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To thine own self

“To thy own self be true” Hamlet

I like to bring all the latest, cutting edge research to these blogs and from only the most credible sources. A 2009 BBC report talked about a study done to/ on people with ASD which found that when engaged in activities that required a high level of self-awareness their brains were less active than people who weren’t autism.

If this was a fully academic blog I would have checked to see if this theory had been corroborated or debunked in the intervening years. It isn’t. And I didn’t.

That aside, I think they may be an element of truth to this. For starters, people who have autism tend to lack empathy. I know that when people have been sick or are upset I do find it difficult to understand why they are upset. To me it seems unreasonable that you are upset because there is a perfectly logical reason not to be upset.

This does some issues when I am looking after my wife and child as I do not know why they are getting worked up over something.

This lack of empathy then links itself perfectly into a lack of self-awareness. If you cannot understand why people feel the way that they do then how are ever likely to understand how others may feel about you? Or, specifically, how the things that you say and do impact on them emotionally? It is like asking someone to find a black cat in a pitch dark room. They may stumble over the answer now and then but most of the time it will be impossible.

I like to think that I have some self-awareness but I don’t know how true that actually is. This then becomes a bit of a paradox: can you be self-aware about your own lack of self-awareness?

I have taken a number of online assessments for autism and other personality tests over the last few months. They tell me several things: firstly, I would be Hawkeye if I was an Avenger, I would be Tuesday if I was a day and that the answers can vary depending on my mood, who is next to me and what the questions are. It is also the reason why IQ tests can be incorrect or unreliable, they are too often open to manipulation and plus. I did these tests online, for free, so it lacks a certain academic accuracy.

I would rate myself as occasionally outgoing, I am after all a teacher. I need to be able to speak to people but when my wife answers this question for me she says that I struggle at times with this. I think this could be down to her perception of me when I am out and about being the generally social hand grenade that I am. I can be sociable if the occasion warrants it. I have always said that like my dad I can speak to anyone but like my mum I don’t want to.

The lack or the diminished sense of self-awareness can be an issue especially when I am talking about myself in therapy or if I need more support at work and so forth. This means that I cannot think about what to discuss or what to change. I either see the whole of my personality as damaged and annoying or that it is all a bit of a waste of time as I have survived this long.

As ever, they are extremes. To be utterly unself-aware can be a real issue as it leads to egocentric behaviour and a very mistaken belief that you are in any way special. You’re not. To be too self-aware opens yourself up to the harshest critics and the sharpest observations. I would like, as I would in most things, to be somewhere in the middle. Just enough to know how to be a good person but not be a doormat.


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