Tonight I discovered the Netlfix series Atypical. The show focuses mostly on the main character Sam. He is a young man on the Autism Spectrum who is dealing with the challenges of High School and dating. The show focuses primarily on his social interactions and family dynamics. I have not seen a scene involving Sam that has not reminded me of some funny memory or difficult time growing up.
The awareness that this show will create for the ASD community will be good. It will also create some stereotypes which don’t cover all the different variation which can exist across the spectrum.
This show is not for younger viewers. Viewer discretion advised.
I found this link online and wanted to share it.
I was an Aspie before it was cool or even a thing. Aspies are programmed to be minimalists and were minimalists before minimalism was popular. I love beating the crowd.
I went looking for my featured image for this post. I tried google image searches for minimalist homes. I tried looking for a bed or a chair in a room. I tried to look for a kitchen that I liked. No matter how hard I tried to find the perfect image, I kept thinking to myself…
“There is too much stuff in these pictures.”
“It is all laid out wrong.”
“Why do they need to hang all those things on the walls?”
“What is the purpose of that basket?”
I ended up settling on an image of a spacious empty room. In your mind feel free to clutter it with purpose later. For now let’s enjoy it for its simplicity and possibility.
I wasn’t always this way or was I? Growing up I remember stuff. I lived a very common middle-class childhood. Stuff was always around. I think it was important for me to have stuff at some level. The toys that triggered interests were the best. I did not keep things perfectly clean, but I also did not like having messes everywhere. My parents sent us children to our room as a punishment. It did not take my parents long to realize that this didn’t work with me. Sending me to my room was like throwing Br’er Rabbit into the brier patch. Oh no! I don’t have to interact with anyone. For how long? A long time. OK. I can spend several hours interacting with my toys. For a child on the spectrum alone time for misbehavior is a positive reinforcement. The parental disapproval of the action was a far greater dissuasion. I have home movies of my room. I would pan around describing all my stuff and its allotted space. I would also share stories about how it came into my possession.
So what is the significance of all this as it relates to being a minimalist. Let’s spin around the sun a few more orbital periods in the future direction. I started to find interests outside of my room. Interests tended to be outside, at my father’s work or in our shop building. When this occurred my bedroom transformed from a container holding my interests to a place to sleep and hold my clothes. I did not care that I slept on my parents old bed. It suited me. I did not need to have new dressers. I ended up using my childhood dressers until I made my own in High School wood shop. Birthday and Christmas gifts followed my interests’ exodus from the house. The house became a place of biological necessity. It still remained a haven from social chaos. The challenge became creating a comfortable and functional space. It was then that I began to realize that I liked simple and uncluttered.
Let me describe what I refer to as the Aspie Paradox. I think this is as a result of having one foot in this world and the other foot in the Aspie world. Examples of this paradox are as follows…
Burning desire to have close friends. <-> Discomfort in social interactions and social behaviors which promote friendship.
Desire to be seen as a member of a group. <-> Why would I ever want to be a part of a group?
Super strong emotions about someone or something. <-> Alexithymia takes over and while you feel emotion deeply, you don’t know how to react so you remain stoic or over react. With things no problem. With people…big problem.
I want to be liked for who I am. <-> Who do I need to be in order to be liked?
Why doesn’t everyone see it my way? <-> Why would anyone see it their way?
I am really uncomfortable with all this stuff and don’t like it around me anymore. <-> I have made other people feel bad for throwing things away, giving them away or breaking things when I took them apart to see how they worked or to build (insert some project here which was super cool at the time. No wait. That was super cool. I just don’t need it. I can play with it in my brain any time and not have it cluttering my space.) I better keep it.
The problem for the Minimalist-Aspie is that you don’t want to surround yourself with things. Unfortunately we have not reached a point in advancement whereby we can manifest anything and de-manifest anything in an instant. It works in my brain, why not in the real world. I think this is part of the reason why video games and computers are so attractive to Aspies. We can create our own worlds in a medium that negates the Aspie Paradox. When we have navigated the seas of our mental activities, we can turn the computer off.
I would encourage younger people who might be dealing with interest clutter to find ways to externalize interests. Find jobs relating to your interest so that you can play with them in the job box and then come home to your comfortable space. If you have interest creep over the years, move to different types of jobs in your interest areas. Find people with shared interests in the community that can connect you with places that provide interest locations. Keep those interests at home if they do not create problems with the sanctity of your home space.
My ideal home would include a comfortable chair for reading and relaxing. A simple kitchen with a small table for eating. A bed and a room to store it. I would love to suspend gravity nocturnally so that I wouldn’t need a bed. I don’t understand why we need clothes. Reluctantly I need a place to keep clothes. Hopefully as few as possible. A bathroom for showers and hygiene related activities. Inefficient biological necessities though they are. This is my ideal house. If we use something of utility regularly, it is included. Anything else needs to go.
Enter the interests… So… Ideally I would have a collocation facility for my computer and networking needs. It would be connected to the internet with redundant multi-gigabit connections. There would be a full wood shop, a full metal shop and a science lab. The fish and plants would grow huge in my aquaponic greenhouse. Look at the beautiful acres of gardens. Part of the electrical power comes from several acres of solar panels. There are Large barns and chicken coops. There are lakes and ponds connected by canals which are diverted to hydroelectric power generators. A golf course with a driving range is right next to the space port. You get the picture. Now look at the bottom right hand corner of that picture. Do you see the red button that says done? I am going to push that now and spend some time in my empty room. Imagine a desk with a computer on it. Think nerdier. There you go. Chair, table, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Why is there mail on the table? I will take care of that don’t worry. I will go ahead and do it now. See. Everything where it belongs. Simple.
I recently watched the movie “The Big Short.”
This movie is an interesting portrayal of the economic conditions which led up to the 2008 financial collapse. In our current real estate environment I find that history rhymes as housing prices rise in some areas as much as 10% a quarter. This is completely expected as interest rates remain at all time lows driving people into hard assets in an attempt to head off inflation. Money in savings loses more value to inflation than can be gained through sub 1% interest rates. A correction is on its way.
Will the banks show their hand with the introduction of a populist president? In the headlines we see the stock market rallying and big banks are supposedly licking their chops for the economic stimulus that Trump is suggesting for infrastructure spending. At the same time one has to wonder why banks like Goldman Sachs would have backed Hillary when The Donald was so blatantly for significant deregulation of the banking industry. Without delving into Chrony Capitalism and why the top banks promote seemingly self destructive politics, I would like to focus on the movie as it relates to Asperger’s.
One of the main characters is Michael Burry, M.D. Throughout the whole movie my wife and I were commenting upon how much he reminded us of someone who is on the Autism Spectrum. Michael was one of the few people to predict the sub-prime housing market collapse. His analysis showed the lack of value in the instruments that were being backed up by overvalued-risky mortgages. His company, Scion Capital, bet against the instruments that were created through derivative products that bundled these mortgages. He was so sure about his data and the impending collapse that he sunk billions into the options and eventually profited greatly.
He comes across during the movie as incredibly arrogant and aloof. He does not interact with people in socially typical manners. He does not dress like other people as is customary of people in the financial industry. He does not waiver from his decision once he has made his bet against the sub-prime markets. While other types of individuals who are born with the intrinsic ability to placate and offer sweet nothings of hope in the face of financial ruin, Michael does not play the game. He is right about the data and they can say whatever they want. They can do whatever they want. This is so typical of someone who is on the spectrum. As is typical with so many businesses, the product you are selling is only a small part of the value proposition that you are providing to your customer. We become so much a part of the value proposition in fulfilling the needs of our customers that our interaction is expected. This is especially true in such an esoteric environment as the financial markets.
The one area that I did not quite understand was his love of hard rock and roll music and drumming. Two things that drive me into a fetal position.
In the end Michael is able to provide of his customers with a massive payoff. While they might have been crying all the way to the bank, the whole painful process of having dealt with a fund manager who effectively demonstrated “selective mutism” while they were needing consoling led to Michael no longer being involved as a hedge fund manager. He has since moved to managing assets for Scion Asset Management.
In real life Michael has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. After having done research into the subject, Michael has come to the realization that he also has the disorder.
I have a unique brand of humor that takes a special someone to appreciate. Every time I hear the Gospel story from John Chapter 8 Verse 33 I want to burst out laughing. “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Obviously they don’t know their own history. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Rome. Then you consider the spiritual notion of slavery and the whole old testament being replete with examples of the Hebrew people being told not to do something, they do it and end up having to deal with the consequences which are normally some form of enslavement. That still gets me every time.
Some of these may be funny. Others not so much. Some may just be me.
You might be an Aspie if…
- You have ever spent 15 minutes (or more) ringing the doorbell(or some other object) with the resonance of your voice.
- You have ever answered the question, “May I ask you a question?” with “You just did.”
- You have ever memorized a movie so that you not only know all the words and the sounds but also the timing of said words and sounds.
- You have ever felt like certain clothes are so uncomfortable that they were designed by someone as a form of punishment.
- You have ever found yourself all alone working on a project unaware that all the other people in the building have gone home.
- You have ever been asked “WHY,WHY,WHY?” by a toddler and they tire of listening to your explanations to all of their questions.
- You have ever been asked “WHY,WHY,WHY” by a toddler and other adults listening in get tired of listening to your explanations and tell the child, “OK (CHILD’S NAME). Let’s go ahead and stop asking why.”
- You have ever enjoyed someone’s company well enough that you assure them that when your species returns to this planet that their name will be included on the scrolls indicating that someone is to be saved.
- You have ever attended a sporting event and fallen asleep while NTs consider the event to have been some of the most exciting play ever.
- You start talking about one of your interests. You talk faster and faster until finally you look at the listener and there mouth is hanging open staring at you with an Uhh face. They may also have disappeared all together.
- You have ever been chided by passengers in your car for driving too slow, not changing lanes or not caring what other drivers think.
- You are going to sing or present in front of thousands of people and you are more concerned about having to go to the bathroom than having people in the audience.
- You have ever done something Herculean in scale or time allocation and people ask you why didn’t you do it this way.
- You have ever been doing something weird with your head or your hands and all of a sudden you realize it to be weird.
- You have ever had a teacher start probing you for how you know something that they just learned.
- You have made up your own words to describe people, places or ideas.
- You have ever rearranged parts of words to create fun sounding spoonisms because you can. (e.g. spun founding soonisms)
- You have ever been in a crowd of people and others are able to carry on a conversation when all you hear is everything.
- You have ever tried to build yourself an anechoic chamber to sleep in.
- You have to have two tons of blankets on your bed year round.
- You have ever growled because someone didn’t put something back the same way.
- You have ever experienced tinnitus in your nose because someone is using a fragrance.
- You have ever gotten shivers up your spine because someone dipped a napkin in or dumped syrup on the table.
- You lined up all of your Christmas gifts to take a picture in a very particular order.
- You have incredible ideas that somehow don’t seem to come together quite as perfectly as you imagine them in your head.
- You find out you are on the spectrum and start blogging about it.
- You add a post on your blog with the title You Might Be An Aspie If…
I have been thinking of ways to describe how I feel when interacting with people in an unstructured social environment. Beyond the discomfort of all the sensory stimuli, there is also an accompanying emotional response. This feeling tends to vary in strength but is ever present when I am around groups of people. The other day I had one of those “Eureka” moments. I was out shopping at the hardware store. I momentarily reached into my pocket for my keys. I had this sinking feeling that I had lost my keys somewhere in the store. Luckily I had placed them in the “wrong” pocket. Don’t worry. This doesn’t happen too often I assure you. Shortly after having this feeling, I felt that ringing of understanding in my soul. Other people must also have this reaction to uncertainty.
The feeling I had when I thought I had lost my keys was almost the exact same emotional response I experience when I am in social situations. There is a weight that presses on your chest. You get that knotted feeling in your gut. You are thinking to yourself, “Oh No!” I am not sure if other Aspies get the same feeling. I want to clarify that I am not shy or concerned about what the other people are thinking about me. This is not a social anxiety that involves wanting to fit in. I really don’t care what other people think about me. I am really not concerned with them looking at me. If they want to be nice and friendly to me, great. I tend to think of people in a lot higher regard than they probably think of themselves. It is the challenge of having to process all that is going on. Someone is going to come over and talk to you for a minute but not ever really get into a deep discussion about anything interesting. I might be having some thoughts going through my head that I would like to explore further while someone walks up and wants to talk about the latest sports team or weather. I don’t mind talking about weather. So then I will start talking about the weather and then someone will yell something across the crowd. Did they really just do that? Why is everyone laughing. Now where is this guy going that I was talking to. Doesn’t he know that I was just considering the possibility that an earth like planet might be inhabitable in our own Milky Way Galaxy and is only 4.23 light years away. Even if this planet is not habitable, there are over 100-400 billion stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. Then I probably would have started to think about the Fermi-Hart Paradox.
So instead I talked to him. Did I say something that made him leave? So then I start psychoanalyzing and replaying the discussion I had with him. Not so much because I might of offended him but from the standpoint that this is a lesson in human interaction that I somehow must come up with a solution for. I might look across the anarchy and see two people laughing. Why are they laughing. That clearly wasn’t funny. This is making me tired just thinking about it. The real trick has been learning to “just be” around other people and not constantly analyze and over process everything. I still have a long ways to go. I cannot imagine that I will every be fully capable of feeling comfortable in large groups of unstructured homo-sapiens sapiens. I will wrap up this post with a list of experiences that creates this sinking feeling.
|Phone Rings and It Is For You|
|You Need To Call Someone About Something|
|A Loved One Wants To Go To [Insert Busy Public Space With Lots Of Noise And People]|
|Teacher Tells Class That We Will Be Working In Groups|
|You Are Being Sent To Camp During The Summer|
|You Need To Ride The School Bus|
|You Need To Ride Any Form Of Public Transportation|
|We Are Invited To A Party|
|Back To School|
|Eating In A Cafeteria|
|Today We Are Going To Do Something Different|
When I was a boy, I had a recurring dream. Over and over again I would have images and sounds of people speaking flash in my mind. Sometimes I knew theses people and others not. The common element was always the rapidity with which they spoke. I could not decipher what they were saying. Their mouths were moving but nothing registered. The dream never lasted very long. It would always consist of the rate of speech increasing little by little until I would either wake up or my mind would shut it down. Heart rate would elevate and a feeling of panic accompanied the dream.
Looking back on these dreams, I imagine it was a way of my mind interpreting the unstructured noisy environment in which I found myself daily.
The way my mind processes audio is fundamentally very different than other people. Most people have the ability to process speech and filter out any interfering signals that might be present. Other people have the ability to endure tympanic pressure differentials that make me feel like I want to rock in a corner in a fetal position. They even enjoy the experience.
I would venture to say that my hypersensitivity is tied directly to my synesthesia. A great deal of the information that is out there about synesthesia relates to hearing, colors, sounds and numbers. If it is very quiet and I am watching something without sound I can very faintly hear the sound which would accompany the movement. This might be an auditory projection based upon previous experience. All I know is that it is there.
The form of synesthesia that I have experienced and which has impacted my life is the way sounds manifest in a corporeal feeling that runs through my bodily tissues. When I am feeling noise trauma it is literally like someone is kicking me in the stomach or squeezing my body parts in a vice. While this has made growing up pretending to be an NT very challenging, it also has been an amazing gift. Music has been my therapy. I have been blessed with a singing voice. When I sing it is a form of self-stimming. When I hear beautiful music, my body feels an amazing warmth. The sound travels through my body and releases all the tension and anxiety which I feel daily. I suspect when other people hear me sing, they are also able to feel this at some level.
I am convinced that there is a connection between hypersensitivity and synesthesia. I suspect that everyone’s senses overlap at some level. It is the amplification of these pathways that manifests in the synestist which makes it overtly perceptible.
Another example of how my body reacts to environmental input is related to the sense of smell. I am very sensitive to artificial smells. Women’s perfume in particular has a very negative impact on my psychological well being. I describe this feeling to my wife as someone screaming in my noise. If I encounter a particularly strong fragrance, I will start coughing uncontrollably.
I have been very fortunate to have made it this far in my life by avoiding the situations which create psychological discomfort. I have also learned coping mechanisms for those instances when you have no other choice but to endure the discomfort. There are ways that I can minimize the stimulation inputs by closing myself off. Air travel has been one of those challenges. The connection between my oversensitive hearing and the functions of the inner ear create issues when I am not on solid ground. Movement of my body on boats or airplanes can be quite traumatic. I am able to travel for work because I can shutdown or lessen my senses to a large extent. For photo sensitivity I close my eyes. For hearing sensitivity I cover my ears. For tactile sensitivity I tend to travel with a coat or sweatshirt to keep warm or lean on. I also like to dress as comfortably as possible for the same reason.
I learned from a young age that other people would be unintelligible to me throughout my life. Learning how to deescalate the feelings and finding the place where you can function normally is the way to keep your dreams from becoming a nightmare.
I have never had an office as nice as this one. I am looking forward to spending many years learning, working, creating and playing in this new space.