What is the Aspie blank stare and why is it a disturbing facet of Aspie behavior?
Complaint from an Aspie ‘Mum’ about her son, decoded:
MUM: In my experience, I would get a blank stare when I asked (my Asperger son) a question. It could be, for example, what he would like for dinner? What happened at school? You know – normal sorts of ‘Mum’ questions!
Answer: Social typical questions tend to be vague and non-specific. A specific question would be: “Would you like pizza or hot dogs for dinner?” Or try, “We’re having hamburgers for dinner. I bought the kind of buns you like and you can add tomatoes or pickles or cheese, or whatever else you like.” “What stories did you read in reading class today?”
MUM: How did I interpret the blank stare that I got?
At the time, I believed that ‘the blank stare’ was used by (SON) to avoid answering the questions I asked questions I thought were easy to answer! I realize now, that in my frustration over not getting an answer, I would pile on the questions one after another, and (SON) didn’t have time to process even the first one! I would get cross with him, frustrated that he seemed to refuse to respond to my requests for information, and I would give up.
Answer: One of the big mistakes that social typicals make is to attribute INTENT to Asperger behavior. This is because social typicals are “self-oriented” – everything is about THEM; any behavior on the part of a human, dog, cat, plant or lifeform in a distant galaxy, must be directed at THEM. Example: God, or Jesus, or whomever, is paying attention 24 / 7 to the most excruciatingly trivial moments in the lives of social typicals. We’re not as patient as God or Jesus.
The Asperger default mental state is a type of reverie, day-dreaming, trance or other “reflective” brain process; that is, we do “intuitive” thinking. The “blank face” is because we do not use our faces to do this type of thinking.
Sorry – we’re just busy elsewhere! When you ask a question, it can take a few moments to “come out of” our “reverie” and reorient our attention. If you are asking a “general question” that is meant to elicit a “feeling” (social) response, it will land like a dead fish in front of us. Hence the continued “blankness”.
MUM: What is the real cause of the blank stare?
I believe that SON uses the blank stare while he is processing a question. If give him enough time, he will think deeply, and consider his response, which is often unexpected.
Answer: The “blank stare” is due to our type of brain activity. We process questions; processing questions adds to response time. Some questions are so vague that we simply cannot answer them. Some questions aren’t questions at all, but are an attempt to get our attention and to get a “social” something from us. This is truly confusing.
MUM: (I’m told that) at any given moment an Aspie is taking in lots of information from the world around them. They notice details that normal people ignore. These details can easily result in sensory overload. The blank stare is used by Aspies as a way to ‘zone out’, or ‘go into themselves’ as a coping mechanism for when their senses are overloaded.
Answer: Not correct (in my experience). Sensory overload is another matter entirely; sensory overload results in the desire to flee, and if we can’t “get away” we experience meltdown. Other Aspies may have a different take on this.
Aspie chat concerning “The Stare”
“I watched “Rain Man” again recently. There was a scene where Dusty was sitting on a park bench and just looking at the ground, and Tom Cruise started YELLING at him. I felt like, “Hey ! sometimes I just sit and think about things, and maybe I’m staring at the ground, so cool it Tom.” We tend to look off into the horizon while we’re talking, and really, it’s not a big deal …”
“At work I’ll be at my desk just working away and people will tell me to cheer up when I don’t feel at all down. Also, if I’m standing around somewhere, and not focusing on anything in particular – and feeling fine, someone will ask me if I’m OK or if I’m pissed off about something. Something about my neutral (not happy or sad, just contented) expression makes people think I’m depressed or angry.”
“People are always doing one of the following: Ask me if I’m okay because I’m staring off into the distance; look behind their back to see what I’m staring at; or tell me to “SMILE!” because I don’t have any facial expression.”
Yes, social typicals are self-centered and demanding. They don’t want to “put up with” a blank face; it damages their perfect narcissistic universe, in which it is everyone’s job to make them feel important.
And then, there is the other “eye” problem:
“I dont get it…..my teacher tells me to look at her when she talks and when I look at other people they tell me to stop staring at them. What the…?”
“Apparently staring and looking are two different things, not that I know how to tell the difference.”
The teacher demands eye-contact because it indicates OBEDIENCE – SUBMISSION. Authoritarian adults demand instant obedience from children. But if you stare at a “regular” person, that causes another problem. You are claiming higher status; predators stare down prey; you, dear Aspie, are unwittingly behaving like a predator.
“I stare because I get easily distracted by details and I want to see more; it’s just attention to detail. I’m doing better at straight eye contact, but open my eyes too wide because I’m trying hard to focus and pay attention.”
“If I am interested in what a person is saying – it’s new to me or important information, I will stare like a laser. Also if I am trying to recognize someone that looks vaguely familiar, or there is something interesting about how they look and I want to examine it. If I’m not interested, I won’t look at them. However, that does not mean I am not listening just because I am not looking at them.”
It seems to me, that Aspies use our senses as nature intended: We use our eyes to see and we use our ears to listen.