Sunday, January 21, 2024

The Bane of the Black & White of Things...

There is a saying amongst people that practice Neurolinguistic Programming that "He with the most behavioral flexibility, wins/is happiest."  This is a source of great difficulty for many with ACC and with autism such as myself who tend to see the world in a series of rigid absolutes, black & whites, as it were...we are concrete, literal, and absolutist.  This is not due to obstinacy or choice, but the way we are wired, literally the way we process thought and action.

We have our own set of rules and regulations and expectations of the world; these are rigid, black and white, right or wrong with very little room for interpretation or tolerance for variability. We feel safer with concrete, predictable rules and laws that remain constant, holding to these rigid beliefs and expectations, and will likely melt-down if challenged or forced out of them.

This holds true for us in social situations as well, where it does not so for the neurotypical individual.  We hold so tightly to our own social rules that we cannot easily read the normal fluctuations of social discourse that take place amongst people, this leaves us "flying blind" much of the time...we will misread a situation, react incorrectly, control the situation to match our expectations...and get extremely angry when they don't.  If things are not the same every time, our world falls to pieces....there is no "average" or "is this 'good enough'?", no possible alternatives but yes or no.

I tend to have an overly simplistic cognitive style... This is due to problems synthesizing complex information.  Those of us with ASD often artificially split decisions and social situations into two extremes: right/wrong, black/white, good/bad.  One teenager with ASD said:  "You need to understand that I only see the world in terms of zero's and one's, much like a computer.  I don't understand anything else.  It's all or nothing."  This makes decisions and life much simpler.

Individuals with ASD can be overwhelmed by anxiety and their decision-making process paralyzed by understanding that most decisions are complex and involve both good and bad aspects.  Therefore, in order to regulate their emotions, the person with ASD will tend to simplify their choices by dividing them into polar opposites.  This gives them greater clarity and avoids the anxiety and emotional regulation problems associated with seeing the world as complex.

Truth be told, this describes me to a T, and I'm quite tired of apologizing for who I am.  While I do spend much of my life trying to better myself, I do know that there are psychological and personality traits, traits of mental functioning that will never change because they are literally how I am wired on a neurological level.  The difficulty I have is that those around me, even those that love me (or say they do) refuse to recognize, through either stubbornness or lack of education, that when they communicate with me, that they cannot expect me to understand complex figurative thought and language in many situations.  Or they will "drop a bomb" on me, give me an unsolvable issue and stop talking to me because THEY are frustrated? (never taking into account on how they are making ME feel.)

Now, there are areas where I can and need to change, but it is a great challenge, and as soon as I shift in one area, another snaps back, over and over again, so it's a never ending battle.  Some of those areas are:

  • Rigidly seeking predictable, static routines & activities.
  • Actively resisting change.
  • Controlling all activity & interactions.
  • Seeking rigid routine and self-controlled activities to avoid chaos/confusion.
  • Having a strong resistance to following the lead of others.
  • Being compulsive, repetitive, ritualistic, & self-absorbed; oppositional; self-stimulating and defiant.

As I said, it is like Dr. Doolittle's Push-me-pull-you, I work on one area of this, and another area crops up, then I work on that area, and the first one pops up again, a never ending battle.

So, if it seems that I am particularly hard headed, and resisting what you are telling me, have compassion, because it may be that I am just not able to grasp what you are saying and meaning in that moment.

Thanks for listening.

~Joseph  Galbraith


  1. Thank you for writing; I am learning much from you thought provoking blog. Can you elaborate and give examples of how your friends sabotage you and leave you hanging without words when they talk to you, and some advice on how better to communicate with you? Thank you again for your educational and insightful blog. God bless you and keep up the great work!

  2. I have a good friend (let's call her "L") and L is an engineer and a teacher/tutor. When I first started communicating with her, she did far more listening than talking, she learned for HERSELF through observation how I thought and communicated. I'm very literal, black and white, I also need things broken down into smaller pieces. I don't "see the trees through the forest."

    She learned that I see thing holistically as single objects...and breaking things/activities/events are VERY difficult for me, so she became careful when talking with me to not overwhelm me with what (for me) is useless information...she learned to parse whatever she communicated.

    For example, recently I've been homeless and Adult Protective Services and Lindsey has worked full time to find me housing (which finally we have). They both were very careful not to feed me any details that would overwhelm me (that I would obsess on) and that were not relevant IN THIS MOMENT. She would only put in front of me that which I could solve (or deal with) in the very moment/day we were talking about.

    I hope I answered some questions :)

    and THANK you for reading my blog, please let others know about it. I haven't written much recently as my life has been upturned, but things are changing, I will have safety, security and peace of mind soon and plan on writing more.

    God Bless <3


Meltdown Madness; Sensory Processing Disorder & Cognitive Overload

A requested repost from an earlier date>>>>>>>>> I want to talk about the ACC and ASD phenomenon of meltdowns....