Sometimes we need to use our own initiative to fetch what we want… especially when it’s already freely available to us
By John Counsel
The character of any online community will vary according to individual needs and interests, as well as members’ personal commitment and engagement levels. That’s certainly true of our different Facebook Groups, and at times it’s easy to forget that some people are more serious about their interest than others.
As the Admin of the Aspergers Help Australia Facebook Groups I try to allow plenty of leeway for people to get as involved in discussions and topics as they choose. This approach helps to keep stress levels low for most of the members, most of the time.
(Click here to view my background and professional experience in moderating online discussion groups, from local to global. Close the new window/tab to return here.)
But in Groups for Aspies there are very often other factors in play that may cause unintended offence or hurt feelings without us realising it.
For a start, most of us here are Aspies ourselves. This brings its own challenges, which may involve…
- directness, even bluntness, in communicating,
- absence of emotional filters,
- lack of social niceties,
- failure to recognise specific emotions,
- how stressed or neurally overloaded we are when we arrive,
- how that stress can be made worse — or better — by interacting with others,
- and much more.
Remember, too, that Aspies typically operate at a much higher level of stress than Neurotypical people, due to both Neural Overload and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) syndrome.
This applies to Group admins and moderators, too.
Most of these people are Aspies as well. It can be easy to forget this reality and react emotionally to their comments or requests, especially if they’re having a rough day due to neural overload and/or PDA themselves.
I regularly have to remove myself when I realise that I’m overloaded or avoiding. That can show itself as impatience, resentment or even anger. The moment I feel these types of emotional reactions, I typically take time out by going offline until the stress subsides. (This often explains my temporary absences from the Groups I operate.)
The important thing to understand here is that it is NOT PERSONAL. Those negative reactions are rarely about YOU, even if you feel you’re being targeted. They’re the result of mounting stress that’s approaching — or has reached —the Stress Threshold where an Aspie loses personal control and finds themselves experiencing any of the Five Fear Factors that this can trigger…
- Fright — sudden feeling of loss of personal control and instant panic.
- Flight — blind impulse to flee from the immediate vicinity and the panic they feel.
- Fight — instant verbal or physical lashing out in self-defence… reflex action.
- Freeze — instantly finding themselves unable to process any kind of response.
- Fawn — instant impulse to placate the perceived threat by compliance/fawning.
Somehow, since my diagnosis in 2002, my subconscious mind appears to have decided that simply shutting me down through short, serial blackouts is the best way for me to deal with these situations, so I rarely experience anything other than this. But even this more contained response can happen to me several times a day.
I’ve become so accustomed to this response that, as soon as I feel a shutdown coming on, I try to remove myself from the stressful situation until I recover. That can be a few minutes or, at worst, several hours spent in a quiet, low-light space where sensory stimuli are manageable for me.
This past weekend (23-24 November 2019) I experienced the first meltdown I’ve had in a very long time. The overloads came thick and fast, from multiple sources, and I couldn’t cope/process them in time to avoid it.
Fortunately, I realised what was happening and managed to control my emotional reactions, issuing warning alerts to family members involved so that they left me alone until I was past the immediate crisis. But it rattled me, and I’ve been absent from these Aspie Groups — and private conversations — a lot in the days since then.
So this page is an explanation, an apology and a recommendation
I’m aware that several people were concerned by my curt, impolite or insensitive replies during the days leading up to this episode. I apologise for any distress or offence you may have felt because of what appeared to be insensitive or impolite responses. They were not intended as such, and were not directed to anyone in particular.
It was just me being an Aspie and a PDAer getting perilously close to my personal stress threshold.
I hope sincerely that you’ll understand and forgive any hurt or disappointment you experienced, and I’ll do my best to avoid any repetition… but I also hope that you’ll learn from this, too, and use it to help you recognise why and how this happens — and that, despite our best intentions and efforts, once the stress threshold is breached, it tends to be out of our ability to control.
There is one stress factor that can aggravate my impatience when I’m under stress, which YOU can help to prevent…
When you join our Aspergers Help Australia Facebook Group we provide you with unrestricted access to our FILES section, which currently contains more than 60 useful documents — educational, research data, resource directories and lots more. We provide automatic approval for you to join our other Facebook Groups.
We give you full access to our permanent and continually expanding collection of articles and resources on our blog at https://myaspieworld.home.blog (the one you’re viewing right now.) They’re free of charge and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
We also send you the links via Messenger and more information and resource links, including our Welcome Letter and Reading List after your join.
Many people — including Aspies, parents and spouses of Aspies, support specialists, therapists and other professionals — tell us that our resources and educational materials are amongst the most useful online and can be life-changing for them.
I understand that different people have different interests and needs, different backgrounds and challenges, and I respect that reality. I do my best to be non-judgemental, and I have a reputation for being just that.
But please understand that, when a day has been long and stressful, and I’ve spent long hours trying to help people get the help they need — which is often not what they THINK they need — it can be a frustrating exercise to have someone who has been TOLD (in writing) where the information they want and/or need is in our plethora of resources online, complain that they haven’t been literally spoon-fed that information in answer to their question/s, directly in reply in our timeline.
That, my friend, is what’s referred to as “Baby Bird Syndrome”… thinking that all you have to do is sit back, squawk loudly enough and someone will bring you the information you want and hand-feed it to you, drip by drip.
And that is also why we say that if you’re not willing to exercise a little initiative to actually click on the links and READ or WATCH or LISTEN to that resource, then you should not choose to be righteously indignant if someone — in their own time and at their own inconvenience — offers you the link to the answers you seek, or complain that they’ve offered you the keys to those answers that YOU asked questions about.
It’s a fair exchange: if you want to know the answer to your question or concern, at least be willing to access that answer instead of bellyaching that it wasn’t fed to you by drip-feed so that you didn’t have to do anything to help yourself.
Think of our groups and resources as a buffet-style banquet that you can help yourself to at any time. If you’re not prepared to go to the buffet tables and help yourself to what you want — with the help or suggestions from the staff waiting to help guide your choices — please refrain from getting offended when they don’t choose your food and bring it to your table (and in some cases, even expect them to eat and digest it for you).
As the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucion, so wisely said…
“Person who sits with legs crossed and mouth wide open, waiting for roast duck to fly in, can expect a very long wait!”
Aspergers Help Australia
©2019 John Counsel. All Rights reserved.