Friday, May 22, 2009

Theory of mind?

Going out and meeting with people is ok. It gives me insights in things that bother me. Things that have to do with me and my incompatibility with people. Some people of my family always told me that I should do that because it's good to be social. I am not sure if they can give me a good reason for that though, but it seems like they have followed the same pattern of being social without knowing why because other people told them that it is good who also heard it from other ones that don't know the reason. That's from the side of the clueless who just do things because everyone in society tells them it's good without explaining why.

I recently found another side. I might have encountered people of this side in the past , it's only that it's the first time I develop my ideas concerning me and their suggestions deeper. These people are just like the previous ones. They tell me that I should go out and meet people. The difference is that they gave me further insights on why should I do that. Although under further investigation I think that they are no much different than the first group. What I mean is that they might explain me now why I should go out more and meet people but with the same kind of recursivity, suggesting me what the others do and that being good because everyone does this and everyone says so.

To reach to the point. First of all I AM social. In my own sense. I was never locked up in a room for a month or a year all alone. I had a lot of social opportunities in my enviroment (family, school, university, work, scene, leisure, etc.) that you can't say something was missing and I didn't evolved. And I DO communicate. However the second group of people (some of which I met at recent Breakpoint and thanks for the insightful discussions) tells me that I should get out and meet more people more because this way there are higher possibilities to observe how most people actually communicate and try to look like them.

At least that's how I understand that they mean it. They made the observation that I do actually communicate but in my own weird way. A way that might look annoying, egoistic or just abnormal by most of them (I'll speak later about it, after I make my main point). Which might be explained (for them) by the fact that I was very rarely meeting people to be able to see how most people communicate and so I never learned. And their suggestion is that I should go out more and meet people so that I learn and meme the way most people communicate. Which is not exactly right because the main reason I stubornly keep on my own special way of communication is (which I'll explain later, after I make my point, as I said) is the fact that it is my nature to stay so. Going out and being involved in boring casual socialization won't change anything.

Theory of mind. I only have to admit that I wasn't even fully aware in the past of my difference in communication and how it's perceived by other people. I always thought that the way I feel and communicate is similar to the rest of the people. Only during the recent years I am becoming more aware that some of the things I have in my nature might be annoying for other people while I can't see them as such. This is called theory of mind.

I learned about this theory during my research on subjects concerning autistic people and how they relate to the rest of the world. A lack of theory of mind is generally attributed to persons with autism or asperger's. It's supposed that there is a difference in the way autistic persons perceive communication in comparison to neurotypicals (what we would call 'normal' people or those without autistic traits). Autistics seems to be living in their own world, not being able to communicate properly the way most neurotypicals expect them to do. Neurotypicals are suposedly having it right and all the misunderstanding is the fault of the other side :P

Except if it's also the other side who does not get it. If say 95% of the population communicate in the same neurotypical way as almost everybody does then they dismiss the other 5% as having it wrong. It's easy to be in the majority and feel that the way you think and perceive communication is the same as all other people. 95% of the times you will be right. But for the rare individuals who differ in that aspect it's more probable that they will notice one day that something is different with them and that other people don't feel or behave the same as them.

I read the wikipedia article on theory of mind again and stared a little longer at the last part of the first sentence. understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own. Hmm,. the interesting and funny here is that this is what most 'normal' people (or those who are preaching me to be normal and just like the rest) fail to do. They don't even recognize the reality that 5% of us might be different by nature. They expect us to be just like the rest. How does the theory of mind apply to their case?

I'll tell you something. I believe that some of the people who preach that I should be just like the rest are autistics in disguise. I just have a feeling about this but you don't have to take my words for it. I know I may be wrong. Also, we usually attribute some autistic traits with geekness. And we think that neurotypicals always have to look like our view of a 'normal' person. What if a specific autistic individual used some of his autistic abilities in order to become something like a social savant? What if 50 or 500 years from now the view on what is 'normal' is not the same? I think that we are missing the bigger picture here.

Of course normal is just a variable that changes through history according to the way the majority perceives the world. There is also neurodiversity in the play. Sometimes the notions of autism or other so called mental disorders are a bit too narrow. Specific mental disorders can be perceived as conditions where an individual is quite incompatible with the rest of the world. Genetics play a role in this difference yet the outcome is not naturally wrong, it's that most people perceive neurodifference as wrong attitude and that brings trouble.

Of course this doesn't exactly give the right to an autistic individual to justify any peculiar attitude that might bring trouble or confusion to other people. However this justice doesn't come equally from the other side. A neurotypical never brings in his mind that some of his 'normal' attitude or expected communication protocol might be harmful or annoying for autistic individuals. Because they already accept without a second thought that there way of doing things is a normal and expected way and so right without question. At least 95% of the people will agree, so they even have a vast confirmation to feel confident about.

My different communication way was about how I started talking to someone and actually monologized the conversation. They said that this can be either boring, annoying or egoistic from my side. That's my problem. The other side they suggest me trying is casual chat. Small sentences (and no big analysis) about trivial things, which is like passing the ball to the rest. My way seems a bit like they pass me the ball and I keep it to myself. It is like an inner flame inside me makes me speak and analyse endlessly and I have a great desire to dwelve deeper in what matters me. Casual talking would be like socializing for the sake of socialization (an end in it's mean). It's what the majority does. They remind me that I should go out more frequently and meet people but even if I did that more frequently it wouldn't change the way I naturally communicate. Casual talking is something that I hate actually.

I can accept that it can be annoying, I can imagine how it might confuse or put people in an ackward position (And here is the interesting, this is because they are just not used to it and don't know how to react to this different kind of communication. They have learned their communicating skills in an environment where casual talking is the common thing to do.) but I just can't be you. Well, actually I have news for you. Since a long I decided that it's not worth it. Even if I try to communicate my own way in a casual social occasion the most possible is that they will simply ignore me. The alternative, casual chat, is boring. So, either way it doesn't make sense and I stopped caring. Could that mean that I will go less out and communicate less? Ah, the irony..

This article became much longer than I have wished for and there are still a lot to write about. It's one of the harsh written article I actually hate :(


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