Tag Archives: thoughts


I like to think about how we think. It’s a thing.

Ok, so I’ve been getting increasingly curious about what goes on in people’s heads when they read. It all started when someone assumed that “voice” mattered to me in books. At the time I mostly just looked at them quizzically because I didn’t have the words, but it seemed to trigger a curiosity that just won’t quit.

When I ask people, the answers tend to be a mix of “hearing” the words they are reading, and “seeing” images of what’s going on. I hadn’t thought to ask if those images are more like photographs or more like movies, but I’m interested in that too. (side note: words are in quotation marks because I am not trying to indicate hallucinations, only ways we think about what we are reading)

Much of my curiosity was wondering if I’m different from other people. What I’ve gotten so far indicates that I’m a little bit different, but maybe not by much. See, when I read, there is no “voice.” Or at least, I don’t like it when there is. If I’m reading something that is, for whatever reason, hard for me to process, sometimes I resort to “saying” the words in my head as I’m reading. It slows me down and I consider it a terribly inefficient way to read.

When I am reading something particularly engaging, however, it’s different. For one thing, there is no voice, which is delightful. As other people, I do get images in my head. I don’t know what they are like for other people, but mine are incredibly rich. Damn near movie quality rich. If I am REALLY into a book, I will actually lose conscious awareness of the words entirely. I will disconnect from the world and be in this other world, in the book, experiencing what the characters experience. It’s very immersive. For me, the mark of a well-written book is all about the ease at which this happens, or just how thoroughly it does.

Thinking about what happens in people’s heads when we read transitioned fairly smoothly into wondering how people think. This is a very old ponder for me – I remember being a child and wondering about the nature of a deaf person’s thoughts, though I was too young at the time to be able to properly articulate my question (I tried. I was accused to believing that deaf people don’t think).

I have read a few things by Temple Grandin, and how she apparently believes that different people have different ways of thinking. Word thinkers, picture thinkers, etc. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as all that, but I do believe that there are different ways of thinking and that different people may tend to one way of thinking or another.

I don’t know if word-thinking is actually the most common way of thinking, but it certainly seems to be the most acknowledged. Years ago I once was talking to a friend of mine about verbal thinking. Specifically, I commented that a particular person seemed to be very much a verbal thinker. Her response was “Isn’t everyone?” She was really quite shocked when I answered “Well, no.” Apparently it hadn’t ever occurred to her that thoughts could take a form other than words. That was when it really sunk in, why so many people think that if you don’t have words you must not have thoughts. They believe that words are the ONLY way to have thoughts.

I have word thoughts. I also have image thoughts. And concept thoughts. I rely mostly on concept thoughts. This blog post, for instance, mostly lived in my head as a concept until I actually started writing it. I had a few key words and phrases scattered through, attached to concept thoughts, but most of these words only happened as I’ve been writing. That’s how I write and frequently why I write; writing is how a concept turns into words for me.

This also gets into something that you might have guessed by now – written language is, for me, fundamentally different from spoken language. Or at least, I process them in ENTIRELY different ways. Trying to connect written language to spoken language is actually a rather laborious process for me, so it’s not something I care to do unless I have to. Reading is most pleasurable when it is least like listening.

I’m still curious, just for the record. What goes on in your head when you read? What structure or form do your thoughts take in your head?


Filed under ponder

on passing

Recently I wrote my blog post “How out to be.”  In it, I briefly mentioned that I can pass most, but not all, of the time, and much of it’s premise was on the fact that sometimes passing just isn’t possible.  (also, please note – in my blog when I talk about “passing” I am specifically referring to hiding disability)  While I never explicitly stated it, I imagine it would be entirely reasonable for a reader to assume that if I could pass 100% of the time, the question on being out would have a lot less pressure.  Not only that, but if I could pass 100% of the time, I would.

It’s not even something I had really thought about.  It was implicit in that post because it was implicit in my thinking.  Of course I should pass if I can, of course I should try to hide my differences, of course I should make my disability non-obvious.  Then, in an entirely different context, a friend of mine shared this here link.  Now, this blog is really not about my situation at all.  It speaks of disability in terms of masculinity and feminism, and possibly importantly, it spoke of physical disability.  My disability is only physical in that it is neurological.  There is nothing wrong with my body, and it only shows to others in my behavior.  Still, as I was reading I got to this part:

“It also feels like I have spent years betraying other people with disabilities, by hiding mine, and trying to avoid as much ableism as I could, which, much like any sort of passing and any sort of systematic oppression, is always a losing game.”

The author was speaking of passing as able-bodied (not-disabled) and eventually no longer being able to.  And that really struck me.  I thought (well, not in words since I rarely think in words, but this is how it would roughly translate into words), ‘waitaminute, you mean to say that not passing is an option?  And that it might be the right option?  What?’

It actually took a few days for my brain to work through that one.  Who would have thought that deliberately not passing was an option?  Now, I have seen plenty of discussions on the perils of passing.  I have seen people talk about how challenging it can be to pass, how it can feel like never being allowed to be oneself, how they are worried that their ability to pass may be going away, how annoying it is that when you pass people think that means you don’t have problems anymore, and on and on and on.  Never once have I seen someone say that maybe it’s better not to pass.  Because of course you pass if you can.  It’s better that way.

Importantly, there actually are good arguments in favor of passing.  AS does not always get a lot of respect.  I have seen some say that the increases of “mild” autism is making the public think that autism isn’t a big deal, and that such people are taking away much needed resources from those on the more severe end of the spectrum.  I tend to feel ashamed and guilty when I see such statements and I have yet to figure out how to resolve the inner conflict that comes up when that happens.

Additionally, there are people out there who use AS as an excuse to be assholes.  I have no idea how many of them are actually on the autism spectrum as opposed to people who think AS simply means “socially awkward” and decided that it would be a good excuse.  In any case, that has also shaped public opinion.  I don’t want people to think that about me.

Yet another thing – as I mentioned, AS isn’t physical.  Even people with physical disabilities face challenges that they should be able to do what everyone else does if only they want it badly enough, or if they’re just willing to try hard enough.  With a disability like mine, that attitude becomes so much stronger.

Plus, the fact of the matter is, society only tends to tolerate differences so far.  There are accepted ways to be non-conformist, and if you don’t conform to those ways society tends to punish you.  Having AS means that I am different in ways that many people really do not accept.

All that seems to add up to my prior implicit assumption – that if I can possibly pass, I should.  But then I think about the blog post again.  And I wonder if maybe letting myself be who I am might be the right choice in another way.  I could try to reduce the stigma around mental illness.  I could be an example that disability does not have to be physical.

Or in a less grand, societal way, I could think in terms of bettering myself without mashing that up with also hiding myself.  When people use language metaphors I could let it show that I need a little time to decipher them instead of trying to race my way through the logic to figure out what they mean while not letting on that I need to do so.  I love the idea of not being ashamed of being different.  That would take a lot of courage, though.  To be painfully honest, I’m not sure I have that kind of courage.  Especially not in the face of the challenges to not passing I mentioned above.

I feel it is important to mention – this is not simply a matter of being out.  I can be out and still work on passing for normal, or conversely I can refrain from trying to pass for normal but not be out.  In any case, people intellectually knowing that I have AS is a very different thing to people actually witnessing the ways that I struggle, or even spimply witnessing my oddities.  Heck, even stimming in public is a thing aspies try to hide.  Even nice people will look at me funny and avoid me if I’m rocking in a public place.

I don’t really have an answer to this one.  It is a very new ponder for me and I have barely begun to wiggle my way around it.  Still, I find it interesting to think about, and the idea of simply being my literal, strange, stimming self without trying to hide it all the time is very appealing.  Scary, but appealing.

Thoughts would very much be welcome.


Filed under ponder

How out to be

This is something that I have been idly thinking about since my diagnosis (which, granted, was not even a year ago).  At first I was so excited that I had an explanation for my weirdness that I was telling lots of people.  Then I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be so loud about it and stopped telling people.  Now I’m wondering, in a more serious way, just how out I should be.

I have been told that I pass for normal some 90% of the time.  Then again, I have also been told that it is screamingly obvious that I’m a little odd, though it’s not obvious why exactly I am odd.  In any case, the question is regarding that last 10% of the time.  Usually involving something going wrong, a trigger being tripped or my simply being overloaded, and a meltdown or shutdown happening.  That’s bad.  Plus, people don’t always know what they are looking at.  My going elsewhere because I have a dire need to get away from whatever is causing the problem can look to others like storming off in a huff.  Plus, sometimes I need odd things, like how I can’t stand to be lightly touched, or I prefer to not touch people unless I am fairly close to them, and I need to watch my environment to make sure I don’t get overloaded.  I have learned the hard way that people can be somehow personally offended by my needs or think that they are pointless and silly.  Putting them in a context of an autism spectrum disorder could, potentially, really help.

On the other hand, people tend to have ideas of what ASDs are, and what they mean, and what a person on the spectrum looks like.  Those ideas are frequently erroneous.  Putting myself out there means that I will be subject to people’s biases and prejudices, both in my personal life (such as it is) and any potential professional life.  There is some minor possibility that I could educate a few misguided people, but it’s certainly not something I’d count on.  So being out is definitely a risk.

I don’t have an answer, but right now I am learning more towards being open about the fact that I have neurological differences.  Maybe not announce it all the time, but not treat it like a secret either.  Yes, I am on the autism spectrum.  Yes, it has a huge impact on my personality and identity.  No, I am not rain man.

Comments Off on How out to be

Filed under personal

What is empathy?

I see discussions about empathy or lack thereof rather often on autism forums.  There is a lot of debate around the issue, which I definitely want to opine about at some point.  Before I can do that, though, I have to opine about the fact that empathy is, in fact, an extremely poorly defined word.  This makes discussions about empathy very messy, because very often what Person A means is not what Person B hears, because they are thinking of the words in different ways.

So what does empathy mean, anyway?  I have heard it used to mean an ability to care about other people.  Some people say that it means the ability to feel what other people are feeling.  Yet other people say it means the ability to determine what other people are feeling.  An article I just now read here said empathy is “acknowledging the patient’s emotional state” and contrasted it to sympathy, which was “feeling the emotion that the patient feels.”  The dictionary says “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another” which is astoundingly broad.

Let’s say a person says “ASD people do not have empathy.”  One person might hear “ASD people have difficult determining what other people are feeling.”  Another person might hear “ASD people do not feel what other people feel.”  Yet another person might hear “ASD people do not care about others.”  How can we possibly have a rational discussion on empathy if we are not clear about our terms?

There are some people taking steps to be more precise on the matter.  For instance, some people are using words like “cognitive empathy” and “affective empathy” which is definitely a step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, I have already started seeing multiple ways those phrases are being defined, which seems to take us back to step one.

Ultimately, my desire is for people to be more precise in their language.  Of course, I always tend to desire this, but I think with things like ’empathy’ or other incredibly vague words, the need for precision and clarity becomes much more pronounced.


Filed under ramble

Rules I accept but don’t understand

In this case: fashion!  There are rules for clothes and what one can wear in public, and I find many of those rules to be very strange.

Ok, I get the basics.  There are certain body parts that must be covered at all times in public, unless one is in a location where the rules have been very explicitly changed.  It is considered important to cover more than those certain parts in most situations so as to avoid embarrassment or faux pas.  I am ok with all of those things.

Except then there are rules about exactly how one is supposed to do that covering.  Once when I was young, I had a full slip that was designed to go under a dress.  To my eyes, it looked pretty much like a dress in and of itself.  It covered everything that was supposed to be covered, it was opaque, so it seemed to me to be perfectly adequate covering.  So one day I went outside in it, and was chatting with a neighbor.  As soon as my mom saw me she rushed outside and brought me in, and scolded me for going outside in my underwear.  I got the message that what I did was incorrect, but I have never quite understood why.

Years ago when I worked in retail, one of my co-workers was scandalized by some dresses we once got, because they had adjustable straps.  That’s when I learned that adjustable straps go on underwear, and some people are upset at the idea of them on anything meant to show.  Ok, that helps explain why the slip was underwear instead of a dress, but I still don’t get why adjustable straps are so awful.

I also find the difference between undergarments and bathing suits to be a little perplexing.  They cover the same things, and while bras and panties are not always made to be opaque, they certainly can be.  Yet at a swimming pool, it is ok to go around in a swimsuit, but not ok to go around in underwear.

When I worked retail, I was also perplexed at how people treated trying on swimsuits.  Apparently an outfit that one would happily wander around in at a pool causes significant embarrassment to be seen in at a store.  Rather predictably, I was very confused.

I can’t say I understand these things all that much more than I did when I was a child.  They seem arbitrary and senseless to me.  Still, I am aware they exist.  So I follow the rules, because I have learned that even if I think the game is silly, it is important to play it anyway in order to avoid social backlash.


Filed under ramble


I keep feeling like the posts I make are garbled.  I think I have a reasonably clear point, but along the way things get a little messy.  I actually find this really fascinating, and I’m guessing it’s a reflection of the still rather garbled state of my thoughts.  You’d think with 12 years of suspecting I’d have things figured out more, but I don’t.  I suspected, but I never let myself be certain.  I never read books on autism or asperger’s – the amount of research I did was really quite minimal.  So now that I’m sure I’m playing a bit of catch-up.  So now I wonder if my posts will become more clear and less garbled as I learn more and my thoughts become more clear and less garbled.

Comments Off on garbled

Filed under personal