Dear Aspie: How Do I Stop Questioning Myself?

Dear Aspie:
“After I talk to some people, I get this dread over me where I don’t know if I said something wrong or did something stupid. I start to analyze the conversation I had, and I come up with things I shouldn’t have said. This usually will happen when I’m talking to a girl I’m interested in or when I’m talking to someone important who I’d like to impress. How do I prevent this worrying about how the communication session went?”

–alex
Dear Aspie:
“After I talk to some people, I get this dread over me where I don’t know if I said something wrong or did something stupid. I start to analyze the conversation I had, and I come up with things I shouldn’t have said. This usually will happen when I’m talking to a girl I’m interested in or when I’m talking to someone important who I’d like to impress. How do I prevent this worrying about how the communication session went?”

–alex

So we’re clear: NTs suffer from this sort of hyper self-analysis, too. Aspies don’t have the market cornered there. It’s a conditioned human response to worry about how we come across to others. Our society reeks of it.

But we aspies question ourselves and analyze our communications much more often. The root of the problem lies in a seemingly rational but actually destructive tendency common to our neurology. We think there’s a right and a wrong way to communicate: black and white. Somehow, we are supposed to find the absolute in behavior and adhere to it as closely as we can. It’s not too surprising, given how we see the world, to come to this conclusion. But it’s a lie.

Communication is a creation, not a patter, and there’s no benchmark for creation. What does this mean? It means self-questioning is a downward spiral, because analyzing what you’ve said never stops. One can never get certainty about whether a communication was good because there’s no ideal to which to compare it. Sure, you can ask the other person whether he thought you talked well with him, or some third bystander, but that’s only their opinions. You could even put yourself in their power by actually caring about their little opinions. But you’ll never get certainty by caring about their opinions, and they can’t give it to you either. They might pretend like they can, but that’s just to control you and mess with your head: “Yes, I know the correct way to talk, and if you do what I say, you will, too.” If you think about it for a minute, I’m sure you’ll be able to spot some people in your environment who do this to you.

Certainty is the currency of power, of self-sufficiency, of knowledge, and of happiness. You can’t wield power of any sort, be independent, really know anything, or be happy unless you can feel certainty in a given area. No certainty equals no peace: did I or didn’t I? Could I or should I? To be or not to be? On and on.

The solution to self-analysis might seem childishly simple, but it takes a lot of practice, because it flies in the face of a lifetime of bad habits and social training. The trick is become the source of your own certainty. How do you practice this? Drill yourself. Ask yourself, “What around me can I be certain of?” Then point it out: that chair, that bike, that person. Weird? Yeah, but watch what happens to you inside. And when you find yourself asking, “Did I do well talking to that person?” remember, that’s not a real question, because there’s no right answer. All you can be certain of is that you communicated, and by golly, you should be proud of that. Be certain of your achievement, and get on with your day. End the cycle. Shut the door on that one action and move on to another. To question yourself over and over leads to self-destruction, as Hamlet found out.

Now, you’re an aspie, and you might come across strange. You might talk funny sometimes, or walk funny sometimes. You might not know what to say, or focus on something too much for some people’s taste. Well, tough for them. Let them deal with it. Forget the criticism of others and cleave to a new set of heroes. Ray Charles walked kind of funny, and Einstein focused far too much. Picasso didn’t exactly fit in polite company, either. But they all had certainty about what they were creating, and that carried them through to soaring achievements. You mentioned in your note about women and important people? Well, you’ll find that women adore the confidence that comes with certainty, and “important people” will come to you, because they need you, no matter how you talk or walk. Find the certainty inside yourself. You’ll become a being of gravity, and pull the universe to you.

You go get ‘em.

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