Sunday, 22 February 2009

Social Anxiety (Finally making sense)

Would I be correct in assuming that social anxiety for most aspies isnt just a vanity issue or a fear of being ridiculed, but more of a fear of the unknown, as to us, reading new people and coming to terms with a new personality is like learning a brand new skill for each person, and the number of skills one mortal being can have is not infinate? From what I have read I believe fear of the unknown is very much enhanced for people with Aspergers Syndrome which may be an executive functioning/weak centeral coherence issue, which is why we like routines and order, hate random noise, and have special predictable interests. This is just another example of it.

I have known a friend all my life and I not nervous around him, we hardly even say hello to each other it is just straight into the topic of choice! I am lucky in a sense that he has a few autistic-like traits minus the inability to interact with people, for example special interests, empathy issues, needing space, self absorbed etc so he isnt too bothered about my weirdness, as he is 'outside the box' too (which is a compliment).

With alot of people I come across I seem to make enemies without even doing or saying anything. I think this adds to the anxiety as well, and can lead to self doubt, as I would always wonder what the hell it is about me that just scares people off. Through intellectualizing the process due to recent aquired knowledge, the answer to this is blinkingly obvious.

People who I dont see regularly, and strangers (this can even include family members) make me incredibly nervous, and this has been the case as far as my memory allows. In my childhood I saw virtually all of my extended family at least once a fortnight, obviously at school the teachers and kids are seen every day, so this problem would not be apparent back then, but as people move on and go their seperate ways, and as the social web becomes more complicated, the problems start to surface.

At least with people who see me regularly I am guessing that they know what to expect from me and vice versa. I am nervous when I am looked at not because I think they are looking down on me because of my appearence, (which I previously thought a few years ago as that was all I could think of, but it isnt the issue now especially as my conciousness has been raised towards Aspergers Syndrome) but more the fact I am just unable to react properly with my face and eyes for that particular person, or quick enough, and even worse react to their counter reaction etc and then it ends up in a big mess, and leaves me thinking as though 'thats another person ive blown it with'. Failing for so long to realise every person has their unique subtlety when communicating their personality will lead to confusion and as a result of this ongoing set of events, social anxiety tightens the grip. The long held belief/assumption that everyone thinks like I do has been proved to be incorrect.

The way I have interacted with people, sometimes not being too friendly because I havent understood the way I was supposed to communicate effectively with them and they didnt understand that I didnt understand so due to this situation occuring many times in my life, it has had a big influence on me. Now I have realised it is the shape of my face and the way I move my body that makes all the difference. A far cry of assuming people are weird because they move around in a funny way, which appeared different depending on the person.

Social tasks most people take for granted are difficult and take up excessive amounts of time during complex social situations. It is as though I have several small excessively positive and negative characteristics all bundled together in such a way to produce, well, me.

This is different to generalised social phobia as I am not scared of talking to people, it usually just depends on how often I see that person, the place, my train of thought, the time and atmosphere (noises, distractions etc) at the time of communication, plus the amount of pre rehearsed phrases and rote behaviour I have prepared in advance to sustain an ongoing interaction. If any of these factors are weakened, the anxiety is more intense leading to chain reaction which can result in mental exhaustion and a need to withdraw. At least with my friend withdrawal isnt necessary, complete silence for a while doesnt bother either of us, as far as I know.

I think this conclusion at least for me, destroys the possibility of avoidant personality disorder because although social anxiety is the prime subject, it is aquired through different means and is not always present, although obviously it is there often enough to sometimes become unbearable. Probably repeating what ive said on previous blogs, but it helps reinforce my assumption.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Shoot me before I go too emo

Everyone ive ever known has been in at least one relationship. How the hell do I go about it, what will my life end up as, am I going to end up as a lonely bitter old man and just rot away as some corpse in his bed left undiscovered for months smelling like a sewer with maggots infesting my decaying corpse? Im not very smart emotionally or socially but I have morals, I know what is right and wrong, and I would never hurt anyone who has no mallicious intentions. As much as I like the 'rational thought' of the physical world, sometimes I wish I could just start my life over again as a NT.

Because people are judged by what they look or sound like the usual 'this person doesn't sound too educated/intelligent' crops up. Im not made to sound intelligent, i'm made to think, its a different intelligence to be able to express intelligence.

But I believe I dont seem smart, but the honesty is in with the fact that I do think like that, and I wish not to anymore, because its just infinite regression...being unable to relate to others with any degree of depth and insight doesn't make me any happier either. Regression is relied upon too much as an ineffective coping measure, but due to habituation it sadly perseveres as a method.

Greater awareness that comes with my way of thinking has exposed me to problems most others don't even know about (mostly philosophical, some contemporary - such as environment) Is it my responsibility to solve those problems, or at least try to? Because otherwise these problems will be left for those who don't even understand them! Voicing these concerns is usually replied by 'you think too much' and although I am too smart for my own good, im also not smart ENOUGH to do anything about it. Imagine leaving issues like global warming to idiots who think the scientists of the future will solve them akin to raping mother earth and giving her the equivilent to AIDS.

Western society doesnt seem to nurture intelligent/different children adults in the same way it dotes over atheletes, sports figures or other mainstream pursuits. School exams are becoming easier, people can just appear on reality TV shows and become instant celebreties with all the frills, sports prima donnas get paid millions for kicking a ball around a field, and greedy bankers get paid billions in bonuses despite crippling the country. We have the odd personality now and again such as Frank Whittle, Einstein, Charles Darwin or Carl Sagan, but even they had to do what they did mostly off their own back and fight to be accepted, appreciated and understood. I am not implying that I am in the same league as those individuals by any means but it is just an example. The mass desire for weath accumulation and greed is the root cause for most mental problems, alcoholism and other related issues, even if the individual affected has no desire for greed or power themselves, the by product from society will always filter down to them. It is no wonder there are so many outsiders with so much potential left standing still, not being able to decide what they want to do or become. Is it any wonder humanity, lacking a true philosophical insight, is on the verge of going backwards? Am I just a marxist in disguise?

Social misfits are seen as losers with no life, and should make more of an effort. That is a nasty, ignorant prejudice because it isnt my primary choice to be this way. It is a like the reverse of asking Forrest Gump, who isnt too bad socially to explain the general theory of relativity. Personally I just cant stop thinking, my brain never wants to switch off, whatever it may be doing. If I have issues with myself I cannot abandon it until the problem is solved, the fear is what if it is never solved? I am hoping us 'geeks' are becoming more accepted in the 21st century, and I hope the media propoganda that tells people to hate and be fearful of nerds, people with mental problems, and people who are different and misunderstood, becomes less potent. Alot of people follow the common group like pack hunters, why cant they form their own real opinions without just agreeing with everyone else? Especially when it is at other people's expense.

Why do people turn their noses up to others who are a bit knowledgable about cetain subjects? Are they fearful, jealous or dont they understand in the first place? To me it is no different to being racist. Is it any wonder people who are different in some shape or form end up feeling rather bitter and low in mood. I know my social intelligence has not developed as fast as my raw intelligence, if anything it hasnt really moved on since I was 10 years old. Is it this gap that makes me feel lost, which gives the impression of me just sleepwalking through life?

I am naturally aware of so much, yet blind to so much as well. It is the inner struggle and the vein attempt to bridge that gap. What if you can think about the future in probability terms, knowing exactly which option is less risky?
It’s not always an advantage: Fear can overtake you easily when you see people acting as if they were blind but without a stick!.

I believe myself as a rational thinker, but when it comes to my inner problems are my thoughts rational? I really cant tell, without knowing what goes on in other people's minds, as something to compare myself to. I am aware of many theories WHY I am like this (which could be AS, personality disorder, genetic makeup, life experiences, nurture etc). But piecing together HOW that has come about is like smashing my head against a brick wall. I cannot just leave it and accept I am 'how god made me' I have to know exactly why and how, there is never an easy answer for anything I experience I always believe there is something more than I can see, whether it is reading from a text book, trying to read a face, or playing a piece of music. Is this perfectionism, or a way of doubting myself when I think I dont understand something? In reality I understand it fully, but always think there is a catch, something else to it, resulting in a fragmented and confused persona, influencing other people's perception of me.

Waiting for nearly a year to go and see that specialist team really doesnt help matters either! Many simple issues combined creates a complex maze for my brain to try and find its way through, the term ignorance is bliss, whatever the subject might be, fills me with rage. Is it any wonder people use alcohol to slow these thought processes down to create a physical and as a by product, a psychological illusion of preventing a potential implosion? I say illusion because in reality although the complex web as a wholeis less obvious when under the influence, single aspects from that web that appear at random become all the more apparent, and a slippery slope is inevitable.

In reality im unhappy with the way things are at the moment. Many times ive heard the phrase do something about it, if only it was that simple. If I really havent got a clue how to go about it, as a result dont know exactly what I want. Is there a neurological reason for this, (executive function, AS, attention defecit problems) or a psychological reason (anxiety etc), or maybe both? The click of a finger really isnt going to work. Of course im being emo here, and over thinking the issue, other people have it alot worse, but this is a psychological thing that slowly eats away. It is a bit like a orangutan trying to survive in a disappearing jungle which eventually turns into a desert.

Yes I am on a journey of self discovery, but I am beginning to believe that alone isnt enough. I dislike the modern way of living and modern society. Excessive mental solitude provokes excessive thought, this current mindset is the end result.

The sad truth is that alot of the time 'being myself' alienates me even further. The broad issue is something beyond my control, and the 'answer' is dicovering the best way to try and adapt to it, but I think this adaption really does require a bit of external wisdom, not just spiritually, but also practical skills to go about things better. Because at the end of the day you cant fly a fighter plane perfectly first time if you havent been shown how (in terms of more effective coping measures that are related to AS). Ive spent far too long trying to figure things out on my own, I dont want to go any further due to the fear of creating a delusional perception of myself and other people. My opinions about society are very generalised, but are based on the information I have recieved through my life so far. I guess the lack of theory of mind, non verbal perception of others and empathy really do hamper things.

Not to mention the fact I wish there were more people on my level, especially women. Dont get me wrong online forums are a great way of exchanging thoughts, but to know people in person is another thing altogether. I am beginning to know who and what I am (sense of self) which has solved a past issue of knowing why things have come about, but in reality this has actually created a whole new issue. I know what I am, but how the hell do I expand this beyond my own cranium?! Other people seem to find it so easy, but then in the future will I have to bring my personal level down to something like awkward small talk and flutter my eye lashes, just to get noticed? I guess I am an idealist, creating a fantasy of wanting to meet the perfect person and live happy ever after.

So many people tell others what they want to hear, agreeing with them to please them, fearful of being their real self in case of rejection. You are not allowed to say this, do that, know about this or that, etc. I guess the point im trying to make is there is no way to win, and some people are destined, due to certain brain wiring in a certain environment, to be in limbo, ie if social/emotional and raw intelligence within a given individual are at opposite poles, there will always be struggle, despite being fully aware of this.

Are you what you think, or what you feel? or is it both? If it is both I have a severe problem because they are on different levels of efficiency for me. Is worrying at the expense of happiness inevitable for self aware logical thinkers who lack sophisticated emotional and social skills? I cannot 'feel' my way out of this hole like alot of people might do, I have to physically climb out of it, using a well structured technique. I could spend my whole life developing this technique, or I could be shown the technique and adapt it to suit my own needs.

One could sit there and hope to be lifted out of the hole if they shout for help, but what if nobody in close enough proximity can hear you, or understand what you are trying to say?

Incase anyone reading this blog is wondering what on earth im venting about, the following points regarding modern society cover the sources of my main issues:

* People who resort to ignorance and/or defy logic/wisdom before making an assumption.
* People who see excessive materialistic gain as their only goal in life.
* The stereotyping and purging of people who do not follow mainstream views.
* People who play off fear and use their power at the expense of others, for example religious preaching, egoism, bigotry and capitalism.
* People who are in denial about any of their shortcomings, especially when they hide it at the expense of others.
* People who 'judge a book by its cover' without even reading the introduction.
* People who are complacent and mentally lazy and do not make an attempt to understand or accept.

To branch off from my own personal problems and to move towards a more general viewpoin, it is logical to assume that the majority of people's problems do stem from the above in some shape or form. Of course it is an ambiguous list, but I believe it does cover all that is negative about modern society, although please dont think I am promoting liberal-esque political correctness here as I am not referring to undesirable comments made on TV by opinionated individuals, but more like ongoing actions lacking decorum that impact on other people's lives in a negative way.

So much energy is directed towards the image of the exterior of any given train of thought that we have become blind to what it is made of, whether it is society as a whole, individual human beings, or the planet we live on. If it looks 'right' then brilliant we will accept with open arms, and vice versa. That seems to be the attitude of human nature, and I am sick and tired of it. If we are living on borrowed time, maybe we need some kind of event to bring out the best of us, we seem to be too comfortable with our current mindset and way of life.

My mannerisms and reduced ability to interact socially/empathise in the usual way may have influenced my judgement, but everyone should be allowed to think and act how they like without living in fear of being ridiculed, or at the expense of other people. If I want to be 'weird' in the eyes of others (in other words be myself) why is that seen as negative, resulting in isolation and being shunned? Shouldnt we embrace individual and independant thought with open arms?

Also, my views against religion are strong, but I would never dictate to somebody how to live their life, unless that way of life was at the expense of others, for example when religion is brought into politics or used as an excuse to inflict harm. I agree with alot of the religious philosophy, minus anything that defies science. Love thy neighbour is a beautiful phrase, but it should be used in a logical context, in reality religion is more about psychology than physical fact, and I can see its appeal. If people could combine the best of both, and discard the outdated aspects like blind faith towards something that cannot be proved, (ie instead of convincing oneself that there is an imaginary being called god who has control over everything, use it as a metaphor for your own personal vision) the world would be a better place, we could understand more about each other from a physical and emotional/spiritual point of view, both being important to humanity's future, rather than sticking to rigid traditional writings when people were ignorant about science. I for one would rather shoot for philosophical wealth rather than materialistic. Knowledge is power, but I guess it is wishful thinking to believe that society would change for the better overnight. This blog does cover a few issues, and a result may appear slightly lacking in direction, but in terms of my own thoughts, and society as a whole, maybe that is exactly the point, a lack of direction.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Misunderstandings and social anxiety

Part of my social anxiety and being clueless when it involves people revolves around the follwing question: is it worth trying to relate or communicate when all that effort put towards stringing a sentence together is probably all for nothing? Not to mention the fear of the unknown, as unpredictability is virtually a dead cert when it comes to non verbal cues because people are not thinking the same thing as you or me (something I was totally oblivious to until a few months ago) but now being conciously aware of this, it sometimes makes the anxiety worse! I somtimes have the desire to live in denial and accept the consequences. Not so discouraging if I see a person regularly, the minefield is a little easier to pass through, but still laborious.

I believe the AS experts misunderstand as well (based on what i've seen, this opinion may change of course). An example is the tests where you look at photographs of people and/or their faces and/or their eyes and have a multiple choice of emotions to estimate what each person could be experiencing.

Complete tripe, in real life only a short glimpse of someone's facial expression is available, or even more demanding multiple facial expressions, on top of absoring the conversation and having to prepare your own response. It is a bit like having to process mental arithmatic at the same time as having a torch shining in your face, at the same time as stringing a potential conversation together. Unless you are a savant, mental arithmatic is seldom done *that* quickly.

Of course some sums are easier to work out than others. If you compare 100 x 2 to a smiling face, and 237 x 37.238 to a confused face, both can be worked out but obviously at different speeds, causing instability to the recepricol exchange. A smiley face can be picked up and put on almost instantly, to realise someone is confused may be totally bypassed. But stare at the confused face for a while and it will become clear in the end, but at that time the person may have called the police!

I may be wrong, the test procedures may be more sophisticated, and what I have said is based on what people have told me. My point is even informed people, if they dont have it wont have a clue what it is really like.

My reason for this thread is my recent meeting with my manager (who I informed that I have AS months ago) when he told me my body language was inappropiate in a meeting in a small room full of 20 strangers. He said that if I am ok in a small meeting with people I see every day then I should act the same in the meeting in a room...oh I just give up! Basically my point is if the other individual has not experienced it first hand then misunderstandings are inevitable.

The reason I was pissed off is because it is an insult to my intelligence. I am just as smart as him, probably even more, but he has a social knack with people either getting on with them or influencing them. My colleagues just said it is his indirect way of making sure we know who is boss and uses any situation as an excuse to impose, and everyone has had their fair share of it.

I have accepted this but it has highlighted how many times situations like this have happened in the past. I just get the impression that he sees me as someone who is simple with very little grey matter who can be manipulated at will. But then who can blame him when my verbal communication with him can be compared to that of an 11 year old. Then again that train of thought might be me resorting back to paranoia and assuming the worst from people I dont understand. It is a constant mental war of attrition! I am not as bad as I used to be but other people just act as a catalyst.

Having said that, just because AS is one of my primary topics of thought, doesnt mean it will be the same for him, and if I didnt make my point about the condition in the first place then how will someone even attempt to understand? I guess it is a two way scramble of communication, I havent got a clue how a NT subconciously reads people so how can I judge them for not understanding when they have something that is second nature? It is not as easy as pretending to be blind just by shutting your eyes. Think ill stop for breath, will add more to this in the near future when im in a better frame of mind.

The truth is I HATED being alone all the time when I was younger, but was socially oblivious, only wrapped up in my thoughts, not being able to ‘figure people out’. People made no sense to me and were entirely unpredictable, yet I longed to be normal. I spent long hours in bed at night thinking about my interests, but couldn’t find any way to make myself say hi to anybody. Then as time progressed I got more and more frustrated at my family and associates' inability to think as I thought, and my inability to act unreasonable as everyone else appeared to do.