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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why it's hard to sympathize with Aspies

Aspergers support groups say that Aspergers is an organic condition, one that no one chooses to have, and is therefore worthy of sympathy.

They're right, of course. And when we see people with other organic conditions -- such as cerebral palsy, or multiple sclerosis -- we feel sympathy.

The problem with Aspergers, though, is that it is not visible at first, and it only becomes apparent when one realizes how hypocritical, rigid, egocentric, and prone to meltdowns someone is.

In other words, it is an organic disorder which largely mimics a character disorder (narcissism).

Imagine, for one moment, that there was a congenital defect which people had no control over, and which caused them to punch you in the face every time they saw you.

After seeing them, and getting socked in the nose, would your natural reaction be, "Oh, you poor thing?"

Of course not. And that's not how most of us react to Aspies, either. We want to punch back (verbally).

It'd be a lot easier to sympathize with people with Aspergers if there were some visible, physical manifestation of their condition, say, an indentation on their foreheads to let us know their brains were lacking. But there's not, and the process of finding out what their personalities are like -- and finally figuring out the root cause -- is usually so infuriating that the window for sympathy has passed by the time the realization dawns.

Sometimes I think it would be better for Aspies to just say, upon initially meeting people, that they have Aspergers Syndrome, and maybe even semi-apologize in advance for it. This way people would be far more likely to make allowances for them. But, of course, this would also cause others to just immediately write them off, so Aspies don't do that.

And others have to find out the slow way, as described above.

37 comments:

gambino dellacroce said...

Another welcome return to favourite of yours John. Has there been another Asperger's encounter?

John Craig said...

Gambino --
Hey, sorry for the late reply, I was on the road today. No, no new encounters, just new thoughts.

Anonymous said...

That's why people have more sympathy for even more fullblown autism (like you said before) or other organic conditions where it is super obvious something is wrong. An aspergian meltdown is not so extreme or bizarre that you know something is going wrong like a bipolar manic episode, a classic autistic meltdown, or the ramblings of someone with dementia. People will write it off as a tantrum when their central nervous system is malfunctioning.

I also think part of the asperger behaviour is psychological, fullblown autists do have even worse meltdowns and are more clueless to social cues, but they are usually more sweet and congenial, less judgmental, they grew up with more intervention, they have group homes, they are placed in environments when young that teach how to respond to stress. They may be too impaired to form any ideas or become cynical.

Hans Asperger used the term "psychopathirien" (not related to modern psychopathy) to describe them, which in Austria after ww1 was a broad term for a host of deviances (like homosexuality, pyrophilia, OCD) and chose "psychopathierien" (mind-ill) because he had schizophrenic patients who were completely out of touch with reality and were very unstable. He stated his autistic patients showed a type of stability, and occupied a middle ground between being psychotic and sound. Neither 100% blind or clear, but narrowed. Indeed the term "mindblind" used on aspergians is misleading. It's foggy.

Anonymous said...

People write them off because they haven't been admitting it since the beginning, and that it is new. If they started admitting it more, as time went on, more room in society would build. It was a slow process for older disorders which may have had a century headstart in being recognized. And the neurodiversity movement has had a strong hand in preventing aspies from seeing and hating the disorder in themselves.

Better late than never, put your pride on the shelf, admit it, maybe they will help by pointing out your behaviours.

John Craig said...

Anonymous --
All true. Spies would almost be better off, at least vis-a-vis other people, if their symptoms were worse, that way others would realize something was truly wrong with them, and they weren't just selfish/egocentric/rigid/lame/clueless/temperamental etc.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Amen. And if Aspergers didn't mimic a character disorder so well, it would be easier to sympathize with. When you think about it, there are some people who are sociopathic for organic reasons, say, because of brain damage. They can't help the fact that they're that way, yet they get absolutely no sympathy either. Should people be sympathetic to them? I don't know.

Anonymous said...

The ones with brain damage sociopathy I think are a bit different. I suspect they are stupider, more irrational, more like a wild beast, a reptile rather than cunning or charming, they act from the Id, the classic sociopath acts from the ego. Yeah, hard to have sympathy for the former, but I don't despise them like I would a Ted Bundy. Just keep them away in a facility so they won't harm anyone, under close watch with a leash, give them a manual job, three hots and a cot. But true sociopaths, I have no clue what to do with them!

Even though asperger's mimics a character disorder, there still can be improvement in society, even the aspies could be doing better if they were forced to think they are sick (and I know it is possible, I'll get to one possible way it's been done), I know its so frustrating in the USA. Over here in Hong Kong, there is a movie playing about bipolar disorder. People here have no sympathy for ANY disorder often even physical, but that's because they don't care. In the USA its both better and worse, more people trying to help (raise awareness and offer support), more trying to make things worse (neurodiversity AKA second wave anti-psychiatry/alternate health/new-agers).

The movie is trying to raise awareness. Bipolar can also mimic a personality disorder (borderline). But the professionals in the USA do a better job with it than aspergers, they don't encourage or enable, and they are unbiased, neither positive or negative, at least most of the time. In HK if you can afford it, they do a better job with aspergers than the USA does, no positive or negative opinions, same with bipolar. Asian collectivism also teaches autists to not feel proud of having it and to hate it, so no aspie liberation in sight, that or society pretends it doesn't exist, even physical problems will get ignored until it's too late (another side of asian collectivism). It's less bad and less good.

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28q-bSBvsXE
Do you watch any asian films ever btw?

I have more hope for Hong Kong but also more cynicism, the indifference means we don't need to fix anything, just add to what isn't there, but it's fragile. There is no public opinion now, so we can shape one, that too is fragile. Right now it seems bipolar is the new thing people are learning about from this movie. I hope they can extend this realistic outlook to other stuff.

Anonymous said...

Also if there were a disorder where you punch people in the face, nothing says if you had it you could stand a few feet away from people you meet and tie a rope around your arm in case. People with disorders still need to make efforts, yes we grant them help, but they need to respond by cooperating with the help.

That's what I want in hong kong, I don't want it to turn into shit like the USA.

John Craig said...

Anon --
(Is this Samuel Nock?)

That's a good description of the difference between organic- vs. environmentally-caused sociopathy, or psychopathy, but some of the difference you're describing could be just as accurately be described as the difference between a low-IQ and a high-IQ sociopath. The latter is far more likely to be able to ply his evil wiles successfully, whereas the former is more likely to do crimes like carjacking an 80-year-old woman and then raping her.

I know you were only using Ted Bundy as an example, but I recently found out that he's probably the result of incest, which means it's likely that his disorder may have been partly a result of an organic defect as well:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2016/12/ted-bundy-product-of-incest.html

You describe the difference between Asian and American attitudes toward mental illness well. The Asians simply don't care, and ignore it as best they can, while the Americans almost romanticize it at times.

No, I generally don't watch Asian movies.

Anonymous said...

I am not samuel Nock, is he from Hong Kong too?
I'll use my last name Ga (賈) at the end of my posts.


-賈

I like using this character, if you can't remember how it's pronounced. Give me a name, any based on what it looks like to you or just come up with something funny.

John Craig said...

Ga --
(Is it not rude in Hong Kong to just call people by their last names? It's generally considered rude here.)

Yes, Samuel lives in Hong Kong, though I don't think he grew up there (I'm not sure).

I used to know 50 Kanji (the Japanese equivalent of that symbol), but have forgotten them all (along with my Japanese).

That character looks like a wood-burning stove to me, so you better stick with Ga.

Anonymous said...

It's not rude if used with the word for mister (先生 singsang literally "firstborn"). But I don't want to reveal my whole name. We usually have chinese names and an English nickname, some can be very strange:
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/hong-kong-loves-weird-english-names/263103/

Once at a theatre, a girl in a wheelchair sold me my ticket , her nametag said "wall-e". I felt quite uncomfortable after that.

I am mixed, so I have a real full western name. My Chinese last name will be my pseudonym. Ga. I checked the japanese pronounciation to see if it rings a bell. It's Ko. Or akinai/akinau/uru. Familiar?
-Ga

John Craig said...

Mr. Ga --
So you're Eurasian like me? Are you half-English?

No, "Ko" does not ring a bell, though that syllable is common in Japanese words. ("Kore" means "this," and "kodomo" means "children," for instance.)

Anonymous said...

Half American, yes I am eurasian.
Ga is fine, no need for Mr.

-Ga

Anonymous said...

The Japanese and Chinese words for disorders like autism and bipolar tend to be very literal. Not so latinized (though Japanese borrows from Chinese words for science and tech, like we do from Latin).

zi bai zing (autism)=Self shut away disease

tsou wat zing (bipolar)= hot temper melancholy illness

zing san fan lit zing (schizophrenia)= vigor divide illness

I think psychopathy was something like heart perverse illness

The japanese translations are also quite similar.
A language reform for English where we stop using so much fancy Latin would be nice.
Proposals:
Autism=selfshutting sickness
Bipolar=Highlow sickness
Schizophrenia=Splitmind sickness
Psychopathy=Souldeathhood

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga --
Those Chinese names are far more descriptive names for those syndromes than the English ones. And your proposals are even better. It's too bad they'll never take hold, but they'd be far more evocative.

gambino dellacroce said...

Off topic John, but would be interested in your thoughts, given it plays into a lot of themes of your blog. I stumbled upon this at Heartiste (https://heartiste.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/racist-babies/), "Infants show racial bias toward members of own race and against those of other races." (https://phys.org/news/2017-04-infants-racial-bias-members.html).

Anonymous said...

I admit, I can be a linguistic purist. I always wished the english language would use more plain native words than borrowing a new words that is unrecognizable.

There is a wiki called "the anglish moot" designed to try to form 100% pure english.
North Korea did that with Korean, removed any borrowed Chinese words (like up to 50% of their vocab). I also read men in Japan use more native words, while females use words borrowed from China (like meshi vs gohan) the latter is more polite and formal sounding.

Interesting. But it would be great if they did this with disease like you said. More descriptivie.

-Ga

John Craig said...

Gambino --
I saw that article as well. As best I could tell, this was true of all babies, not just white babies. There's nothing really surprising about it, it's basically an evolutionary survival mechanism, people's instincts are to favor those with whom they share more genes, starting with their own families, and then gradually extending outward.

Of course, the sociologists being what they are, it will be used as proof of white racism, and not any other kind.

John Craig said...

Ga --
Plain old English isn't pretentious enough for some people, they have to incorporate Latin to make themselves feel smart. This is most obvious when it comes to college mottoes, which are almost inevitably in Latin. I mentioned that here:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2012/01/higher-education.html

Anonymous said...

John, let me reveal some stuff for future reference when I comment.

Sometimes I may switch details to remain anonymous, I may mention an uncle but it's really an aunt, I may switch a gender of a story (sometimes not) so I don't get caught. I don't want somebody coming on here and finding out my personal opinions if they know me in real life and heavily disagree. That's why I use my last chinese name Ga instead of my real English name.

I also need to confess I have ASD (and ADHD, probably an anxiety disorder, maybe some asocial traits as I age), I never got a diagnosis when young but I suspected it as a teenager as did my relatives on one side of my family, so when I saw a new doctor I just told them I had it, and it stuck so it was true since they believed me. I don't know if it is aspergers or regular autism, but in the end it doesn't matter. I didn't reveal it at first because I was afraid you may respond to me differently. But looking at your previous replies, it seems you are not judgemental about it. You have a very common sense attitude towards it. Please forgive any errors I may make.

I want to ask one question, posting here with your real name and not hiding anything, does that mean you are comfortable with letting people know what you believe? Any people you know can come on here and read it. (Being retired, I think you don't have to worry about a liberal or conservative employer learning anything). Do you still have concerns?

Thanks

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga --
I wouldn't have known you had ASD from the comments you've made. (And if you look at the comments from my first Aspergers Syndrome post back in 2011, it's often quite obvious from their comments that people have it.)

I'm sort of past the age of caring. I started the blog as a way to vent, and then just sort of stuck with it. And I know from time to time people I know will be offended; but my attitude is basically, if they're offended y the truth, that's their problem. And most of the people who try to argue with me here do so using the usual liberal techniques of calling me names (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.) and those are easily countered.

Anonymous said...

About your comment on low IQ vs high IQ sociopath. Do you think about it being relatable to ASD? Is aspergers just a fancy name for someone with autism who has a normal IQ and can speak?

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga --
Good question, and I don't know the answer. I do think that Aspies with higher IQ's are going to be better at hiding their autism. But whether how far along the spectrum one is considered to be is determined partly by IQ is something I just don't know. I suspect not, though. When you think of the "idiot savants" who know one subject unbelievable well but are otherwise socially helpless, their problem doesn't seem to be one of IQ.

Isabelle said...

After coming across your posts about Aspergers (and the replies) I am finally coming to terms with a difficulty I have had with my husband of 8 years. All the arguments and one sidedness that advocacy groups explain away with lacking theory of mind I realise is just obscurantism. If advocacy groups for psychopaths started up and touted their lack of affective empathy as just a benign 'organic' condition and therefore nothing they could do about it... does it mean their partners should stay?
For the longest time, I couldn't reconcile the line the advocacy groups were touting and the experience of people who were married to those with Aspergers. My big mistake was not getting out sooner.

John Craig said...

Isabelle --
That's a great description: obscurantism is exactly what it is. And that's a great parallel, too, with sociopaths. I actually wrote about what a sociopath liberation group would say here:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2013/09/sociopath-liberation.html

Anyway, my sympathies; and I don't blame you for getting out.

Anonymous said...

I myself am not HIGHLY PRIORITIZED for Aspie's information research in my daily media graze, but, I know that MISTER CRAIG has a good subheading of Aspie's material on the blog...so...when I ran across this I thought, "perhaps this will be of assistance in case Mister Craig has not seen it yet"...the guy's picture looks normal enough...:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/04/21/recent-suicide-professor-sparks-renewed-discussions-about-access-mental-health

====FAKE BABA

John Craig said...

FAKE BABA --
Yes, he looks like a normal healthy male, though that has little to do with Aspergers. His explanation of how he offended and angered people without meaning to certainly points to Aspergers, but strangely, that possibility was never raised in the article. you may be right though, that could have been the underlying cause.

Anonymous said...

It seems the message didn't go through last night so I will repeat it, my phone may be malfunctioning with this page. (Delete this if it did go through and it was delayed).

To John:
The professor's attempt at passing did have something to do with it. From my experience, passing doesn't work, it only makes us look like asses. I just try to be a decent person, think before I say anything, and never ever speak unless it is relevant. People will know something is different about me if I stay quiet so much, but I won't be hated. A coworker in an old job said that yes, they do know I am a bit different, but they don't hate me or think I am annoying them.
Much simpler.

The professor also was depressed. It can cause a person to fixate on details, some times fixable like his social mess. If he apologized, kept his mouth shut from then on, and started again, he wouldn't be in so much trouble. His fixation spiraled out of control until it made him want to die. (But by no means am I calling him weak or a coward for committing suicide) That's not the impression I want to give at all. Suicide among autistic people is a serious problem that needs to be prevented. It's a growing concern now as the world becomes more and more interconnected, millennia ago things were different, now it's all changed demanding more. We can't afford to see another generation of families lose their children to suicide or drugs.

To Isabelle:
I am on your side. There is no reason you should be forced against your will to stay with someone in the middle of this mental disorder. I know how unreasonable we can be, I don't know how I may affect someone if I stay close for so long, and what they say about the problems being merely caused by a lack of theory of mind like you said is obscuring. There are many disorders with this same symptom, but these ASD advocacy groups have been riding on this one particular symptom to excuse and downplay what autism truly is, it's more than just one social problem, its much bigger and it all can affect partners. These groups should be on your side too, helping out how to divorce or leave which is probably what the bipolar advocacy groups do (in Hong Kong at least). I hope you can find someone who will truly provide a fulfilling relationship.

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga --
I'd never thought of that, that the attempt at passing would lead him to suicide. But I suppose trying to "pass" is extremely stressful just as it has traditionally been with homosexuals. And, when you think about it, homosexuals have had a higher rate of suicide. (I didn't realize that Aspies did.)

Anonymous said...

An article I read found people with Autism usually lived 18 years less, I think for aspies it was 12 years from another article. This was for all autistics, not just aspies.

Factors I guess include heavy smoking, usage of anti-psychotic drugs or risky medicines (don't know if newers drugs will be better), brain damage from meltdowns (the central nervous system is malfunctioning, it's similar to the brain damage from bipolar manic and depressive episodes), and of course the suicide. The suicide was 9x higher than normal in that article. But this is for all autists, don't exactly know what it is for the HFA end.

Higher suicide rates and lower life expectancy are common for people with mental problems. Schizophrenia is worse than autism, like 20 years less, bipolar is around the same as HFA.
It's not just trying to pass. Looking at the bigger picture, it's a mental health thing.

It is preventable, Temple Grandin, a person who I both have some admiration for yet completely disagree with on a lot, is nearly 70 and she is still doing well.

-Ga

Jean-Luc Cougar said...

Figure I'd post this in a relevant thread:

Some interesting insights in a suicide note left by an aspie Boomer professor @ https://willopines.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/punched-out/ Lots of insight into the aspie struggles/difficulties/tone deafness. It a catch-22 for functional Aspies => they have to shoulder social responsibilities/norms with little result/benefit and usually just pain/frustration for all parties involved.

John Craig said...

Jean-Luc --
Interesting. One thing that occurs to me after reading that note, Aspies seem to come across a lot better in writing than they do in person. I would never have known from reading his note, other than the direct references, that he was an Aspie. Likewise there's a recent commenter on this blog, Ga, who's said he's on the spectrum, and I would never have known it if he hadn't told me. He's well spoken and very insightful, and comes across -- in his comments, at least -- as intelligent, calm, thoughtful, rational, and commonsensical, all things I don't normally associate with Aspies.

Anonymous said...

It's easier when there is time to double check and think before doing something, like posting. I tend to keep my mouth shut irl, too easy to be impulsive.

-Ga

Anonymous said...

About Phineas Gage by the way, I looked into him. What is very remarkable is how much he lost of his brain yet still was alive. Another very remarkable thing is that near the end of his life, he started acting more normal again. The old Gage showed signs of returning, doctors were stunned at his remarkable improvements in function and social ability after a decade passed, but then he died from seizures probably related to his injury.

http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/amazing-croc-story.php

Reminds me of this story of de-psychopathization in a crocodile. He was show in the left eye hitting his brain. Pocho then became a docile pet who bonded with a man and visited and played with Chito for 20 years before dying. There was a video game I played similar, Far Cry 4, an African preacher who later you meet breaks down into tears revealing he used to be a murderous warlord but was shot in the head and survived changing him, he thought it was a gift from God to stop him from being evil.

It's like the studies of children with autism who are born blind or suffer a very severe fever heating up their brains past safe levels, they later show remarkable improvements compared to others, some losing a few of their many symptom altogether. I wonder if they can find a way to turn that repair mode on safely. I can only hope.

-Ga

John Craig said...

Ga --
Interesting, thank you. In a way, those stories are the opposite: with Gage, having part of his brain destroyed made him evil, whereas with the croc, it seems to have done the opposite, in a way, by taking away its predatory instinct. You need your full brain to be a functioning human being, and also to be a functional croc. If that crocodile had not had Chito to take care of him and feed him, it sounds as if he would have died in the wild in short order.

Anonymous said...

Phineas Gage started recovering after while and became more normal before he died, and this happened when he was a fully grown adult, not a child. Quite puzzling.

https://blog.frontiersin.org/2017/02/10/brain-damage-is-not-always-damaging/

Why some people with almost all of their brain damaged all over recover or stay normal yet others have only a tiny nick in some unimportant area go mad is puzzling.

I even read studies on the autistic brain. It's shocking how relatively unabnormal they are in gross shape in many patients. Older studies found stuff in very severely autistic patients but they later discovered they were the effects of seizures and retardation, or even the cause of death damaging the data (like drowning). Any other small differences they have found were possibly the result of living as an autistic shaping some areas, or are common to other disorders like ADHD. No one so far has identified a unique, common, permanent, and essential difference of autism itself with an mri scan. But deeper studies, postmortem brain tissue analysis do show different genetic behavior despite the normal shape. It's the software.

It's not always hardware, there are people with absolutely messed up brains who aren't retarded or autistic, it could be the software, and everyone's is unique.
Which, getting back to the brain damage, is in my theory that it may not always be the damage itself all the time, but the damage turning on switches which don't exist in everyone, only some people, for the changes to happen. And sometimes they may just be temporary like possibly with Phineas Gage had he lived long enough.

But there still are too many factors to count.

-Ga