Saturday, August 2, 2014

"The Dangerous Practice of Empathy" from THE LANCET

I have included the entire article: my italics.

The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9679, Pages 1940 - 1941, 6 June 2009
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61055-2 Copyright © 2009  Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

The dangerous practice of empathyText

An important role for the medical humanities is to stimulate imaginative insight into the lives and experience of others through literature and other art forms. The idea is that such exposure will develop “empathy” as an attribute useful in clinical practice. Those interested in medical humanities have promoted the importance of this concept, and the “practice of empathy” has become an icon of the growing medical humanities movement in the USA and the UK. US physicians have even gone so far as to adopt empathy as one of the accredited “skills” required by the American Council for Graduate Education. However, another crucial role of the medical humanities is to provide a critical watching brief on the way in which medicine can highjack complex ideas, confining and defining them in its own terms, and changing their meaning and impact. I would suggest that this has happened with the notion of empathy and that it is worthwhile examining the idea and discussing whether it makes sense to regard it as a clinical skill at all. I am not sure that empathy, in the sense of emotional identification, is possible. I also query the way that empathy has become an object of measurement among some physicians.
Both of these concerns—about definition and measurement—derive from a fundamental problem with the philosophy of human nature espoused by traditional medical practice: that of regarding the patient as an object whose physical being, psychological responses, and emotional experiences can all be broken down, accessed, and recorded. Even David Hume, who thought that a “science of man” was possible, was cautious about how knowledge was to be obtained. As he argued in his A Treatise of Human Nature: “We ourselves are not only the beings, that reason, but also one of the objects, concerning which we reason.”
In clinical practice, the patient is the object of a physician's scrutiny; the doctor maintains an objective distance. But empathy requires understanding of subjective experience: the patient feels something and the doctor should access comparable subjective feelings and “stand in the patient's shoes”. This relationship, I would suggest, has to be one of subject and subject rather than object (patient) and subject (doctor). Some of the complexities become more apparent by considering empathy in psychotherapy. Carl Rogers advocated “person centred therapy”, an approach to psychotherapy that involves the therapist practising “congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard”. However, in developing his ideas, Rogers discussed the potential limitations of his view of empathy with the philosopher and theologian Martin Buber. Buber's view was that empathy was impossible in a therapeutic situation because of a mismatch of perspectives:
“You [the therapist] have necessarily another attitude to the situation than he [the patient] does…You are not equals and cannot be. You have the great task, self-imposed—a great self-imposed task to supplement this need of his and to do rather more than the normal situation.”
Buber argues that the problem for the clinician or therapist is one of keeping the patient in objective relation to himself because of his “great task”. In his book I and Thou, Buber describes his view of human connectedness. He distinguishes between two modes of relationship, “I/Thou” and “I/It”. The former describes a relationship whereby two people encounter each other in an authentic way, without objectification of the other. “I/It” is his term for the kind of interaction that necessarily takes place in the clinic. One person meets the other not as a fellow being but as a conceptualisation or type of person: as “doctor” or “patient”. A full experience of mutuality or understanding is not possible.
As clinicians we may regard patients as biochemical machines that need fixing; as wayward children who need to be led to eat correctly/stop smoking/exercise; as boxes of molecules to which we can add other corrective molecules. Mary Midgley in Science and Poetry characterises this way of seeing as “atomisation”. Clinicians atomise their patients (psychologically and physically) but at the same time are expected to relate to them as complete entities, or essences. This can require many shifts in perspective during the course of a single consultation.
If the kind of inter-relation that Buber describes is not appropriate for the clinical situation, does that mean empathy is not possible? Patients and doctors are physical beings who have some shared ideas of what it feels like to be in their bodies; to feel heat, cold, pain, or numbness. If I lay my cold hand upon a patient's abdomen, I—as a person with skin sensitive to heat and cold—appreciate how my hand might feel and attempt to warm it or at least warn the patient that it might feel cold. However, as an emotional and cognitive being, what I am feeling and thinking is not apparent to the person who is with me. Their only access to my mind lies in what I say and how I look. As Edith Stein, a student of Edmund Husserl, wrote in The Problem of Empathy:

“What another person experiences at a certain moment is not directly given to me. But the presence of the other is directly given, and so is the awareness that the other is an experiencing self. This cannot be compared with other modes…of experience. The experience of another is unique. This means that other modes of experiencing only are of partial help in explaining how the subjective becomes intersubjective. It also means that there is no doubt about who is experiencing primarily, and who is sharing, or experiencing, the experience of the other.”
It seems, then, that it is possible for us as clinicians to have some empathic understanding of what it might be like to be in someone's shoes physically, but not psychologically. All that is possible psychologically is an awareness of the other as an experiencing being; and, if we are open enough and take time to ask, they can tell us what that experience is like.
But are we in danger of missing a lot if we do not have some access to, or understanding of, a patient's “real identity”. Returning to the claims of medical humanities, is it possible for clinicians to draw understanding of the experiencing other from their own encounters in Buber's “normal” situation—where two people interact without a therapeutic relationship that turns one of them into an object?
Literary encounters would certainly not fulfil Buber's requirement that intersubjectivity is the key to experiencing another person. The reader cannot experience intersubjectivity if she or he is not present in the world of the book. But although the reader is not physically present, an attentive reader can certainly be psychologically present. In her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath's character, Esther, describes a severe depressive episode, unrelieved by sleep:
“I saw the days of the year stretching ahead like a series of bright, white boxes, and separating one box from another was sleep, like a black shade. Only for me, the long perspective of shades that set off one box from the next had suddenly snapped up, and I could see day after day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue.”
Plath's masterful metaphor induces fear with a sense of monotony and pointlessness—what the character herself must be feeling, in fact. As readers we have direct access to what is in the fictional character's mind: the writer is describing it for us. We have no such interpreter for the clinical situation. But it is important to exercise caution here. What readers experience in response to writing is not an authentic I/Thou experience. It is possible to shed tears in response to a particularly powerful passage, but then switch easily to the real world without the lingering distress that a real problem of this kind would cause.
I suspect that this is also the case for doctors' empathic responses to patients. I can be close to tears with a patient, but 10 minutes later engage in a light-hearted conversation with a colleague over coffee. The sadness, or fear, or whatever feeling I have experienced is not sustained, and is so different from what the patient is feeling that it seems disrespectful to suggest that I somehow participate in his or her experience.
I have suggested that true empathy derives from an experience of intersubjectivity and this cannot be achieved in the doctor—patient relationship. But all is not lost. Doctors do not need to feel the distress of their patients themselves to do something about it. We may have a momentary mirroring of that patient's feeling within us, but what we maintain is sympathy (feeling for not with the patient) and the need to respond. It is potentially dangerous and certainly unrealistic to suggest that we can really feel what someone else is feeling. It is dangerous because, outside the literary context, where we are allowed direct experience of what a fictional patient is feeling, we cannot gain direct access to what is going on in our patient's head. As Stein says, only “their presence is directly given”—so our assumptions may be wrong and our response may be based on a false assumption. Any mirroring of feeling will always differ quantitatively and qualitatively from that patient's experience. A doctor who responds to a patient's distress with “I understand how you feel” is likely, therefore, to be both resented by the patient and self-deceiving.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Are Asperger Children Farouche?

Farouche: Shy, retiring, unsociable, hesitant, sullen or shy in company, stubborn, intransigent, marked by shyness or lack of social graces, and when applied to women, distant and unapproachable

Origin: Wild, shy, from Old French, alteration of forasche, from  Late Latin forasticus living outside, from Latin foras outdoors; akin to Latin fores door. First Known Use: 1765

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Exhaustion: It's an Asperger Thing

Running errands requires some social interaction. I often do this type of 'socializing' all on one day because I know I'll feel exhausted whether I do one errand or several. It's not the same fatigue one feels after lifting heavy boxes or cleaning out the attic. It's hard to describe.

I have felt this way all my life, and I know that it's built into my perceptions and reactions because no "method' I have tried has changed how I feel, such as practice speaking with people, including people I know or like, or talking it over with a therapist, or learning relaxation techniques.  

When I'm speaking with someone I feel extremely awkward. I have no language or speech disability; what I'm saying sounds fine, but it feels wrong. I look at the other person and have no idea whether or not my awkwardness is apparent to them. It probably doesn't matter. I would feel uncomfortable even if the person came right out and said, "You sound perfectly normal to me," or "Wow, you are one odd human being."

What causes this type of simple verbal exchange to use up so much energy? The explanation that feels correct is that it requires me to focus my mind in a way that is not normal for me.  This takes great effort, as if I'm a fish that has been lifted out of the water and is gulping for air. When I return home to my comfort zone, or escape to the countryside, I'm a happy fish that has been released into it's proper lake or river.

"Look Henry, you caught an Asperger. Better throw it back!"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Good News! New blog on Wordpress

A new blog on Wordpress /

Asperger: The HypoSocial Human

in contrast to Neurotypical: The HyperSocial Human

The new blog asks, How did we get to the present state of human development, in which a new, hypersocial human (Homo sapiens sapiens or Modern Human -  a domesticated version of Homo sapiens), which has existed a mere few thousand years, has eliminated older humans? 
Sneek peek: I explore the
Social humans gave up a lot of brain power
in exchange for the false security of 
supernatural beliefs. 
 possibility that Asperger individuals retain legacy brain functions that were common for 95% of human history, prior to the Agricultural Revolution, an event that challenged and changed humans in ways far different than those that shaped early humans. Permanent settlements, a dramatic increase in population density, and dependence on labor intensive agriculture, transformed an ancient vision of seamless reality into the steep pyramid of social inequality that rules the peoples of earth today. 

Whatever happened to our wild ancestors?   

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Problems with Visual vs. Abstract Thinking: Calculus

Examples from my college days preserve vividly the difference between those who think visually and those who are adept at abstract thinking. Although visual 'talent' as it was sometimes referred to, was a big bonus for studying geology, from geomorphology (landforms), to mineralogy (the crystal classification system) to structural geology (deconstructing relationships in space and time), in order to earn a degree, geology students were required to pass three semesters of Calculus and Calculus-based physics. I am not an abstract thinker; once mathematics leaves 'Concrete World' my visual mind simply goes blank - literally.  
No problemo! My visual brain could spin the wooden models that (no longer) are used to learn crystal forms, while other students were on the verge of emotional breakdown when tasked with this test. 

First panic, then strategy: I signed up for Calculus based physics before taking a Calculus course. I had to 'see' what Calculus looked like in the real world. It worked; I passed physics by sacrificing a few points on the mathematics while storing equations as whole images, and giving them names like, "the double violin with a thingy under the roof" and attached the image to a process for solving the equation. I had no idea what the equation described mathematically, but I could usually solve it. Calculus texts aid this approach since each chapter is organized by groups of similar equations.
I had no problem with the math that describes geologic processes like stream flow, because I could easily see the realization in nature. So, physics itself was understandable as it applies to the familiar world of motion, energy and behavior of objects, but getting through Calculus as a foreign language was like decoding signals from a very advanced and very alien civilization. 

Graphs! A visual window into the abstract language of mathematics.

From Paul's online math notes:
"Now, let’s take a look at just how we could possibly get two tangents lines at a point. This was definitely not possible back in Calculus I where we first ran across tangent lines. A quick graph of the parametric curve will explain what is going on here. So, the parametric curve crosses itself!  That explains how there can be more than one tangent line.  There is one tangent line for each instance that the curve goes through the point."

For me graphic images, which can be quite a distraction due to their beauty, do help, but in order to 'do math' I had to approach maths as foreign languages. The analogy is fitting: one can learn the forms and grammar of another language, but never become fluent, nor speak it like a native.  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Clifford Simak, City: READ IT

From Omphalos SF Book Reviews (edited for length)
Clifford Simak's masterpiece novel City, is an episodic future history of mankind, told in the form of scholarly analysis of myth by our successor race to the planet Earth, intelligent dogs.
The city is an anachronism. It has outlived its usefulness. In the first instance the city was a tribal place, an area where the tribe banded together for mutual protection. In later years a wall was thrown around it for additional protection. Then the wall finally disappeared but the city lived on because of the conveniences which it offered trade and commerce. It continued into modern times because people were compelled to live close to their jobs and their jobs were in the city.
The first story in the tale is set post WWII. Mankind had made significant advances in technology; people had come to realize that cities were a liability that decreased our odds of survival. Most city folk had migrated to the country. Most of the residents of the city were squatters, and the city government wanted to evict them. John J. Webster was a city elder, and along with the squatters seemed to be the only one who questioned the wisdom of the current government's plan to burn down as many abandoned structures as it could. While the tension between the city government and the squatters intensified, Webster accepted a job with the state-run Bureau of Human Adjustment, whose charter was not employment related, but instead psychologically prepared resisters for life outside of the city.
Jump to story 4, DESERTION:
Set in a small pressure-resistant dome on the small, hard center of Jupiter, Fowler and his dog Towser ran an odd program. Their job was to find out what the native Jupiterian life thought of the human presence on Jupiter, and to explore the extremely deadly Jupiterian landscape. Fowler had become despondent over his job because he had sent out several young men who never returned. The project had a device which could (magically, it seemed) change a human being into a creature called a "Loper," which was one of the Jupiterian forms of life that man thought was intelligent. How humans ever managed to transform themselves into a life form that they did not fully understand was never explained at all. This is the kind of break you must ignore in order to appreciate the novel. When it came time for Fowler to pick the next victim to be transformed and sent out, he caved to pressure from others on his team who had grown tired of following orders to send young men out to their deaths. Rather than send out the next willing soldier, Fowler volunteered himself and his dog to be the next two "volunteers" to be converted into Lopers.
After the conversion Towser became an intelligent creature, equal in smarts to Fowler. The two realized that they could communicate with each other mentally, and saw the Jupiterian landscape with new eyes. They were startled by the beauty of the world around them, and come very quickly to love their new existence. It became obvious that the reason that nobody had ever returned from being sent out as Lopers was because human existence paled in comparison.
Fowler took a step or two, back toward the dome, then stopped.
Back to the dome. Back to that aching, poison-laden body he had left. It hadn't seemed aching before, but now he knew that it was.
Back to the fuzzy brain. Back to the muddled thinking. Back to the flapping mouths that formed signals others understood. Back to eyes that now would be worse than no sight at all. Back to squalor, back to crawling, back to ignorance.
"Perhaps some day," he said, muttering to himself.
"We got a lot to do and a lot to see," said Towser. "We got a lot to learn. We'll find things - "
Yes, they could find things. Civilizations, perhaps. Civilizations that would make the civilization of Man seem puny by comparison. Beauty and, more important, an understanding of that beauty. And a comradeship no one had ever known before - that no man, no dog had ever known before.
I discovered that I was like Jupiter's Loper, judged as an outsider by fellow humans, confined within extraordinarily limited perceptions of reality. But unlike the Loper, my story would play out on Earth: I would live a dual existence, protecting the Loper within from extinction, from bullying, and from acts of stunning ignorance and indifference on the part of those humans who took it upon themselves to squeeze the vitality out of every living thing they touched. As time went on I slipped away to my Jupiter, right here on Earth.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Special Hell Reserved for Asperger Females

Is it not understandable that at times Asperger females may be irritable?
Traditional Christian Myth, or "The Story of Man," goes like this: A female over-flowing with self-confidence contradicts the well-worn prejudice that women are inferior to men and therefore ought to be submissive in all things. As a young child on the track to being socialized into the "sisterhood" of self-denial, I soon discovered that it is a crime against God, Nature (not actual nature, but some trumped up feeble concept of nature) and of course, Men, for a female child to wander the world freely displaying equal confidence, intelligence, and expectations for success and fulfillment that males automatically demand. What
really irked me was that I was told that when I encountered a male who was less intelligent, that I was to act dumb and helpless. 

If it had been known at the time (1950-60s) that I was Asperger, my life would have been over: my brain handed on a platter to the Priests of psychology, for re-education, retraining, and possible water-boarding. I would have been  forced into drug-induced conformity. I would have heard ceaseless condemnations about how I was born without empathy, a theory of mind, or the ability to use my eyes properly. I escaped all this by being born in a pre-Asperger's Era: I made my own life out of what I had.

The sad irony is, that many males (grudgingly perhaps) did accept my peculiar female aberrance without much more than an initial statement of surprise; male coworkers and friends often noted my confidence and abilities as unusual, but not as unwelcome. As predicted, males who lacked confidence sometimes reacted badly, but again, males adapt; they adapt every day to being around more confident males.

The Hell that awaits Asperger girls is the special hatred that comes from the sisterhood, that self-aggregating gang of killer-cannibals who defend the status quo of female inferiority. No one who has seen these females in action can deny their blood lust; no female who has received their wrath can shake the shock of vicious betrayal by her own sex. The equality and trust that Asperger individuals crave from birth are dashed, like a baby seal being clubbed to death.

Yeah, this is what it feels like, ladies.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Theory of Mind" Exposed as Delusional Thinking

It turns out that the vaunted psychological “Theory of Mind” is psychology's euphemism for delusional thinking; a supernatural, superstitious, and magical type of brain processing common to “normal” people. Anyone who demonstrates rational, science-based thinking is abnormal.
The fact that Scientific American would publish this is shocking.
People with Asperger’s less likely to see purpose behind the events in their lives By Karen Schrock | May 29, 2010 |SCIAM BLOGS

BOSTON—Why do we often attribute events in our lives to a higher power or supernatural force? Some psychologists believe this kind of thinking, called teleological thinking, is a by-product of social cognition. As our ancestors evolved, we developed the ability to understand one anothers’ ideas and intentions. As a result of this “theory of mind,” some experts figure, we also tend to see intention or purpose—a conscious mind—behind random or naturally occurring events.
A new study presented here in a poster at the 22nd annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science supports this idea, showing that people who may have an impaired theory of mind are less likely to think in a teleological way. 
Bethany T. Heywood, a graduate student at Queens University Belfast, asked 27 people with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild type of autism that involves impaired social cognition, about significant events in their lives. Working with experimental psychologist Jesse M. Bering (author of the "Bering in Mind" blog and a frequent contributor to Scientific American MIND), she asked them to speculate about why these important events happened—for instance, why they had gone through an illness or why they met a significant other. As compared with 34 neurotypical people, those with Asperger’s syndrome were significantly less likely to invoke a teleological response—for example, saying the event was meant to unfold in a particular way or explaining that God had a hand in it. They were more likely to invoke a natural cause (such as blaming an illness on a virus they thought they were exposed to) or to give a descriptive response, explaining the event again in a different way.
Once again we see that so-called scientific studies by psychologists are tainted by a bizarre insistence that delusional (magical-supernatural-religious thinking) is required in order to be a socially-acceptable human, and indeed that supernatural belief is necessary to social acceptance. Is it surprising then that American education is deficient in science and math instruction, and is instead focused on magical social ideas like the insistence that smiley face stickers 'create' self-esteem? 
It's unbelievable!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


If you want to know about gardening, ask a gardener.
If you want to know about mountain climbing, ask a mountain climber. If you want to know about being Asperger, ask an  Asperger.

The Internet is an ocean of trivia, misinterpretation, hearsay, repeated repeats of out-of-context quotes, pseudoscience, bad interpretations of surveys and studies, and information tailored to sell products and services. The Internet is like the mid-Pacific gyre, a vast floating collection of human products collected by ocean currents into a tangle of debris that must be teased apart and reassembled in order to discover the sources of its content.

The diagnosis known as Asperger Disorder is like the gyre - a collection of sometimes contradictory symptoms and behaviors, both vague and specific, negative and tolerable, treatable, but not treatable. Those individuals who are not diagnosed as children, but as adults, face a dilemma. On one hand the diagnosis is a relief: light bulbs go off and illuminate the mysterious tension in the dialog between the individual and society, but the light is also harsh, falling on failed relationships, on bullying and rejection, and on cherished goals that have receded across the horizon while one was simply trying to survive in an alien world. 

The unshakable feeling remains that the Asperger diagnosis reflects a hidden fact of nature: I am different, fundamentally and irrevocably different, and no diagnosis that claims that the Asperger style of brain processing is defective, simply because we are not socially-obsessed, can change the certainty that we embody an equally valid human type.  
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Friday, June 27, 2014

The Magical Supernatural Neurotypical Universe

Social humans have replaced physical reality (nature) with a 'cloud' of incorrect concepts (beliefs) that uproot individuals from personal experience, and fool them into believing in the existence of a supernatural universe. This supernatural dimension exists outside of nature - that is, we inhabit a 'space' in which the Laws of Nature do not apply. Miracles are events that defy the Laws of Nature; miracles do not happen. Cause and effect are thrown away in favor of irrational belief. If this supernatural description of the universe were true, nothing we see, hear, or otherwise experience would exist. We would not exist.

In Judeo-Christian lore, the very real and knowable universe that has been painstakingly described by means of mathematics and the scientific method was not created by the Laws of Physics, but by an imaginary all-powerful male entity. From an early age, when I was first exposed to religion, this astonishing denial of a visible, touchable, breathable and knowable Earth, embedded within a 'law and order' universe, astonished me. The ability of religious leaders to convinced everyday people to drop their trust in concrete reality, and to disbelieve their senses, was shocking. Why would people abandoned their native ability to think and act in the world? Why would anyone replace reality with a delusion of words? It was as if people's brains had been scooped out and replaced by a preposterous movie.  
The conflict between physical reality and supernatural delusion was evident from my earliest exposure to religion. The cause of this clash is now obvious: if you want to convince a concrete visual thinker that what you claim to be real is real, you'd better have concrete proof. Not a painting nor a sculpture, not a verse in a book, not a digitally doctored photo. Not some story that blatantly defies nature or common sense. 
What is even more shocking, is that believers manage to ignore the violently psychopathic personality of God described in The Bible, and in defiance of their own sacred text declare that he is a Loving Father.
Convincing masses of people that what is real, is not real, and that what could not possibly be real, is real, required a major change in the human brain, from a perception of the environment as concrete and familiar with how the world works, to acceptance of a mental miasma of the shockingly untrue.
 The social prejudice against Asperger children arises from our perception and trust in concrete reality. For many social people reality does not exist, and the (tiny) number of us who contradict social delusion is intolerable. We must be defective.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Visual Thinking: Neurotypicals Have No Clue

Neurotypicals have no clue as to how visual thinkers think. This is easily demonstrated. Visual thinking is achieved WITHOUT WORDS. That's why it's VISUAL thinking. Visual thinking therefore takes place without concepts. It's  concrete. Many animals are visual thinkers. To read a description, please go to Post 4/10/14 - Childhood: A Female Asperger Mystery 

1. Arranging concepts graphically is not
visual thinking.

2. Arranging concepts by drawing squiggly lines instead of straight lines is not visual thinking.              

  3. Drawing words instead of using type fonts is not visual thinking.

 Visual thinking starts with the
one-to-one correspondence of memory with visual information. 

Visual perception and visual memory are very old in evolution, and are considered primitive by people who believe that verbal language is superior. However, images are packed full of information about the environment that word language simply cannot duplicate.
Illustration from Don Hoffman, Visual Intelligence 
My experience of 'the world' is predominantly visual. My information processing is unconscious. I didn't have to learn to think visually, it's normal for me. Despite scoring high on verbal aptitude tests, I must consciously translate my visual thoughts into written language; it's easy if I'm talking about objects and processes and not concepts, which can have little meaning. 

Translation from visual to verbal description is exhausting, like having your dominant hand tied behind your back and being told to write a journal entry each day for the rest of your life, and that you are only allowed a vocabulary of  10 words. Visual vocabulary is HUGE and common verbal language is so limited and distant from concrete-visual reality, that communication, is at times, nearly impossible and it's best to walk away.  

Neurotypical language does not describe physical reality, it expresses ideas about reality, most of which are incorrect. 

While necessary for functioning in modern social environments, verbal language has become so nonspecific in everyday use that it no longer connects with anything real; it's devoid of content and meaning. What passes for communication is the repetition of empty phrases and the recitation of supernatural scripts. In visual thinking, the image is the content and meaning.

The social demand to use and respond to verbal-written language has diminished visual processing in modern humans; the process is there, but has atrophied; brain resources are redirected or subsumed by words. Visual thinking was likely negatively selected during human domestication. Evolution has a rule: What you don't use, you loose. Research does confirm that typical humans are very poor at visual discernment and memory. The remnant population for whom thinking is predominantly visual is very small. I think the world had better hang on to us before we disappear.

From Don Hoffman, author Visual Intelligence, UC Irvine 2004.
"This seminar is a highly illustrated and accessible introduction to visual intelligence, informed by the latest breakthroughs in vision research. Perhaps the most surprising insight that has emerged from vision research is this: Vision is not merely a matter of passive perception, it is an intelligent process of active construction. What you see is, invariably, what your visual intelligence constructs. Just as scientists intelligently construct useful theories based on experimental evidence, so your visual system intelligently constructs useful visual worlds based on images at the eyes. The main difference is that the constructions of scientists are done consciously, but those of your visual intelligence are done, for the most part, unconsciously." 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Heavyweight Psychology Wars: Piaget vs. Vygotsky

Piaget vs. Vygotsky - like I said in a previous post, EVERYTHING is a war in American culture. I'm only bringing up this clash between two theories in the psychology of child development and learning because the basic assumptions expressed by Piaget and Vygotsky have a huge bearing on how Asperger's children are defined, viewed and treated by the Helping, Caring, Fixing industry.

Piaget is famous for his 4 stages of development, in which children are like trains that must arrive at specific stations on time. This schedule is absolute, in that behavior and cognitive development is "written" in the Big Book of Universal Law, and any deviation from the rule is a sign of a defective child. Also, children are on their own when learning: children must "discover" knowledge by themselves, without social interference, which begs the question, why do we build schools and hire teachers?
How bizarre! The advantage of the long and open window of learning in humans, is that it's efficient! The individual doesn't have to re-discover a vast trove of existing knowledge, which no individual could possibly do, but has the tremendous advantage of learning from OTHER HUMANS, even those who died long ago. 

In my opinion, Piaget's demands are highly unrealistic (indeed wacky) and are founded in religious prescriptions (supernatural ) rather than being scientific. According to Piaget, a child's behavior must conform to a specific set of instructions, regardless of his or her environment, culture, or social reality. Individual talents and personality 'don't count.' Whether or not a child is born in Madagascar, Siberia, or California, this scheme for learning and development is The Scheme. Wow! Sounds like the justification for the American tradition of Corporate / Religious take over (extermination) of cultures around the world.
Vygotsky, as one may guess, since this is a war, is thoroughly disparaged by some 'assembly line' advocates who follow Piaget. It could be that because Vygotsky was Russian, this irrational state of mind is a legacy of the Cold War. The basic differences are:
1. Vygotsky maintained that the cultural and historical context in which the child is born is vital in child learning and development. 2. There are no "stages" of prescribed development. Children  develop along a curve, not in steps. 3. Children learn, not in isolation, but from the adults around them, who provide knowledge and demonstrate skills that help the child to think in increasingly advanced ways until they can function as adults - on their own. Wow! Sounds like a Commie Plot to me!

The tragedy of Psychology Wars, is that American public schools have become the laboratories / battlefields on which competing theories are being tested. Theories are weaponized, politicized and bastardized in the hands of educators, school boards, parents, teachers, consultants, so-called experts, lawyers and publishers - armies of contestants in the dash for funding, contracts, grants and salaries.  Meanwhile, classroom applications of competing psychologies, which are falsely presented as  scientific fact, work at cross-purposes in the classroom, and serve to destroy education.

How does this clash between Titanic Theories of Psychology affect learning and development in Asperger children and - importantly - how society judges us?
Need I say more? This is not how the world works: this is how psychologists remake the world in their own irrational image.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Flight, Fight or Freeze / The Stress Response

Chronic Stress
This cartoon of a fish in a blender sums up what modern life is like. The fish is trapped in an open-ended fear of being chopped into a fish smoothie, and activation of the blender is beyond its control.

For most of human history, threat was a product within the local setting. Quick feet and quick thinking were automatic - you escaped or died. Danger from remote sources (violent storms, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, flood and fire) was assigned to nature spirits, and later to powerful humanlike gods, whose behavior could be influenced by sacrifice and through gifts. The human tactic of preemptive sacrifice, with humans and  animals as victims, is familiar to children - when we disobey our parents we pre-punish ourselves by going to our room or giving up a privilege, in a 'cunning' effort to plea down the consequences of our offense.

Eventually individuals and groups assigned the task of negotiation with the gods to an intermediary or to a priestly class, thereby reducing psychological stress, but not real danger. The establishment of a social hierarchy created new stresses, which modern humans have inherited and increased beyond what is tolerable.

The human body and brain evolved to cope with brief and terrifying stress in the natural environment; after such an event took place (a narrow escape from a flash flood or a confrontation with a large carnivore, let's say) the body needed time to relax and recuperate from the surge of hormones that activate the ancient Fight or Flight response, which is the fundamental response to stress in the animal brain. As modern humans we are thoroughly familiar with this sudden and automatic chemical alteration in our brains and bodies. The loss of control while driving on ice or the sudden intersection with a deer crossing a country road, is enough to send our respiration and heart rate soaring and to distort time and memory. If our stress system is healthy, once the danger has been resolved, our body will return to baseline functions and we are left with a 'focus' lesson in mind. Pay attention, slow down, watch for obstacles.

Humans are not equipped to cope with high levels of chronic stress. The structure and demands of contemporary society fail to deliver what we need to be healthy animals, but instead promote chronic stress that slowly alters and eventually will destroy the mind and body. Many of these stressors are ongoing and inescapable, and the body and brain therefore cannot relax and recuperate.

The photograph of a fish that responds to the source of stress by exiting to a better environment, models the Asperger flight response, which in nature is a vital and much more common option that confrontation. One might call it Nature's intelligent conservative force. But, aggressive male-dominated societies label self-preservation as abnormal, defective, effeminate and cowardly. Wow! How crazy is that?

Flight or retreat is the typical Asperger response to social stress. In modern societies, one is unlikely to be attacked by wild animals, but more than enough danger is provided by the social environment. The person(s) one encounters may be hostile and aggressive due to chronic stress, arrested intellectual and emotional development, or by indoctrination into a cult of bullying and violence. One may be trapped with people whose self-worth depends on demeaning others or who put 'lesser' beings in stressful social situations. Stress is chronic; unnatural levels of conflict, both within the local setting and from global sources, keep individuals in dangerous states of chemical imbalance. Governments and corporations exploit the stress response, because humans cannot think rationally (or think at all) when "stressed-out."       

The male-dominated American culture promotes the fight response: War, war, war! Everything is a war. The War on Poverty, The War on Obesity; Storage Wars, Cupcake Wars! The normalization of conflict as the default mode of human interaction has poisoned civic and political life. The cult of extreme American 'maleness' involves the U.S. in acts of aggression around the world. Up and down the social pyramid, from poor to rich, being a bully is lauded and rewarded.  

In American culture, the instinctive fight response has been perverted from a 'no-other-option' defense to a demand on males to adopt psychopathic behavior; society values  conflict and violence, not cooperation or fair play. Equality has become an obscene joke. Boys are raised in the belief that aggression toward other humans, especially females, is necessary to be considered a man. This pushes vulnerable boys to the emotional breaking point and dooms many males to arrested intellectual and emotional development, with little hope of being adequate fathers. This extreme definition of being male is NOT the traditional and natural view of male strength, which constrains the use of force to the protection of the family and community.  
Instead of government and the people cooperating to correct damaged  environments, the severe maladjustments that have become pervasive in millions of  Americans are 'treated' with illegal and prescribed drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, financially reckless behavior, bullying and other destructive behavior. Television, films, videos, and popular music pummel kids with one message: Violence, whether physical or emotional, is the shortcut to what you want, and it's legitimate. The profitable lie that objects can substitute for human fulfillment is relentlessly promoted via advertising and entertainment. And yet, the inability of millions of Americans to finish minimal education requirements or to function well-enough to hold a job, remains a culture-wide mystery! 

Some environments have been devoid of what the human animal needs for generations; no one alive remembers that life can be secure, productive and fulfilling. Children born into high stress environments cannot know that safe streets and intact families exist, except as distorted media fantasies. Chronic stress has taken over so thoroughly, that we no longer produce competent  and rational citizens and leaders. 

Nature's third response to stress is
the Freeze, which is instinctual in young animals, from deer fawns to lion cubs, whenever the mother must leave them unguarded. The Freeze can be temporary; rabbits will remain motionless, buying time to acquire information about the threat - which direction to run and when? The Freeze in human interaction often is expressed as subservient behavior, learned helplessness, depression, emotional paralysis and chronic fear. These states of mind can mask tremendous rage or end in self harm.
Societies have elaborate systems of behavior that exploit Fight, Flight and Freeze. These responses play out differently in people diagnosed as Asperger. Typical social humans misinterpret an innate flight response as defiance or disobedience, when in the natural world, running away from danger is by far the most successful life-saving action.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Profiting from Created Disorders and Diseases

...As opposed to interaction with elephants, chairs or watermelons...

What isn't mentioned is that the primary function of society is to judge, evaluate and 'be mean' to people.

Creating and treating social anxiety has become a major profit-making engine in the abnormal psychology industry, and in related medical, publishing and consumer products industries. It's a good cop / bad cop business: prey on people's fears of being inadequate, defective and socially unacceptable through advertisements and entertainment. Flood TV with corporate propaganda that masquerades as health news, diet and exercise schemes. 
Pressure, pressure, pressure is applied by cosmetic and retail enterprises, and aimed at young girls and women. Be perky! Be a bitch! Be a whore! Whatever you do, don't be yourself - wear a mask at all times. Your face and body are mistakes that must be corrected.  

Note how shyness, by being paired with social anxiety, expands the ever-growing population of individuals who are abnormal and need "help."
Convince parents that their child is a monster from Mars or the Spawn of Hell. Reassure them that that the kid's problems are not their fault and then sell, sell, sell the Hell out of books, guides, and services. The promise of social salvation rakes in billions in consultation fees, testing fees, publications, seminars and so-called expert advice. Curiously, just like old-time religion, salvation from social rejection requires spending (donating) a lot of money, so get out the credit cards. 
Once a frenzy of self-doubt and insecurity has been achieved, institutions and corporations get even more money on the back end, by promising to treat or cure the abnormal mental state that has been created. It's so American: money, money, money.  
How children in the U.S. are supposed to look - perfection is a monster that kills happiness, and sells products.

American economics is aimed at achieving high levels of anxiety in the population: it's good for business. Entertainment and advertising, as well as distortions of reality presented by 'news' programs, serve to drive feelings of fear and inadequacy in the population. We're a 'Fadistic' (rhymes with sadistic) culture.

And don't forget profits realized by treating the physical damage and disease caused by socially-induced stress! 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Being Asperger / Some Reactions

Feeling time after time that you need to say "I'm sorry", and not knowing what it is you did. 
Being abandoned by a person whom you thought was a friend, when he or she realizes that you are really different, and not pretending.

Being treated like an object, and wanting to yell, "I'm human."

Being referred to as 'quirky' 'eccentric' 'our favorite weirdo' or 'strange, but harmless' when being introduced to someone new, as if the person speaking anticipates that you will do something wrong, and apologizes beforehand.

Being told that you don't care about people, nor do you want friends: that you are incapable of love and affection - by people who claim to care about people, but either they don't, or they don't consider you to be a person. 

Being told that because you are intelligent, well-spoken and an attractive female that you can't possibly be suffering. Your life is perfect.

The instinctive hurt of social lies, especially the big ones, about justice, equality, and fair play; the pervasive disrespect for people of 'lesser' value, by so-called 'normal' people. 
F. Nietzsche, a smart guy!
People criticize your desire and need to spend time alone, but at the same time they want you to go away. In fact, they want anyone who isn't like them to vanish from the universe.

People who think that they own the universe, and go on trashing a planet to which all people belong, but is owned by no one. 

Living in a social world in which 90% of what humans need and value is missing. 

The constant awareness of an invisible cage of words and looks and expectations that social people accept without being aware that it limits or controls them, but which for an Asperger individual is like being locked in a nightmare. 

Knowing that a touch of Asperger's would result in a happier and healthier human population, better distribution of resources, effective problem-solving and greater equality in society, but that nothing we can do or say convince social people that we have a contribution to make.