To refer to ADHD as inattention is to refer to Autism as hand flapping and speaking funny – they are the most obvious symptoms of a failure to develop the ability to relate to others as special objects, as human and that is what Autism really is underneath – the rest of it is just the most superficial set of symptoms.
Sam qualified Dr. Russell Barkley’s statement with the word “consistently”:
You will note that I have qualified the statement made by Dr. Russell Barkley with the word consistently because in my case there are times when I do relate very powerfully, immediately, instinctively and selflessly to others, as special objects, but these are the exceptions.
So he modified Dr. Barkley’s original statement to “a failure to develop the ability to consistently relate to others as special objects, as human”…
That sentence resonates strongly with me. I came to think that perspective taking, relationships and theory of mind are sides of the same essential aspect of life: the social world; the “we”-ness that allows individuals to merge into social constellations. And I’m grasping a little bit more of why the social side of life tends to be so damn tricky.
I too can “relate very powerfully, immediately, instinctively and selflessly to others” (Sam’s words) … occasionally. Most of the time though, people are more like alien elements I’m trying to work my way around. I try hard to tolerate people and relate with them as well as I can, but it rarely feels natural to be in anyone’s company.
There was a long period of my life where a social life was off limits. I just could not grasp the elusive “social sphere” that people enter when they are together; and how they change depending on who they are with. I wanted to be social, but people were not meaningful, and I was not meaningful to them either, so I couldn’t really make friends.
The harder I tried to be social, the further I was from the mindset of the social people… because social people don’t try hard. They just are social and go with the flow. My flow tends to take me away from people instead.
I am much more socially empowered now, but I deal with people mainly by relying on my “best practice” scripts worked into my social repertoire over the course of my lifetime. I am proud (and surprised) that many of them work so well. I go through most of my everyday interactions using relationship skills and expressions I’ve merely copied from “best practice” examples of others, and that is actually not a bad idea.
But I need long recovery times in between interactions for any amount of socialising to be bearable and positive. Many social situations aren’t worth the effort and loss of energy, and often while I socialise, I long for the time it is over so I can do things I’d rather spend my time on.
Most of my personal priorities don’t require much if any direct interaction with people. Interactions with people, on the other hand, require intensive and relentless efforts to process, compromise, and tolerate interruptions; and constant readiness to suppress anger and confusion.
Did I mention how much I hate interruptions? I am not proud of this. My attitude to anyone who interrupt or may interrupt when I’m immersed in work that matters to me (for example a piece of writing) can best be described as hostile vigilance on the wedge of snapping, although I try to camouflage the hostility a bit.
It can quickly escalate till I resent every move, every walking-around me, every sound, every presence near me. I do everything I can to emit a “Do Not Come Near Me” vibe. I wear headphones with loud music and ear plugs under. I’m backed into a corner with my laptop. I don’t talk. If I do, I may say things like “I need some space”. “Please don’t talk to me”. “I just need to be by myself tonight”. “Please leave me alone”.
My hate of interruptions targets anyone, indifferently… Even the dearest, the one closest to me. I am not proud of it. I know relationships are invaluable. I know reciprocity is important. And I don’t want to be a total secluse like I once were (not all the time… I would like to have some of the isolation back though).
I don’t understand the need for frequent interaction. Socialising is not like breathing. Talking is not a necessity for survival. I feel like exploding and clearing a wide perimeter of solitude around me. I bite my fingers instead in response to every instance of intolerable restlessness, every intrusiveness, which are really just normal activities and contact attempts.
Overall, I do want to belong in the world, to contribute, and for that I need to connect. I try to keep my reclusive tendencies somewhat in check while I also try to avoid overload. But I just. Can’t. Stand. Interruptions.
Eventually, bed time approaches and goes past. I’m too stressed to calm down any time soon, and hang on to my task like a bull dog. My husband keeps hanging around hoping I won’t stay up too late. But I stay up too late because I really, really, really need solitude. Like: “social” totally turned OFF. For each 10 minutes of extra interference, I need at least 3 more hours by myself to calm down… at least that is what it feels like.
Finally the house falls quiet. Staying awake at night is healing … but the healing process only begins after a good long period of solitude and making progress with my project. Each hour of calm, quiet, focussed solitude is a relief. The hostility slowly fades; calm focus gradually replaces vigilance.
The next morning I’m happy and ready to socialise, because my need for a sufficiently long period of uninterrupted focus has been satisfied. I have completed what I wanted. I just haven’t slept. Obviously, if I do this much then the daily routines & structures fall apart due to haphazard sleep patterns; which will likely lead to mood swings, poor health and falling work productivity (actual work, not personal projects). There really isn’t any easy solution; just trying to keep a tricky balance.
Keeping the social balance is like trying to find & maintain an elusive balance point on an ultra short tipping scale between social overload and social isolation; a brief habitable zone someway half way between two extreme worlds.
* He has since expanded his post to include some additional about aspects about disinterest and giftedness. My post responds to the part that relates directly to the quote by Dr. Russell Barkley