As an autistic person I have been accused of not having Theory of Mind (ToM). I have wondered if my mind is not so much unaware of others’ thoughts as too intent on figuring out the world around me, to try and make some sense of it. If that makes me appear self absorbed, I’m just trying to survive.
There are so many song lyrics I love that talk about the mind– If You Could Read My Mind, You Were on my Mind, Mind Games, The Last Thing on my Mind, and possibly my favorite by Over The Rhine, How Does it Feel (to be On My Mind) from 1992. Talk about Karin Bergquist’s Rich Interior Life!
When Ryan Langdon asked in January just who didn’t have an internal monologue, it was because he thought everyone did. I certainly do, but he challenged us to ask others and not take this for granted. The brain wiring is denser in some areas of autistic brains–maybe that overabundance of connections creates more traffic, and is why an ex-partner interviewed for the ADI-R called me “an information pack rat.” Or as one of my favorite kid’s books to explain autism says, “I Have a Busy Brain.”
The debate about an interior monologue put me in mind of how my brain works. People have said I spend too much time “in my head”, but I like the way I think.
It seems from Ryan’s informal poll that some people don’t have thoughts competing for their attention. Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to meditate or pray–I am extremely mind full/mindful, and I have to be careful what to feed it. Really dark lyrics, scary movies, dissonant or really loud sounds deeply unsettle me and linger. Though I don’t think in pictures, I will see snapshots like flashes of memory that are disturbing. Sometimes I can’t finish a book or movie, or listen to the news, if it turns too bleak–I can’t voluntarily subject my mind to darkness and ugliness. I also need time to process upsetting or strenous situations, often days or even weeks. Then I’ll journal it all out almost like automatic writing. The reaction in writing comes out fully formed, but there is no hurrying the process..
One of my favorite novels assigned in secondary school English was John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (1955) Why–because some of the mutants in this dystopian society could hear each others’ thoughts and were considered defectives to be rounded up and killed (wonder where X Men came from after all–now there’s a movie that still needs to be made). I suppose even as an non-diagnosed autistic teen I though their abnormal state would be wonderful, and I identified with being scared to be found out as different. I naively thought all the world’s problems could be solved if we were mind linked. So young, so innocent.
By today’s standards Wyndham would be seen as rather sexist and ableist, but he was writing in a post-World War Ii setting of fears of communist infiltration by moles and spies. Even superheroes had to be innocuous and normative when they weren’t out saving the world. I wonder if i would want Commander Spock’s ability to mind meld or not. Probably not, it’s alarming to have someone in my thoughts, or I in theirs. It’s too crowded in there already. My mind is full–go away!
I love the way that I thinkComedian and late diagnosed autistic Hannah Gadsby
I have enough problems not upsetting people, and wondering if I have or not. Having them eavesdrop on my thoughts would not help. I’ll keep my rich interior monologue mostly hidden. I can keep myself company just fine. As I’ve written before, An Autistic Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!