Why aspies don’t swear

I’m not going to say that aspies never swear. Sometimes we swear a *lot*, in response to the increased frustration that we feel about the world compared to neurotypicals. But what you’re not going to find many aspies doing is throwing swear words into every second sentence like a lot of people do. Why? Why don’t we use swear words the same way as other people?

Swear words are redundant

Most times when people use a swear word, they are used to add emphasis. This is redundant. Think about it: why should we say “it’s fucking cold outside” when we can say “it’s very cold outside”? Or maybe we don’t need any word in there at all: just say “it’s cold outside”, because after all you’re just trying to explain why you’re wearing a scarf and gloves (which really shouldn’t need explaining at all, just sayin’ ;-) ).

Swear words are imprecise

Furthermore, swear words don’t accurately convey what we’re trying to say. So many reviews for, for example, smartphone apps say “this app is so crappy”. Why use the word “crappy” when we could use a much more meaningful word? What about explaining *why* the app is crappy, by saying something like “this app is so difficult to use” or the even more helpful “the navigation menus have too many layers in them”? In the statement “my day was a pile of shit” we’re left wondering “in what way was it a pile of shit?”, and we see no reason to use a word that omits this information completely when we could just as easily express what we had in mind when we made the statement.

Even if we’re trying to insult someone, I can think of many better ways of doing that without using a swear word. Instead of saying “why the hell did you do that?” I’m probably going to say “why did you do such a stupid thing?”. Not only have I added the information that what they did was stupid and that’s why I’m complaining about it, but I also score a point for calling the other person’s actions stupid ;-) .

Swear words are meaningless

They’re overused and lose their meaning because people are saying and hearing them all the time. ‘Nuff said.

Swear words are lazy

When someone swears at us, we don’t take offence; we think “couldn’t you think of a better word?”. Swearing just shows laziness: laziness in not thinking of something more original to say, and laziness in not trying to avoid words that many people don’t like. Or laziness in not thinking of a better way to insult us.

We don’t want to look lazy, and as aspies we have a natural tendency to want to do something the best way, not just the easiest way, so we prefer to think more carefully about the words that we use.

Swear words are offensive

We might not always show it, but we really don’t want to offend or upset people. So why use a word that’s intended to do just that, just to tell someone how friggin’ cold it is outside?

Self-harm, play piercing, and endorphin regulation

A lot of aspies self-harm. Even more used to, until they were told to stop by either their parents, their therapists, or their inner conscience. Most of those that do wouldn’t admit to doing it. But yet they all feel the need to, and they all carry on doing it even when they want to stop. They like the feeling of pain. They need the feeling of pain, and the mental state that it brings with it. And it truly helps them to feel better.

Then you get the neurotypicals who poke needles through their skin because they like the way it feels. They call it play piercing, and they say that they not only enjoy the physical feeling but that it gives them this intense rush of happiness inside, which gets ever increasingly intense as they add more and more needles, sometimes hundreds all over their body.

What do these have in common? They’re both in some way penetrating their bodies in a way that causes pain. And they both like that feeling of pain. But it’s not just the pain that they’re after; it’s the brain’s response to the pain that they associate with the pain, and which makes them seek more pain. A sensation of pain causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins, and the endorphins inhibit the transmission of the pain sensation. In short, endorphins are natural painkillers, which the brain releases in response to pain. So by causing pain intentionally, one can intentionally cause the release of endorphins.

But it’s not the painkilling aspect of endorphins that self-harmers and play piercers seek. Endorphins have other effects too, and one of those other effects is that they invoke a feeling of happiness. In fact, endorphins are the chemicals that control happiness – when we’re in a situation that makes us happy, our brain releases endorphins and that causes us to experience happiness.

So by intentionally causing oneself pain, one can intentionally trigger the release of endorphins, which will make one feel happier. Indeed the experience of happiness resulting from self-harm does not feel the same as true happiness, but superficially it is similar and it is similar enough for both groups of people to keep wanting it over and over, just as one wants to feel happy.

So what the play piercers are doing is triggering an intense endorphin “rush”, leading to a sudden feeling of happiness, which they enjoy. And what the self-harmers are doing is releasing endorphins into their body to make up for the absence of other happiness.

Here then is the link between self-harm and depression: depression either causes or comes as a result of a lack of endorphins. In either case, increasing the concentration of endorphins in the brain will help the depressed person to feel better. By self-harming, the depressed person feels a little better, and can continue getting through life. Here, too, is the link between self-harm and Asperger’s: aspies tend to feel depressed easily as a result of their more intense emotions. By self-harming, they can balance out their depression and feel a little more positive about life.

So let’s put the play piercers aside now and think about self-harm and depression: by intentionally releasing endorphins, one can reduce depression, thus endorphins can be considered a kind of natural anti-depressant, and self-harm can be considered a natural way to regulate one’s endorphin level to keep oneself from sinking too deep into depression. See what I did there? Yes, self-harm can be used to manage depression.

And that’s the point here: we need to stop thinking of self-harm as a negative behaviour and instead start viewing it as the body’s natural response to depression. Is it a better anti-depressant than medication? Is it better to let a depressed person manage their depression themselves, through self-harm, as necessary? Is self-harm actually a protection mechanism, just like shivering when one is cold, rather than a way to mutilate oneself out of hate for one’s own body? The truth is, we don’t know. And we won’t know until more research is done. But that research won’t get done until we stop viewing self-harm as something to be stopped as soon as possible.

The fact that the depressed person instinctively turns to self-harm as a way of dealing with their depression tells me that it’s supposed to work as a way to regulate one’s emotions.

Hypersensitivity vs Hyperawareness

As part of a recent assessment, I was asked a number of questions about my sensory experience. One of the questions was “Do you tend to notice sounds that others don’t notice?”.

Of course the answer is “yes”, but when I went into more depth and started analysing *why* I notice sounds that others don’t, I realised that it is probably somewhat related to why I see things that others don’t. No, that sounds like I hallucinate; what I mean is, that I notice things in my field of vision that others don’t, just like I notice sounds that others don’t.

The seemingly logical assumption for the reason why one would notice sounds that others don’t notice is that they are hypersensitive to sound – as in, their ears (or perhaps their brain) experiences aural stimulation as louder than how other people experience it. They notice these sounds simply because, while for other people the sounds are below the threshold for “being heard”, the sounds come through “loud and clear” for people who are hypersensitive.

So why then do I see things that others don’t? Visual hypersensitivity generally causes everything to appear brighter than for a normal person, just like aural hypersensitivity causes things to sound louder than for a normal person. Indeed, many visually hypersensitive people find a well-lit room to be painfully bright, and I can’t say that I don’t experience this at times myself too. But just because things are brighter doesn’t mean that I’m going to see things that others don’t – indeed things that “hide in the shadows” for normal people may be clearly visible for me, but that doesn’t even begin to account for the number of extra things that I notice.

The key, thus, is in the word “notice”. It’s not necessarily┬áthat the things are more prominent due to being louder/brighter; my hypothesis is that it’s to do with sensory awareness. Whereas normal people may well see/hear these things, they filter them out because they focus only on the input that they are actively processing – such as a conversation that they are having – and ignore anything else. And that’s a good thing at times, too: it certainly means that they can have a conversation even if there is a lot of background noise, unlike me who can’t even hear what the other person is saying! So thus we can conclude that I *don’t* filter out other sensory stimulation; I process absolutely all of the stimulation that enters my senses. That’s why I see things that others don’t: they don’t even notice them because they are not processing that stimulation; I do notice them because I am processing all of the stimulation that I receive. That’s why I call it “hyperawareness” – I am exceptionally (excessively?) aware of background sensory input.

That’s also why I can’t hold a conversation when there’s too much background noise: I can’t block out the background noise and separate out the person’s voice!

Just completed my first paid job

I just completed my first paid “job”: repair my mother’s assistant’s laptop, and if unable to do so then recover whatever files she wants from the hard drive. And it’s exactly the kind of thing that I’m good at. :-)

What’s really funny though is that I didn’t ask to be paid for it, nor was that my mother’s intention when she said to her assistant that I would be more than happy to see what I could do for her. And when the laptop arrived in my “workshop” (a mixture between my bedroom and the computer room) a few weeks ago, I was doing it simply because I enjoy it and it’s what I’m good at. And that’s why I finished it, right up until the moment when I unplugged her external hard drive ready for my mother to take back to her on Monday.Read More »

Frivolous suffering

It really irritates me when people think that they can begin to understand what I’m going through. I don’t care if you’ve lost your spouse, never been to Paris, or given up three times when training for a marathon. That doesn’t make your life suck. I don’t care how much you love to put your thoughts into poetry, knit cute little kitten tapestries onto cushions, or write fancy handwriting on the covers of birthday cards. That doesn’t make you “lonely”, “emotional”, or “needing people to talk to”.

What makes life suck, and what makes people really need someone to talk to, and what makes them really need a creative outlet for their thoughts, is when, in addition to social isolation, stress at college, and a failing relationship with your family, every second of your life is taken up with wishing that you were blind.

Morning encounter

This morning I was a little late walking to the bus stop, so I was walking fairly briskly. As I walked, I passed a lady on my right who was also walking quite quickly. As I passed her, she called out, “I’m not racing you.”

I had no idea why she thought that I would have thought that, so I replied with, “I didn’t think you were. Why did you think I would think that?”

She said it was because she was walking quite quickly, and so was I. I explained that I was walking quickly because I didn’t want to miss my bus. Then she began telling me her story.Read More »

I actually spoke to somebody!

I actually spoke to somebody on the bus home from college this afternoon! It’s kind of a long story, really, but here’s how it goes:

Due to some bad planning on my part, my afternoon’s pretending while walking from college to the bus stop ended up with me boarding the bus still as a “blind” person. This of course had not been my intention, and now I was in an awkward situation where shortly after climbing onto the bus “blind”, stumbling up the stairs to the upper floor, and making a big show of myself to the entire floor by trying to sit down where someone else was already sitting, I had to pack my cane away, open my eyes, and put my glasses back on such that it was clear to anyone who cared to watch me that I was only a pretender.

As both the front and second-to-front seats were already taken, I sat a little further back. I guess that perhaps my obvious pretending to be blind had bothered the lady behind me, because a little while later I asked her a question and she just muttered “pshaw” in my direction and ignored me (but then that might just be her character, for she didn’t seem to care either that eating potato crisps on the bus is a direct violation of the terms of service). Well so much for her, I thought, and promptly got up and marched into a seat further back, making a point of showing everybody – except the two young ladies in the front seat – that I was not blind.Read More »