Tag Archives: Psychology

What Dreams May Be…

Dreams for some people, are a place of wonder and for others it can be a place of horror, but for most it is merely a series of exercises for the brain while the body is at rest. For many people the memories of dreams are vivid and inspiring while for most, there are rarely even vague memories. Either way, it does not change the fact that dreams are place of magic and curiosity, but the most important fascination is why we dream.

There have been many explanations over the centuries as to what dreams are and how they function in the larger patterns of life. What is their purpose to and in the brain and how do we track the dreams that we have has been a focus of research for many psychologists. While a lot of data has been collected on the brain waves while dreaming, it has provided little information as to the purpose. In fact, there are many that have stated that dreams serve no real purpose at all though some research has found that not dreaming can be damaging.

The current scientific stance on dreams is that they serve to help to brain sort through information that has been collected through the awake time activities and then moved the information into long term storage. The spiritual and therapeutic beliefs are that dream serve to organize information to not only provide further information but to also provide information that is outside of the understanding of the human conscious. All three of these stances are correct and the goal of this paper is to show that not only are all three valid but they also work together to help the human mind to connect with the world it lives in.

De-fragment

The first form of dream is the De-fragment Dream. This is the well-known dream of random events, objects and situations that get mashed together in to a random collect of stuff. Often these dreams are fast, jumbled and rarely remembered. These also tend to be the dream most frequently studied because in the lab environment most people are woken up after the physical indications has noted that the dream has been concluded. The physical indications are often referred to as R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) sleep because of the movement of the eyes and other noises and movements people make while dreaming. Once these physical movements have stopped, the researcher will wake the test subject up and have them record their dream.

It has been theorized that these dreams are needed for the brain to sort through the information it has collected and then either store the needed material or dispose of the unneeded material. In a sense, the brain is de-fragmenting the information into more comfortable forms. The result of the de-fragmentation process of the brain is often dreams that has no basis in a story or a theme that identifiable but instead it is random in the selection of material and rarely does the dream have any real sense of flow through it. Additionally, these dreams are rarely remembered because of the information already being in the brain in a different and more grounded format.

Symbolism

The second type of dream could be referred to as the Symbolic Dream and is most often see in situation in which a people “sleeps on” a problem or difficult situation. Many of these dream will have imagery that is symbolic in nature and there is frequently a story attached to the journey of the dream. Many of these dream will evoke a strong emotional response in the dreamer either during the dream or when the dream is remembered. In many cases the dreams are remember as vague images and emotional responses after the dreamer is awake. Some people, these dreams have resulted in works of art or fiction as examples on H.P. Lovecraft’s collected work, and stories like ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

The goal of these dreams to assist the person through their subconscious to come an answer to a problem or resolve a frustration. These are the types of dreams that Freud wrote about in his work on dreams, concluding that the objects and actions in the dreams had symbolic relevance to the person and was a way for the mind to provide a message to the dreamer. Additionally, the symbolism of these types of dreams are analyzed as part of therapeutic processes in order to gain insight to the client’s needs or desires that are being neglected (the id part of the brain). Many people have attempted to explain the variety of symbols that present themselves in dreams and there are many different books with explanations for each of these symbols but in the end, the symbol interpretation can only be done by the dreamer because each symbol will have a different meaning to each person.

While these dreams are more frequently remembered than the De-fragment Dreams, they also happen less often. A person might have a dream that is Symbolic once a month unless there is an increased need, such as a stressful series of events. Many people can evoke a symbolic dream through thought exercises, not unlike praying or meditating, right before going to sleep at night. Contemplation on a problem or situation before sleep will often result in a Symbolic Dream in order to come up with a solution.

Premonitions

Premonition Dreams are the rarest dreams and the most frequently remembered with the highest levels of consistence over years. For many, these dreams will evoke an emotional response that is consistent with waking times emotional responses. For many whom have these dreams regularly, they are able to recite the turn of events with a story telling style and often have a Deja-vu experience when the dream happens in waking time. Additionally, many of these dreams will be in locations that are unknown to the dreamer and may include people whom are unknown. One of the most important ways to realize that one has one these dreams is that the objects and activities are grounded in reality, meaning that there is nothing in the dream that is different from the way it could happen in the real world.

Many might mistake a Symbolic Dream for a Premonition and this is part of the reason that the idea of these types of dreams has been dismissed by scientific communities. Jung did believe that these dreams did exist and wrote about the idea that dreams helped people to connect to the Collective Unconscious and Premonition Dreams were a communication with the collective energy that all humans share. It has been argued by many gurus and spiritual leaders that humans have the ability to connect with larger realms of reality and that dreams of foretelling are just a method of connecting to the higher self that humans have the capability to do. It could also be argued that these dreams indicate an ability of the human to evolve in to something more powerful and amazing, a being of great skill and energy.

Ties of the Mind

How this all ties together is simple: Every human on earth has all of these dreams. There is no special person in the world that has premonition dreams more than another person. The difference is that ability to believe in what you dream. If you believe that dreams are unimportant de-fragmenting at the end of a day, then you will see all dreams as being such, and this is the same of the premonition and symbolic dreams. Efforts to manipulate the mind have be recorded since the beginning of time and as a result, humans have forced their brains to process dreams in the same controlled ways. All three types of dreams are needed for the human to survive and thrive in the world. The de-fragment dreams help to sort through the thousands of bit of information we take in every day, the symbolic dreams help us to answer questions or see where problems are in life, and premonitions have always been there to help the human survive in a world filled with danger and excitement.

Conclusion

It has become common knowledge that humans spend a third of their lives asleep and though the numbers may vary from person to person, this is true. While we sleep, we also dream and there are few that can argue that humans will have many different kinds of dreams. The Defragmentation Dreams help the human brain to cope the large amounts of information internalized on daily basis. Symbolic Dreams help the mind to sort out difficulties and problems and are often associated with “sleeping on” a problem. Premonition dreams are part of the collective energy that the world shares and efforts to communicate with the larger world through insights into the present and future. All humans have all of these dream throughout their lives and how often one type of dream or another is identified depends upon the individual’s beliefs about dreaming and usefulness of it. R.E.M. sleep happens for all these types of dreams and is important to the mental health of the human mind, which lends to the idea of the need to get “a good night’s sleep.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder or Seasonal Slow Down?

Funny Sleeping Bear

Human believe that they are not the same as other animals in the world and in many ways this is a true statement, but there are many things that are the same between humans and other animals. One of the most important similarities is the need for rest, whether it is sleeping or just relaxing. Another similarity is that all animals have lower activity levels in the winter months (colder time of the year) as compared to the summer months (warmer time of the year).
This paper is going to examine on area of similarity that has been misunderstood for so long that there is no longer any fresh materials on the subject. This is the topic of torpor or a significant slowdown of bodily function in a human being. Additionally, I am going to provide information to show that humans go through a period of slow down just as much as other animals do and this has been mistaken for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as how this mistake is causing more problems than doing any good.
Winter Time
The world slows down in the cold months of winter and this is a phenomena that has been known for centuries. Animals with the ability to hibernate will do so, plant will go dormant and all of the rest of the world will slow down. History has shown that humans will also go through a period of slow down during the colder months, which was usually obscured by the patterns of agriculture. While humans have believed that they were more than highly developed humans for centuries, the belief in overcoming all of the effects of the natural world only started in the 1700’s when the rational skill became highly prized. In fact, during the modern times of the 20th century and going forward, it is believed that a human can have the same levels of productivity throughout the whole of the year even though there is incidences that can be cited through all of history that show that even humans have to take a step back in activity during the coldest time of the year.
Before the end of World War II, most humans worked with the patterns of nature, but this is also when most of the working world still lived on farms. Farms are far less active during the winter months and the humans were allowed to rest on the food stores like other animals do. Also, many traditional human activities such as Christmas and Thanksgiving are related to the need to increase calories for the torpor of the winter and prepare food for long term storage. Other holidays such as Brigid’s Mass (Groundhog Day) and Lent (40 days of fasting in many of the Christian religions) are to assist the humans in managing through these slower months and surviving.
Cold season during the winter months of most parts of the world and it is believed that this is mostly the cause of the restrictions to indoor activities, but it is could also be because of the immune system not being as activity during the colder months. The human body like so many other animals go into a type of torpor during the colder season and this affects the immune system, as the whole body is functioning at a far lower rate of productivity and efficacy. Other evidence of the slower system of the human body is found in longer hours of sleep and deeper sleep during this time of year. Higher numbers of mistakes, less work being completed and over-all sleepiness. Many people complain of fatigue and/or a notable loss of productivity during the colder months.
The symptoms of seasonal torpor include: long periods of deep or deeper sleep with periods of activity between sleeping spells, sluggishness, dullness, stupor as well as higher levels of fatigue during the awake periods (Medicinenet.com, 2015). Additional symptoms noted in other animals includes decrease in overall appetite but increase desire for higher fat and higher protein foods; lower body temperature, lower heart rates and more shallow breathing.
Winter Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder of the modern times, having been a disorder only since the earlier years of 1980’s (Rosenthal, Sack, Gillin, Lewy, Goodwin, Davenport, Mueller, Newsome, & Wehr, 1984); and in many ways, the fact that there is a disorder for this is also a sign of the changing times as well as the expectations of what a person does with their time. In many ways the symptoms of SAD are similar to those of torpor, including low mood and concentration during particular seasons (often the winter time), increased sleeping, cravings for sugars and other fat sources, low energy and fatigue. As outlined in the earlier section, these symptoms are all associated with the torpor states of most animals.
There is a lot of speculation that there is a relationship between the torpor states or at least the slowing downing of the human body during the winter months. Tests have been completed to find that there is a relationship between hormones and sunlight (Judd, 2008) and the Melatonin the brain produces and gets rid of. Melatonin is associated with tiredness and fatigue as well as many of the other symptoms of SAD. There has been other research on this disorder to locate the cause but little has been found outside of the changing the hormones that naturally adjust through the year.
In many ways, it is argued that SAD is just a more extreme form of the Winter Blues that affect everyone and the difference is that the affected people are not able to fight the symptoms off with large amounts of coffee and ‘mind-over-matter’ therapies. While this might hold a candle of truth, there is another side of this, in that most people are not able (not a willing issue) to fight of the winter blues. SAD diagnosis are people that need a break more than most during the winter months and there are plenty of people that do need to take the time of the winter to relax and recharge for the coming year. A person that takes this time and does so happily often is not seen as having a disorder. A person that fights the needs of the body will become distraught over the lack of energy and there could result in a feeling of depression from a fight of the mind with the body.
It was noted on the Mental Health America website (2014) that the age groups primarily affected by SAD are 18 to early 50’s or the ages in which a person is the most active and living with the highest expectations for community activity, productivity and involvement. The pressure of the social activities in addition to the natural torpor state might in fact create the feelings of depression and also result in the far more extreme symptoms that are associated with SAD. In other words, SAD is a disorder that has been culturally created because social and productive culture has not taken natural processes into consideration. Instead of allowing the human body to do what it is supposed to naturally, fighting has resulted in a Seasonal Disorder.
Hot Chocolate for the Soul
While many might not see the creation of a disorder as a problem as there at least half a million people in America affected by severe cases of the “winter blues” but on the other hand, there are too many people that are still fighting the natural state of winter living instead of letting it be what it is. For many of the people that have SAD in milder forms, they might be better off allowing their bodies to process through the natural seasonal patterns instead of using lights and other measures to force themselves into more productive states. There is nothing wrong with sleeping a bit more and spending more time watching TV during the winter. Much like sleep is a time for the body to be at rest, so too is the winter season. This is a time for reading, resting and rejuvenating for the rest of the year.
As for treatment of the seasonal blues, one should examine what has been done in the cultures closest to the Arctic Circle as well as what agrarian cultures did during the cold months for hundreds of years. Most of these people survived the winter with no light bulbs or medication because they understood something about the cycles of time and life. Also, the celebrations of the passage of time like Christmas and Groundhog Day should be held in the highest esteem. The darkest days are battled with the greatest hope, and the knowledge of the end of suffering is the greatest hope of all.
Conclusion
Humans have been encourage to believe that they are not animals and as a result they are not victims to the calls of nature and cycles of life like all of the other animals on this planet. But time again, this has been proven to be a fallacy, not only because of the relationship of physical similarities we have with primates but also because of the core behaviors humans engage in for survival of the self and the species.
One area of the cycle of life that has been placed in the realm of human self-control has been the responses to the seasonal cycle but the prevalence and views of the disorder Seasonal Affective Disorder have shown that humans are as much victims to the seasons as all other animals. And instead of accepting the colder, winter months as a time for rest and rejuvenation, humans elect to fight it and as a result causing pain to a half a million people in America. This paper outlined the similarity of the symptoms for torpor states of winter rest and the diagnostic criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This paper also indicated that the better treatment for the disorder is for humans to accept that the cycles of life are real and should be allowed to follow like so many other things in the natural world. Sometimes, the best solution for a problem is to realize that it is not a problem at all.

Bibliography/ References

Crossingham, J. & Kalman, B. (2002). What is Hibernation? New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Hickman, P. & Stephens, P. (2005). Animals Hibernating: How Animals survive extreme conditions. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press Ltd.

Judd, S. J. (Ed.). (2008). Depression Handbook. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, Inc.

MedicineNet.Com (2014) Defiantion: Torpor. Retrieved from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=24814

Mental Health America. (2014) Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad

Rosenthal, N. E.; Sack, D. A.; Gillin, J. C.; Lewy, A. J.; Goodwin, F. K.; Davenport, Y.; Mueller, P. S.; Newsome, D. A.; Wehr, T. A. (1984). “Seasonal affective disorder. A description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy”. Archives of general psychiatry 41 (1): 72–80. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1984.01790120076010

Zancanaro, C., Biggiogera, M., Malatesta, M., & Ayre, M. (2004) Mammalian Hibernation:
Relevance to a Possible Human Hypometabolic State. Retrieved from http://www.esa.int/gsp/ACT/doc/ARI/ARI%20Study%20Report/ACT-RPT-BIO-ARI-036501-Morpheus-Verona.pdf

Sense of Self : Identity Theory (Paper #1)

Authors Note: This paper has be divided into three parts because of the length of the full document. Much like the stories told in serials during the 1800’s, the next paper will pick up from where the last one left off. The second paper will be posted next month with the third to follow the month after. Thank you for your patience.

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Sense of Self: A New Theory of Identity and Personality

After reading a few thousand plots and spending a number of years studying humans thinking, feeling and moving; one begins to see patterns. Novels are a great example of what will draw people to read and invest, such stories as a ‘true love plot’ or the ‘over-coming an enemy’ plot, but one plot is the most compelling and drawing to the audience: the ‘coming of age’ or ‘finding one’s self’ stories.

Why are these plots of novels being addressed here? This is the simplest answer: because it deals with how we become the people that we are. How we become who we are and what we think we are is a never ending source of fascination and has sparked many different debates in the ‘how we become” and “what we are”. Some of the debating has gone so far as to digging inside of the brain to find the on/off switch and other have turned to magic and philosophy for answers… but none have been found to 100% satisfies the appetites of those that wish to know the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the individual. Examples of this have included the work done with Clive Wearing (the man with no memory) after he lost his memory, testing of hormone levels in the brain and even the efforts to control bodily possession by spirits, palm reading, and the Ancient Greek humor system.

This paper is going to propose a different way of thinking about what we are and who we are, but taking a different look at how we present ourselves. A professor asked once, write a list of who you are, your identity, and I wrote down my name; this was not the goal of the assignment but the wheels did start turning on how we are taught to identify ourselves. This paper is going to show how identity is the complicated part of who we are, not the personality.

The major point of this paper to convey an idea, and not to recite resource after resource of different works by many different people; the definitions are developed by the author to explain the idea with simplicity. The goal is presentation and argumentation of an idea. Flaws in the idea because it does not fit with the goals of a different author are not a flaw in the idea. If there is interest in expansion of the base concept presented in this paper, it will be produced at a later time. Citations offered will be limited to improve brevity.

The simplicity of the definitions and the diagrams is to not only help with comprehension but to also encourage flexibility for factors that the author might have missed and encouragement to expand in the future. Theories are observation, rationalization, and art mixed together into a picture that is moving and stationary at the same time. Many have debated that Warhol’s soup cans are art, focusing on issues of whether it is good, or has a point. Opinions will vary and fresh ideas will expand or at least give us clearer ideas the world we live in; just like abstract art.

To assist with the understanding, there is a diagram provided at the top of the text and there is an item by item review of each branch of the diagram, an explanation of the interactions of the different branches, several examples of how the model works in a functional environment and the final sections will focus on possible flaws that the author has observed and the arguments to whether these are serious flaws or benefits to the theory. No theory is 100% perfect every time and the flaws should be seen, known and addressed.

In addressing the future, remember the past; for they walked this ground before.

Who are we, what are we, and how did the ideas of ‘the self’ get to where it is? The history behind ideas of personality and identity date back to the oldest documents of medical care and science. Some of the first questions asked in medical science dealt with the idea that there is something inside of each of person that makes them who they are. Aristotle and Plato were some of the first to debate this subject with regards to what the primary factors that play into the development of the person’s uniqueness. The examination of what is nature and what is nurture started with the Ancient Greeks and was called “Nativism” and “Philosophical Empiricism”. “Nativism” purposes that there is much of the individual that is inborn and innate, leaning to the idea that a personality is a fixed object at the time of birth. While “Philosophical Empiricism” suggests that a person learns all that they are from their environments (Schacter, Gilbert, & Wegner, 2013).

While this debate has gone on for several thousands of years, there is still no specific rule as to whether, the innate/inborn or the learned has greater influence. Each set of thinkers, scientists, and philosophers has leaned more one way or the other, while many have made an effort to remain in the middle of the discussion saying that the influence is 50/50. Research has committed decades of work to the topic and still has no solid concert answer.

The search for the personality and by philosophical extension, the soul, has also driven theorists to attempt to come up with new and different explanation for the development and strength of the personality. Carl Jung believed in the influence of spirituality and roles in the world through his archetype theory but also developed the original idea of the mix and match traits (Craver & Scheier, 2012). Many theorists have taken the idea of the humors (four element system [earth, air, fire and water] found in most cultures) of Greek Medicine and tweaked the ideas to fit more with modern beliefs, such as seen with “The Color Code” by Taylor Hartman. Then there is the belief that a higher power provided the personality to the individual and it is visible through markings of the skin (witch trial documentation and notes in the Christian Bible indicating this belief [statements like the lepers are judged by god to be of bad character]) and the use of star maps to explain the individual differences and similarities. No matter how many different ways in which there is to examine, explain, and decode the development of the personality, it has come back to the nature verses nurture debate. Even now with new technology working hard to locate the genes of the personality and the parts of the brain personality is hidden. At the end, how the personality is developed, maintained and transmitted is still undetermined and debated.

Everything and Nothing of What Once Was

To comb through personality theories takes a great deal of time, and in many ways there are ties from each theory to the next one. Each theory moves forward with a piece or pieces of the past theories and it is no different for this theory. This theory attempts to honor all of the theories that came before it while also being a new and more inclusive explanation of a concept that has been very difficult to understand and define.

One key problem of past theories has been the focus on the cause of the personality instead of looking at the collection of influences and factors. Much of the science is focused on finding causation, instead of looking for patterns and methods for usefulness. This theory attempts to find the balance points of all of the influences. Instead of looking for a single cause, this point of view tries to show how parts of all of the prior theories works together in a single theory.

It should be said at this time that theory would not work if it did not stand on the shoulders of so many theories before it, and as each section is described and explained, it will be obvious to the intense students of personality theories, what is being included. All of the greatness from before has helped to lead the way to greatness in the future and this idea of the sense of self is an example of how the transition is to be approached.

Paper #1: Proposal for Education for 16-18 year olds (to replace the 3 years of high school): The issues with the current system.

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If one were to stop and ask people on the street about how well high school education works today, you might get a small group that think high school education is working just fine. The majority of people asked, including most parents of teenagers and the teenagers themselves would agree that the education system as it is now is not working very well, if at all. Many parents will say that school is not teaching their child about issues and skills they will need in the future, and in many schools it is agreed that the classroom is more like a place for children to be babysat rather than taught. Even grown, successful adults now have a difficult time remembering any detailed information that they learned in high school; instead citing work and friends as much of what they learned during that time.

There are many reasons for the failings of the present school system including the often used statement “it does not prepare children for adulthood.” This is truer for high school than any other part of the education system. This paper will look at the many different ways in which high school does not prepare students for the future as well as addressing many of the larger social issues dealing with the 16 to 18 year old populations of Americans. Among the issues with the current system that will be considered here are issues dealing with the discoveries about the development of the brain, legal concerns about teenagers misbehaving, and the focus areas of the education system and how they are not addressing the real focuses of the teenage psyche and development.

This paper is a blunt, focused and simple description of what is a large national issue, there is little debate that the United States of America fails in our education of teenagers and young adults. This is a description of the difficulties with this system and will have a follow-up paper with a possible solution. The hope is that within 20 years America will have changed the ways of managing education in order to maximize the learning of each students by encouraging the use of positive reinforcement, proactive self-management and opportunities to look forward to the next step in life. These papers are an effort to bring attention to the problems with the current system and then offer up a solution to better aid the teen population to better and more satisfying adulthood.

Issues with Current System- Brain Development

Issues with the current system have been debated in many different environments and have been studied, analyzed and examined time and again. If you ask a teenager what the number one issue they have with high school, they will say ‘it is boring’. One of the first issues that comes up is that students are not really learning anything in high school classrooms. There have been debates as to the reasons for this including the students not paying attention, the teachers not being paid enough, and the lack of qualified instructors, but none of these make as much sense as the argument about the neuropsychology of an adolescent. Research that was outlined in the Frontline special “Inside the teenage brain” indicated that the development inside of the adolescent brain is as intense and massive as during the first two years of life outside of the womb. And during this time, most of the major brain structure is broken down and rebuilt within the walls of the skull, and American society is also expecting our teenagers to take on more work than ever before and retain more information than is expected in earlier educational settings. In many ways this is asking our teenagers to push a two ton boulder up a hill while suffering from a 5 year long headache.

In an unofficial survey, the author asked several dozen people what they remember most from high school, and the results focused on incidents of dating, school yard fights and working in low wage jobs. Very few people could remember an incident of learning a new piece of information, though they will tell you about a note that was passed to them during a class. Much of the brain activity focus during this stage of human growth is on learning about one’s place in the world (Erik Erikson’s theory of Development Stages). Many of the habits and behaviors that are considered to be within the roles and responsibilities of the person’s social place are trained and reinforced during this time of life. Examples can be found in groups of individuals that don’t ‘fit the mold’ of what is socially expected of the individuals. Comparing the childhood experiences shows nothing, but comparing the adolescent experiences shows that the social training of expected behavior is done with teenagers. An example is that most girls learn to be feminine during the years of puberty and the reinforcement of expected behavior is more profound in not only the home but also the school yard. In the modern day, it is not hard to find a movie or television show that reinforces the stereotypes of much of the roles American society expects. Girls act like girls, students like students, and accountants like accountants.

The current high school environment does not support the development of the brain in the focus points of social interaction and roles of the person in the large social structure. Much of the synaptic pruning during this point in development is focusing on the social cues, traditions, and other stereotypical behavior. Those individuals that were alienated to the outside of the typical social networks often don’t learn all of the details of many roles and as a result, tend to fall outside of the normal behavior expectations as an adult. For many of those people, they are referred to as eccentric and are frequently recognized later in life for strong success financial stories but socially maladapted. In many ways the environment of high schools makes this worse and there is an increased focus on the popularity of a student rather than the success in functional behavior. In other words, teenagers might learn more about appropriate social guidelines and behavior if they spent less time surrounded by each other.

Another major problem with our current system and the brain development of a teenager is that there is too little physical movement. Most of the day for an average high school student is spent sitting, and it does not require a lot of studies to see that the lack of movement is ill-effecting on the students; mentally, physically and socially. Though team sports are offered in most high schools it is not enough for all of the students and far from encouraging a diversity that needs to be learned but instead assists in creating a high form of selective skills, restricting learning other skills. Teenagers should be physically active during large parts of the day, partly to use up the extra energy of growth but also to facilitate and focus the physical development of the brain. For most teenagers’ brains to develop well there should be a diversity of experiences, social activities and physical activities.

Issues with Current System- Theories in Development being ignored

Development theories have agreed that there are many different parts of a whole that work together to assist a person in their growth and maturity through life. Adolescence is consider to be some of the most important time for the development. Up until the 1960’s, the teenage years were considered to be part of adulthood and as a result, most teenagers were treated as adults with adult expectations. In the 1960’s, the view was turned around and as a result, most teenagers are treated as if they were still children. Both views have their problems and the problems have created new problems. One of the first problems is found in a lack of balance in the bio-psycho-social model (the unbalance is out lined in the prior section). At this point in time it is fine for a child that is younger than a teenager but not suitable for an adult. The current system does not maintain a balance for a teenager’s needs; which are somewhere in between a child and an adult.

Other theories that are ignored are Erikson’s Development stages. Adolescence is a time in which a person works to find their place in the larger world and having teenager shuttle between home and school does not encourage self-learning of one’s place in the larger world. The theories and research support that this is the time that people should be the most involved in the community and larger society rather than locked up in a building with others having the same experiences of brain development.

According to Piaget’s theories, this is a time for the development of abstract thinking and comprehension of the emotional experiences. While emotions do run high during the high school, often they are hyper-inflated because of the isolation of the students with each other within the building. Many of the individuals that offered descriptions of their experiences said that they learned more about emotional regulations and abstract thinking while at a job or community service activity rather than the school yard which was often more stressful due to the ‘drama’ that was created in the actions of the other students.

In looking through the information about the current high school system, the author could find no theory to support the current system as being psychologically functionally, or even socially benefiting for anyone but the people that wish for teenagers to stay out of the way until they grow up. This also comes with the problem of ignoring what teenagers can offer the larger society. One of the greatest problems with the function of the current system and what research has shown about teenage growth is that this is a great moment for development and the high school system holds our student in a stationary place for 3 to 4 years, handicapping them much like a prisoner in a cell.

Issues with Current System- Involvement in the community

            Ask a teenager for an idea and they will give you ten… adolescence is a time of innovation and creativity. This is not a point that needs be researched because we have examples every year in the forms of awards given to high school students for innovation and creativity. There are more and more contests and competitions each year encouraging innovations and many of the results of these competitions have ended up helping to change and better the world. The loss of these resources can be considered when considering the possibility that each person has a potential for a world changing idea and for many that idea comes during those years of the freedom and lack of fear that comes from being a teenager.

Additionally, there are heard many complaints that teenagers spend too much time living in their own little worlds and not being involved in the larger community, society and world. While there are many adolescents that are proactive enough to find ways to get involved in their community, there are many that don’t know how or cannot find advice to ways to get involved; in addition to having a motivation to do so. There is a strong relationship between teenagers being involved in their community and later involvement during adulthood.

There are many high schools that require community service for graduation from students, and there are some teachers that require service for passing an important class for graduation. There are many churches that insist on teens volunteering and many after school programs that encourage and focus teenage energy towards community involvement. A common penalty for teenagers who break the law with less than a felony is community service. But this does not help with the majority of students that do not get involved in their community. While there are many in the current system that are trying to foster involvement, it is not enough to make a really impact.

Many adolescents have said that involvement in the community, either through work or service, is valuable but they would not have done it if it were not for being pushed by parents and educators (statements made in many different news reports and documentaries). Many teenagers are open and willing to be involved and many would like to be help, if only there is a way. The current system is not supportive of these drives and desires outside of the ways in which there is an effort to manipulate the time during the day for use towards a select amount of after school work and recreation. And because there is such a limited amount of time in the after school hours it is difficult to manipulate and fill the time well or comfortably. Most teenagers wish to have more responsibility like that of a job, a paycheck and involvement and the current system restricts this in addition to holding the teenagers back from many opportunities to grow in working and diverse environments.

Issues with Current System- Developing Healthy Relationships

Holding teenagers back from involvement in the community is not the only ways in which an adolescent is held back from their potential, there are also the skills of adulthood and the development of healthy relationships. Most of the focus of teenagers in high school is not on the school work or the future but on the relationships that are there. While there are some teenagers that have the select skills for being highly successful in the high school environment, most individuals will not develop those skills until they are in the college education world. Most of the skills that are being worked on during this time in the life span focus more on managing interactions with others, and finding one’s place in the social environments.

While many teenagers will claim to know that they will ‘want to be when they grow-up’ most of those decisions will change over time and experience. The idea skills to be learned during this time are: social balancing, social interactions, healthy boundaries, time and self-management, etc. Much of the learning for these skills are best done through practice and step by step guidance. The current system discourages interactions outside of very small windows and has resulted in socialization being done through technology and secrecy. The use of texting, instant message and many other tools has created a new set of frustrations with regards to the limits of communications and healthy relationships. Sometimes it is better to wait for a phone call than believe that the other person should respond right away, it allows time for thinking and processing of the information about the interactions and how the relationship should function.

The idea of a healthy relationship should not be limited to the current boyfriend/ girlfriend but should also include the healthy interactions of friends and family members. It is easy to keep a secret about distasteful behavior when you are interacting with another person through a limited medium like a computer or a phone, but it is harder to keep a secret when the other person is sitting next to you. While using text messaging and instant messaging has its usefulness, there is still a need for face to face interactions, and the current system does not allow for enough time to engage in these interactions. Because there is such a small window for socialization in the current system, many will put the use of their phone on a priority and then learn that is an acceptable behavior to engage in while in a social environment.

Because of the lack of time for interaction, when adolescents do find the time for socialization they will tend to focus their interactions on a small select group of friends and peers. These restrictions help to create a heighten isolation in small tribes or cliques and restricting experiences of larger social interaction as well as having those smaller groups facilitating the reinforcement of unreasonable beliefs about people from other groups. While it is true that there is less overt discrimination in the larger society, there is still a lot of implicit and subtle discrimination that is reinforced by an increase in isolation. Many of the stereotypes about sex, gender and behaviors is reinforced in smaller social groups like those found among many of the high school students now. Most students that have a strong healthy understanding for diversity and the failures of stereotypes have had experiences of which disproved and dispelled those beliefs, and the best time for these experiences are in the high school years.

One of the last areas of healthy relationships that suffer are the family and home interactions. While there are many high schools that have been able to foster a health relationship with family, most teenagers do not have good communication or relationships with their relatives. For many, this lack of a relationship or bad relationship can continue on until middle or late adulthood. Those individuals whom have good relationships with parents and family have had those relationships since the teenage years or before, and during the teenage years there was social interaction to reinforce the positive relationships. The current system keeps students in a state of non-stimulation (leaving them with little to talk about) and uses a great deal of the daily time which additionally leaves little time for social interaction between family and the teenager. If there is any interaction, then it is tense and there is not enough time to be able to relax, or the teenager would like to be in a different place spending time with friends.

One of the great struggles of the teenager is the development of communication skills and coping methods for the future struggles. The social interaction that teenagers have are the ones that help with the education in these skills. Not only with the interaction with the family, but also in social and employment environments. The current system does not support the interactions that many teenagers need to learn and be successful, and will encourage teenagers into increased isolation and smaller groups that increase discrimination. Additionally, in order to be successful after high school, one must be in the extreme with isolation and friend selection in order to have strong opportunities for the future. Time and again have shown examples of how this level of social isolation creates problems. One of the most telling is the use of popular movies as examples, like “Mean Girls” and “Heathers”. Working and being in diverse social environments improves a person’s chances of strong social skills, as could be easily seen by a person living in tight social environments like New York City or going to activities that have a lot of diversity.

Issues with Current System- Social Policy and Legal Concerns

            The current high school system is part of several other problems that are found in our society and if this system is changed, if could help to eliminate or reduce the ongoing issues. One of the first issues is with regards to gender stereotypes, of which the current system maintains. It is true there have been efforts made to reduce the gender discrimination in schools, and it could be reasoned out that the education system has helped to provide research and evidence for the discrimination that was not otherwise viable, it does not change the fact that the current system still facilitates and reinforces the beliefs about gender roles. Things like sports, cheerleading, drama, dance, etc. have helped to keeps the restricted guidelines on male/ female behavior. An additional paper can be written about the ways in which high school as it currently operates, works to maintain the gender roles and isolation that are still holding our society back from true equality.

Bullying is another concern for this age group and the current system of high school does nothing to dissuade this behavior no matter the efforts that have been made to modify and adjust the system. The larger structure of the system maintains a tiered hierarchy that is similar to chaste systems and make it difficult to move out of the way of the bullies. Bullies are the means in which most people learn to maintain the system and work the system to keep the people on top in that place. With the high school system as it is, the status of the person within the school is often the same out of the school because the large social structure places the school in priority. This often results in a person learning that the means to get what they want is to aggressively over-power a person and not compromise. These sets of behaviors could additionally be outlined in an additional paper.

Delinquent behavior has become an ever increasing concern for parents especially with regards to drinking, drug use and criminal activities. The concerns with regards to teenagers behaving in a way that could cause damage in the long term from the child and as a result there are ever increasing efforts to restrict the teenager’s movement and freedom. The increases in restriction has also created more desire to commit delinquent acts in order to meet the needs of independence, self-recognition, and autonomy. Restriction on the teenager to make sure that they have no chance of committing a criminal or delinquent act has created further issues of time management, lack of interaction, hyper-focus on productivity, and many of the other social issues that are related to difficulty with interaction and socialization. A common complaint about teenagers is that they will spend most of their time being idle and on the computer, and this could be traced to the responses that society has had to the rising numbers of criminal teenagers. Interestingly enough, looking up recent data from a number of websites, juvenile crime rates are no different now than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. Yes the rates have gone down since the 1990s but there is no difference between the 1980s and the 2000s, though there is a significant difference in daily activities and productivity pressure of teenagers from then to now.

More and more there has been an increase in the idea that in order for a person to be successful in adulthood, there has to be notable success in the high school years. The use of the time and the resulted judgment on the use of the time will have a larger effect on the judgments made from college, work and other adult opportunities. Those who do not succeed with the select skill that are required to be successful in this system have a difficult time with access to resources later when those skills have developed. For most, high school is a holding place to stay until the law says that a person is able to leave the system and move on to a different part of the larger society structure. Those whom do not succeed at this juncture with the limited skill set are often doomed to be left behind for the rest of their lives.

Conclusions

Development research, brain research and sleep research have all come to the same conclusions about the teenage experiences and the adolescent development, it is intense and requires a lot of energy and work to process through. Much of the focus of development during this time period works with this idea of the adolescent trying to find their place in the larger world that they live in and management of the choices that they will need to make for the future. The current education system does not allow for the flexibility that most teens need to navigate these tough learning experiences and in fact the current system does the opposite of help students to develop the skills they will need for the future.

The current system is set up to support a select and small group of individuals with a select group of skills that most teenager’s learn to develop after the turmoil and frustration of the adolescence years have completed. For most teenagers, the year spent in high school are mostly a holding place until the choices of adulthood as bestowed upon them with the graduation or dropping out. Additional, in order to be successful in high school, a student must sacrifice learning important skills like communication with others, including family, and learning boundaries with others to facilitate the developing of healthy relationships.

Most of the high schools require an intense amount of focus on the part of the student and for most students this is difficult due the events going on within the brain and what has been found with the development of the brain. The brain is working double time to develop into what the adult result will be and the taxing information processing and other work expected in high school does not get done well and is disabling to the needs for strong development. Additional stress is found in the difficulties with recovering after high school with the current system, most people who fail to reach the bar of expectations in high school have a more difficult time with gaining success later in life.

One of the areas of the greatest concern with regards to teenagers is the legal issues. More and more there are concerns about adolescent crime rates and the mis-behaving or violation of social rules. The current system does little to nothing to support teens developing these important skills and keeping teens from using criminal choice to gain access to desires and needs. There have been every increasing efforts to adjust the system in order to reduce the criminal behavior and social faux pas, but the statistics of juvenile criminal behavior have not dropped below the levels they were in the 1980s, even with the increased restrictions on students’ time and schedules. On-going efforts to reduce the crime rates of teenagers has created further restrictions on their free-will and resulting in less anatomy and free thinking, creating a new and more difficult set of undesirable behaviors.

This is one of a set of papers on the difficulties of the current high school system. The next paper will address a section of a solution, or better put, a completely different system for educating and making positive use of the strength of unconventional thinking and speed that adolescence offers the world. Additionally the new system will seek to eliminate or better manage the problems that were discussed in this paper. As the current system is failing most of the American youth, hopes are that the new system will provide the future with greater chances for success and happiness.

A Walk inside My Mind: Living with Asperger’s

A Walk inside My Mind: Living with Asperger’s

            I have thought of many ways to start this paper and I will more than likely think of many more before I am done with the writing, editing and reading of what I have written here. However, I guess the best way to start really is to say that which will be apparent to the reader soon enough. This is a personal piece and though I hope to write many more papers that have more serious and scientific emphasis, this is not a paper for that purpose.

I have spent many hours talking with people from many different lifestyles and during those many conversations, I have told many stories about my life. Some of the people that I have spoken with have indicated in words and facial responses that they would read a memoir that I have written about my life… and I respond much the same: The only reason a memoir would be interesting is if you know me, otherwise there are people far more interesting than myself in the world that have better stories to tell. I have no wish to clog the already full bookcases with a simple story that only a handful would like to read. In addition, I have no wish to relive my life in the ways that a writer would need to. I have lived it, verbally told the story, and I move on.

Nevertheless, it seems that there is a story in my life that I feel is worth telling in the written word, and not because it is an emotional tale, but rather a rational and simple one that I hope, many others would be able to gain insight on. My goal is to provide a point of view that will help others understand the points of view of loved ones around them. I am writing about the interaction of a personality and a ‘gift’ inside of my head, and I only hope that it will help more people than I will receive criticism for it.

What is Asperger’s Disorder?

            Asperger’s Disorder has been a victim of stereotypes and misperceptions over the years and part of this is due to the relationship that Asperger’s has with Autism.  Asperger’s is a form of high functioning Autism and part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (Sicile-Kira, 2004). Autism, in its lowest functioning forms, is a disorder much like Mental Retardation, so many individuals that hear the term “Asperger’s” assume a person is mentally retarded. There are many believed cases; including believing much like it was in the time of Jesus Christ, that the parents did something terrible to cause the child to be disabled. I am often amazed by how many people pity me or feel sorry for me or treatment me as if I am deaf and dumb when they hear that I am confirmed with Asperger’s. And then there are many that believe that I am a genius when they here Autism in reference to me… though my last online IQ quiz put me at about 140, but I think that happened because I was having a good day. I would ask the reader to please set aside the stereotypes now even if they are partly correct, and those with experience will probably agree with me.

While Asperger’s is part of the spectrum of Autism, I like to think of Asperger’s as the cousin of Autism: different but from the same family. When I discuss the relations of these two disorders to others in conversation, I will often draw out the image below on a sheet of paper or a napkin:

High Functioning ——- Asperger’s ——- [] ———Autism—————–Low Functioning

Asperger’s patients are not always aware that they have the disorder or that there is even a problem. In a lot of cases of Asperger’s, the individual will find ways to adapt to the environments they are in with either a focus on logic or a selection of friends that are willing to spend time with an eccentric person. Asperger’s individuals tend to have high intelligence but not always are they geniuses (as has been portrayed on television) (Sicile-Kira, 2004). Many experts in the study and management of Asperger’s argue that though it is part of the spectrum of Autism, it is also a different expression of the disorder. As a result, a person that has experience with an Autistic person might be able to understand shared traits of an Asperger’s person but not in reverse.

We obtain a diagnosis of Asperger’s and Autism by looking at three important areas of how the person interacts with others in the world around them: Social, Communicative and Organizational (though some people will call it ‘restrictive patterns of behavior’) (Mesibov, Shea & Adams, 2001). I am not going to spend time on the process of diagnosing or the criterion, but I will spend a paragraph discussing each of the areas affected.

Social is often the area that comes to the attention of care-takers and others first. Autistics like to be alone a great deal or they with use barriers between themselves and others like computers, screens or other devices. Many autistics will also have a difficult time with social rules and norms, in some cases refusing to follow them unless there is a reasonable and logical explanation for the rules. In many ways an Autistic child is asking why to every social rule that is put in front of them and if there is no reason for the rule, they will dismiss it.

Communicative is the next area, and this does not refer only to verbal communication but also nonverbal. Many people with Asperger’s remain undiagnosed because there is still a stereotype that only people with low or no ability to speak are Autistic. Robison (2011) does a good job of discussing many different social behaviors that can communicate the wrong information, but do not make any sense in a real communication. Most Asperger’s patients like their communication to be simple, straightforward and direct, and finished definitively. In the books I have read by Asperger’s and the conversations I have had, most of them like the communication to get to the point, complete and move on. Moreover, at times this can seem very rude to other people, thus communicating the wrong information in the interaction.

The final area is with organization of objects, life activities, and thoughts. If you spend a long time with a person of Autism Spectrum Disorders, you will notice that many of them ‘have a method to their madness’. The organization is multifold because it assists the person with many areas of their life. The first is in keeping track of information, because the Asperger’s brain will process through thousands of bits of information while trying to figure life, other people and the world they live in. The other reason for the organization is a need to feel in control of their environment. People of Autistic Spectrum Disorders are often easily stressed and as a result, many will develop tools and routines to help cope with stress (Dubin, 2009). The last reason for the routines is so that nothing is forgotten or neglected, because while living in one’s one little world, sometimes you will forget to feed the cat or take out the trash. The routine helps to keep the little things in life taken care of.

I have had many people ask me about the causes of Autism/Asperger’s and there are many different theories and ideas. One idea that I thought was the most logical was found in Mirroring People by Iacboni (2008) in which he say that Asperger’s and Autism, are at least partially caused by a low population of Mirror Neurons in the brain. Mirror Neurons are the parts of the brain that help children to learn social behaviors and emotional cues and how to empathize with others that are around them (Iacoboni, 2008). In addition, Iacoboni (2008) points out that the dysfunction or low population of these Mirror neurons could be connected to many of the social difficulties that people with Asperger’s suffer from. Many of the social difficulties include: not understanding a joke if the punch line is implied, not understanding others’ emotional response to an event that they are unrelated to, and not being aware of social cues such as a person attempting to engage attention or attraction.  I have been referred to as socially dense because of traits like these, and Robison (2011) points out many different rational skills that are used wisely in order to not socially alienate from the desirable group. The cause of the low population of mirror neurons is unknown but there are a few theories that are genetic, environment, or even evolution.

There a hundreds of books and articles on Asperger’s, Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders and at the end of the writing of this article I have included the books to which I referred. I believe that they are all good sources of information.

Who I am now and in the past

            Before I start, I should explain a little of whom I am. I am a 31-year-old woman and a budding academic in the field of psychology. I am currently teaching psychology and working to put my pen to paper or type my thoughts and ideas with the goals of improving the theories of psychology. Many consider me an individual of high intelligence and a rational observer of the human situation and its relation to the world. I spend time with friends and family and in all considerations thought to be a rather ‘normal’ person. The one way that I do not seem normal deals directly with my means of expressing emotion, as in there is not an intense and at times notable expression of emotion. For this reason, I have been accused of having no emotion, and there has been a couple of times that I have been asked if I am a sociopath. As I have been teaching for the last year, it is interesting to see many of my students responding to me as if I were cold as ice and I even had one call me egotistical, which I have never been called that by anyone before.

My life up until I turned 20 was not easy, and some of that could be due to a difficulty in my expressions of stress while growing up in a world that went from using answering machines to cell phones in a handful of years. Couple this with the many other difficulties of adolescence in the 1990s and turbulent world of my family, which I will not get into. What I will say that the trials I lived through not only helped me to develop a strong constitution as well as an interest and a heart-felt attachment to the subject I have made my occupation. I had someone ask me if I went in to psychology to figure out what was wrong with myself or someone else and I stared at them feeling confused (they thought I was angry at the question). After a moment I responded that I did not think there was anything wrong… instead I was trying to figure out people, I felt like I did not understand other people.

While reading this monologue, please keep in mind that I am an intellect, teacher and psychologist first before all other things and second to that, I am a human being. It is important to the writer that these concepts and ideas are first in my identity before everything else that this paper explains. I write this with the idea of being helpful to the larger psychological community and to help other humans because that is the most important part of whom I am.

My point of view on having Asperger’s Disorder

            I have talked to many different people about my having Asperger’s Disorder and I have gotten many different reactions. One reaction was to ask me if I thought of the prevalence of my having this disorder as a disability and my response was “No, I see it as an explanation”.  The reason I choose the word explanation is that I could see that I did not think about information in a ‘normal’ way. From the first psychology class I took in high school of the final paper of my master’s degree in psychology, I could plainly see that I did not think through information in a ‘typical’ way. I even went so far as to try to map out my thinking on a sheet of paper as a surveyor would with city streets. Even this simple act seemed weird to many that I showed it to… though they also said, ‘that is who you are and what you do.’

One concern that was brought up about acknowledging this explanation is that it gives me an excuse for anti-social or asocial behavior. I said in response that I do not see the excuse, but instead the way to develop tools to not behave in anti and asocial behavior. Tools that I might need would be doing some of the writing I am doing now, knowing that I need to spend time alone and understanding the ways in which I can better manage my resources and goals. As well as seeing the traits that I need to improve on that are typical of having Asperger’s. I passionately stand by the belief that a psychological disorder is no different from a medical disorder in the ways that people deal with it. Some people will use medical disorders as an excuse for avoidant and maladaptive behavior, while others will see it as a means to develop fulfilling relationships and benefiting goals. A disorder is only a disorder if the individual allows it to be a dictate on life and choices. I believe that both fate and free will work hand in hand, the determining result is the agreement an individual makes with himself or herself and the god (or lack thereof) that they believe in.

My family expressed concern about allowing the disorder to label me; however, I do not believe that I this disorder label me. Instead I view having Asperger’s as a pleasure and a gift. I think of my mind as a cave of wonders that I now have a map to and I am ready to explore. My explanation is also my joy, my gift, and my ability to provide the world with the ambitions of my goals for my career in psychology.  I hope to use my mind to help the world understand more of the functions of the mind and help a few great minds to find their own way to improve the world we live in. People with cognitive disorders like Asperger’s see the world differently… much like standing in different locations in a room will help you see the room differently. Some people stand in the center and other stand in corners, when you combine the points together you get a better map of the whole.

Asperger’s affects what I believe

            When I started to read and learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders, my goal was to be able to provide accurate information to my students about a disorder that is growing in diagnosis and public awareness. There is a lot of misinformation and criticism with regards to this disorder and as a teacher it is important to provide correct information. I did not expect to find myself in the pages I was reading. I knew that I was a bit ‘weird’ and I have always made an effort to understand each of the traits. After I became more aware of the collection of traits that comes with the Asperger’s ‘package’, I felt that I found a mirror reflecting what I did not know. I later found out that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a child but never told of it because of other concerns and difficulties in my life at the time. Also there was very little information about the topic and that was a tentative diagnosis.

One of the traits that struck me first was the need for alone time. However I choose to spend that time, I still need it. I have tried to force myself to be a highly social person in the past and the result of a forced period is the same: me being angry with other people and confused. As a result, I have learned that it is okay to take a break and stay home for a while, or be introverted from time to time and even restrict social interaction to one or two people at that moment. Many of my close friends and family have become use to me sitting in silence during group conversation and this is because the many conversations going on around me can be over-whelming. I have also learned that when it is time to go home, it is okay to go home, and most people have learned to not stop me from leaving.

Another trait that struck me was the routines and organization behaviors, of which I do a great deal. I have my bedtime routine, my dinner and dishes routine, and I even have weekly routines for chores and other tasks. I spent a lot of time thinking about the routines and I realized that the need for the patterns partially needed for stress control. I have experience with non-verbal autistics in the past and was trained and warned about never changing their routines, which of course, suited me just fine. Though I have learned to appreciate and in some cases, enjoy change, I have a difficult time with permanent changes and large changes (such as moving to a new city or changing jobs). The number one thing I have learned to help me cope with this is to tell others that I am upset, what I need, and telling myself that it is okay to be frustrated.

Telling people the truth about my reactions and me has been my greatest tool in help me to maintain friendships and relationships. Because I have a difficult time with display of emotions (one person pointed out that if I did not say that I was falling asleep on my feet, they would not be able to tell looking at me), I have learned to speak my emotions and take actions (such as giving people hugs) to indicate how I am feeling. I have also learned to tell myself that it is okay not to express my emotions all the time, and that I am perfectly welcome to be stoic when I need to be. Most Asperger’s have a difficulties with be touched and it has taken a great deal of work and talk to express to people when it is okay to hug me and when I need my space.     The lack of emotional affect has been my greatest challenge and has got me in difficult situation more time than I can account for. Emotional expressing is one of the most important ways for humans to communicate with each other and having a hard time expressing emotion leads to a large amount of misperceptions of how I am feeling.

There are number of frustrating things about not expressing my emotions to the same dramatic details of others around me. One is that if I do not seem to be feeling anything (displaying apathy) I have been ‘given’ emotions or told how I am feeling. Often the given emotion is no where near what I am actually feeling and it is frustrating to anyone to be told how you are feeling. The second is having other people deflect their emotional state on to you or having other react to you as if you are a mirror that they are watching themselves in and they do not like what they see. This behavior often is followed by the first frustration of having others tell you how you are feeling. The third frustration is in misinterpretation which happens often. Many misinterpret my tone or statement for a more dramatic emotion than is being conveyed. I have simple logical statement understood as being angry or rude, even through email and text message. The last frustration is being ignored because there is no dramatic show of emotion and as a result other assume that you are fine when you are not and need some one to ask “are you okay?”

My favorite trait of Asperger’s/ Autism is the ability to solve puzzles. Though many people enjoy puzzles and like to disassemble and reassemble puzzles, the Autistic brain will apply this to life and other events. Most Autistics are highly rational people in the way that they think and as a result, they will spend a great deal of time piecing information together as if it were a puzzle. As a result, many of them will develop the skills to form puzzled pictures and ideas together, drawing together lines of association. There are a handful that have used these ingrained and learned thought skills to organize their lives, cope with stress and become great scientists, inventors, and thinkers.

Conclusion

            Autism Spectrum Disorders have a long way to go before it’s completely understood by most people in the world, but for the time being there is more interest and as a result, there is more research performed. I discovered that I am a high functioning Asperger’s a little over year ago and have found myself become a home-grown expect on the topic. However, the point of this paper was a means of expression from a person proud to be on the Spectrum of Autism. I was able to see that my brain is in fact different from others and from that I draw my strength, understanding and hone my talents. Though I am looking for ways to help deal with some of the unpleasant traits of Asperger’s such as high stress, social anxiety, and tunnel vision (literally), I feel confident that there are ways to do it without taking synthetic medications. At the moment there are connections being drawn from the supplement “choline” and coping with Autism. There is a brief article on ‘livestrong.com’ that is a good start to hopefully a growing body of information on the use of this supplement.

Learning to live with your self is a life long task and having an explanation as to why to stand out a little more than other people is a way to help. The final thought on this topic is a few words of advice. First, autistics need time, whether it is brushing teeth or thinking, they need to go at their own pace. Second, autistics do feel and deeply even if they are not always able to express those feelings in words or actions. And last, rational thinking is not a why of insulting you or not getting jokes. Most autistics are highly visual (see pictures more than words in their minds) and as a result the information does not come across as words or sounds would, result is a rational processing of information.

I read in one book that the numbers of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders is increasing to almost one in 100 people. Why the numbers have gone up is any one guess but it would be a help to see a study of the populations of world to see how many people have Autism on some level or another. With more information of the true numbers there might be better theories about the causes of autism as well as how to help people better cope with the frustrations in the future.

References

Dubin, N. (2009). Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety: A Guide to Stress Management. Dexter, MI: Thomson- Shore.

Iacoboni, M. (2009). Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others. New York, N.Y: Picador.

Mesibov, G. B., Shea, V. & Adams, L. W. (2001). Understanding Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Robison, J. E. (2011). Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers. New York: Crown Archetype.

Sicile-Kira, C. (2004). Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger\’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Other Asds. New York: Berkeley Pub. Group.