Builds Upon: Introversion and Schizoid Traits
It has occurred to me that many aspies and autists exhibit exaggerated or acute forms of typical introverted traits.
In a previous post, I examined the concept of schizoid personality disorder as a way of pathologizing typical introverted behavior.
The autistic spectrum then is perhaps a still ‘lower’ plane in which undesirable traits are bad enough to make an individual decisively dysfunctional in the larger society.
Persons with autistic spectrum disorders are known for being:
-having difficulty relating emotionally to others
-failing to make eye contact/acknowledge others’ existence
-having in depth knowledge about subjects nobody else cares about
-preferring the inner life over the outer world
-being mental before physical
-being thoughtful about things others do automatically
-in general not getting with the program(not caring about or going along with whatever others nearby are up to)…
The list of traits is long and almost all could be parts of a non-pathological introverted personality. So where does innie end and aspie begin?
Perhaps the big tipping point is having enough social presence of mind to figure out what traits and behaviors are undesirable and work on hiding them. The physicist Paul Dirac comes to mind. He wasn’t even capable of normal conversation, was oblivious to social niceties, and hated social events but he understood just enough about what was expected of him to get by.
Maybe the severity of one’s labels is also heavily dependent on whether parents clamor for the strongest possible diagnosis. A decisive point of separation would thus be impossible to establish.
Many merely eccentric individuals are considered strange because they walk in and out of autism’s borderlands. I’ve never received any autism spectrum diagnosis, yet I exhibited frequent rocking behaviors as a kid and sometimes still do so to this day. I spent a lot of time in my own world reading books and had difficulty understanding that other kids didn”t care about the cool stuff I’d learned. I often didn’t even hear someone talking to me unless I was looking directly at them. I somehow managed to get away with a generic LD(‘learning differences’) diagnosis while avoiding a youth characterized by chronic ritalin consumption. Does someone like me have a touch of autism? Who knows?
It is rather curious that even the idea of an autism spectrum has existed for less than a century. Now increasingly more people are getting a diagnosis as these disorders have reached the popular culture in the last decade or so.
Who and where were all the autists and aspies before the medical community came up with a name for them?
-Some were just locked up in madhouses. OR unable to survive socially perished on the streets as homeless wanderers. Today, more than ever can be kept by their families and sent to doctors.
-If someone could make a good horseshoe or good furniture maybe it didn’t matter to people as much. It isn’t hard to imagine this being the case in a less prosperous more results-oriented society. Maybe aspies and autists with their incredible focus and penchant for specialization even had a competitive edge in traditional craftsmanship. Did lots of them make a living and pass down genes as productive functional members of society for thousands of years?
-Maybe families did not think of their strange kid as having a disorder even if they behaved differently from most other people. Noah Joad, a possibly autistic character from ‘Grapes of Wrath’ comes to mind. Families typically had lots of children and may have been less prone to obsess over one with abnormal behaviors. Perhaps the autistic spectrum diagnoses are in part spurred by smaller families in the second half of the twentieth century. With less kids, the more responsibility remaining kids had for the future of the family. In families of 1-3 kids, one kid turning out ‘strange’ would be disastrous to the family legacy where before it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.
Is there an autism spectrum epidemic or has society become increasingly oriented towards social expertise? If so, many who would previously just have been introverted or merely ‘strange’ end up altogether unable to function in society. After all most of the symptoms are based on measures of a person’s performance relative to an acceptable norm. If requirements for acceptability have become more stringent, perhaps the strange, silent kid who grew up to be the best carpenter in town no longer has any place to go except therapy sessions. If 21st century success depends first upon success in water cooler politics, what kind of raw talent has the mass society left untapped?