Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Elementary My Dear Watson - Intellectualising

Image courtesy of the BBC
Before I start, no, this isn't going to be an article about whether Sherlock Holmes would have AS or not. There are plenty of articles all over the place about this already. Still, it might be interesting to tackle this another time. No, this post is about the other bit of the title, intellectualising, and what it entails.

Apparently, individuals with Asperger's Syndrome tend to be rather intelligent. I'd say we have a range of intelligence from average to above average, so I suppose we're not thick. Now, it is obvious that we have difficulties. Disliking routine changes, missing out on social skills, all the other symptoms you've probably read about a lot by now (unless you're new, in which case welcome!). So what can we do about them? That's where this possible extra 'intelligence' comes in.

While I wouldn't say we are more intelligent, I would argue that we have a different way of looking at things. . That can be an advantage when it comes to dealing with our problems and difficulties. When I was younger (probably around 9 or 10), my psychologist introduced me and my family to the idea of intellectualising. I'll be completely honest, at the time I didn't understand the concept. I think that was probably because I was already doing it, so I didn't understand why I would 'change' if I started doing it. This coping strategy has probably been the most important and successful one I've ever used, which is why I'm saying 'I' so much in this post. I have a lot of experience.

At it's most basic, intellectualising is a 'flight into reason', where you escape from something stressful by thinking about it factually and logically, and ignoring the emotional aspects. Everyone does it at some level, and as I say it's usually because of a stressful event, maybe a failed attempt at promotion or an argument with a friend. It allows you to look at a problem clearly, without being clogged by emotions, so you can imagine why it could be very helpful.

For me and many others with AS, daily life can be stressful as it is. Sudden changes in routine, remembering social engagements, possible sensitivity issues, there are a lot of things that can take us down quite easily. Intellectualising is a massive help in combating this. Because we tend to think in an intellectual manner normally, it is relatively easy for us to turn it into a coping mechanism. For example, when I'm doing computing work, I need to think logically, in a process, to order the code correctly and make the program work. I can apply the same principle to a social situation. Remember what I'm supposed to say and when, try it, and if there are bugs, work them out on the next run through.

Now, by itself it isn't perfect. If I do fail (and I do, sometimes quite frequently), then I can still withdraw into myself and be overcome by anxiety. If I'm at home, or within reach of the internet, I'll probably sink into my fantasy worlds for stress relief. But sometimes I'm out in public and can't do that. That's where my friend group come in. They're extremely supportive and understand that sometimes I'm just not going to say or do the right thing. Even just them being around helps to boost my confidence. Actually, I can hardly talk to anyone without someone I already know around! It makes ordering a cheeseburger quite awkward... I'm literally never going to stop being thankful for them, even if I don't always express it properly.

With years of practice under my belt now, I've got intellectualising down to a fine art, and I can function quite well almost all the time. I've got enough different ways to have conversations to last a lifetime, and when it gets a bit awkward, my extensive vocabulary and encyclopaedic knowledge of random facts tend to break the ice. I'm still terrified about going to uni next year, but at least I've sharpened my sense of humour!

See you guys next time,


PS, for the random fact fans out there, there are over 1000 times as many cells in your body as there are people on the planet.

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