Tuesday, August 7, 2012

@Aspienaut - WIRED differently || The eyes have it by Paul Siebenthal

The eyes have it : Aspienaut : WIRED differently


We look different, you and me.  I know physically we look different but as an aspie we also look at things differently.  This is most true when it comes to faces and particularly eyes.  

Someone I work with asked me the other day, “do you think I’m stupid?”  To which I replied, “No!”  Not because I did and didn’t want to say.  If I did, I would have told her but I really didn’t.  In fact, she is possibly the most intelligent person I have met for quite some time.  So confusing to me was this question that I couldn’t help but try and work out why she had thought I did.  It turned out that it was because of how I looked at her when she spoke.  The day before she was talking to us as a group.  I was looking at her as she spoke in a way, that to her, she couldn’t make sense of.  Her conclusion, after dwelling on this for sometime was that I thought her stupid.    

When you combine this with sensory issues, difficulties with change, social misunderstandings and empathy you begin to see just how difficult it may be for the Aspie in your office, classroom, or home.  So, what is happening.  I can only speak for myself but I shall explain how I experience this.

When someone is talking to me there is a lot going on.  To start with, almost all the unconscious processing of facial expression, tone of voice and gesture and subtle speech nuance are missing.  As we all know nature abhors a void so what fills it.  Intellect and information processing and conscious thought fill this void for me.  That is why Aspies look so distracted and so tired.  You are talking, I am, with full conscious awareness (lack of sensory filtering) going through all the information I’m being given and trying to work out what I need to pay attention to.  Clearly the words you are saying are important so I try and anchor myself to them, as your lips move I watch them, I then remember that I’m supposed to look you in the eye so my gaze lifts, first your right eye and then your left and then your right again. I struggle, find it almost impossible to look at them both together as this is a soft focus that just doesn’t feel right.  I sense your speaking louder and I don’t know why.  At the same time the lights are too bright and are flickering, the printer over the other side of the office sounds like its jammed again.  I am having to listen (can’t filter) to the conversation that is happening behind us that you don’t even seem to be aware of and yet I hear it at almost the same volume as our own.  Soon the pressure of this interaction builds I become distracted, you become angry because to you I am rude and disinterested.  You may even feel that I think you’re stupid and don’t feel you warrant my attention.  I carry on anchoring myself to your words, the best I can, as you talk louder and louder and  I flit my gaze from eye to eye noticing the sight colour difference between them.  

You then say my name loudly as I had just started to go into, “stand-by” mode having just  reached sensory overload.  I then look at you again square on, I blink slowly and you storm off.  Later, in my management supervision I discover the full implications of this exchange on your view of me.  I in turn prefer (at this point in my life I wasn’t strong enough to explain my Asperger’s and not sure I even knew how) that I am thought of as rude and aloof, as in a strange way this seems like a better and more socially acceptable explanation of what happened, than for me trying to describe for them the experience for me. 

I know now that I must explain.  That if I am to ever find peace and somewhere it’s ok just to be me, I must tell other people what it is like for us.  Because of how we are and how we see the world and the people in it, we have a special contribution to make to human understanding.  We always have and always will.  We see things that others can not.  It is our ability to turn this amazing view into the beautiful and the useful that is the foundation of creativity and why so many amazing people are Wired Differently!

© Paul C Siebenthal April 2012

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