Defining Asperger’s Syndrome
Aspie is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot these days. A friend of mine has been Official Diagnosed™ with the condition, which his therapist justified with a two-point definition:
A) Poor Social Skills, and
B) Lack of Executive Function
The second point is one of those fancy terms that psychologists, motivational speakers, and charlatans like to throw around, so let’s see what Infogalactic has to say about it.
Executive functions (also known as cognitive control and supervisory attentional system) is an umbrella term for the management (regulation, control) of cognitive processes, including working memory, reasoning, flexibility, and problem solving as well as planning and execution. The prefrontal areas of the frontal lobe are necessary but not solely sufficient for executive functions.
Social awkwardness? Disorganization? Well, shoot, I’d better stop in to my local government agency and secure some funding, because it looks like I’m Ass Burgers too. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who isn’t.
Obviously these symptoms occur on scales, but their looseness and lack of etiology (that is: the absence of any causal mechanism at their core) is precisely the problem with modern psychology. A child who was raised by wolves would presumably have poor social skills and would lack executive function, but labelling them as Asperger’s would hardly provide any useful information.
Modern psychologists have become part of the managerial state, with all its endemic problems (you see that? That’s an etiology). Their approach to the discipline is no different than that of a traffic cop: the officer doesn’t technically have a quota, he just needs to prove that he was working, so if everybody’s doing the speed limit he’ll just pull over 20 people to give them a warning. Similarly, the modern-day therapist can’t simply say “You’ve got some stuff to work on in your life, so let’s develop some strategies and coping mechanisms,” – no, she needs to tick off a box on a form to prove to the bureaucracy that she’s doing something, and to justify the payments she receives from the insurance company and/or government. Thus we have a proliferation of ‘mental illnesses’ which boil down to nothing more than practical complaints about this horrific world we’ve built for ourselves.
Contrast this to the definition provided by the website Heartless Asperger’s: it is a harsh, non-expert opinion, which nonetheless provides more value than the majority of self-appointed group of experts:
People with Asperger’s syndrome do not possess “Theory of Mind” abilities, which means they aren’t able to recognize and understand the thoughts, beliefs, desires and intentions of other people in order to make sense of their behavior. The result is a person who is “mindblind,” which means blindness to another person’s needs, feelings and desires.
This matches well with something VoxDay has written about recently, regarding the overwhelming number of Aspies in Atheistkult circles:
“A team of scientists has discovered that a particular region of the brain is affected in those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They believe that finding the brain region which causes social deficits in those with the condition could point towards new types of therapies.”
My new hypothesis is that scientists will eventually discover that people with these changes in the gyrus of the anterior cingulate cortex also happen to possess a statistically significant predilection towards atheism. Remember, there have been two university studies based on my original 2007 hypothesis that there is a correlation between ASD and atheism, and both studies achieved results that tended to support the hypothesis.
That certainly fits with the “lacks a theory of mind” hypothesis, doesn’t it?
In my experience people with Asperger’s lack an immediate awareness of their emotional state. They still have emotions, it’s just that they’re just not consciously aware of them, and because of this they have difficulty assessing the emotional state of others. It’s similar to how the rest of us suffer from indirect mood-altering ‘conditions’ such as Seasonal Affective Disorder™ (also known as: I get depressed during the winter, because less sunlight means less Vitamin D). We’re not immediately aware of what’s effecting our emotional state, and so we have to take conscious steps to alleviate the cause – otherwise we’ll start manifesting poor social skills and a lack of executive function!
While I’m not convinced that my diagnosed friend is actually an Aspie, I do have several who are; and unlike the writer at Heartless Asperger’s I enjoy their company immensely. They are refreshingly frank, they don’t take offence easily, and they’re more than happy to obsess over the minutiae of esoteric topics for hours on end… and what’s particularly interesting is that one of them is a professional stand up comedian, who’s developed an amazing ability to control crowds.
Asperger’s is not a death sentence. I’m not even convinced that it’s related to Autism, despite the vaguely similar symptoms (the latter seems to be a problem with sensory inputs; they’re cranked up to 11, and require a massive learning curve for the afflicted individual). Asperger’s is far closer to a personality trait than a disorder, and it can easily be handled with the same sort of self-discipline that the rest of us are forced to muster as well.
- If you’re the sort of “poor social skills and executive function” Internet aspie who has problems in daily life, but manages to maintain a theory of mind, the answer is straightforward and clear: get a grip on your life, and start practising your interpersonal skills. In all likelihood you were ‘developmentally delayed’ by excess coddling during your formative years, so you just need to double-down to catch up with the rest of your cohort. Study Game; go read How To Win Friends and Influence People; start conversations with strangers; and stop making excuses for yourself, just because you were raised to be dependent upon care givers doesn’t mean that you should be playing video games all day.
- If you genuinely do lack this theory of mind/emotional awareness, then accept it, and start studying how people behave. Hacking the social scene is easier than you might think, and while Game requires a certain amount of emotional acuity (in other words, it might be a bit too advanced for you), you can nonetheless learn to socialize normally. Use this to find friends who are similarly intellectual, and avoid the social butterflies who will do nothing but annoy you.
- Take responsibility for yourself. A prevalent modern attitude is “This is just how I am, if you can’t accept that, it’s your problem!” A great deal of our modern dysfunction stems from this. Guess what, cupcake? We all have things that we need to work on. Yours is social awkwardness; mine is something different; but it’s incumbent upon both of us to self-improve in an attempt to become fit for human company.
- Consider following a religion, even if the concept of faith feels alien to you. As a general rule, religious people live better lives, with more friends and family, and are more successful financially. Certainly there are atheists who are happy and successful – but they tend to be the ones who imitate a religious life (Penn Jillette comes to mind). And of course there are theists who are miserable – but they’re usually the ones who are trying to be self-righteous, special little snowflakes… in other words, they’re the ones who behave most like atheists. Don’t turn your ‘dysfunction’ into something to be proud of: that way lies Tumblr. Instead, treat it as a nothing more than a challenge which is inante to you, and compensate for it, without letting it control you.
At the end of the day, your diagnosis doesn’t define you unless you let it. Only you can define what you are. Figure out what sort of life you want to live; don’t be deluded into attempting the impossible task of achieving the lifestyle presented by MTV videos and television commercials (that world is utterly fictitious) and instead start living by your own standards. Focus on self-improvement, discipline, and figuring out what sort of life you want to live, and you’ll be fine.