In the book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” (Shortened title) Rule #2 is “Not Everything that Happens is Equally Important in the Grand Scheme of Things.” I am exploring this rule in much detail at the moment because it explains the “black-and-white” thinking of an autistic mind. I struggle very much in this area when I do not comprehend the gray area of a topic or emotion that is swimming in my mind. Throughout my blog you can see where I have been able to take certain things and be able to transform it from “black-and-white” thinking to accepting the gray. Currently, my mind has taken on my own emotions, other people’s emotions, along with communication. I am set in a black-and-white state of mind that I am working out of.
I wrote a post back in November regarding this book and some things that I had learned at the time.
The title “How Did I Make It This Far?” honestly I still do not know how I have managed to accomplish many social things other than my being oblivious blinding me. In that post I wrote my initial responses to the social rules when I read them, my response to rule #2 “Yes, too, everything is equally important!” I understand that this is not a true statement, but it is not until I actually experience the mind shift that it all falls into place for me and I am fine with the gray. Two social puzzles that have been debilitating at times for me have been family and church. My black-and-white thinking have caused some events to be pretty traumatizing for me. I did not realize it until recently. I have been able to progress out of that thinking and accept the gray, but I still have my days and I still get frustrated sometimes and ask ‘Who is Jesus?’
Jesus is gray for me, when I take everything literally or through a black-and-white scope I realize just how much.
I find his teachings and him hard to comprehend because he tore up the rules and gave us gray thinking in accepting and loving everyone. I try to bring clarity by either being completely “spiritual” or completely “logical” because the teachings in the church settings have felt inconstant and unclear to me when people change the rules all the time about him and what his teachings mean. Part of my problem has been me reading the Bible and taking people literally in the teachings. Either love your enemy or hate them, but you can’t say I love you with words, but hate you in actions. It has the feel of being passive-aggressive to me and all of that is confusing; and makes me seek out extremes.
Jesus didn’t do that, he loved all.
See? Family has a similar dynamic. I find it confusing, the gray area is people will say that they love you while doing perceived unloving acts. The perceived unloving acts are filtered through each mind differently. Someone who I feel is supposed to know me gives me a gift of flowers would be unloving to me. If they gave me a book, music, something silly to make me laugh, I would feel that they were being loving. To others they would perceive me as being rude or unloving myself because I would not be happy about the flowers. Other people love flowers, I do if they are not cut and stuck in a vase. I love them outside in their natural setting.
In the past I would not be able to let go of the fact that they gave me flowers.
In my black-and-white thinking I would assume that they didn’t care about me at all. I would feel like they did not know me or care to know me. I would feel hurt. The reason being that I tend to think in extremes and at that point the person who gave me the flowers would begin to lose my trust, any that I had given to them. I would feel that I could not trust them because everything I thought they knew about me was false and everything I knew about them was false. Most people would see the gesture as a good and loving thing, not me it is personal. I use that example because I am able to see the fault in my thinking. I am able to appreciate the gesture now, though in the past I would not.
More about this section of the book.
It explains how circumstances such as a puppy chewing up all of your recipes, the ATM being out of cash, leaving your lunch on the counter at home, or forgetting your umbrella when it rains is normally not a big deal to people. They can come up with a compromise. In the book they ask you to imagine: (I do not have to this is what my brain does.)
“In each instance, no “ifs” and “buts” color your perception of the experiences. Your emotions swing wildly, in an all-or-nothing manner. They’re either off or on; nothing in between. Thoughts like “that’s okay” or ‘no biggie, I can grab a sandwich from the deli downstairs” are absent from self-talk you use to gauge the relative importance of life events. Even your thoughts are unconditional. The more likely comeback is seeing yourself at fault: “I must be the stupidest person walking on this planet to forget my umbrella.” You just don’t think that–you believe it. Now, play this scenario over and over a hundred or so times, each time with the same noncategorical response to events, and ask yourself, “How do you feel?” In truth, you probably can’t even imagine how an entire day of thinking this would make you feel; it’s that foreign a way of thinking. Welcome to the world of the person with ASD bound by black-and-white thinking!”
I have been able to recognize and stop some of this when it happens.
However, it has to be something that I have worked through. As I look back a major thing that I have been able to work through by writing on this blog has been my extremes in thinking about autism in all areas. I have processed my black-and-white thinking through my denial and acceptance and realizing the diversity in it all. Also being able to understand the different perspectives much better, I may not like them or agree with some, but I understand that we think differently. I have been able to do this with people on the autism spectrum and those who are not. I have been able to do this with politics, religion, and now I am processing relationships and communication. In order for me to process properly I go to extremes.
I came to a balanced resolution about other mothers in my post ‘The Mom Spectrum”.
I had been struggling with mothers of autistic children and the ways that they spoke about their children or all of the difficulties that they were going through. I had also been highly offended at the media portrayal of autism. As I wrote out my rants I was in my black-and-white thinking mode, but writing it out and processing it helped me come to terms with the gray and be more understanding of others. I do not even realize when I am operating in black-and-white until I get so completely out of balance that I am debilitated with negative self talk or looping about a situation that does not make sense to me. In the book, it states that:
“At the heart of Rule #2, which in its essence acknowledges that our world is composed of “shades of gray” and has a hierarchical structure to it, are two presuppositions:
- that the individual can sort into categories the myriad details that qualify our experiences, and
- that he can also appreciate that different levels of importance can be assigned to these categories.
Categorical thinking is not inherently strong in people with ASD, but it can be taught, starting with children who are very young.”
They said: “The good news is that it can be illustrated in very concrete ways and across vast settings on a daily basis with relative ease.” Further along in the book, though it is geared toward children on the spectrum, it talks about the importance of conceptual thinking, flexibility, and helping with all the details. The way that the book describes how the ASD mind takes in all of the details was so confirming and helpful in reminding me that my kids to this too. I will add that this is also what my adult ASD mind does.
“All those details! The “little professor” mind of children with autism amasses so many details. Every situation, every encounter, is broken down into minute pieces, all equally important. What happens to all that data? Categories provide a logical structure inside their mind. For those readers who use a computer on a daily basis, imagine a year’s worth of your files stored on the hard drive all in one file. Each time you need to refer back to a bit of information, you have to sift through thousands of files to find the one you’re looking for. Year after year you add thousands more files–maybe you’ve been able to eke out a handful of folders to organize them into. But it’s still an overwhelming amount of data, all still viewed with equal importance.”
In the last few months I have realized that many of my files were corrupt.
I had to purge many of them and restart my program. The problem with this is that I have not understood how to categorize properly. I see everything with equal value and it is all being stored once again. I have consumed large amounts of data in my mind, when I do an inquiry for a social, emotional, sensory situation, or even for information to a thought I have, I pull up massive amounts of data and patterns. My brain is like Google. If I do not have specific details to what I am looking for I will just pull up whatever words, images, patterns, etc… that may contain something that is what I put into my inquiry. If I do not have the specifics I loop and ask a ton of questions, gain information, study details, and patterns until I am able to stop the loop with clear answers. If I bypass the loop it will eventually come back and consume my mind until it is resolved or I bypass it again.
I am sifting through corrupt files and defragmenting my mind.
During this process I have to gain an understanding on my own in order for it to really be solid in my mind. I am gaining a lot of understanding and creating new and improved files for relationships and communication. I am learning compromise, flexibility, and trying to grasp conceptual thinking. There is a lot in this chapter of the book, but I pulled several things that helped me understand how I do need to work more on accepting “the shades of gray”. It is so foreign to me until I see it. Once I see where I am doing it I can start to accept the gray much faster and find my balance from my extreme ways of thinking.
My theme is “Let’s do this! Leeroy Jenkins!” (I kid!)