Being independent does not mean that I don’t want or need other people in my life, but most of the people who are available to us are social typical people. They know about needing and wanting other people. It’s a fact of life.
When they meet someone who is independent, they don’t know how to deal with that person. They may conclude that being independent means that we don’t want or need them. They take it personally; they are used to being needed. I think that it is incumbent on us to find a way to let that person know that we need other people in our lives.
I admit that I’m terrible at this. Being independent is so fundamental to my existence: to my identity; to how I operate in the world. For me it equates with freedom. This is a mistake. I ought to be able to “be free” to think what I think; to say what I mean, to act on my principles and values and to take the consequences for that freedom as they come, but ought to, and “can do” are not the same.
Freedom is a buzzword in American democracy; not a fact of life. An abstract concept that in practice is available to few individuals. When brought down to specifics, it’s a subject that is under constant negotiation between individuals groups and the “state” – laws, traditions, customs, necessity and yes, the social hierarchy. In many cultures, religions and nations, it’s not even open to negotiation. It’s this “openness” to negotiation that is a source of political, cultural and social turmoil in our country – and a very serious problem inside the country today – and always has been. It is fundamental in our history.
I have obviously participated in these negotiations; accepted the benefits and taken considerable blows to my health and happiness by doing so. That is that: a condition of living that I fully accept.
But as an Asperger, I find that it’s the personal level of negotiations that is the most difficult. Social “needs and wants” are very different to what I want. One aspect of this is due to being female: an independent female is strange. Women are supposed to want people to “take care of them”. Men, for all the “trash talk” that goes around, take a great deal of pride and identity from taking care of women and children. And women, too, are often overloaded with the “cultural” message that “nurturing” is their task in the order of things. Their burden: selflessness. These two roles are natural, but can become obstacles in relationships. Who takes care of what, within family and society seams a simple question of negotiation – individual choices can be integrated into a practical solution.
Which person is good at task X? Enjoys task Y? Divide up the activity accordingly; share the remainder equitably.
I think that every Asperger realizes early on in childhood, that this is not how the social environment works. All kinds of other priorities exist: status, tradition, roles, interference by other people who think that they have the answers and the right, indeed even the authority to impose their ideas on others.
This is the point in analysis where my Asperger personality simply “looses it”. The social environment has been like this for thousands of years; a behemoth under no conscious control; a tangle of knots and threads beyond comprehension.
My answer to the frustration has been writing this blog, in the narrow quest of perhaps aiding other people like me in coping with the situation. I have learned much myself by jumping into the “problem” and untangling some of the bad ideas, prejudices and complicated “emotions” that drive the system. Old Aspergers can learn new tricks; new strategies, new personal revelations.
It’s funny, in a way, that the “problem” boils down to a simple question, How does an Asperger let other people know that we’re human, not just like them, and yet, very much like them?