Tag Archives: sensory integration strangeness

Important types of mental coherence

Essay originally written to explain to my therapist what I meant by mental coherence, and to explain how deficiencies in it can undermine essential aspects of life. He labelled it Weak Central Coherence.

Many of the issue described below are not that extreme anymore (and weren’t when I wrote the essay) – it is largely retrospective and describes worst case scenarios. However, the issues with weak mental coherence persist, albeit now in milder, subtler versions.

 
Coherence across time

Relevant for social understanding and communication, identity, learning from experiences, mood regulation, planning, punctuality and sense of meaning.

It is essential to understand that peoples’ feelings and actions are linked across time in order roughly grasp their personalities/values/preferences etc and make some sense of their behaviours. To consider that peoples’ moods and behaviours in different situations and across different points in time are part of patterns (not just sudden random events) and linked with many different factors; some which are present in the current situation and serve as triggers, and many other complex factors which are “invisible” in the current situation.

Without a grasp of that coherence, people tend to appear extremely shifty and unpredictable, and communication is like “fumbling in the darkness” without much sense of what is appropriate to say and do and what isn’t, due to not being able to forecast others’ reactions at all. That leads to high tension and high anxiety around people.

For example: if I don’t consider that a person’s attitude and reactions to me in this moment link up with past events (the person’s past experience with me + experiences unrelated to me, which I can’t know anything about); then I’ll assume that all behaviour is caused by something present “right now” and that I should be able to see what it is and adjust my behaviour accordingly. When I can’t see those factors, then I’ll be hyper-vigilant to a lot of different factors without knowing what I should focus on.
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To Pass or Not to Pass…

This post is inspired by The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim, and The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van.

Because passing is a myth. So often what we’re doing when we’re passing is simply keeping a lid on our natural tendencies. And sometimes we’re not even doing it very well.

The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim of Musings of an Aspie

 

Cartoon blue pony with rainbow mane and tail walks a tightrope between cliffs
Image: “Tightrope Walk” by Orfearus

 
What does it mean to pass?

“Passing for normal” if you have a disability, means to mask your disability enough so that so called normal people don’t notice it. For example, if you are deaf but so skilled at lip-reading + hard working at getting by that people forget or don’t realise you are deaf, you’re passing.

They may instead think you are weird though, if they presume that you can hear what they can hear, and think you “ignore” information selectively or even worse, that you are playing social games with them.

Worst of all, if you tried to compete on equal terms in a hearing world as deaf you’d work hundred times harder than everyone else and still not or barely do as well as them on their terms. You’d be in a constant battle to try to piece together information from disorganised bits and hang on to the shared hearing-reality with your fingernails while your errors accumulated. And if you were to work that hard everyday to just try to meet basic expectations, you’d probably soon burn out.

With deafness, the problem is obvious and no one really expects a deaf person to compete with the hearing in a hearing world. No one expects a blind person to pretend to be able to see either.

With Aspergers/high functioning autism which is what Cynthia wrote about, the situation is complex, because many autistic adults are capable of appearing normal and social – to “pass as normal”, at least some of the time and in certain situations.

Jodie has in The Lie of Social Skills Trainin listed some of some key factors that make it difficult for aspies/autistics to socialise on normal terms:

  • sensory processing lag meaning you can’t process the conversation fast enough to keep up
  • trouble turning visual or abstract thoughts into words
  • literal-mindedness leading to misunderstandings
  • lack of executive function for keeping track of social engagements and who’s who
  • reduced amount of energy available for socialising, because so much is drained processing sensory input
  • not necessarily having the same pop-culture grounding as others, thanks to our often eccentric skills and areas of interest

Any one of those things could get in the way of socialising effectively, even for the most socially adept person. Most people on the spectrum have several of those things going on, and some of us have all of them.

The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van of Letters from Aspergia

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Dinners & Sensory Overload

Recently I’ve been to dinner in a restaurant twice. With the first of the two dinners, it was so long time since I’ve tried it last that I thought that maybe dinners are not as bad as I remembered them. However, they are even worse than I remembered.

My husband told me that our neighbour Toby* had invited us out for dinner, and he had said yes, so we were going. We had been talking about inviting the neighbour over for coffee or something for some time. It is nice to have good neighbour relationships, and we like Toby.

Toby is a relaxed, quirky elderly guy who lives by himself and has a bunch of old** cockatoo friends whom he chats with on his balcony in front of our house. I often have a short chat with him and his friends*** in the mornings when I pass by his house during the morning walkies with my dogs.

 
First Dinner

First I didn’t get that the dinner was in a restaurant. When I did, my husband said that he had explained to Toby that I have issues with background noise, so that it had to be a quiet place. It would be somewhere local, close to home. All in all, it sounded like it was going to be OK.

 
Clipart: dinner table in restaurant with a bottle of red wine and a glass on

 
The restaurant turned out to be a local Chinese restaurant in the nearby little low key (some would say white trash) town. There wasn’t any table available when we arrived, so we waited in a nearby pub, all by ourself outside in their beer garden. That was nice.

Then we went to the restaurant and was seated at our table. The noise level was overwhelming. There was the typical relentless cascades of background chatter spiked with sudden high pitched laughter mixed with the massive, irregular murmur of miscellaneous restaurant sounds – Kitchen scramble, cutlery hitting plates et.c – as there are in restaurants.

I wore my usual invisible ear plugs but they weren’t quite effective enough. There was a birthday party with a toddler that kept screaming; a torturous high pitched sound that tore right through the ear plugs and “through marrow & bones”**** at irregular intervals. So I turned on my magic inner sensory shield, and the cacophony of irrelevant noise bounced off my personal space field as if the room was quiet, only letting through what I needed to hear. Just kidding…
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