When Insights are Speculation

One of the things I’ve felt particularly confused by is why my daughter sometimes resists communicating.  My thinking has been – why would she resist doing the one thing that will help her get along in this world more than perhaps anything else?  The other day, I had a moment of clarity.  I came a step closer to “getting it”.  And now, I think I understand.  Not only do I think I understand, but I am able to identify and relate to that resistance, because, I realized, I do it too!  There are a number of things I resist doing, even while knowing that if I just did them I’d feel better and would be able to weather the vicissitudes of daily life a bit better.  I’d be happier, calmer, less anxious, and yet knowing this, intellectually understanding that this is true, does not make my resistance any less.

know being mindful and in the present gives me clarity and a sense of calm, I do not otherwise have.  I know this, and yet find it extremely difficult to be completely present for more than moments at a time.  My daughter has little problem with this.  In fact, Emma is far more comfortable in the moment than anywhere else.  I remember when we were inundated with therapists coming and going during those early years of fear and panic.  Richard and I used to comment on the irony that Emma was completely present and in the here and now far more easily than we were and yet we were constantly encouraging her to talk about tomorrow or yesterday or any number of other topics that had little to do with NOW.    We were pushing her to move away from the bliss of this moment to join us in the fear and anxiety of the non-present moment, all for the sake of the larger picture, which in our minds was to have her join us in our world.  Even though our world was fraught with expectations, hopes, dreams, wishes and the inevitable disappointment those things often bring.

We used to joke that if we could bottle what Emma came to naturally we would have no cause for worry.  And that really is the crux of most conversations.  They are usually not about the here and now.  They are almost always about some other time, some other idea, some other person, some other concern that is not now.  And yet…  

I resist being in the present and Emma resists being pulled out of it.   And yet, we non-Autistics continue to insist our world is better, or superior even as many spend thousands of dollars going on spiritual retreats, reading books about meditation and going to workshops to teach us how to “sit”.  So the question I am now asking myself is this:  Can I find the grey area of encouraging Emma to communicate with me, something that is difficult for her and pulls her from the bliss of now, while giving her plenty of time to be present and just be?  And what about my own resistance?  Can I learn to meet Emma in her blissful place of now and resist the urge to go off in my mind to somewhere else?

Of course there’s always a danger in interpreting my daughter’s behavior as any one thing.  Her resistance, like mine, is probably made up of many things, and this could be just one reason.  Or I may have this entirely wrong and her resistance is about something that hasn’t even occurred to me.  Or perhaps it isn’t resistance at all and is something else or I may find, next time we type together and when I ask her why, she will tell me something I hadn’t considered.  And that’s the beauty of all of this, I can’t and don’t know until she tells me.  Until then it’s just speculation and me projecting my stuff onto her.   So that’s more for me to be aware of – seeing when and if I do that and understanding that I am.

Henry and I sharing a moment of laughter at Emma’s antics

H & A

14 responses to “When Insights are Speculation

  1. Movement seems really important to ever so many people. To resist is movement away from. When I don’t move my words to your place you might say I resist. Not so. I am here and don’t move out of my place of here. Since you are already in motion why isn’t it said that you are resisting to join me in my place of here? Please see the chapter in Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism’s Helpers called Planet “Go There” when you have a chance.

  2. Love reading your words and thinking about ideas! Sorry I sent the other comment too soon. I am doing it in an airport from my blackberry and not so familiar w/its mechanics of posting.

  3. Wonderful topic raising and addressing.

    You say: “Of course there’s always a danger in interpreting my daughter’s behavior as any one thing. Her resistance, like mine, is probably made up of many things, and this could be just one reason. Or I may have this entirely wrong and her resistance is about something that hasn’t even occurred to me. Or perhaps it isn’t resistance at all and is something else or I may find, next time we type together and when I ask her why, she will tell me something I hadn’t considered. And that’s the beauty of all of this, I can’t and don’t know until she tells me. Until then it’s just speculation and me projecting my stuff onto her. So that’s more for me to be aware of – seeing when and if I do that and understanding that I am.”

    What is it to communicate? I think the key is in the generic stem: commun-ity, commun-icate; the wondrous complexity of joint-occurring, sharing moments of being.
    I think you are right to focus on Emma in the here and now. That here and now is not really abstractable, because it is Emma’s here and now, Emma’s present and presence. Emma’s being sustains and protects itself, across indeterminate autistic criterion and conditions. Emma may be determined to sustain herself in her present, keeping herself present: but that present may not be a temporal present; perhaps more akin to an eternal present a psychic presence. Time is really an epiphenomenon and resource of the social and societal, the collective and cultural.
    If and as we develop in a socialising manner, each and every moment and item of that developing, involves a taking on of what is social and societal, and that means taking on time as a systemic aspect of that social and societal. Time doesn’t really exist on its own, independently of this nexus of social and societal elements. Even at the high level of abstraction involved in Newtonian and fundamental-particle physics, time cannot be conceptualised on its own.
    For an autistically developing person, engaging with a socialised person means engaging with the whole nexus of what grounds and mediates that person. That involves engagement with time, but that involvement with time never stands alone, but is rather always conflated with what else makes up a social and societal universe of meaning.
    In taking an autistic pathway of developing, an autistic person (viewed in terms of the personal meaning making which mediates that pathway and its taking) is making use of algorithms of meaning making which differ from those involved in socialising developmental pathways. Resistance might then be considered in terms of an interfacing of these algorithms.
    When Emma and Henry meet in a cocoon of community as you described in a previous post, the algorithm-sets mediating their persons and processing find some reflection in each other, and the communication you report joyously plays out. Emma communicates at an extraordinary high level, using assistive technology to address and have joint-occurring with a gathered assembly. Her present, her presence, the present and presence of others including Henry, coalesce in community and communication. Emma communicates when the algorithms of being-mediation being employed by others, allows for her to have and sustain her being her presence her present across the algorithms she natively employs. The present, here, is not able to be abstracted from a complex enabling event.
    You speak of yourself and Richard being time-concerned, given over to meaning-making contingent on time. This is your starting point. The meaning-making you have at this starting point, is the materielle you have for empathy, with Emma, with anyone. That basis for empathy is always self-centred and therefore only hypothetically of ultility in empathetically engaging another. You throw the hypothesis into something akin to a scientific research cycle auditing a realtime experiment in empathy.
    You hypothesis that Emma resists being drawn out of the/her here and now. The evidence of her meeting with Henry and her participation in a multifaceted event indicates that her cleaving to her here and now is nuanced and not preclusive of joint-occurring of communication with others. You hypothesis that you and Richard are given over to what is temporally-grounded and mediating; and suggest you can reflex on what sees you so time-grounded.
    My sense is that a child always lives out some aspect of the parent, in their developing. So you are right to use your own experience of yourself as a basis for putative empathy with Emma. One difficulty where a child is developing autistically and the parents are socially grounded, is that the parent tends to have driven what aspect of themselves the child is stepping-off from, deep into their subconscious and unconscious. I think the key to bridging is then to use your sense of yourself, as you here are doing; while recognising that you have to go beyond that self to engage with what the child has autistically taken recourse to. To do this you have to pass through what I would conceptualise as an identity membrane or interface. What is autistic and what is social, yield distinctive identities: and the power and action of identity is hard to conceptualise; in some sense it is all that we can imagine.
    What you are contemplating, and rightly and usefully so, is a transcending of identity-based self. A social and time-orientated self will always keep us on social/societal side of an autistic-social tension. An autistic and self-referencing identity will always keep us on an autistic side of that tension. What we have had, and still have to large extent, is a collective circumstance where we leave the autistically developing person to deal with this complexity on their own, because we are not prepared to transcend our socially grounded selves. Everything that is involved in identity holds us to that stance; hamstrings us in any nominal striving to bridge to the autistic.
    To humanely and effectively bridge to autistic occurring and developing, I think, we have to be willing to ourselves take on autistic being, and in some manner be willing to become more autistic ourselves. Can we be like Henry, can we learn from Henry, as we engage the Emmas of this world? Can we recognise and utilise Henry’s algorithms in engaging our Emmas; and vice versa? Can we in any manner reproduce the absence of obstructions to one another’s self-expressing and self-realising, that Emma and Henry secured?
    I think this is where address of time and questions about the here and now, becomes relevant. What mediates and sustains our socialised beings, is time-striated at every cut and turn. To approach and engage the autistic as benificently as do Henry and Emma, we have to take that time-orientated dynamic in ourselves in hand: have to get to where we can toggle that dynamic off and on. If we do that, I feel, we can non-threateningly approach our autistically developing Emmas, who may then grace us with expression of themselves.
    Emma resists our being given over to what is predicated on time. Our time-predicated algorithms of self mediation and identity, threaten her with non being (loss of presence, loss of her present) because dissonant across the algorithms of self mediation and identity on which she relies autistically. Emma will allow her algorithms to express and become evident, if and as we bring what mediates us, under better control.
    Resistance is a good concept to apply here. I’m taking resistance to have the meaning I’ve garnered from hearing others explain assistive technology (typing, say) in autistic communicating. Just as resistance might be applied by the agent of assistance, Emma in managing her communicating is applying resistance to the world of others. A resisting which is whole person. A resisting which is seeking communication.

    • ‘Emma in managing her communicating is applying resistance to the world of others. A resisting which is whole person. A resisting which is seeking communication.” This sums it up nicely I think! Thanks so much for this incredibly thoughtful comment.

  4. An interesting post, Ariane!

    To add a few things to your speculation: I have trouble thinking about and conceptualizing the future. Not necessarily in specific terms, such as “things are going to happen in the future”, or “these things will happen in the future”, but in the more general “you need to plan for the future” that is so important in our society (unfortunately, because it definitely gives us autistics problems!). This is in fact one of the questions on this week’s survey by Musings of an Aspie (http://musingsofanaspie.com/2013/04/09/survey-general-coping-strategies/) – whether other autistics have trouble with future planning.

    I don’t always live in the present – the past has its hold on me – but when I’m in “the zone”, happy and productive, I’m definitely focused on the present. (As much as I can say I am when my focus is really on what I’m doing at that present.)

    As for resistance – yes, I experience what you do (witness my laundry, which *really* needs to get done, yet I haven’t been doing it) – but I also find that when I have trouble communicating (the few times I go non-verbal that aren’t due to meltdowns) is when there’s something I feel I *need* to communicate… but I can’t find a way to, and I’m worried that whoever I need to communicate it to will get upset. (“Upset” meaning either: it will hurt them emotionally; or they will get angry.)

    Just a few things from my own experience (admittedly as an adult – I’m beginning to remember / think that I had more non-verbal episodes when I was a child, but that was because of emotional overload) that may help you refine your speculations further.

    😉 tagAught

    • I love Musings of an Aspie blog! Thank you so much for this. The concern you describe regarding the other person’s expectations and the anxiety that results is something I’ve witnessed first hand.

  5. Thank you Ariane and ColinB, two great articles for the price of one.

  6. Whenever my body doesn’t work well in terms of joining in with another person the professionals call me resistant. When I was a girl in school somedays I would not go to the front table for reading group and other days I would. The teacher said I was resistant. I didn’t have the words to explain then, but now I know that if my sense of proprioception was intact I would walk down the aisle to the table. If not, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it without falling over or running into things, I stayed in my seat. I think the words resistance when talking about behavior has an imbedded intentionality. It has been used on me in a shame-on-you manner so I am now intentionally resistant to using the word resistant when I work with autistics. LOL (PS No idea where the avatar on my above post came from. Never saw it before, but was first time I posted on my cell phone.)

  7. Judy, I think this is such a great point. The word ‘resistance’ definitely feels judgmental, though in the context of my post, I hadn’t meant it to be. But it IS embedded and having reread what I wrote I too can “hear” it.
    I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience because it helps me move toward being a better, kinder, gentler, more considerate parent and person!

  8. Madelaine Sidén

    Thank you. Brilliant. Creates one tear and a smile…

  9. You blur my lines of my resistance to my autism and my normalcy. Of others’ normalcy and personality. And the bridging gaps in between.

    I have learnt to escape my personal bliss to become frightened of the past and future, only to retreat into my own world but that time only driven through fear; forgetting the joy of the moment. I have spent hours and hours reading and studying things like sitting, being and all that like you to try to normalize myself.

    Now I see that we (collectively) are not all that different.

    Thank you.

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