My life has been profoundly shaped by my experience of my family because that experience shaped my expectations of the will, my coping techniques, and, at least to some degree, my character.
We are formed by our developmental experiences and that formation shapes the direction of our life.
I was just looking at a link from Mark Hutten, Parents With Asperger Syndrome, that was just too much for me to engage earlier. It appears to be a paper written for clinical professionals to help assess the impact of Aspergers parents in family interventions.
The “big three issues” as Hutten describes them, are:
- Poor Cognitive Shifting, which leads to them getting overwhelmed by stimuli, causing withdrawal or acting out
- Limited Theory Of Mind which often causes “mind-blind” parents to misread intentions, identifying the accidental as intentional and therefore scapegoating children
- Weak Central Coherence which interferes with their ability to identify & rank priorities and importance of the events around them, to use and convey that meta information
Hutten goes on to identify anxiety, emotional disorders, executive function deficits and obsessive behaviour as important secondary issues.
It is easy, Hutten says, for children of Aspergers parents to feel like there is a lack of love for them, not because the parents don’t hold love but because they are unable to do the loving things the child needs to develop solid self-esteem. It is this failure of emotional understanding and mirroring which creates lifelong challenges.
Hutten, like so many, note that the requirement to help the child falls to the non-Aspergers parent, however, in my case, I didn’t have one of those.
Characteristics of an Aspergers Parent— • Perfectionism • Regimentation • Anger • Abuse Child’s Perception— • Criticism not compliments • Desire to leave home • Disagreements between parents • Egocentric priorities • Embarrassment in public • Favoritism • Fear of the ‘cold’ touch of affection • Fear of the parent’s mood and not to antagonize • Feeling a nuisance • Intolerance of noise and friendships • Lack of affection, understanding and support • Parent has a monologue on their own problems Child’s Reaction— • Escape using imagination, solitude, alternative family • Hatred • Seeking affection and approval
All of Hutten’s points deeply resonate with me, bringing up emotional issues that I continue to have great difficulty finding mirroring about. Very, very few people have done the work to understand and validate those of us who have the experience being raised by Aspergers parents, the deep and early emotional damage.
What Hutten misses, though, is the way that our own continuing interactions with other people are shaped by the way we learned to be functional and effective in our Aspergers bounded birth families.
To survive, we had to learn how to keep a model of Aspergers style behaviour in our heads. There was no way to be successful in communicating with or helping our parents unless we adapted our communication to meet their capabilities; after all, there was no way that they were going to adapt to meet us.
We were trained to think like someone with Aspergers, using that mindset as a filter to process and bound our communication with the world.
To care for my parents, who I knew had love but were always able to do incredibly hurtful things to me, full of neglect based in ignorance and abuse based in personal frustration, giving love as concept and not as experience, I had to learn to be their concierge.
Those with Aspergers can learn new ways to understand the world, beyond the bounds of their innate tunnel vision, but they cannot do it quickly or easily. The Aspergers programming is very reactive, quick and simple, so learning to open up their consideration demands conscious awareness and what seems like infinite repetition to make change a part of their habits.
Just the first step of helping them understand where they are missing the joke is very hard because any problem or limit with their own boundaries are just outside of their realm of comprehension. Things are simple for them, right or wrong, so seeing the world as a layered, nuanced, contradictory and mystical place, full of shadows and hidden meanings, just doesn’t really compute.
To understand a broader picture they have to see through the eyes of another, have to mentally take on a different viewpoint and set of values, which easily overwhelmed people who are mind-blind and don’t have good mental coherence have an enormous trouble doing, even if they can understand the benefits of trying.
My father just couldn’t take “yes” for an answer. Even if you agreed with him, he would just keep replaying the same argument, caught in the same mental loop. If he couldn’t hear yes, how could he possibly ever hear “no,” engaging my suggestion that his position had big flaws and gaps that would limit the way other people accepted it?
Very few people have the patience and the tenacity to spend years and years fighting the same fight with the same people, trying again, over and over and over again, coming up with new and innovative ways to explain the point while the person you are trying to help just seems to chase their own tail. We expect that suggestions we make will be ignored or dismissed while the other person just follows their own worn patterns, living in their own comfortable tunnel.
I’m not much of a law of attraction person, but I do believe that your training shapes your choices and your choices shape your results. I was trained to engage people on the spectrum, so I make choices that work in that context.
This means that people who don’t have that spectrum experience find my approach rather odd & off-putting, while those who are on the spectrum can grasp what I say. They are, though, on the spectrum, so just grasping what I say doesn’t mean they can really engage it, really open to the emotions and experiences I share, really be moved to grow and actualize quickly and easily.
I don’t want to spend what is left of my life as a handmaiden to those on the spectrum. I know how terrifically difficult and unrewarding that job is, how much self denial and frustration come with the approach.
On the other hand, though, I have been profoundly shaped by my experience of engaging with those on the spectrum, so I don’t have the ego, the colours, the motion, the warmth, the poetry and the playfulness that allows me to easily engage the “neurotypical.”
I have been shaped by my experience of being assigned as caregiver to my family, the “target patient” and that shaping has put bounds on my life. The better I got as concierge, the farther away I got from my own swaying humanity, the kind I had to freeze to not overwhelm those around me.
All those scars of my childhood have been identified and healed, but the way taking that abuse shaped me still deeply affects my relationships in the world.
We are formed by our developmental experiences and that formation shapes the direction of our life, and often, not for the better.