Autism Theory of Mind Revisited
[More Theories & Myths]
A follow-up to Autism Myths - Theory of Mind
Although there are many research works on autism, few address the subjective experience of autism. I propose that autistics have a different form of consciousness from non-autistics, which arose from their different experience of self.
About the self
Our self is not a fixed object, but a changing hologram-like system of sensations (of the body), emotions (and desires), thoughts (of facts and information), perception (the way we organized and judge information) and consciousness - the 5 "combinations" of the mind. The connections between these systems link the self together. Without these connections, the self does not function.
With few connections, the self becomes dispersed and does not "awake" or become active. Thus, the person "sleepwalks". With unbalanced connections (too many in some areas and too little in others), the self becomes very awake in some parts and asleep in others. This distorts the inner experience of the person who then lives a distorted life.
My own experiences revealed the most striking aspects of the autistic consciousness:
|Fact based consciousness - Thoughts and experiences organized chronologically or by logical categories
||People based consciousness - Thoughts and emotions are organized by human archetypes or experiences with people
|Knowledge as the goal, analysisas the tool - The autistic has simple desires, such as to fulfill curiosity and avoid trouble
||Fulfilling desires as the goal, exercising influence as the tool - All thought, words and deeds are aimed to create the right influence among other people to achieve desires
|Emotions are at the edges of consciousness, tying together any unexplainable areas
||Emotions at the core of consciousness, indistinguishable from other conscious experience
Audio-visual imagination separated from tactile senses (like watching TV)
|Tactile senses complement audio-visual imagination without any separation in one's imagination
|Self has an open boundary - tends assume that other people are like them and trusts them equally
||Self has a closed boundary - tends to bond with those they feel "comfortable" with; regulates people with different levels of trust & information access
|Consciousness does not "mark" non-verbal behavior as important, thus dismissing them as irrelevant
||Consciousness reacts instantly to subtle changes in non-verbal cues: Reactive Predictive Communications
|Consciousness experienced mostly through the self as the experiences and thoughts of an individual
||Consciousness experienced mostly through one's social circle as the collective impression one has created
|Locus of control weak or missing - the autistic does not experience a strong sense of control over his thoughts, emotions and deeds
||Locus of control inherent - the non-autistic experiences his thoughts, emotions and deeds as willed by himself
Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind refers to the notion that many autistic individuals do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. Furthermore, it appears that they have difficulty understanding other people's beliefs, attitudes, and emotions.
This passage might offend autistics because it sounds like this:
I have no idea why autistic people think the way they do. Maybe it is because they are not socially intelligent enough to understand that other people do not think the same as them. Perhaps we can only make them understand by dumbing down social skills and then patiently teach them.
I propose the "Theory of Self" as a substitute. The key is that:
- Autistics could not understand non-autistics because they do not have the experience of non-autistics
- If they have such experiences, it will help them understand and adapt to mainstream society
- To experience this, they must recreate the sense of self as experienced by non-autistics
People who are color blind could not imagine certain colors, but if we can let them catch a glimpse of colors, they will understand. If they spontaneously recover their sense of colors, their visual instincts will take over and help orientate them fast. Likewise, I believe that if only we can let the autistic catch a glimpse of how non-autistics experience life, it will aid them much in their development.
The first step I took was to realize that I existed. For me to exist, I must choose. For me to choose, I must defy what others ordered me to do in order to build a future that I envisioned myself. It is not easy to develop their will, especially if they have authoritarian parents who micromanage their every decision.
The second step also requires much courage, because the autistic often develops hidden barriers as they grow up. I call these "psychological barriers", which may consist of:
- Fear of people, novel situations, being judged as inferior, social rejection
- Anger from being bullied, mistreated, misunderstood, ignored, rejected
- Loneliness from social handicaps, difficulty finding play partners & team mates
- Pride from rejecting non-autistic ways, associating with "elite" people, being a genius or expert
These habitual responses arise emotional patterns embedded in the subconscious. Although non-autistics can also experience them, autistics are especially vulnerable due to their difficulty adapting to life on Planet Earth. I experienced 5 factors that helped me resolve these barriers:
- Conversations with God books - convinced me that the world is good, beautiful & meaningful
- Emotional Releasing - provided a tool to release old patterns consciously
- Work experience with accommodating colleagues - allowed me to try new experiences in real life
- Writing stories - the stories came alive as I wrote, giving me a glimpse into the life of non-autistics
- Experiencing my life work - seeing the results of my life work told me why I must make the effort
The journey to adapt to Planet Earth took many years, starting from the end of 2002 to 2007.
- I started feeling that the world is alive, even the rocks and buildings
- Emotions became strong and difficult to control, much like wild horses
- 3D perception returned spontaneously together with my bodily awareness
- I started to relax as my perception of time normalized and I stopped feeling anxious or bored
- People made sense as I "felt them within me", and I just knew what to say or do
- I began to understand many concepts "in a flash" without using words or logic
- Emotions moderated themselves into a sense of confidence after I gained enough real-life experience to understand how the world works
I believe that I was catching up on my emotional development from the pre-teenage level to post-teenage during this period of time. It seemed that my systems were only waiting for me to begin exploring my emotions before it triggered everything else.
I believe that this inside-out approach will work for other high functioning autistics with self-consciousness. However, they must first choose to accept non-autistics and change their ways. As I am not an autism professional, I can only share my observations in the hope that it will help other people.