Some will end relationships to defend those beliefs.
I used to say the same things as you guys. I used to say I’m straight forward, blunt and people just have to accept that. But then I realized, I can either continue fighting my way through life or I can learn to change myself in such a way that people want to hear me. I have found that people aren’t stupid at all. They just have a perspective on life I don’t understand. When I started learning how to be more friendly I have found that people listen to me more, I have learned more about other people, and people trust more that I know what I am talking about because I’m willing to come to their side of the conversation and try to see it from their perspective. People appreciate that a lot.
Not just Aspies are feeling lonely and isolated. A lot of NTs (neurotypicals or people that don’t have AS) are too. Learning this crucial step has taken me from feeling completely alone to realizing that as an Aspie I have more in common with many groups than a lot of other people do. It empowered me.
A great way to present facts to people, which I learned from some famous guy but I can’t remember who now, is you present the information from a third perspective. So if you’re trying to tell a fact about organic food and someone is defensive about that you could say, well in the UK they banned GMOs because it was giving rats cancer. Or whatever. You can also talk about the positives which help people not be defensive. Its inadvertent and helps me to see if the person even wants to talk about it. If they don’t, then it’s easy to drop the subject and avoid a fight. To be a friend first. It’s telling people they (and the friendship with them) is more important than being right. (That was a damn hard pill for me to swallow).
Candy coating is a great way to get to know people. You do all the formalities and stuff that seems stupid in the beginning of a friendship or in one that isn’t progressing to a deeper friendship…. like a co-worker or something. Later, IF and when you get closer to that person THEN you can start saying things more bluntly because now you trust each other. You have trust built up that you’re not going to intentionally hurt or judge one another.
I haven’t actually practiced this long term with a person in particular, but I am using it all the time on FB stuff. Some people it’s taken me over a year to get them to “like” something of mine or respond to me. It’s very slow. But then so am I. Practicing this very slowly has brought a lot of understanding into my life.
Developing friendships is hard, but if you practice being friendly everyday and to everyone, you will learn much faster. There are many rules that do not change from person to person, such as being told what to do, or point out their faults. But other rules do change from person to person. The more you practice just smiling the more comfortable you will get and the more relaxed you will be with people. Eventually you’ll start to see changes in your interactions with people. Your energy changes and they see that.
This also applies if you’re an artist, musician or entrepreneur. Our culture has sped up quite a bit, and convenience has influenced our subconscious that things should be instant. In reality, humans do not work this way. So you can build up networks and clientele based on true friendship which will keep them coming back and spreading the word about you, or you can build them up on your personal gain only, which will eventually fizzle out because people want to feel connected. None of us like to feel like a commodity.
Lately I have found myself deeply depressed with connections with others. There is a large part of myself I hold back. Many of my Facebook friends have no idea what I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. They don’t see the internal struggle I’m trying to overcome with understanding myself vs. the way the world works. And when I say world, I mean my world. I live in a Western culture. Even without Asperger’s, or High Functioning Autism, as it’s now called, I would still struggle with making friends and being “socially acceptable” in a world that has high expectations of how I should act.
Even a friend I have (or had?) that has Asperger’s doesn’t understand what I struggle with. I was “put in his outer circle of friends” because I couldn’t behave according to his expectations. I tried to explain to him what I am struggling with, but that didn’t seem to matter. All he was able to understand is that he didn’t like my dysfunction and he didn’t know what else to do with me. So he pushed me away.
I talked to another friend I had met years ago. He lives in another country in Europe. We had met through work but remained friends on Facebook. I gave him a brief outline of my struggles and he said he felt the same. “A lot of people suck,” were his sentiments. And true friends are hard to find. The humanitarian in me wants to disagree, but after nine years of working on myself and improving who I am, and seeing what is out there, I couldn’t disagree with him.
I realize that not only am I dealing with learning the social skills of a Western world, but I’m also dealing with the fact that everybody is struggling with what it means to truly connect with another human being and without adding our own expectations of what that person should act like. I admit. My expectations are high too. When I connect with someone, maybe I want a little too much. Maybe I expect understanding where it’s not possible to have any. Maybe I expect too much communication in a world gone made with the frenzy of just surviving.
But at the end of my life what is most important to me? In spite of my struggles with Asperger’s, I still value human connection very much. I want my connections with others to mean something. I’m tired of letting Western culture get in the way. And even though I have “high expectations,” they aren’t meaningless expectations!
Is it too much to want to draw a person out of their own dysfunctional communication styles in order to have that connection? Is it too much to be a little uncomfortable for the sake of humanity? I’m not talking full commitment. I’m talking about taking the time and effort to really get to know a person. That could be a few moments of time, or an entire lifetime. It’s whatever the interaction calls for. Sometimes I just say something small like, “You’re an awesome person.” People like to hear that because there is so much in Western culture telling them they are nothing compared to whatever thing we are trying to match ourselves up to.
I have found many times I can make a person feel worthy and included in very short spaces of time. And when I say it, I mean it. I don’t bullshit around. I also will take the time to help people. If they tell me they aren’t living up to their expectations, I tell them this culture doesn’t have realistic expectations when it comes to the standards of capitalism. Capitalism tells us we will never be enough and never have enough until we are rich, successful and powerful. This is so opposite to the truth!
I need money to survive. But it doesn’t talk to me. It doesn’t hold my hand when I’m scared. My status doesn’t make me feel safe.
But other people do. When someone connects with me and understands my pains and fears, that makes me feel safe. That is what I try to do for others that can be real with me. I can’t give that to someone who doesn’t want it though. I’ve met many people who don’t want it!
I’ve thought about “outing” myself on Facebook and telling everyone what I am. It reminds me of how people in the LGBTQ community must feel. How scary it is. And I wonder how it’s helped or hindered them. Or completely altered their world. Were they glad they came out? Was it worth the risk of being so vulnerable to others that they could judge, offer unsolicited advice, and otherwise make them feel less than?
At this point in all of my struggles, I feel like I don’t have much to lose. I’m already dealing with people on a constant basis that pick me up and put me down at their convenience. Maybe I don’t understand them. Maybe I’m being the one that is not understanding.
But at what point do we start facing this fear of human connection and start working together for ourselves and fellow human beings? Do we keep hiding behind our cell phones, and computers and social media?
I learned that I can work on myself all I want and improve myself and how wonderful that is. But improving myself when it comes to others is a whole ‘nother ball game. That requires more commitment to show up authentically, compassionately, and be willing to work through the ups and downs. And I could maybe do this if others wanted to too. But I can’t make them.
I want to take the easy route and keep hiding. That is safe. That is in my comfort zone. But that doesn’t get me anywhere in life. It doesn’t help me advance in my personal goals or my social and environmental goals. To hide means to stay stuck. To not allow myself to be raw and vulnerable means not dealing with more rejection. But it also means not even putting the efforts forward to have the connections I seek with others.
I’m not even sure what I want from other people. That’s the worst part of all. I can’t seem to get a clear goal of what I’m looking for. I don’t need that many people in my life. I couldn’t handle it. And after my friend axing me out of his immediate social circle, I feel all the less equipped to take on more friendships. I have one friendship in the real world right now. If I can’t handle social experiences, should I even pursue them?
What is the way out of this mess in my life? What is the way out of this mess in Western culture that puts so little value in community and building others up? How do we fix these problems we face?
When I look at all the social and environmental problems, it boils down to these two things. How willing are we to face ourselves? And how willing are we to face the problem of the ever growing isolation and loneliness in our culture? These are the things we all talk about. These are the things we all complain about. These are the things that are causing social and environmental problems. But these are the things we all run from.
I’ve seen this in so many places. How will we ever start to walk the walk? Aren’t we tired of the endless discussions and the endless articles online telling us what is wrong? And only to find there is so little of us standing up and putting the solutions forward in the interactions we have with those around us?
It’s so hard for me to see this. When I look at everybody online and in the real world it always seems like their lives with others are fine. I see people finding partners, having kids, getting jobs, going out and having wonderful experiences. It’s hard for me to admit that there is a rising statistic of isolation, loneliness, suicide and mental health issues in Western culture. Is it all a facade? Are people really truly happy with their lives, or are we all just pretending because A) we don’t want to face ourselves, and B) it’s too much to figure out relationships because we haven’t even figured ourselves out?
It just seems the surface of life is a totally different story from the internal workings of life. But maybe I’m just not seeing straight. Maybe that is the Asperger’s part of me. Is the truth that we all struggle with this regardless of whether we have “dysfunctions” or not? Are people without Asperger’s just better at faking it? I’m at a loss…
A good article describing that we are very empathic. Like I discussed in my previous post, the invisible world is like a giant earthquake of chaos inside of us. Very intense. Check out this article for more insight and studies backing it up.
“A ground-breaking theory suggests people with autism-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s do not lack empathy – rather, they feel others’ emotions too intensely to cope.”
“People with Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, are often stereotyped as distant loners or robotic geeks. But what if what looks like coldness to the outside world is a response to being overwhelmed by emotion – an excess of empathy, not a lack of it?
This idea resonates with many people suffering from autism-spectrum disorders and their families. It also jibes with the “intense world” theory, a new way of thinking about the nature of autism.
As posited by Henry and Kamila Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the theory suggests that the fundamental problem in autism-spectrum disorders is not a social deficiency but, rather, a hypersensitivity to experience, which includes an overwhelming fear response.
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Last night I was making a schedule for my week. I added all the musts for college and home responsibilities, but then there is a list of stuff I am working on for my future. I incremented my list out in 15 minute time slots wondering if that would be enough time to really get into whatever it is I’m doing. This morning I found this website called
Sustainably Creative You can read the article there.
Confirmation that it is possible. I will be reading the article again and experimenting with it.
I’m working on an ebook, a website for social and environmental change, a website for donation-based Life Coaching, singing lessons, learning math (again, for graduation), learning piano and guitar, working on my art, blogging, finding scholarships, moving completely out of my apartment and back in all within 3-5 months (for renovations), and trying to find ways to bring in money. I have to make 15 minutes a day per item work.
The awesome part is he also has a short video on decluttering. I can be working on that as well and hopefully after all the moving is done, I will finally have the workspace conducive for productivity.