At what point is a special interest considered weird/bad?

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Deinonychus
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01 Oct 2012, 4:43 pm

I ask this question because until I began reading about AS as an explanation for other issues I never thought of having passionate interests as being strange. I assumed everyone had them to some degree and also thought it was regarded as a positive thing to be very passionate about a particular subject or skill, as that behaviour is what leads to being among the most skilled or intelligent, and therefore valued.

However, I get the impression that as part of the diagnostic criteria for AS the "special interests" are generally regarded as negative or at least weird. Is this because some AS interests are too obscure, because they are seen as too obsessive and interfering with everyday life, or something else? I don't see mine as having any negatives and the only one I can think of is "somewhat inconvenient for NTs". I also can't imagine living without special interests. Recently my mother and her partner both had to stop working for a period of time for different medical reasons, and they both appear to be bored out of their minds and demotivated and say they don't know what to do with themselves. I find this behaviour bewildering and irrational, especially when the same people who complain about having free time also complain about disliking their jobs! Having the freedom to work on the things I love all the time is my ideal existence and I'm very relieved I have them and don't have to deal with the existential angst others seem to suffer when they are not having things to do enforced on them.

Thoughts?



jonny23
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01 Oct 2012, 4:46 pm

I'm not sure they are bad unless you're ignoring your responsibilities.

edit: unfortunately I have a tendency to do that



eric76
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01 Oct 2012, 4:53 pm

I suspect that NT's tend to be "tribal" and have their primary interests generally decided for them by their "tribe".

Having "non-tribal" interests means you have to go it alone, but going it alone doesn't really bother most people with AS and is really quite attractive to it.

Perhaps instead of "NT" and "Aspie", it should be "tribal" and "non-tribal".

I don't know if I have Asperger's or not. Some days I'm pretty sure that I do and other days I'm pretty sure that I do not. But there is one thing for sure, I'm definitely non-tribal.



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01 Oct 2012, 5:11 pm

When it hurts you or someone else.


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01 Oct 2012, 5:14 pm

eric76 wrote:
I suspect that NT's tend to be "tribal" and have their primary interests generally decided for them by their "tribe".


This is an interesting observation and I think you are right (though I also think there are many non-tribal NTs as well). It does seem that most regular people have their lives decided for them by others and events or just default to the cultural norm, such as the job they have and the things they do when not working.

This is very puzzling for me as a person who tends to seek out interesting new subjects and is usually extremely interested in things other people have never even heard of. I don't understand this lack of desire to seek new things and new information. Aspies seem to be considered restrictive and repetitive in their interests. I feel this is the wrong way around. The majority of NT people seem to have restricted activities and interests (pop culture and talking/drinking in social gathering-places are all most people I meet seem interested in). Aspies are way out there! I can't carry a conversation about TV shows or pop music but I can tell you lots of wonderful things about organic food, carnivorous plants, classical music, spirituality or mythology. Which person is the one who is boring? :?



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01 Oct 2012, 5:35 pm

I think the "bad" in the special interests is having few or no other people sharing them. That being said I do think having "interests" decided by a "tribe" to most people aggravates this, and if people followed their hearts instead of the crowd Asperger's "special interests" may not be as bad! I've indeed felt social pressure to follow celebrity gossip, the latest music coming out, who played what in TV and movies, etc. but never truly became interested in those things. As for music, I'm way more interested in how it SOUNDS than who wrote it.


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League_Girl
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01 Oct 2012, 5:57 pm

They become bad if they take over your life. You put your interest first before your kids or work or school or partner and responsibilities. Also that is all you ever talk about and nothing else and you never want to to hear what others want to talk about, you only want them to listen to you about your interests. It's also considered bad if people have to put up with it around you even if you are not talking about it or don't spend all your time with it. It's also bad if you expect your life to evolve around it so you refuse to get a job that has nothing to do with your interest and you can't get a job within your interest.

I also used to talk to an aspie online and his obsession was sex and women. He was going back to school to get a career in it so he can work with vaginas or something (I don't remember the exact career he was going for). But he had to talk about it or else he would feel like beating people up if he can't. So he end up talking to other women about their bodies and sex and he got suspended from school for sexual harassment. He knew what he is doing is wrong but he says he can't help it. He knows it's all sexual harassment and he does care but he says he can't help it. I think that is when that obsession is bad and it needs to be treated so it gets under control. He even cheated on his wife because she was unable to have sex. He broke up with his girlfriend because he wanted sex all the time and she couldn't handle it and give him enough. If going to porn sites or finding women online to talk about sex to was good enough, he be fine then and not bad. Same as if he and his wife had an open relationship. But he had to actually talk about it to real women than going to porn sites and looking at photos and watching videos or renting porn movies or even reading erotic stories. I hope he does get help for this so it gets under control but he quit talking to me because he didn't want to upset me.


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01 Oct 2012, 6:16 pm

If your special interest is all you want to talk about, or 90 percent of the posts that you make on WP are about your special interests and you don't take an interest in the special interests of the other members here.


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Matt62
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01 Oct 2012, 7:12 pm

My earliest obsession was dinosaurs. Classic for ASDs & NT kids also! However, they were all I thought about/read about/talked about for 2-3 years of Elementary school. To the effect of hurting my grades/ annoying my teachers/boring or scaring off classmates & potential friends.Also, of course, the "Know It ALL" effect where it seems you think yu are better than other people. VERY BAD! Of course, I did learn more about this subject & jumped started my reading skills, which became 5th grade level by 2nd grade. This is the classic example of how this trait can end up being bad/destructive...
Afterwards, it was bugs & I was just a nerd. LOL

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01 Oct 2012, 7:25 pm

Callista wrote:
When it hurts you or someone else.


Yes. Exactly. Emotionally or physically.


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01 Oct 2012, 7:30 pm

jonny23 wrote:
I'm not sure they are bad unless you're ignoring your responsibilities.


I agree.



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01 Oct 2012, 11:09 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
If your special interest is all you want to talk about, or 90 percent of the posts that you make on WP are about your special interests and you don't take an interest in the special interests of the other members here.

What! Just 'cause I don't follow My Little Pony? :D

When they interfere with work/studies, eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, or breathing


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02 Oct 2012, 8:09 am

Callista wrote:
When it hurts you or someone else.


Yes. This is the situation I seem to be in right now. Not good. :(

When they affect your everyday life, such as sleeping or eating.



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02 Oct 2012, 9:58 am

To me, 'weird' and 'bad' are separate things.

A special interest is weird when it is shared with very few other people, or you express your interest in a way that differs a lot from most people. A lot of people are prejudiced against weird special interests, just as they're prejudiced against anything weird, but really it's just part of diversity and they should accept that. In fact, sometimes these interests can be quite useful - pretty much every person who is autistic or suspected-to-be-autistic and highly successful made a career out of a special interest, usually an unusual one.

A special interest is bad when it leads you to do things that harm yourself or others. For example, if your intense interest in poisons leads you to start poisoning people, that's bad. Or if your intense interest in World of Warcraft leads you to regularly forgo eating and sleep in an attempt to take down the hard bosses, that's bad too.

Remember that a lot of what is written about AS is colored by prejudice. We're an oppressed minority - people want us to rewire our brains for the convenience of NTs. Take what the mainstream says about AS with a grain of salt.



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02 Oct 2012, 11:12 am

Ettina wrote:
To me, 'weird' and 'bad' are separate things.

A special interest is weird when it is shared with very few other people, or you express your interest in a way that differs a lot from most people. A lot of people are prejudiced against weird special interests, just as they're prejudiced against anything weird, but really it's just part of diversity and they should accept that. In fact, sometimes these interests can be quite useful - pretty much every person who is autistic or suspected-to-be-autistic and highly successful made a career out of a special interest, usually an unusual one.

A special interest is bad when it leads you to do things that harm yourself or others. For example, if your intense interest in poisons leads you to start poisoning people, that's bad. Or if your intense interest in World of Warcraft leads you to regularly forgo eating and sleep in an attempt to take down the hard bosses, that's bad too.

Remember that a lot of what is written about AS is colored by prejudice. We're an oppressed minority - people want us to rewire our brains for the convenience of NTs. Take what the mainstream says about AS with a grain of salt.


I liked this post a lot, thank you.

The main reason I made this thread was because I was trying to understand why the things I read about ASD seem to frame special interests in a generally negative light (with an occasional nod to it sometimes being a career advantage). However, all of the ways people have stated they could be strange or bad seem to be extreme and not the norm for anyone here. It seems to me that it must be a small minority who take their interest to such an extreme. Which means that, in my view, our interests should be considered a good thing (with a nod to the potential of taking them too far; but too much of anything is bad for you).

I certainly can't come up with anything negative about my own interests - in the view of others they may appear to prevent me from having a social life, but that is only a bad thing if you want one, which I don't, and is also an incorrect assumption as I wouldn't be seeking social situations even without them. On the other hand, they appear to make my life much richer and more enjoyable than people who live without them, and also result in the gathering of skills and knowledge. Which leaves only "it's kinda weird" - the opinion of those who don't really get it.

I think there is a need for much of the literature about AS to be rewritten - preferably by AS people!