I am hardly around strangers now, except for the super friend post-woman who still catches me off-guard when she attempts to make small conversations. I like her, but I have learnt that I am not readily capable to respond to unprepared conversations.
I grow up preparing for possible scenarios in a social environment; I assumed everyone did the same – a long mental preparation before meeting with friends.
Friends and boyfriends hated my rigid routine and lack of spontaneous impulses. I used to admire my sister and friends who sprint to an invitation to social functions. I always said I needed to prepare mentally, that seemed reasonable to me, but apparently an unacceptable odd reason to most people.
I never understood why they didn’t understand. I understand now.
When I went for the pre-enrollment interview for higher education in psychology and counseling, I replied to the course manager that I wanted to learn about human behaviors, when asked what I was expecting to learn. I remember vividly that I said it was a passion, it still is. What I didn’t know then, is that it is more than a passion, it is my natural coping mechanism.
Since a child, I was convinced that I was an excellent mind-reader. I would never say that I am a mind-reader, but it was made believe. I seemed to have this special talent to be able to notice the minute behavioral responses of others, and see beneath the conscious behaviors into the carefully guarded sub-conscious.
There is no special ability. I am just a very keen observer, and I have a very different set of coping mechanism; one that most regular people never needed.
When I was doing the Asperger’s Syndrome test, I sometimes have to toggle memories between my current knowledge and when I was a child. See, we are high-functioning, we learn just like you do. I learn to cope. If based on my knowledge as a child, my score might rocket through the roof, but I have learnt to decipher the social secret codes better now, never naturally.
We were out to the doctor’s office on Friday. I am always amazed – honestly, with a hint of disappointment at myself – with the interpersonal communication between strangers.
Mike and I are married since 2007, a year after we dated. I don’t always understand his question unless he asks explicitly. I even get frustrated at times when he asks a question that seemed to poke a face out yelling at me, ‘you should know what I mean’.
The recent doctor’s visitations refresh with a new set of affirmed perspectives. Even as strangers, the nurses, receptionists, and Mike seemed to be able to understand one another just fine, even before they finished their sentences. It felt like a movie in a foreign language that I only knew ‘good morning’ and ‘good bye’. Seated there, I was amazed, and puzzled at the same time.
Mike was concerned about my allergy towards the plaster, we expressed our concerns about my tolerance level, and discussed the possibility to remove the patch test in the bad case of blistering. He asked if the nurse could let me try… Before he finished his sentence, the nurse replied, ‘Sure!’, and cut a small section of the tape and tape it on my arm. The nurse seemed to understand him perfectly; while I was waiting for him to finish his sentence before responding.
The same thing happened on many other occasions whereby strangers understood one another perfectly before the sentences finish – now, that explains a lot about friends commenting that I am ‘slow’, I do need to wait for swaying feather to land to know for sure what happened; which of course never did because others ‘hijacked’ the sentences. In my experiences, my guesses are usually not remotely near to what the person meant to say.
That brought me to thinking that I might not be the ‘mind-reader’ like I was made to believe. I do not understand the dynamic social lingo, ever. The so-called ‘mind-reading’ was a different definition in context. In my context, it really is the coping mechanism kicking in.
Long before I studied psychology theories and counseling methods, I always knew psychoanalysis. We always compensate for what we lack – almost a beautiful statement of how our minds aspire to perfect the imperfections.
It could be true that I have very limited interpersonal communication skill, if any at all. I am not going to lie. I had suffered enough condescending stares from disgruntled friends and strangers to know that I need to pretend to be normal. I learn to survive, somehow.
My way of coping is to analyse behaviors and put my notable skill to full potential – obsession with orderly structures and patterns. I am good in organizing things in orderly manner, and I pick up patterns quickly. I noticed that as complex as human social connections can be, their behaviors can be highly predictable.
I don’t have the natural skill to decipher the vague expression in a conversation; I do have the eye for details. Overtime, I have developed my set of profiles – perhaps similar to stereotyping, just not your typical way – to fit behaviors and personalities into multi-complex sections, yet easily understood by me.
I start to profile and analyse you when we meet for the first time. If I have impressed you that I seemed to know you so well, it is only because no matter how unique we think we are, we are not. Don’t take offense, I am not trying to be rude or to get into your head, this is the only known way for me to even function appropriately. This is how I cope and make up for the lack of the natural interpersonal skill that you casually flaunt. This is the only way I know what I can expect and be prepared for.
A wise woman whom I worked with in the counseling education center once told me, ‘Don’t always analyse, just go with it’. I have heard that said to me for so many times before. I know people who are close to me are able to see right through that I analyse everything. They didn’t think it’s a good thing. People are encouraged to let the heart feels. I do not contest to that; I believe my brain works differently, aside from matters of heart which seem to have an express ticket to bypass the cognitive gantry, my emotive department might be slightly fractured. Empathy has to make a stop at the Analytical department en route to the Emotion department. It is fair to say that I am not naturally compassionate nor empathetic.
Psychoanalysis is my coping mechanism to facilitate the basic person-to-person communication. After all the minds that blew up on my face, this is how I started to map the minds field in my head. I learn to avoid certain groups of people whom I know can never afford enough grace for people like myself.
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