The Integrative Approach to Autism part 19: First Impressions

Mar 04 2013

This post continues the 3-Step Integrative Approach to Autism series. Today Part 19: BEHAVIORAL Requirements for Growth: First Impressions

First Impressions:

There is nothing about this phrase that the average sensitive person can identify with or care for. This system of first impressions done after a few minutes when two strangers meet is prevalent across the world. However, it is solely for the benefit of insensitive people meeting each other on a generic basis. Once two insensitive people go through this brisk introductions process, they quickly realize that they have nearly identical personalities. From that point on, the relationship thrives or fades based on physical and economic attributes in addition to achievements. They do not need any time discovering the other’s personality since as far as they are concerned there is only one personality, that of a “well-adjusted” person. This whole system in not applicable to sensitive people who may need days or weeks to broadly examine the personality of someone they meet. You can see how your growing sensitive child is at a disadvantage in socializing with 80% of the children they will meet. Unfortunately, many sensitive adults are forced to learn the system of first impressions as a survival mechanism. It is a very painful and lengthy process. It took Jerry Newport, author of Mozart & the Whale, over a decade to perfect the process of talking to strangers at an even keel. There is no magic to socializing the mainstream way. It takes trying over and over until one can perfect it. The difference prohibiting sensitive people from making an instant connection with a stranger is our thorough and more logical processing of input. This type of processing slows down the reaction time, and the intelligent answers take a longer time to appear. By that time, the insensitive person has already lost interest or called us names and moved on. However, with constant trying most of us are able to cut down on the processing time and to achieve the acute mindfulness necessary to give timely intelligent answers to remarks thrown our way by strangers. Trying over and over allows the person to gradually learn to screen out the irrelevant stimulants in the environment and focus only on the person they are communicating with. Well, it is a little more complicated than just trying again and again. On many occasions, the rejection can be cruel and hurtful and many of us stop trying consequently. Attempting to contact strangers requires a support system, which can undo the hurt of rejection including family, friends and an enlightened therapist. Family and friends can provide the safety and comfort necessary to wash out the hurt. They can also provide the encouragement and the conducive atmosphere in which the sensitive person can muster the will to repeat the attempt at the risk of suffering the cruelty of an intolerant insensitive person. Once the barrier of fear due to past experiences is gotten over, then it is only a matter of time before we can master their system. Hopefully, one day we will collectively reach a point where both systems of socializing become equally accepted and equally practiced. Today, the pressure is on us to adapt to the mainstream way of socializing if we wish to be part of the mainstream social establishment. Maybe one day we will have a choice of adopting their way or going about it our way without being erroneously considered rejects or defective beings.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
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