April. 8. 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Entry 71: Logical Insights On The Different Ways Autistics May Read People, Including The “Sixth Sense” Notion
April. 8. 2014
April. 8. 2014
As many know, autistics read people in a different way neurotypicals do. This is one of the key pitfalls to misunderstandings between Au and NT. Since Au are a minority, we have taken the brunt and the blame of these misunderstandings. This is one of the key causes of trauma, which can often perpetuate in unpleasant ways. We've often been made to feel crazy, for being socially different. We are haplessly criticized, and challenged by this, as well as the difference itself. However, maybe we are not as "off the wall" as people often seem to think.
There are certain strengths to our way of reading people, if we could hone them in as such, and they could be understood better. One particular aspect that gets brought up is a "sixth sense" and an "ability to see through" people in some way.
However, the flip side is that since we are known for misinterpreting social nuances as it is; we're known for a "disability" in being able to read people. We're simply thought of as the one misinterpreting, if we do pick up on something, and react to it. If trauma becomes intertwined with this, then sure, we could in fact be overreacting or even projecting. This happens to many traumatized people, and unfortunately because of our difference in reading people, it's extra rough for the traumatized autistic. This is sometimes brutally so. I can attest to that.
In retrospect, we aren't given enough benefit of the doubt here, either. Perhaps we are picking up on something, which is underlying. It may be so deeply underlying, that the other party isn't even aware. Maybe we're picking up on another persons' deep, inner emotion, something they're holding because of something else that’s' affecting them. Or even, something they're holding because of a deep feeling they don't want to share...or even fully acknowledge.
Well, we can pick up on those things, yet in the absence of the surface expression. Imagine how unnerving, and even scary that can be at times. If we come from trauma, we may worry and even assume it's to do with something we have done. It may be, or it may not be... but that's not to say it doesn't exist. That's not to say we're not picking up on something. I think we are.
This "gift" can be a real double-edged sword. Some call it a "sixth sense." Women in particular have suffered the brunt of this, when that female-wired "nurturer" intuition is going off at the same time as the sixth sense. This is one of the main reasons women on the spectrum can have such profound challenges with emotional regulation. In turn they are often misdiagnosed with mood disorders, and even personality disorders, while the autism itself gets missed.
The consequences of that can be wrenching, and even tragic. I believe many women on the spectrum, gone unrecognized for a variety of key reasons, have fallen to their deaths in one way or another. It's about time society started being more female autism aware, although there are glimmers of hope in recent changes I've seen.
Back to the concept of autistics sensing "energies" and having a "sixth sense"...what is this "sixth sense"? If we apparently have a hard time with general social nuances, then how can we "see through things" and sense underlying subtleties that neurotypicals do not pick up on? In general, we do.
It can be explained, but further research would be helpful. People may even think we're crazy if we share what we're picking up on. In addition, we may not fully understand what we're picking up on ourselves. We too need to understand this mechanism and what it means. We know we have a "sixth sense" and so do some of our supporters, but we still don't understand much about it even still.
In retrospect, many people, cynical people in particular, don't believe we have a sixth sense at all... they just think we're blindly paranoid in lieu of "social defectiveness." So again, we feel like we can't talk about it, we can't bring it up...or we'll sound crazy. When we talk about it, we're likely to be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness or PD, or thought of as completely unwell and/or "hard to help." Though there may be some truth in some of that, it's especially perpetuated by the lack of understanding as to what's really going on for us.
This lack of understanding can cause us to question ourselves, after while. We may even ask ourselves "well am I crazy?? Must be!" Our self-esteem suffers when we are repeatedly denied of validation for our interpretations. To us, it can feel like emotional and psychological abuse. That's not to say that when trauma interferes with our reactions, we may be cognitively exaggerated in what we pick up, and the exact nature of it. However, it's up to a good counselor who understands autism at the core, to discern and help such a person objectively. If not, emotional trauma is liable to only perpetuate.
Among the current lack of understanding, and in fact ignorance as it relates to the internal mechanisms of autistics adults dealing with trauma; it can be very difficult to recover. I have found that I've had to turn to faith, and my community...since it's so hard to find good help when you're autistic.
I'm actually very lucky, because I have more of it than most. This includes a counselor who does get autistic people. I fought hard to access help, and even when the help that does understand tries to help me...we're all still hindered but un-evolved systemic barriers. This is why I'm hoping to start a recovery group specifically for autistics, as well.
A misunderstanding party, the NT, only perpetuates trauma and hinders recovery, whence they make a judgment against one who has been hurt, due to judgment. This tends to be based on what they do not understand. Again, this only inadvertently continues what feels like emotional and psychological abuse to the autistic with social and interpersonal trauma.
The way to abolish these recurrences is to educate people, and hopefully to have research corroborating what we're saying. Also, if more of us speak out and say the same things, reiterating similar experiences, this is proof in itself. This is why I’m trying to support outlets for this.
So, what is this "half blind sixth sense" thing all about, via logical examination? Well, I think it lies in the profile of discrepancy. If you don't believe in the "aspies have a sixth sense thing" in a more mystic way, then fine.
Here's where I stand on the mysticism aspect, just to be clear. I believe there's both a logical and metaphysical explanation for things, somehow interrelating in a way far greater than our understanding. I feel it's to do with algorithms.
Aside from what I personally feel, some people find my "I sense energies and auras" stuff a bit flaky, and illogical for them. I too need the logical aspect to things, so I sought to find one. Even the seeing of people's aura colours, which many aspies say they experience (including myself), could be explained by synesthesia. Here is a definition of synesthesia here, I talk about it more in my book; it's quite complex to explain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia
For now, here's what I found when examining this topic, based on my own experience and what I know about myself: I can't read faces very well at all, but because of that blindness I have other heightened senses. It's likely the body stance, and tone of voice which I may actually pick up on more...with a heightened, cat-like sense. It's similar to one who is blind having heightened senses in other areas.
So, combined with barely being able to read the face, this can feel scary and surreal. It feels like the twilight zone or something (particular if I'm stressed, overloaded, or under slept.) This is particularly true when I'm sensing some sort of tension, or antagonism in varying forms; such as an unwarranted judgment, which I know is coming from the fact that I'm being misinterpreted.
In addition, I may also have a hard time with certain abstract language, so without being able to be in someone's presence, I may misinterpret, question, or even (embarrassing but true) simply not quite understand an email/typed message. Obviously, typed messages are lacking in voice tone and body stance, as it lacks in the persons' physical presence.
I don't usually have that issue with other autistics in types messages...we tend to use language in similar contexts. There are still differences between us though, and sometimes this can indeed be a source of conflict between us. We can sometimes say things metaphorically and then take each other literally. I think that's the main thing we run into, if we do happen to run into problems, that is.
For me, the issue is more often than not, with NTs. As can be expected, I take things quite literally. If I am already wary of an NT, and I'm bringing my trauma into it (especially if I'm stressed out), I can have a hard time with a typed message from them. I dislike direct conflict (honestly, I do) so I try really hard to work through my feelings and my questions. I try to clarify before I assume, I try to explain how I'm interpreting something, and if it's causing me upset, and why. It’s hard because I do find myself internalizing anger, at times.
Even though I try, I'm not always met with support regarding this, but god knows I try, and will keep trying. I am very determined to heal, and grow to learn how to "communicate" with NTs as best as can be expected, without hurting myself of course.
The reality is, I'm also just wired differently. What I do hope, in addition, is that NTs realize just how important it is for them to work just as hard as many of us have, in order to understand our ways too. I try to emphasize this in a polite and diplomatic way, most of the time.
I'm not perfect, and I can have "slip ups." I've been hurt, and at times continue to be, by those who want to remain closed minded, judgmental, and blinded by this into refusal to understanding me for who I really am. I've even been attacked…and yeah, it hurts. Even through the battle scars, I try not to let them cloud my vision into utter darkness. I am very determined to press on, and in turn also educate and hopefully and eventually, bridge gaps.
So, how do we pick up on "deeper things?" Well, people do subtle things when they are annoyed and/or uncomfortable with you for some reason. For example, they may perk their shoulders up, or warble in their voice tone. Although these things are very subtle, I pick up on them.
So, "sensing the underlying energy" could mean just the former; my senses are heightened in other areas because I have relatively severe face blindness.
Although I can imitate an expression on the face well enough to look like a pretty good TV actor (emphasis on TV, I did not say Oscar winning film actor) there is a subtly of "performed and scripted" there. It's so subtle, though, that this is why I believe I often get accused of lying and “manipulating.”
People may interpret my behavior as such, if they're cynical especially. If they're not cynical, they may simply interpret it as "interestingly and/or pleasantly unique/idiosyncratic/animated."
However, because of the current average level of awareness in society, the last thing that comes to most people's mind is "oh, she must be autistic." Yeah...right! One day, with continuous work, I believe this will change.
I think a lot of women especially are able to imitate enough to pass for "normal but a little teeny bit quirky" based on their heightened cat like senses at picking up other nuances than the face, though some men are too. I have found that for women, faces are the main issue, whereas body language and voice tone is less of a problem.
It could be the opposite in men, as my husband has suggested, though I'm not too sure. We're all different. In my husbands' case, he is a little stronger with faces that I am, but I am much stronger with body language and voice tones.
Nobody with autism is able to read a typical facial expression in the way a typical person can, though this varies from autistic to autistic. Some are severely "face blind", and others only a little. Again, I'd love to see more research on this, and how it differs between genders.
I have a strong hunch that women may actually struggle more so with the faces, but can be very sharp on all other nuances, whereas the men are little more even profile: a little better with the faces, but weaker than the women on the all other nuances. This is just in terms of general majority bases statistics, of course. If this is true than I can see why women, and men who exhibit a lot of the "female aspie" or "artsy aspie" like traits, get the brunt of discrimination.
If a person is not able to read a face very well, they'll fall short in terms of being able to adequately imitate the expression. If one's expression looks scripted, and even "calculated" in some way, it is liable to be erroneously judged as insincere... as lying. It's also liable to be misinterpreted in all kinds of ways, included "weird", "manic", "mad", "high on something" etc.…
This is because a person with this kind of social-nuance-reading profile will present as something like this; "something is a little strange about that person but their speech is strong, they're articulate, their tone is good"(autism, in the way society currently thinks of it, doesn't come to mind.)
So, really, one can see why those who struggle more so with the face, but are savant in all or most other areas, would be the most severely misinterpreted. It's actually very sad, and cruel if you think of it. I know, because I am one of these people.
Society needs to be educated. More studies should be done, and there are some underway. If anyone comes across any of these studies, please by all means post the links on my page and upcoming groups.
Rudy Simone says "we miss the obvious, but sense what's not obvious" I suppose those subtleties in people's body language and voice tone more so reflect their underlying emotions, than their surface one. So, this could be the more logically based explanation for that "sixth sense." Yes, it is real...and so are we.
- Rose Whitson-Guedes
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