Autism spectrum disorder: a battlefield civilian expert's psychiatric analysis
Autism spectrum disorder is a misleading title for a variety of conditions some of which are properly classified as psychiatric disorders and many of which are not. Our experiences are principally from the context of civil conflict and people under extreme crisis situations, and the psychological pressure the exposure to such environmenta places upon the individual; and for those purposes the categorisation of individuals within a spectrum of what is now known in contemporary psychiatry as autism spectrum disorders is relevant for this purpose. So we have some insights about the subject which we would like to share.
Everyone has a position on a scale of autism spectrum disorder as contemporary psychiatry seeks to conceptualise it. The vast majority of such people have no disorder at all. Autism spectrum disorder is rather a label used to conceive of certain sorts of personality differences between different people, and in particular how they react to certain sorts of interpersonal and other stimuli.
The fundamental question underlying all putative diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder is this: what relative weights do persons give to verbal as opposed to non-verbal communications in their assessments of how to react in personal relationships? Any diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder must be understood in this context.
We live in an era in which diagnoses of so-called autism spectrum disorder are all the more pertinent, because an increasing quantity of interpersonal communications are now undertaken electronically; and this provides relative benefits to persons with certain positions on the spectrum of so-called autism disorders; as well as potentially catalysing the development by persons of certain sorts of position on the spectrum of so-called autism disorders. We will expand upon these observations below.
One sort of position on the imagined autism disorder spectrum used to be called Asperger's Syndrome, the 'intelligent autist', who are people of potentially colossal intellectual skills of recollection, analysis, memorization and/or reasoning, that an earlier generation of psychiatrists considered to have threi intellectual superiority compromised by acute inability to empathise with others. This was a wholly incorrect analysis of the psychiatric conditions of the diagnosed patients, whose social awkwardness derived more often from extreme shyness caused from a young age by interacting habitually with children are vastly lower intellects than them. Hence the term Asperger's Syndrome has fallen into disfavour or disuse. However it remains important label if for no other reason than that there is no other label adequate to identify the small segment of society with such wholly superior IQ's that their unusual qualities are sometimes characterised by psychiatrists has a dysfunction and they are often (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) placed with the autism spectrum disorder range of mental incapacities.
A new method of considering the psychiatric qualities of persons now identified as within the autism spectrum disorders is to focus on the extent to which they prioritise visual or verbal stimuli as opposed to the subler body language that most people use most of the time to interact with other people every day.
Because people at one point diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome typically have vastly superior levels of intellect to that found in the median civilian population, they inevitably prioritise methods of communication that indicate high intellect. Hence they tend to be much more persuaded by what people may say than what they may do. Likewise they may analyse information about their environment with greater scrutiny; and afford it more weight, than a member of society that affords greater weight to body language as a mental schema by which to parse events. Comprehension of sophisticated conversation; and analysis of background experiential events, to such persons is more logical and reliable than intuiting meaning from the vagaries of body language.
From a young age, children with these hyper-distinctive intellectual advantages tend to get bullied by their peers, because the intellectual standards of their conversation are far higher than other children who cannot understand them; resent them; and hence may mock them, particularly by creating groups of other children to collectivise the sense of ridicule. These patterns can last into adult life and be reperpetuated in the workplace.
As a result, children in this category are often extremely shy, fearing interactions with their peers in which they anticipate ridicule. And that shyness may become a lifelong trauma
On the other hand, youngsters within this category tend to listen very carefully to the words used by others. This might be the source of the sloganistic anachronism that people suffering from Asperger's Syndrome can never lie. This is nonsense; but it gives practical colour to the notion that people in such categories consider, by virtue of their superior intellectual capacities, take the view that words and language are used for communication and the natural purpose of communication is to convey facts and analyses, not deceit.
Accordingly people in this category tend to read and write more logically and coherently, and not to suffer fools gladly. If they hear or read a series of words that are illogical, misleading or downright confusing and obfuscatory, they are more likely to call it out.
For abiding to this standard of intellectual discipline, they get called out by their peers as 'insensitive' or unable to empathise with others. This is all nonsense; the better analysis is that by reason of their self-understanding of their substantially superior intellect, they have significant confidence in their own analyses, conclusions and actions as being the right ones, irrespective of the often flawed analyses of others.
None of this indicates a psychiatric disability: quite the opposite. People within this category are free thinkers, capable of taking independent judgments as to what is right or propitious independently of the collective and often misconceived opinions of others who rely upon peer support for confidence in the force of what they have to say.
The quality under discussion appears to be largely hereditary.
People within this category are less prejudiced or closed minded than the greater majority of the population, by reason of their ability and confidence to think clearly and rationally and to perceive underlying prejudices as irrational, including their own.
On the other hand they are also exceptionally sensitive, as they give value and credence to words and actions on the part of others that if used by them they would, by analogy, intend to be offensive or intentionally belittling of others. Through training, persons in this category can learn that the intellectual inferiority of others is the explanation for the fact that others may act in ways that they, with superior intellects, would not.
People within this category, unlike most people who rely upon collective support for confidence in their ideas, do not find intellectual criticism of their ideas as threatening. They consider it natural, as part of the process of intellectual discourse, in getting at the truth. By contrast inferior intellects tend to find intellectual criticisms as hostile and react personally to them.
Persons within this category, by reason of the emphasis they give in their ratiocination of external events focused upon their own independent analyses, are often shrewd risk-takers and hence likewise less risk-averse than many. That is presumably because conservatism towards risk arises in substantial part in collective intellectual lethargy, something from which persons in this category do not suffer from to nearly so great a degree.
Persons within this category may find themselves personally, professionally, commercially and/or sexually attracted to one-another, by reason of their rare common abilities and rare independence of thought. Given the hereditary nature of the condition, these features of it ensure its perpetuation down through generations.
Persons outside this personality spectrum may consider members of it outsiders, misfits, geniuses, leaders or not 'team players', as the case may be, by reason that their judgments and opinions are not driven by a desire to conform to the opinions of others, a natural instinct in most people but largely absent from the persons under consideration.
Persons with this condition may find themselves ill-fitted for a rules-based bureaucratic work environment, because they may seek to challenge the rules and conventions they perceive as irrational and/or not conducive to the free exchange of ideas and analysis aimed at pursuing the truth. Or they may fit in too well, learning the rules and norms and treating them as material to be manipulated in pursuit of their own self-advancement.
People in this category are often analysed as manipulative or disregarding of the feelings of others, whose emotional reactions they downgrade in their own independent intellectual analyses. They understand that emotional reactions are unreliable truth trackers and that obtaining a truthful outcome often requires ignoring the misplaced emotional reactions of others to what they consider as intellectual problems.
People within this category often adopt deontological moral codes - reasoned rather than emotional views of what is right and wrong - that they have constructed from their own experiences in interacting with others. Where those moral codes diverge from societal norms, this may be a cause for then to be shunned.
Occasionally the propensity for intellectual self-justification of their own moral principles can go deeply awry, as those self-conceived moral principles stray far from consensual social norms. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Most persons in this category have independent, and highly atuned, senses of justice, as they are highly analytical of the circumstances surrounding them and create sophisticated and nuanced moral codes to reflect their experiences.
Accordingly, persons in this category are far more reliable and trustworthy than the average. They accord moral primacy to the binding nature of the spoken or written word.
It also happens that persons within this category occasionally become recidivist and almost psychopathic liars, because they draw a distinctive lesson from their experiences: people are extremely easy to deceive for a person of their intellect. But others in the same category see straight through those pretenders, and frequently elect to ruin them for transgressing the sulremacy of the intellect, logic, and the pursuit of the truth.
Certain sorts of analytical professions are attractive to such people: for example lawyers, doctors, journalists, academics, other professions that emphasise independence, inventiveness or free expression of honestly held beliefs.
There is a rule in military theatre that 90 per cent of soldiers are not able to fire to kill another person; they intentionally miss. The remaining 10 per cent may be persons with this quality, who Re able to kill because they have independently rationalised the act to their own satisfactions and this mode of analysis for them overrides more unreliable emotional reactions.
Soldiers in this category who believe in the cause are far less likely to surrender rationally, because they have concluded to their independent satisfaction that the greater good outweighs their individual interests. This is a sort of calculus people outside this category for the most part cannot comprehend.
Substantial sectors of elite special forces are composed of people from this category, not least because they are capable of the single-minded determination that special forces training requires.
There may be a general principle that persons within this category prefer working at nights, and in particular at times of the day when others do not, potentially to grant themselves greater intellectual independence in the absence of interference from external minds who pollute their thought; but this is far from a general rule, it has exceptions (some people in this category enjoy the logical order of a regular working day), and it is an appropriate matter for subsequent empirical research.
Because shyness goes hand in hand with anxiety in being unable to control the emotional reactions of others, people in this category are more likely to aelf-medicate with recreational narcotics (including alcohol - but rationally; so incidences of smoking are less prevalent due to the demonstrable evidence of clear harm caused thereby) or to introduce themselves voluntarily into the system of psychiatric medications, in order to ameliorate their perpetual capacity for over-reflection.
Persons in this category may have enhanced interests in intimate seld-depilatory techniques, as a means of maintaining rational order over their corpuses.
Persons in this category may also have finely tuned and often outrageous senses of humour.
Although they may be very sociable, persons in this category are often highly comfortable doing things by themselves; they do not rely to nearly so great a degree upon the collective imprimatur of others, and nor do they care so much for the imagined stigma of being alone in a professional commercial or social exercise. They are too intellectually confident to require such a crutch.
It is an ungrounded myth of the patriarchal profession of psychiatry that men in this category vastly outnumber women. It is about 0.5 per cent of the population in each case.
The concept of Asperger's Syndrome; and large chunks of diagnosis of so-called Autism Spectrum Disorder more genuinely, and not diagnoses of disorders at all. They are diagnoses of people with fine minds, whose capacity for self-confident independent ratiocination is essential for the world to progress culturally with these people as thought leaders.
We might rename the label: not sufferers from Asperger's Syndrome, but beneficiaries of Asperger's Minds.