You Don't Have Aspergers Syndrome
Context: It was some time before I was willing to do another HAI workshop with Peter. In the mean time I had done therapy with Anne Watts and she had said to me: "It ses to me that you might have Aspergers Syndrom. Mark, my husband does, and you are a lot alike." I looked it up online and saw at least 50% overlap between some of my tendencies. I was also looking for a way to communicate my differences with HAI participants because I noticed that everything I did to manage stimulation overload was misinterpreted by participants in a host of ways that were painful to both and not accurate. I would do something and people would project reasons that I was doing it onto me without asking me. And they were never the right reasons. If, for example, I walked away from the group during break because I felt overwhelmed by so much intense workshop stuff followed by the buzz of fifty people talking, people assumed that "I did not want to be part of the group," or "wanted to be alone." The opposite was true. I wanted someone to talk to, but I could not think in such a loud buzz of noise. So I had to get out of it. Then I felt alone because everyone avoided me thinking I wanted to be left alone. So I needed some way to stop all this projection and connect in a way that felt good to me. 

I had considered saying: "I'm a deep thinker and I like deep one-on-one, not group small talk." But whenever I say something like this American groups respond with something like: "Well, doesn't he think he's important. I don't like that. I'm not going to spend time with someone so egotistical. I'm a deep thinker too!" I don't like being resented so this did not seem like a good approach. Nor did I feel egotistical. I felt in excruciating pain and had to get away from the noise to get away from the pain. I had also tried toughing it out in the group but when my face would screw up in pain from all the overwhelming sensation people would again project everything but the truth. They would take it personally and say that I looked like I was angry at them. Or they would think I did not like them. And as usual, no one would ask me or even give me the space to say: "This is so painful. Can we move away from the noise."

So Anne's idea that I had Aspergers struck me as a useful way to tell people something about who I was without having to look superior. In America we patholagize differences to such a point that the DSM manual of mental/emotional disease has more than five thousand pathological labels to describe people's behavior. And because mental/emotional disease is shamed in America it is viewed as something vulnerable and courageous to state one's emotional/mental disease. I could not imagine anyone resenting me as a result of saying I had Asperger's syndrom. And whether I did or did not have it was beside the point. I needed people to pause before projecting their default projections on me and consider that there might be a different reason I was avoiding the group than that I was anti-social. So I started telling the group in my workshops, using the tool called "Burning Shares" that:

"I have Aspergers Syndrom, and how that shows up in this context is that I'm overwhelmed by group energy and need to take pauses so that I don't shut down and dissociate. I shut my eyes, sleep long and often avoid engaging in the group hub on break because it's all too much. If you want to know more about what that's like or to get to know me one on one in a quiet place I would like that."

I said that at the workshop that Peter was leading and he came up to me in the break and said: "You don't have Asperger's syndrom and are selling yourself short with that label." I replied that Anne Watts thought that I did and that I needed something to break people's projections about me and this was the best that I had.

What bothered me was that Peter has never asked me any questions that would help him understand what it's like to be me at a workshop, or in session with him, and yet he is the only facilitator who assured me that he knew more about me than I did or Anne did. Nor did he ask: "So what are the projections people make of you? Do I project things on you?" I had found a way to double the connection I had at workshops without being resented or ignored and he did not like it, but did not offer to help find another way. This is a minor impact, but I feel some resentment about the arrogance of him disagreeing with Anne's assessment and feeling like I had to defend it and my approach, when he has never listened with even a third of the patience that Anne has and Anne was his teacher. Peter knew best without taking the time to know much at all.
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