Describing your social brain to neurotypicals.

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matsev
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01 Mar 2012, 1:51 pm

A big challenge for me is describing how my brain works in a social situation. This is also something that took me a long time to become aware of since I don't have a "normal" model to base it on - other than my observations of others and how they interact with people. I best describe it as being half asleep or even intoxicated. When I interact with others, I'm not fully aware of those around me, the direction of the conversation, the body language or facial expressions, or the intentions of others. My brain feels cloudy, and often I have trouble recalling the social interaction even minutes later. I only feel fully alert and clear-minded when I am engaged in some academic activity such as playing the piano, drawing or studying science and mathematics; when my brain is in deep in thought I feel fully focused. Incidentally the term autism means "to turn inward."
Can any one with Aspergers or high-functioning autism relate to this description? How would you describe that experience?
Please Share!

-Mat



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01 Mar 2012, 3:00 pm

Cloudy, half asleep and intoxicated describe it very well, imho. Social interaction really does have a surreal, dream-like quality for me. Although sometimes it's more like a nightmare that I can't wake up from :)

If I had to describe it, I'd say it's as if the people that I'm talking to are in my peripheral vision. They are somehow blurry and I can't see them clearly, because I don't really look at my conversation partners and only risk a very quick glance on occasion. But even if I force myself to look at someone, I feel weirdly detached and the visuals feel less real than watching a movie. Another comparison that comes to mind is looking out of the window of a moving high-speed train and watching the landscape fly by at 300 kmh. It's hard to get a clear impression of anything and utterly impossible to focus on details.

Voices are muffled too and can be hard to understand when I'm stressed or when there is a lot of background noise. The worst aspect is that the whole experience is out of my control. I feel helpless because I can't control and direct what happens. I go into a conversation with certain expectations, a mental script if you so will, and everything that deviates from the script takes me by surprise and leaves me puzzled and unable to respond. Finally, I don't know what to do with my body. My arms are hanging down like the limbs of a rag doll, and I know I should do something with them while I'm talking, but I have no idea what that might be. It's horribly awkward.



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01 Mar 2012, 3:19 pm

Perhaps it would be useful to compare it to the other person wearing a mask or costume. You can't see the eyes or facial expressions. This makes it harder to connect, not impossible, but harder.

The inwardness, most NTs have experienced that feeling they've forgotten something important, left the iron on or can't remember a fact at the tip of their tongue (e.g. Who was actor who played?). Most NTs have these moments, when they are in that zone they will find it difficult to pay attention to a conversation, perhaps you could try explaining that you are often in a similar mental state.

Jason



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01 Mar 2012, 4:47 pm

In social situations, I get all shy and feel like I shouldn't be here. I feel that everybody's staring at me, judging me, wondering who the hell I am, noticing something odd about me, knowing I look timid, and the whole while I am just feeling incredibly awkward and don't know what to say to people and they don't know what to say to me. Usually when people don't know what to say to someone, they just joke around more (I've actually noticed this), instead of talking seriously. But I find joking around very difficult, because my shy, unconfident tone of voice won't sound right and people might take it seriously, and then I might look stupid. I know when other people are joking around with me, and I like that because then I can laugh, but I can't do it to other people. I naturally know body language in other people, and it's rare that I miss non-verbal cues, but it still doesn't always help me in social situations because I just end up sitting there watching everyone and feeling jealous that I can't be one of them. I am good at reading body language and all of that, but I'm not very good at presenting it myself, instead I always stand stiffly and awkwardly, not knowing where to put my hands, and finding something to fiddle with in my hands because I just cannot stand still. Then I start shifting about; looking at my watch, pretending to be relaxed and enthusiastic, nervously sipping my drink and putting it down for 2 seconds then sipping it again then putting it down for 2 seconds then sipping it again....

It's horrible because in social situations I never know how to be, I just clam up and stand or sit there looking shy, and then I start getting bored because nobody's talking to me and I'm not talking to them, and there are all people milling about and staying socially focused and being able to keep up this social alertness....

This is my only life I will ever get and this is what I feel like in almost every social situation. It isn't fair.


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01 Mar 2012, 6:29 pm

That I don't have the social brain of the average female.


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matsev
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01 Mar 2012, 6:34 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
That I don't have the social brain of the average female.


When you say "average" female, do you mean snobbish and judgmental?... J/K, I couldn't resist. This was basically my opinion of women for years. Now I realize that all you have to do is pretend your gay and they will talk to you....

Okay, who ever said people with autism don't understand sarcasm?

-Mat



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01 Mar 2012, 7:02 pm

My social brain is probably the worst at work. When I see someone, I dont know if to say hi or to start up a conversation with them. It takes me some getting used to them. I typically might start a conversation based on a subject matter. When I'm in the middle of a social situation, sometimes I try to say something but I just have a hard time finding the right timing. And at work, i just don't have the right mood for things. I hate my job, I dont know how to describe it. When things are more socially uncomfortable for me, its hard.



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01 Mar 2012, 7:22 pm

Hum... my experience in social situations with strangers is a lot of self-consciousness, and concentrating in every word to say, looking in my mind for anything relevant to the conversation I can say. It's a bit easier on 1 on 1 conversations, because I've got this memorized routine of asking little impersonal questions, answering some myself, and using keywords to steer it into more interesting topics until I find something I've got in common with the other person. It doesn't work if they use short answers and never ask anything to me, but then that means they're not interested in talking to me anyway and I just drop it. Still, if I'm feeling especially self-consious that won't work smoothly either.



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01 Mar 2012, 8:53 pm

"Don't mind me if I make a horribly inappropriate joke."

I deal with social situations and not necessarily knowing what I'm supposed to be doing by making light of everything. Sometimes this gets me into trouble if I start joking about things I wasn't supposed to make fun of.



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01 Mar 2012, 8:57 pm

"The social area of my brain doesn't work."

Or is simply 'switched off.' All the unwritten social rules people know I am still discovering like a life long Easter Egg hunt. Sometimes I drop an egg and have to find it again. I also don't always like to share my eggs with people especially on bright sunny days or when it rains. Sometimes the hunt tires me out that I just give up.

I feel like some chocolate now.


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01 Mar 2012, 9:09 pm

My brain has more or less the consistency of cottage cheese, and it is in my head. I have no idea what's going on with the social part.


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rchoc
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01 Mar 2012, 10:17 pm

Joe90 wrote:
In social situations, I get all shy and feel like I shouldn't be here. I feel that everybody's staring at me, judging me, wondering who the hell I am, noticing something odd about me, knowing I look timid, and the whole while I am just feeling incredibly awkward and don't know what to say to people and they don't know what to say to me. Usually when people don't know what to say to someone, they just joke around more (I've actually noticed this), instead of talking seriously. But I find joking around very difficult, because my shy, unconfident tone of voice won't sound right and people might take it seriously, and then I might look stupid. I know when other people are joking around with me, and I like that because then I can laugh, but I can't do it to other people. I naturally know body language in other people, and it's rare that I miss non-verbal cues, but it still doesn't always help me in social situations because I just end up sitting there watching everyone and feeling jealous that I can't be one of them. I am good at reading body language and all of that, but I'm not very good at presenting it myself, instead I always stand stiffly and awkwardly, not knowing where to put my hands, and finding something to fiddle with in my hands because I just cannot stand still. Then I start shifting about; looking at my watch, pretending to be relaxed and enthusiastic, nervously sipping my drink and putting it down for 2 seconds then sipping it again then putting it down for 2 seconds then sipping it again....

It's horrible because in social situations I never know how to be, I just clam up and stand or sit there looking shy, and then I start getting bored because nobody's talking to me and I'm not talking to them, and there are all people milling about and staying socially focused and being able to keep up this social alertness....

This is my only life I will ever get and this is what I feel like in almost every social situation. It isn't fair.


Sounds like avoidant personality disorder, which I've struggled with and have overcome to some degree - it can be done! Are you diagnosed with an ASD?



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01 Mar 2012, 10:43 pm

I somehow never feel comfortable in any social situation. I always want to say the absolute best thing, but often there simply isn't any single best thing. So then I have to make some sort of judgment call, and then I've set up a certain 'best' scenario for whatever thing we're talking about, and that only ever seems to cause me trouble.. And, I generally actually don't care about whatever the person is talking about anyway, so it's that much more annoying.

See, if I didn't respond, I'd be rude, and somehow at some point I got the idea that would be a horrible horrible thing to be.. silly me.



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02 Mar 2012, 9:59 am

It's reassuring to here I'm not alone with this issue!

I sometimes explain that because social interaction is a conscious cognitive task for people with AS, rather than a natural instinct, that conversations use a considerable amount of 'brain space' before we even get to the topic of conversation.

Sometimes I liken it to a person without AS trying to solve a maths equation while holding the conversation. It's not a perfect analogy, but it can be useful.

It's also a way to explain why we might look away while holding a conversation - as a means of thinking clearly.



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02 Mar 2012, 11:15 am

For me it is mostly intense. Everything seems to happen at once, all voices can be heard, the lights and sounds (music) is very strong. I usually try to ignore and focus on one person to speak to. The problem I have then is that I don't think what I am saying is interesting and I get bored unless someone is willing to debate a topic like politics or science etc.



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02 Mar 2012, 12:41 pm

rchoc wrote:
Joe90 wrote:
In social situations, I get all shy and feel like I shouldn't be here. I feel that everybody's staring at me, judging me, wondering who the hell I am, noticing something odd about me, knowing I look timid, and the whole while I am just feeling incredibly awkward and don't know what to say to people and they don't know what to say to me. Usually when people don't know what to say to someone, they just joke around more (I've actually noticed this), instead of talking seriously. But I find joking around very difficult, because my shy, unconfident tone of voice won't sound right and people might take it seriously, and then I might look stupid. I know when other people are joking around with me, and I like that because then I can laugh, but I can't do it to other people. I naturally know body language in other people, and it's rare that I miss non-verbal cues, but it still doesn't always help me in social situations because I just end up sitting there watching everyone and feeling jealous that I can't be one of them. I am good at reading body language and all of that, but I'm not very good at presenting it myself, instead I always stand stiffly and awkwardly, not knowing where to put my hands, and finding something to fiddle with in my hands because I just cannot stand still. Then I start shifting about; looking at my watch, pretending to be relaxed and enthusiastic, nervously sipping my drink and putting it down for 2 seconds then sipping it again then putting it down for 2 seconds then sipping it again....

It's horrible because in social situations I never know how to be, I just clam up and stand or sit there looking shy, and then I start getting bored because nobody's talking to me and I'm not talking to them, and there are all people milling about and staying socially focused and being able to keep up this social alertness....

This is my only life I will ever get and this is what I feel like in almost every social situation. It isn't fair.


Sounds like avoidant personality disorder, which I've struggled with and have overcome to some degree - it can be done! Are you diagnosed with an ASD?


Yes - I was officially AS and Dyspraxia, and I have self-diagnosed an anxiety disorder and social phobia.


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