Monday, October 5, 2015

Dream Log: The Delightful, Difficult Autistic-Human Interface

Last night I had a series of dreams which were about a previous night's series of dreams. Last night, I dreamed that the difficulties I had faced during the earlier night's dreams were due to my misunderstanding of the autistic-human interface, and that the solution was to understand the underlying human motivation whenever it is at odds with the ostensible reasons for the given event.

Get it? Got it? Good. It seemed like a big breakthrough while I was still asleep, but sometimes what seems like brilliance when I'm asleep turns out to be pretty much nothing when I wake up. We'll see whether or not I've actually had a breakthrough.

But first I should probably explain what I mean by the "autistic-human interface." We -- by which I mean we autistic people -- find you humans to be fascinating, lovable creatures -- and by "humans" I mean the 99% or so of you who are not autistic. We like you, but we often find it very difficult to care for you and provide healthy environments for you, conditions in which you can thrive to the utmost, because we don't understand how your brains work, and we very often do not understand what you are trying to communicate with your words and actions. To name just one example, there's the whole eye-contact thing. Boy, you humans really like to make a lot of eye contact! It's only been in the past several years, with the help of therapists specializing in aspects of the autistic-human interface, that I've noticed how much eye contact most of you consider to be normal. How much? Way too much for me in most circumstances, thank you very much! So don't take it personally if I don't look you in the eye nearly as much as you think I might. It doesn't have anything to do with me not liking you, or liking you too much and being all shy about that, or with me being a shifty coward instead of a "real" man -- no, it's just an aspect of the autistic-human interface. We may look the same and share a lot of the same DNA, but we autistic people are genetic mutants, and we're different from you humans. The eye contact issue is one of many, many examples.

So anyway, I don't remember much about the previous night's dreams except that in those dreams I was pondering the interface, as I do quite a lot in dreams and also while awake. Last night's dreams had to with improving the interface. First of all, I was in a very crowded mall with Matt LeBlanc (a movie star again). I often find crowds very stressful, as many autistic people do, but it helps if I'm with some other people and I'm involved with them either by conversation or by some shared task or by sharing an experience, like at a movie or sporting event. In the mall Matt and I, autistic and human united in a single purpose, were attempting to help some senior citizens shop. But it was so crowded and there was so much pushing and shoving in the crowd, and the senior citizens themselves were so energetic, running this way and that, that Matt and I had to agree that our efforts had met with only partial success, if that, but that we had gained some insight into the interface. We shook hands, and that was the end of the 1st dream. (Matt's hair wasn't grey.)

In the next dream I was outside in a Midwestern semi-urban environment. I and many other people were energetically running and jumping across the landscape, sometimes leaping from roof to roof in suburban subdivisions or leaping across narrow canyons, in a large-scale effort to do... something. If it was clear to me during the dream what all of us were doing, it's gone now, except that there were hundreds of us, too many to communicate with all of the rest in the midst of so much action and motion, and that we were all united in... something. Like maybe distributing bottled water to the populace, because the water supply had been contaminated, or the water-delivery system had been damaged. I mention this only as a possibility, because I don't remember what our shared purpose was, if I even ever knew it to begin with while I was dreaming.

A sub-group within the group of us, a couple dozen people, had paused in a parking lot to get organized for the next step. It was a parking lot but all of us were on foot. I had been given the task of explaining to this sub-group what we needed to do next, and how we were going to do it. The plan was very clear to me, it would have been very simple to communicate the plan to these several dozen people, except that every time that I began to speak, Mila Kunis (movie star!) and another young woman, sitting cross-legged on a blanket, began to talk to each other very loudly in a Slavic language. I stopped talking, and they stopped talking, and as soon I began again they began again. It seemed very clear that they were deliberately interfering with my prepping the group for the next action to be taken, although it was not all clear to me why they were doing it.

And that's when I had what seemed to me, while I was dreaming, like an epiphany about the autistic-human interface, which, now that I'm awake, seems like it might be be nothing. The possible epiphany is this: it's good for an autistic person, observing humans, to see the difference, if he or she can, between the explicit motivation for the event, and the implicit motivation for the behavior within the event which seems to contradict the event's explicit motivation.

For example: say that we were all there to get bottled water to people who needed it. That was the explicit motivation of the event which had brought us all together. I had the same explicit motivation in attempting to address the people in the parking lot. Now say that Mila and her friend were making a joke by repeatedly interrupting me in a Slavic language. That would mean that the implicit motivation of their repeated interruption was humor. Nothing wrong with humor in the midst of a day of hard, important work. Perhaps humans could easily see the implicit motivation of the actions of Mila and her friend. Perhaps, if I were human instead of autistic, I would know what to do. Perhaps a human would know exactly how to react, in a way which would make everyone laugh, and we were all tired and the laughter would re-energize all of us, and then it would be appropriate for me to continue sharing the plan for the next phase of action.

That's the possible epiphany: see something that at first looks to me like hostile disruption of the explicit purpose of the event, try to grasp the implicit motivation, see if maybe it's not hostile at all, react to the implicit motivation, rather than becoming angry at the disruption of the larger explicit purpose. Because perhaps Mila and her friend had no intention at all of hindering the explicit purpose, but just felt a need, not just on their parts, but on the part of the group -- maybe even on my part as well -- to blow off some steam for just a moment, before returning to the explicit purpose, the distribution of the bottled water.

Epiphany? Crap? Part-epiphany, part-crap? I don't know.

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