Dear Aspie:WHY ARE ASPIES VULNERABLE TO BULLYING?

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GroovyDruid
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21 Dec 2005, 8:51 pm

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Hello All:

Jman submitted this excellent question to my blog/column Dear Aspie.... I thought parents especially might find it and the reply interesting.

-GroovyDruid


jman wrote:

"What exactly is it that makes aspies vulnerable to bullying and other forms of victimization? Is it a certain facial expression, or tone of voice, or a certain gesture or what?"


Whoa. Good question there. Don't we all wish we'd known the answer to this one sooner...

Pundits in psychology, after earning their Masters of the Obvious, will tell you with a straight face and much gravity that aspies get picked on because they're ... different. Unfortunately, this brilliant assertion gets us no nearer to understanding the specific behavior that incites bullying and that's what's important if we want to change our behavior to alleviate the bullying.

Aspies put off classic submissive body language as a natural course of events. You asked about facial expressions, voice tones, and gestures: well, all of these play a role. Aspies make poor and infrequent eye contact. In the NT world, that means you are affraid to face someone. It means you can't hold your ground. Aspies, as they get comfortable, tend to curl up, slouch down, and cross their arms. In NT body language, these gestures signal withdrawl, fear, and defensiveness. An NT will sense--rightly or wrongly--that the aspie won't tangle with him.

And unfortunately, this is often true--an aspie won't fight. Why? Well, apart from the fact that many aspies lack the physical coordination and fighting skills of their peers, many aspies hold a gross misconception: they think human interaction is sane or logical. Aspies usually think that when a conflict presents itself, there has been a misunderstanding, and they can resolve the problem by sane discourse if they look hard enough. They get caught in a morass of indecision and end up taking a raft of cr*p from whoever happens to be confusing them with false, badgering statements. Here's an example, with the subtext of the statements in parentheses. See if it looks familiar:

BIG LUTHER-So I heard your were kissing my girlfriend. (I want to fight you because something inside tells me I need to)

ASPIE-No. I didn't even know you had a girlfriend. (No, I didn't)

BIG LUTHER-Well I heard you slobbered all over her, shrimpy. (I'm going to make you fight me to defend your honor)

ASPIE-I haven't kissed any girls at all. (You've clearly got the wrong guy pegged for the crime)

BIG LUTHER-(pushing Aspie) What if I say you did? (I just want to fight, moron! Forget about the girl!)

ASPIE-(crossing his arms) I still didn't kiss anybody. (I'm certain I didn't do anything wrong)


And on and on. Now of course Luther is going to see the aspie cross his arms and take it as a sign of withdrawing in the face of antagonism, and go after the aspie twice as hard, because he thinks he's got him beat. The thing to notice is that, if you read the subtexts in brackets, they don't match up. Luther is implying one thing with his words and body language. The aspie is deducing quite another message and responding to the wrong message. He won't fight, because he doesn't see that there's anything to fight about. It would be different if Big Luther just came out with the blunt truth:

BIG LUTHER-I want to fight you because my stepdad pushed me around this morning and I feel like taking it out on you.

ASPIE-Any way of avoiding this unfortunate incident?

BIG LUTHER-Nope.

ASPIE-(sigh, raising fists) Tally ho, then.


Aspies run afoul of authority and power by unknowingly projecting signs of aggressiveness and arrogance as well. It is the diametrically opposed problem. Since they don't know body language very (well if at all), they don't know when they are putting off signs of arrogance and aggressiveness such as staring at a bully (a challenge), standing apart from any group (setting oneself apart from herd), not making small talk with peers, putting hands on the hips (aggressive), sitting higher on the bleachers than the bully (attempting to dominate), or talking to girls the bully has earmarked as his own.

NTs have a natural hardwired system in their brains that prevents many of these faux pas in the presense of a supieror power. When an aspie unknowingly makes the wrong moves, he broadcasts an intention to challenge the Lion of the Woods. The result is merciless persecution.

You may now ask, "Why is it that the bullys need exercise these strange territorial behaviors in the first place? Why can't they control themselves?" The answer is that the bullies are rarely aware of the real reason they do many of these bullying behaviors. Their instincts, built into their genes, tell them they must dominate as many people as possible, control as many females as possible, control as much territory as possible, and destroy deviant members of the tribe such as aspies and homosexuals. Since they aren't very well aware of these subconscious urges, it's next to impossible to argue with them.

Can aspies avoid bullying? To some extent, if they learn the rules of NT body language. Aspies who speak body language can often avoid the two species of problems discussed above. But even these learned aspies won't avoid all the pitfalls, and the only solution is to consult a higher power, such as a teacher, and give him or her a rigorous explanation: "You cannot leave me with these bullies! They are programmed down to their DNA to misunderstand me and make my life hell!" A rigorous explanation obviates any line from the higher power like, "You need to learn to handle bullies on your own." This is ignorant nonsense. Aspies are fundamentally different people and must take special measures to ensure their lives are livable.


(If you would like to ask a question of "Dear Aspie..." about flirting, small talk, and other mysteries of non-verbal communication, simply PM your question to GroovyDruid. Due to the amount of PMs received, not all questions will be published, but they'll all be considered. Thanks for sharing!)


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22 Dec 2005, 12:16 am

GroovyDruid wrote:
Quote:
Hello All:

Jman submitted this excellent question to my blog/column Dear Aspie.... I thought parents especially might find it and the reply interesting.

-GroovyDruid


jman wrote:

"What exactly is it that makes aspies vulnerable to bullying and other forms of victimization? Is it a certain facial expression, or tone of voice, or a certain gesture or what?"


Whoa. Good question there. Don't we all wish we'd known the answer to this one sooner...

Pundits in psychology, after earning their Masters of the Obvious, will tell you with a straight face and much gravity that aspies get picked on because they're ... different. Unfortunately, this brilliant assertion gets us no nearer to understanding the specific behavior that incites bullying and that's what's important if we want to change our behavior to alleviate the bullying.

Aspies put off classic submissive body language as a natural course of events. You asked about facial expressions, voice tones, and gestures: well, all of these play a role. Aspies make poor and infrequent eye contact. In the NT world, that means you are affraid to face someone. It means you can't hold your ground. Aspies, as they get comfortable, tend to curl up, slouch down, and cross their arms. In NT body language, these gestures signal withdrawl, fear, and defensiveness. An NT will sense--rightly or wrongly--that the aspie won't tangle with him.

And unfortunately, this is often true--an aspie won't fight. Why? Well, apart from the fact that many aspies lack the physical coordination and fighting skills of their peers, many aspies hold a gross misconception: they think human interaction is sane or logical. Aspies usually think that when a conflict presents itself, there has been a misunderstanding, and they can resolve the problem by sane discourse if they look hard enough. They get caught in a morass of indecision and end up taking a raft of cr*p from whoever happens to be confusing them with false, badgering statements. Here's an example, with the subtext of the statements in parentheses. See if it looks familiar:

BIG LUTHER-So I heard your were kissing my girlfriend. (I want to fight you because something inside tells me I need to)

ASPIE-No. I didn't even know you had a girlfriend. (No, I didn't)

BIG LUTHER-Well I heard you slobbered all over her, shrimpy. (I'm going to make you fight me to defend your honor)

ASPIE-I haven't kissed any girls at all. (You've clearly got the wrong guy pegged for the crime)

BIG LUTHER-(pushing Aspie) What if I say you did? (I just want to fight, moron! Forget about the girl!)

ASPIE-(crossing his arms) I still didn't kiss anybody. (I'm certain I didn't do anything wrong)


And on and on. Now of course Luther is going to see the aspie cross his arms and take it as a sign of withdrawing in the face of antagonism, and go after the aspie twice as hard, because he thinks he's got him beat. The thing to notice is that, if you read the subtexts in brackets, they don't match up. Luther is implying one thing with his words and body language. The aspie is deducing quite another message and responding to the wrong message. He won't fight, because he doesn't see that there's anything to fight about. It would be different if Big Luther just came out with the blunt truth:

BIG LUTHER-I want to fight you because my stepdad pushed me around this morning and I feel like taking it out on you.

ASPIE-Any way of avoiding this unfortunate incident?

BIG LUTHER-Nope.

ASPIE-(sigh, raising fists) Tally ho, then.


Aspies run afoul of authority and power by unknowingly projecting signs of aggressiveness and arrogance as well. It is the diametrically opposed problem. Since they don't know body language very (well if at all), they don't know when they are putting off signs of arrogance and aggressiveness such as staring at a bully (a challenge), standing apart from any group (setting oneself apart from herd), not making small talk with peers, putting hands on the hips (aggressive), sitting higher on the bleachers than the bully (attempting to dominate), or talking to girls the bully has earmarked as his own.

NTs have a natural hardwired system in their brains that prevents many of these faux pas in the presense of a supieror power. When an aspie unknowingly makes the wrong moves, he broadcasts an intention to challenge the Lion of the Woods. The result is merciless persecution.

You may now ask, "Why is it that the bullys need exercise these strange territorial behaviors in the first place? Why can't they control themselves?" The answer is that the bullies are rarely aware of the real reason they do many of these bullying behaviors. Their instincts, built into their genes, tell them they must dominate as many people as possible, control as many females as possible, control as much territory as possible, and destroy deviant members of the tribe such as aspies and homosexuals. Since they aren't very well aware of these subconscious urges, it's next to impossible to argue with them.

Can aspies avoid bullying? To some extent, if they learn the rules of NT body language. Aspies who speak body language can often avoid the two species of problems discussed above. But even these learned aspies won't avoid all the pitfalls, and the only solution is to consult a higher power, such as a teacher, and give him or her a rigorous explanation: "You cannot leave me with these bullies! They are programmed down to their DNA to misunderstand me and make my life hell!" A rigorous explanation obviates any line from the higher power like, "You need to learn to handle bullies on your own." This is ignorant nonsense. Aspies are fundamentally different people and must take special measures to ensure their lives are livable.


(If you would like to ask a question of "Dear Aspie..." about flirting, small talk, and other mysteries of non-verbal communication, simply PM your question to GroovyDruid. Due to the amount of PMs received, not all questions will be published, but they'll all be considered. Thanks for sharing!)


This is very well written. I couldn't have said it better, myself. I enjoy reading the Dear Aspie columns. :)



rearden
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22 Dec 2005, 6:26 am

One time a friend told me "One of these days you're gonna get your ass kicked, and I know exactly how it'll happen. You'll be at a bar and bump in to some guy or his girlfriend by accident, and he'll confront you about it. You won't notice what you did or realize he's wanting to fight, so you'll give him that stupid confused look you get. You'll be genuinely concerned and wanting to understand what his problem is, but he'll see you as being arrogant and thinking he's an idiot because of the way you look at him. It pisses me off, even though I know you don't mean anything by it. Then he'll start beating you, and I'll have to jump in because you'll still be trying to figure out what's going on and why he's fighting before you're able to react."

I thought it was interesting that what he told me (before either of us had ever heard of AS) is pretty much identical to what that article explains.. And it is, unfortunately, a very plausible scenario.



eyeenteepee
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22 Dec 2005, 6:42 am

Thanks GD. I wish I had that knowledge 25 years ago!

That has helped me to finally understand my own experiences, couldn't have done it with only my own perspective.

It sounds like keeping in check the unintended projection of aggression and arrogance is equally important to adult Aspies too, so that is something I'll bear in mind now.

Very helpful stuff.

GroovyDruid is my hero! :D


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eyeenteepee
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22 Dec 2005, 6:46 am

rearden wrote:
"You'll be at a bar and bump in to some guy or his girlfriend by accident, and he'll confront you about it. You won't notice what you did or realize he's wanting to fight, so you'll give him that stupid confused look you get. You'll be genuinely concerned and wanting to understand what his problem is, but he'll see you as being arrogant and thinking he's an idiot because of the way you look at him. It pisses me off, even though I know you don't mean anything by it. Then he'll start beating you, and I'll have to jump in because you'll still be trying to figure out what's going on and why he's fighting before you're able to react."


Been there, done that. :(

That's one of the reasons I tend to stay clear of Pubs and Clubs these days, it's too scary when you don't know what trouble you'll find or when it's going to start, plus sober people don't tend to react as badly!


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22 Dec 2005, 2:43 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
This is very well written. I couldn't have said it better, myself. I enjoy reading the Dear Aspie columns. :)


I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for the praise. :D It's also good to get feedback on the column. Since there's no counter there, I have no way of knowing how many people are reading it.


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22 Dec 2005, 2:59 pm

eyeenteepee wrote:
Thanks GD. I wish I had that knowledge 25 years ago!


Most welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.

eyeenteepee wrote:
It sounds like keeping in check the unintended projection of aggression and arrogance is equally important to adult Aspies too....


YES!! !

In some ways, it's more of a problem. See, when children don't like your attitude, they beat you up, and you know about it. The truth comes out.

Adults aren't allowed to beat people up--unless it's at a bar or something, like you said. So what happens? They despise you from a distance. They natter about you behind your back. They subvert you to your boss, and all the while the adult aspie is wondering, "Why aren't things going well?" The answer is, his coworkers think he's distant and arrogant, but they won't say anything!

Being able to spot the body language can be enormously helpful. For example, I was over at UCLA the other day to watch a play. After, I went out with the actors.

I had decided to project type-A, aggressive body language that evening. I felt it would be appropriate. So I did. The girls loved it. They were all hovering around and talking to me. Most of the guys were defferential, not threatening.

But then I noticed one guy, call him Matt. Well, Matt started giving off PISSED body language. He began to be abrupt with people around him and to give me dirty looks. At one point, he tried to snatch something out of my hands I was carrying. It took me about ten seconds to realize: THIS GUY IS THE DOMINANT MALE OF THE GROUP, AND I'VE CHALLENGED HIS AUTHORITY.

Sure enough, as the evening rolled on, he tried to keep me from talking to the women of the group by standing between me and them, and gave off countless signs of authority, such as sitting with his legs spread wide apart, throwing his arms around people, etc. He was indeed the Old Lion, and without even having been introduced to me, he hated my guts, because I was a challenger.

I am absolutely sure that after I left that group for the evening, Matt bad-mouthed me for days. Without even talking to him again, I know he told them I was an arrogant, pushy as*hole who was just trying to get with the girls, and that they should all watch out. Why do I know this? Because it's how an NT dominant male is programmed to react. He didn't even consciously know where all this stuff came from.


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06xrs
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22 Dec 2005, 3:13 pm

That's always kind of been my theory on why Aspies (or me before I heard there were others like myself) get bullied. Its because we don't know we're being shoved around until even days later. Then one day we all of a sudden go "hey, wait a minute". In high school, the dominant guys were always bumping into me in the hall. It wasn't until college that I realized this was a form of bullying.
Of course being an Aspie has its advantages. Once a guy squared off with me for some feigned offense between classes. I was still trying to figure out what the heck he was talking about, but by now I had been in high school for 5 years and knew the fight was unavoidable. My standard rule was to always make them throw the first punch and make sure a teacher sees it, so I stalled and backed away until we were in front of a classroom. I don't remember exactly how it went, but right as the teacher appeared, he gave me his best shot across the jaw. I've always known I had a high pain threshold, and the look on his face was priceless as I just stood there. It was just kind of like "Oh Sh**! I've bitten off more than I can chew now!" Then the teacher hauled him off to the principles office. Ah high school...glad its over.



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22 Dec 2005, 4:13 pm

I think our language often adds to the sense of arrogance as well, more so than the body language does. Personally I have had many people who knew me casually say that when they met me they thought I was very concieted, and I found out later it is because NT's will lie in order to fit in.
For instance if they did very well on a project and someone asks them how it went;they will say "well, it was ALRIGHT, I mean, I could have done this better, and so and so did a lot of it" Where as me and a lot of aspies would say "It came out exactly the way I had hoped." (apparently admitting you did something right is arrogant.)
Just like if some one tells me I look nice, I just say thank you, I have been told this is arrogant too. (which I find funny, because I think when NT women say things like "Oh, this makes me look fat" they are merely trying to force someone to compliment them, which is pathetic.)


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22 Dec 2005, 6:02 pm

Our AS child just has no fear, not with people or anything really. We feel like its part that he does not *know* to be afraid or see why you should be. A bully expects him to cower or studder at his presence, and he just does not do it. My son is just no respecter of persons. High and low, young and old - they're all the same to him. No special treatment for anyone. Everyone gets the same ole' Jake. (Which sometimes causes problems with authority figures!)



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26 Dec 2005, 9:16 pm

That's an interesting way to put it. Maybe that's the reason I never got bullied (much) although Aspies are supposed to be prone to being bullied; my response to being 'pushed' is to batten down and start growling (sometimes literally when I was younger) at the aggressor. My defensive behaviors usually made it very clear that I was willing to scuffle if that's what it took to be left alone. I may have been a skinny little kid with huge glasses--stereotypical nerd!--but according to friends and family members, when I want to I can REALLY look scary.

And 06xrs--when I was bullied in middle school, I had a similar reaction. Since I'm female, the bullies generally confined themselves to rumors and backbiting, which I ignored (although it mildly worried my friends and family) because it just didn't seem worth my time. Of course, when I got sick of it and chewed the girl out--very loudly in the middle of the locker area complete with grabbing her when she tried to turn to run because I wasn't finished yet--all teasing stopped.



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28 Dec 2005, 4:44 pm

I was teased of course through junior year in high school, then I started to get over the AS and by college it changed into being ignored.

Only really been threatened physically once and that was at work after I'd been on my own five years.

The manhandling I got was at home as a kid.

A lot of you had it much worse!

I realise how sheltered I am and avoidant my coping style is... always had some sense to stay away from where I didn't belong/wasn't wanted. (But didn't consciously understand why until I learnt about AS five years ago.)

Instinct.

It can be lonely but I don't get beaten up.



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12 Nov 2007, 9:44 am

SolaCatella wrote:
That's an interesting way to put it. Maybe that's the reason I never got bullied (much) although Aspies are supposed to be prone to being bullied; my response to being 'pushed' is to batten down and start growling (sometimes literally when I was younger) at the aggressor. My defensive behaviors usually made it very clear that I was willing to scuffle if that's what it took to be left alone. I may have been a skinny little kid with huge glasses--stereotypical nerd!--but according to friends and family members, when I want to I can REALLY look scary.

And 06xrs--when I was bullied in middle school, I had a similar reaction. Since I'm female, the bullies generally confined themselves to rumors and backbiting, which I ignored (although it mildly worried my friends and family) because it just didn't seem worth my time. Of course, when I got sick of it and chewed the girl out--very loudly in the middle of the locker area complete with grabbing her when she tried to turn to run because I wasn't finished yet--all teasing stopped.


Bullies usually are cowards at heart and can't take it when somebody is stronger than them. I don't subscribe to the idea that bullying behaviour is simply in the genes - most people can control themselves if they so wish and this goes double for bullies.


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12 Nov 2007, 10:27 am

Very good advice. That actually put some perspective on some things for me. Thank you. :)

And I agree with Pooftis. I have been called arrogant plenty of times, and often I wonder, if sometimes using "big words" as some NTs have put it to me, may be taken as a sign of aggression? Perhaps the other person sees this as, they don't quite understand what as said, so (1) they become indignant and aggressive, because they don't want to seem foolish, and be embarrassed in front of a crowd. This I understand. Or, (2) they feel threatened, and initiate a fight to preserve THEIR honor.

Bullies can be adults, too, so I think this entire thread is relevant not just to school, but to the adult world as well.

06xrs- I can also relate to this, and I do think it contributes to the bullying. It took me until I was ten to *fully* realize, that people were laughing at me, not with me. It had to be spelled out to me plainly. So, taking too long to respond definitely does not help matters.

Sarcasm is another issue. For example, a group of girls say to you in passing "nice cloths!", you say "thank you!", girls start giggling, and only sometime later do you realize, oh, they were making fun of me. I have seen this with other people as well. The bullying example initially provided was very typically male- and typically girls use sarcasm to bully. To me, sarcasm is trickier, because It's harder to interpret.

I am curious, as an addendum to this post- thoughts on the more subtle forms of bullying? I have trouble with this, and I'm curious for other Aspies. In my opinion, a gang of five or more girls is different than one male.



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12 Nov 2007, 10:37 am

Of course, I don't think we should be taking the blame for getting bullied upon ourselves. The bullies need to take proper responsibility for their own actions too. However, knowing any behaviours that might given off the "wrong" message to others can help us defend ourselves better.


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