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Should we stop trying to act normal?

Discussion in 'Friends, Family & Social Skills' started by Loomis, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Loomis

    Loomis Well-Known Member

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    As a recently diagnosed older aspie/HFA who has spent his entire life trying to act normal, I am wondering if there is another way. I am still in the stage of processing what to do with my diagnosis. It is good to know why I have acted and felt different all my life. Now what?

    I think want to move forward with a different attitude. I want to stop pretending I am "normal." I am not sure what that means but I think maybe I should be more humble and not try to project an image of confidence. I have become good at projecting this image but it is always short lived. Eventually people get to know me and see through it. For example, I remember in college a friend once told me: "When I first met you, I thought you were macho, now I see that you are really pseudo-macho." This has happened more than once with different behavioral descriptions applied but always with the insight that the way I first presented myself was not really an accurate portrayal of who I really was.

    So, after decades of developing the skill to pretend I am normal, I want to stop and be who I now know myself to be. But I have not yet figured out how to go about it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
  2. eon

    eon Jimmy The Neurotypical

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    Glad you posted this question.. This is a really good way to rephrase the ultimate problem with later life aspie discovery.


    Personally I've been struggling with it for 2 years. I'm 28.

    The best I've seen goes by the brilliant Tony Attwood's ideas, and has given me empowerment to define my personality and do a better job of presenting the real me to others. So my answer is yes, we shouldn't try to act normal we should try to act like our truest selves... who you should start being is the best self, with all positive aspects accessible to those with whom we care to interact.

    Tony Attwood's aspie discovery criteria
     
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  3. Soup

    Soup Well-Known Member

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    I think that you Aspie guys might have it harder in that regard. There are fewer ways in which a grown man can dress & behave within most societies that fall within the so-called normal range. As an Aspie woman I tend to blend in more. I'm short & slim so virtually any outfit I select looks kind of 'regular' on me. Much about 'passing for normal' in the NT mainstream has to do with not looking different. Compared to many NT women with their big hair, carnival make-up & parade float clothing, I'm camouflaged in my plain comfortable black tops & long loose skirts.

    Aspie guys tend to look odd by mainstream standards & that's forgetting about any behavioural differences. Other Aspies , Autistic people & other odd people tend to spot me almost immediately (distant Aspie eyes & an odd gait) BUT I slip right under the NT radar. For short spurts & short exchanges, I've 'passed for normal' for years. Those who are related to me tell a very different tale.

    I resent having to 'pass for normal' the way a light skinned mixed-race black person once had to 'pass for white' in order to accommodate society's cesspit of prejudices. Plus, I don't really want to be a NT at all! It's like asking a dog to 'meow' & pretend he's a cat!!! There are more & more of us Aspies in the world who are refusing to hide our true nature like pariahs. Just because there are more NTs out there doesn't render their state some aspirational ideal. In our increasingly tech dependant world, Aspies are making their mark in mathematics, engineering, robotics & every aspect of computer sciences.

    Many have become distinguished experts within very narrow yet essential fields that few NTs can even comprehend! Many medical & pharmaceutical researchers, lab technicians & even surgeons are Aspies who can throw themselves into their areas of interest with a singular tireless flcus few NTs can match. Even our kindred spirits further along the spectrum are working in jobs where repetitive solitary tasks are comforting for them but demoralizing for a NT (tech assembly plants in Malaysia, Singapore & China are filled with our kind). the advent of the home office has also become an empowering tool for Aspies. I've even seen the weird (yet somewhat gratifying) spectacle of NTs trying to pass for Aspies: complete with the bad haircut, gawky glasses, nerdy clothing & overly precise speech! We have a reputation as weird, socially awkward BUT very intelligent & knowledgeable. Who really WANTS to be a NT any ways?
     
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  4. Christian T

    Christian T Well-Known Member

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    Wow, is this true? If it is, perhaps hopefully it can make them realise how difficult it is for Aspies to deal with the pressure to impersonate a neurotypical. And, by the sound of it, they're making the same mistakes an aspie (like myself) makes when they're too eager to please - they resort to masquerading as a Disney Channel caricature, most embarrassing.
     
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  5. Soup

    Soup Well-Known Member

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    It also feels insincere. Do you find 'passing' as exhausting as I do? I think this charade might play a major role in the anxiety we feel around going out & being around others. Since none of us can keep it up for too long any ways & many of us wind up outing ourselves with our behaviours, WHY EVEN BOTHER?

    For what its worth, many NTs are 'passing' in their own way as they strive to measure up to their culture's unattainable beauty/esthetic standards. Think of all the wigs, hair weaves & extensions, fake tans, over-bleached teeth, spandex corsets, support hose, spike heels, padded bras, silicone boobs, acrylic glue on nails, tinted contacts... it all comes out of various packages, cans & bags. Some people have almost nothing left that's genuinely attached! Must suck to have to remove it all at day's end.

    What I said about them is 100% true. Many of them are even buying nerd glasses without power in the lenses because it makes them appear smarter than they really are! I actually saw a report about this trend on CNN. The tech boom has made being Aspie-ish & looking like a nerd cool! Think of the impact Bill Gates & his look has had in his field. It was like the impact Freud's look had on shrinks. So many have emulated his style. For us Aspies, this is not a 'style'. We just look like this all the time!

    Even stimming behaviours such as rocking don't look as bizarre as they once did. Every other person is using bluetooth tech & appears to be talking out loud to himself. Then there are the rocking back & forth swaying people. They're all listening to music on MP3 players.
     
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  6. Arashi222

    Arashi222 Cuddling Vampires V.I.P Member

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    For me I don't really act any different than how I am. I am who I am. I function the way I have always functioned and the normals can be damned. If they are my friends great if not then fine. I won't change my behavior just to please them. However I have learned a lot with my training and education on how to read people, how to ask the right questions and keep asking until I understand. I Stim, I am not ashamed to say that I do, but most people who've known me never have cared if they are my friends most of them don't even respond to it. I've had teachers who have had to stop me from pulling my hair during tests because it bothered them not me. So I think to some degree of course we change we accommodate sure, but on the deep deep level no. We are who we are and we need to be ok with that or we're gonna be unhappy.
     
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  7. Spinning Compass

    Spinning Compass Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    "Passing for normal"--that is a phrase I often use to describe myself. And I totally understand the part about how some mixed-race people felt they had to pass as white in order to make a quality life for themselves as a result of white society's prejudices even though I myself am white. The thing about passing whether it be racial or otherwise is that once you have made that decision to cross that line you can never never go back. You can never acknowledge where you came from or who you really are. It is very sad to say but in order to pass successfully you must distance yourself from others who threaten your ability to pass. In my case it is anyone with an obvious mental or physical handicap or even someone who is on the margins of society. I simply cannot afford to associate with them lest others connect the dots.

    Now, before you judge me on this, I spent a long hard time working to overcome the things that made me a target--and I have a long unhappy history in that area--and I have NO desire to go back to that. Do I resent having to pass for normal? Yes. In some ways. However, I do not feel that I had a choice IF I wanted to be self-supporting and independent. IF I wanted to have a job.

    It is one thing when one is young to fight against society and say society ought to be this and ought to be that and I have the right to be who I want to be and so on and so for. It is another thing when one is much older and finds that they have to depend on public charity for everything. Those people--and I have seen them--do not live what I call quality lives. Because they are at the mercy of society and if society decides to cut the funds, too bad. There's an awful lot of resentment out there that is directed against the poor, and I don't think the poor are aware of just how much resentment there is. I've said it before, I am not a fan of choices that lead to poverty and dependence and being yourself and asking society to accept you as you are may well be one such choice. If I have to act phony and pretend I am something I am not so that I can earn enough to live as I please the rest of the time then I will gladly do so because I have seen the alternative and I do not want to go there in any way shape or form.
     
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  8. Loomis

    Loomis Well-Known Member

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    Well, I do not judge you and I totally understand. I would not describe what you do as acting phony. What you do is conform to the cultural standards in the Neurotypical world. You have done this by learning how to interpret Neurotypical behavior and how to respond to them in an acceptable Neurotypical-like manner. I have done the same and for me it took great effort and was exhausting. I fully agree it is no fun to be poor. You do what you must.

    Now, where we differ is that I thought I was a Neurotypical all my life. Or, to put it differently, I thought everyone had an act; others' acts were just better than mine. I spent a lifetime trying to make my act better, never suspecting my brain was wired differently. My diagnosis has freed me from some very serious misconceptions about myself and the world. I am joyful, after one week of being an aspie, with my new freedom. At last I understand NTs are different. For decades I never understand why I felt different but now I know. I no longer need "an act." I can still use the techniques I learned from 20 plus years in large corporations to live in the world a little less stressfully. I can function in this Neurotypical world and at the same time know that I am not of this world. This is a huge relief. And I can choose the times when I reject the Neurotypical culture and its quirks.

    So, if I understand you, you knew you were an aspie adapting to the Neurotypical world. You learned behaviors that hid "defects" you knew would be discriminated against by NTs. Bravo. No problem. I get it.

    Here is where I disagree. I think you are still yourself and do not believe you compromised principles. What you did was difficult, clever and effective but not a sellout.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
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  9. Soup

    Soup Well-Known Member

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    I too understand those who feel the need to truly adapt to facilitate integration into the NT world. Those Aspies who have a job that requires then to commute daily & work with others are in a bind where such adaptation is unfortunately necessary should they wish to earn a living. If you are skilled enough at adapting that you can do so & keep up the dance in order to maintain your 9 to 5, Good for you! Do what you have to do in a way that feels right to you. I know that, for me, I'd go stark raving mad if I had to fall down the NT rabbit hole daily for 8 hours & work with them closely. This is probably why so many of us choose careers/jobs where we can work quite autonomously.

    I tip my hat to those Aspies who can actually pull it off! I know I could never do it. I flew under the NT radar mostly because of the way I look. I'm very small & easy to not notice & where I live, there's so much diversity that I'd need 2 heads to truly stand out.
     
  10. King_Oni

    King_Oni Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Just thinking about my current deal a bit, the past, and as such my past experiences, alongside the fact that I had a few jobs in the past, why I got fired, but also, the "horrorstory" that came along with it in terms of needing a therapist to deal with life.

    Back, when I was a kid I went to a after school daycare thing with pediatricians and all. I got my special attention, I got anger management training on a one to one basis, stuff like that. I learned a fair deal with it.

    However... that was 20 years ago. Later... as in the last 2 years, it feels like all the stuff I've been trying to keep on the inside is coming out. And as such ends the period where I'm actually acting "normal". I tried to adapt, I tried to get in college, I tried to hold a job. And in the end neither of them was succesfull. I dropped out, and when I had a job, I ended up at a therapist after 6 months. I had relationship problems because I was way to stressed out and agressive because of my job. And just now I really thought about how much I could admire my ex girlfriend for sticking through it for that long and not leaving me way earlier, since she probably would've had about 3 moments a week, where I'd hurl stuff through the house, including hammers, glass bottles and a fair share of other stuff that might injure people. And I'm kinda built to pretty much pick up a couch and hurl that around as well... so things really went flying. So anyway, that's what anger management has thought me, and how I handled myself on a job... seems like I was only pissed of 66% of the day... I'm catching up the 33% now, and I'm twice as angry when I'm awake and sleep like a baby. How's that for stopping to be normal?

    I gave up hope and attempts a while ago, I know that if I try, the "abnormal factor" is coming back again at some point. And there's not a lot I can do about it. I rather be not normal and act like a raving madman all the time... at least I'm having a blast in doing so.

    But I should add in, that I'm trying to minimize factors that stress me out. That's going along fine actually. I don't have a job, I'm not in college, I have 24 hours a day I can dedicate to me, and personal interests... that's what's keeping me pseudo-normal I guess.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
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  11. Loomis

    Loomis Well-Known Member

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    King_Oni
    That sounds pretty shitty. I am sorry to hear your situation is so uncomfortable.

    I lost my job 3 years ago because after working for 6 different Vice-Presidents, I finally got one who was impossible to work for. He was one of those NTs who walks around always smiling. At the same time he was very secretive about what he was thinking. One thing I have learned is that the NTs you have to worry about most are not the ones who get angry and rant, it's the ones who smile all the time. Because it's bulls**t. Nobody is happy all the time; they are lying through their teeth with their non-verbal cues and even an Aspie could figure that out. Anyway I could not stand this dude and I made no effort to pretend I liked him. To make a long story short. I got fired and have not worked since. I am in the process of divorcing my wife of 22 years and declaring bankruptcy. My house is moving into foreclosure and I am going to have to greatly change my living situation shortly.

    So I hear you King_Oni. The world is not a nice place.
     
  12. Bay

    Bay Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    So sorry for your profound losses, Loomis. I can't remember where I read this, but some people believe that there is a kind of AS midlife crisis, where a lifetime of trying to "pass" finally catches up to an Aspie, and they find that they can no longer pretend to function like a NT. I believe that something like that has happened to me. Everything in my life unraveled over a few years, but in spite of that I feel better about myself. Odd. Has your experience been anything like that?
     
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  13. Christian T

    Christian T Well-Known Member

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    Sounds heavenly.
     
  14. Christian T

    Christian T Well-Known Member

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    King_Oni, I actually had a similar experience to yours in the very different context of primary school. For a few months I successfully suppressed most of my aspie traits, and made many new friendships - or rather, my neurotypical alter-ego made them. I was truly exhausting, really like trying to restrain a full bladder, and in the end I metaphorically wet myself. In the space of a few days, my aspie traits returned in a heavily amplified fashion and shattered all of my peer connections. It took me about 2 years to pick up the pieces and reassemble the jigsaw of my social life - halfway through that time I came very close, but it was fragile and a breath of wind destroyed my progress.

    So, yes, trapping the Asperger's is quite a dangerous business.

    Anyway, enough about me. I really hope you and Loomis can eventually repair the damage,I can imagine how painful it must be for you both. Nevertheless, I have to commend you Loomis on refusing to be sycophantic to that grinning, deceitful coward. I think I'm actually better at spotting them than most neurotypicals, because years of receiving both genuinely happy smiles and desperate, patronising lip contortions have taught me the difference.

    Oh, and Bay, I definitely think there's a catharsis somewhere in these mid-life crises - or in my case, pre-teen crises.
     
  15. Sillyjuicy

    Sillyjuicy Well-Known Member

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    I have never managed to be able to copy the NTs, so within a few weeks of meeting me, I am usually cast out, as it were. So I come to my recent diagnosis with some hope that I will be able to find a place in the world where I can be just as I am and it won't matter. I was always aware that I couldn't play the social game and that turned people off. As a child, I thought everyone else was wrong and why coujldn't they just see that I was right, but that was eventually knocked out of me. My ex-in laws were the worts NT socialites - "oh how lovley to see you; kiss kiss" but my ex father in law actually said to me "so long as you are nice to people to their face, you can say what you like about them behind thier back" Of course, I couldn't and wouldn't. I was taught "if you can''t say anything nice then do say anything at all" which is one reason for my mutism, amongs others :unsure:
     
  16. Sillyjuicy

    Sillyjuicy Well-Known Member

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    that was don't say anything - typo:redface:
     
  17. rolo

    rolo Well-Known Member

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    I am 46 and also getting my head round this-I was always told i was different-non conformist-attention seeking etc- this diagnosis has given me license to be myself and get to like it eventually-why should we be dictated to by others-if I spend to much time in guest mode and try to present myself as-"normal" I always trip up eventually and the amount of effort it takes to sustain the illusion is quite frankly exhausting. Tony Attwood has some interesting acedemic ideas but quite frankly the more I have read the more i question him and who he really supports-he appears to be more beneficial from the perspective of parents and guardians of those on the spectrum. His chapter on relationships in his book the complete guide to Aspergers sydrome was more than a little disturbing to read and I was left feeling distinctly cold.
     
  18. Loomis

    Loomis Well-Known Member

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    Well, I look forward to the changes in the future. I have always considered myself to be an optimist, although my wife of 22 years does not agree. Curious, isn't it? I suspect she sees the part of me always anticipating the worst outcomes. I know, however, I anticipate the worst outcomes because I want to be prepared for whatever happens. I had one therapist describe me as having a wartime personality because I was always arming myself to deal with potential threats. Frankly I think this has served me well because I could go into situations with less fear.

    I am looking forward to my new life and expect to be happier. I just bought myself an airedale terrier. (My wife hates dogs.) And I am moving to another city where I will be able to live very cheaply for the next year. I intend to make money in three ways. 1. The dog I bought is a show champion and I will breed him. 2. I went to school last year and learned to do antique repair. and 3. I will be trading in the stock market using what is left of my retirement account. (Retirement accounts are protected in bankruptcy and creditors cannot touch the money.)

    Being newly diagnosed, I never knew I was pretending. But yes I can see how people reach a point where they just say: no more!

    I am free from my wife, who I still like and respect. And the knowledge that my brain circuitry is different answers the question why I have had a lifelong struggle with people. I will change how I interact with NTs but I do not know yet how this will look.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  19. rolo

    rolo Well-Known Member

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    Being aspie is normal at least to us-for me getting a diagnosis after waiting until I was 46 was a license for me to be myself- I was not mad as i was led to believe- I have spent half my life people pleasing -why? many of us struggle with melt downs, sensory overload and guest moding is a step too far for me.I understand the projection of confidence but that is just plain exhausting-its ok. not to be perfect- atleast i remind myself of that on a daily basis- I believe allowing yourself to be you is a great step.
     
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  20. Loomis

    Loomis Well-Known Member

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    Very good point rolo. I missed that until you pointed it out. The thread should have read Should we stop trying to act "normal"?