Dazed and Confused

People often confuse me. Not intentionally, I’m sure. Just when I think I’m getting the hang of understanding NTs they come out with some seemingly simple comment where all the individual words make perfect sense but the meaning when combined into a sentence eludes me.

It usually involves metaphor or analogy, or else overgeneralization: something that is broadly accurate but where exceptions exist that I am unfortunately aware of. I say “unfortunately” because if I know that some statement is not true in all cases then I get hung up on that fact and go off on a mental tangent cataloging all the exceptions I can think of. Needless to say I then lose track of the conversation. I get an urge to correct the speaker, “helpfully” pointing out to them that what they have said is not strictly true, and offering examples to demonstrate this to them. In most instances I manage to suppress this urge these days – it isn’t usually well-received (to put it mildly!).

I’ve mentioned before how my literal interpretation can interfere with understanding even familiar figures of speech, but when they are unfamiliar it can be a serious impediment: I can get such a strong literal image of the phrase that it precludes consideration of alternative interpretations. I’ve become quite used to the expression of disbelief when I ask them what they mean – they might respond that it’s obvious. Not to me it isn’t. That’s why I asked.

All this assumes that I’m paying attention to whatever conversation is going on – I’ve got a habit of drifting off into my own thoughts if I lose interest in the subject at hand. I gaze into space and become very still, lost in thought until somebody deliberately attracts my attention, usually because they have just asked me something and I’ve not responded.So I have to ask them to repeat what they just said, and explain what they’ve been talking about for the last five minutes. A lot of the time they don’t bother and resume whatever topic was under discussion while I tune out again.

One thing I notice again and again about NT conversations is the amount of detail that is either omitted or assumed as common knowledge. They might be talking about something that was reported on the news, or some recent event, and I find it incredible how far they can take a line of reasoning without any solid foundation of fact, or even stating their underlying assumptions for the benefit of the other participants. I wonder if that’s because they don’t consciously analyze their subjective views, their unconscious prejudices. Indeed they appear resistant to any attempt to expound or elucidate these unspoken assumptions: I know that I rapidly lose the ears of my listeners when I attempt to build up an argument from basic principles. But unless I articulate the foundations on which I am basing my opinions, how can they understand my position? Perhaps they just don’t have the patience to appreciate a pedantic, pedagogical approach and dismiss it as grandiloquence.

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One thought on “Dazed and Confused

  1. I have had this very conversation with my husband, whom I believe to be Asperger's as well, believe it or not. He and I have some very differing views of things, from politics to the environment. He will base an opinion on one thing he's read and not do any further research. It makes me very frustrated sometimes. Especially when I try to explain what I have read and learned and how I've formed my opinion and why I have formed it. He doesn't seem able to handle that because he's very firm in his own opinion even though he cannot expound on it at all. It drives me crazy. Sometimes he can give me very good explanations and I will take some time (sometimes weeks) considering his opinion and I may even have to adjust my own opinion in some ways because what he said was valid and logical, even if it didn't fit my way of thinking. That's difficult for me to do but I work hard on doing it.The metaphor thing… well, I actually use metaphor here and there… sometimes totally incorrectly. My attempt to use more NT language sometimes gets some interesting responses from them when I use these phrases in places of conversation where they don't fit. I can get laughter, or corrections, or sometimes funny looks or silence. My son will actually correct me because he's more used to hearing them and such than I am. We bought a book of metaphors and their origins to help learn these… my son is a quicker study than I am. But still, I, and even my son, can get these all messed up. I would find it interesting to listen to the foundation of what you are basing your opinions on. I get a little confused when people don't give me the details in which they have formed their opinions and when I get to asking question after question about their opinions and how they came about forming them, I often do not get enough information from them and this can cause frustration and confusion for me. Other times I realize they based it on feelings, their very personal feelings and it is then that I realize that logic is not being used and, even though I don't see it the same way, I have to really be careful to just accept it because if I don't I invalidate their feelings. That was so difficult for me to learn. I can be like a freight train when it comes to getting my information and it can burn people out.

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