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Carol Grigg Counselling

Share your untold story

Validating "vignettes"


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Contradictions in the avoidance of conflict

Posted on March 8, 2022 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (508)

I continue to be troubled by an incident at my workplace yesterday. Not for how it left me feeling, but because from what I knew of the “offenders” historically, they were very fragile people “psychologically” and, in spite of my own distress in the situation, I actually felt compassion for them. Sadly, in their effort to enforce their own boundary in a particular situation, they in fact set up a confrontation with staff and others which of course they then couldn...

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Transactional Skills

Posted on March 1, 2022 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

This morning a friend shared an article about “Breadcrumbing” (see for original article by Preston Ni)  It is an excellent piece that focuses on how a narcissist, manipulator or other self-absorbed type engages beautifully with their love interest/partner/spouse/friend when they need or want something from them, and then withdraws back to their self-absorbe...

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Uninvited Golfing Buddy

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 3:00 AM

Yesterday, a friend of mine shared a funny story with me that further illustrates the natural responses that other human beings compulsively elicit from us.

My friend was at the golf nets practising his shots, when a golfing acquaintance using the next net began to offer some advice. My friend knows that this guy plays well, so is aware that his advice may well be valid, but there are some aspects of this guy’s behaviour that he has observed to be quite odd, so he doe...

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Wired to Respond

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 2:35 AM Comments comments (0)

These days I find myself often thinking about the characteristics of partners. Those who in good faith have entered a relationship with an adult who is eventually exposed as having significant characteristics of autism. Often the realisation comes quickly after a marriage contract is entered or cohabitation commences, sometimes it comes when the demands of life increase, sometimes the signs were there, but the significance wasn’t appreciated. The “benefit of the doubt” wa...

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Wired to Avoid

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Of recent times, my mind has been playing with the idea of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). It is thought that this plays a part in the autism profile of characteristics. In simpler terms, as explained by one of our educators, an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder (incl Asperger’s Syndrome) “experiences a demand as a crisis”, to be avoided.

Stop and think about that for a moment … in the context of families and relationships. Relationships rely on an...

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Foggy Futures

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 2:20 AM

While on my journey today I encountered fog. There were warning signs, suggestions to turn on hazard lights, but perhaps the density had lifted a little by the time I got there. It was still thick enough in patches. Enough for me to slow down so I wasn’t hurtling into the unseen too quickly.

This reminded me of life. The unknowns, the fog, the challenges and traumas that come upon us without warning. Life. Every day is an unknown. Every moment. Like we’re hurtling in...

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Roads, Loads and Empathy

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 2:05 AM

Always in the car is when I have my best thoughts. I chat with myself all the way to wherever I’m going, wishing I could jot down the gems that seem to love to light up my neurons while I can’t reach the pen and paper. Same happens in the shower.

Today I was hurtling along a motorway in very hilly bushy terrain, weaving back and forth between lanes as I passed trucks and other laden vehicles on the uphill, only to have them pass me on the downhill once the crest was conque...

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Some thoughts for facing the Christmas and New Year season sanely

Posted on December 9, 2016 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (38)

As the year comes to an end, and we face end of year events, celebrations and holidays that don’t always go smoothly, perhaps there are a few things we can remember to help us climb our way through this time a little more “intact”.

Human contact:  As Jeroen (Decates) continues to remind us, remember and cherish your “neurotypical self” and seek contact, conversations and experiences that nourish your “neurotypical” needs.  Our AS partners cannot do this, as they are not socially wired or emotionally tuned in, so it is essential to remember that we cannot survive emotionally unless we take deliberate steps to create those opportunities with other neurotypical souls.  It is my aim to develop and promote the “Meetup” platform (Sydney Partners of Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome Meetup Group) to enable us to organise more social get-togethers between meetings.  We’ll try to organise something informal for January, but please let me know if you’d be interested in leading an informal one-off get-together for any partners who may live in your local area too.  Just breakfast, coffee, a meal or drinks is all it would need to be.

Pre-plan events:  Many partners report that social events, etc, are more successful if there is a plan developed with their AS partner prior to the event.  Talk about where it will be, who will be there, what to wear, how you will travel, what time to leave, what time it finishes, how long you’d like to stay, what food to bring or what type of food is on the menu, etc – by talking about this stuff you can reduce some of the unexpected stuff that escalates an AS person’s anxiety and causes conflict and crossed-wires in the middle of everything.  Some couples go in separate cars so that the AS person can leave as soon as their social energy has expired, leaving the NT to enjoy a bit more time with family or friends.  Maybe talk about some “cues” too, pre-arranged signals if a plan needs to change, or if a discussion is needed, etc.  Or if social events are a nightmare, go on your own, or be absent from the events where your AS partner insists on going but behaves badly.

Consider what you can change, not what you can’t:  Most of us develop such a feeling of powerlessness around our AS partners because they are so stuck in patterns of behaviour and expression, and can’t change or adapt to the circumstances or needs around them.  Of course, we continue to adapt around them which adds to the feelings of ineffectiveness, resentment, and also to a loss of a sense of self.  We can’t change or manoeuvre them.  And we’ve changed so much about ourselves in order to adapt or avoid meltdowns that we can barely recognise ourselves anymore.  So what can we do?  We can take a moment to look at our responses to them, and how we may be able to adjust or alter these even just a little.  It will take courage.  Often the first time is the scariest.  Start small, but gradually and calmly refuse to adapt, comply, enable or be present around any unreasonable expectation or behaviour.  Often an AS partner’s bad behaviour is driven by a need to quieten us, align things with their ideals or control their environment so that they can cope.  We can remove ourselves, or change the way we respond.  Sometimes an adult with AS is actually ok when we become a bit more predictable or clear about what we want or are going to do or not do.  If it’s a lack of predictability that causes most of their anxiety, then maybe they’d welcome some clearer signals from us.  I’m convinced that, out of consideration (which is an NT strength!) we often wait for the AS person to acknowledge or give their approval or permission before we proceed with an idea or plan of our own.  Can we just respectfully but firmly inform them what we are going to do?  No debate.  Give them time to process.  Don’t react to their reaction.  Of course, everything is always an experiment, and so often we do what we do because we’re afraid or feel intimidated, and want to avoid a meltdown at all costs.   But the meltdowns often happen anyway, no matter how hard we try to facilitate and appease.  It’s scary to oppose someone’s demands, or refuse to comply, but as an adult we are equal and can choose our responses and actions.  It is always important for me to add that if you actually fear for your safety, it is essential to have an escape route planned or a safe place to go to, and someone to call.  Make sure a professional has documented the presence of any abuse or violence in the relationship or family context.

Remember your dignity:  Part of the grief we feel over our loss of a sense of who we are is that we have begun to behave in ways we never used to, and it feels so wrong, and causes us such sadness.  But we must be merciful and forgiving towards ourselves.  Our behaviour has been understandable as a result of having lived for so long in circumstances we don’t understand, and which don’t respond to our “normal”, conventional or even creative attempts and efforts to create relationship, home and family with an AS partner.  It is hard to have to be the “bigger person” and accept our partner’s reduced relationship and social capacity, but we feel better about ourselves when we know we have stopped punishing or shaming them for their deficits.  Of course, we need to address any destructive behaviours they display, but this must be done with professional support, and with dignity, rather than by resorting to acts of emotional terrorism ourselves, which achieves nothing but escalation and emotional distress even for us.  With knowledge and developing understanding, as well as regular support, we can begin to adjust our expectations and set out on the long journey back to restoration of ourselves as empathic, caring, patient and warm individuals who enjoy social interaction and human experiences, but we must begin to recreate this with other like-minded and like-hearted souls, rather than re-investing in the black hole.
As always, best wishes to all for a peaceful and meaningful Christmas, New Year and holiday season, and please take good care of you!

Carol Grigg OAM, Dip Counselling, Member ACA
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Posted on October 17, 2016 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (1)
Recently I was reminded of that feeling of being like in a head-lock when negotiating the daily happenings of life with a partner with Aspergers.  The term “Aspie-lock” just occurred to me as fitting for how I felt.

Things might seem to be going along ok, and the level of effort we’re putting in is second to none, but one is acutely aware of how delicate the balance is. One carelessly spoken word, or badly timed question or request, a suggestion of something new or different, a role or task not completed on time or in the right way, a preference or need not anticipated, a different opinion voiced, and everything comes crashing down like a house of cards.  Angry reactions, blame, resistance, a meltdown, rage; or withdrawal and silence.  Everything collapses, and we find ourselves instantly switching modes to that of dodging verbal missiles and criticism, trying to reason with them, trying to cajole or appease, trying to defend ourselves or our motives, explain what actually happened, justify our mistake or unintended inconsideration, and desperately trying to restore the status quo, and that state of pseudo-peace. Typically to no avail, or perhaps briefly, until next time …

Clearly, we know what’s required to keep the status quo, and we do a pretty good job of it, demonstrating our good theory of mind, and empathy.  We care about our partners, we know how they think and what’s important to them; we care about the relationship, and the family dynamic, wanting to keep things as positive and functioning as well as possible.  But it’s so nerve wracking and limiting, and completely unnatural to have to constantly work so hard to maintain the status quo, and peace.  Not to mention exhausting.  And disheartening and defeating when it collapses so quickly and easily.  Often every day.
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Care when you're ill

Posted on September 16, 2016 at 3:21 AM Comments comments (0)
I’m becoming increasingly concerned at how many stories I’ve been hearing where partners are actually ignored, neglected and even targeted with ridicule or malicious attitudes and words by their AS partners when they’re ill.  It just leaves me speechless and traumatised to hear about the lack of care that so many partners live with.  In fact, it’s inhumane.  Sadly, a very negative manifestation of ASD deficits, though thankfully not in every situation.

Encouragingly, I have heard some stories where the AS partner actually behaved better and more caring when their partner was ill, as though they knew or could learn the script for caring for someone who was ill, even if they didn’t show adequate care for their partner when they weren’t ill.

Once again, we seem to be observing the benefits of good early role-modelling, or the establishment of a pattern early on in life that has equipped them to be able to fill a caring role when a partner or loved one is ill.  Some have been willing to learn how to fill a caring role. How we wish this capacity could be generalised to daily care in a normal reciprocal relationship with a partner who is well.

But getting back to the concern that led me to writing this thought.  Perhaps by writing about this in a “thought”, those partners who are neglected and even attacked when they are ill will feel acknowledged and validated.  These “thoughts” that I write are often useful for validating the most painful and confusing aspects of our experiences.  Perhaps these thoughts can also be useful for uniting partners in heart, with thoughts of care and kindness for one another.

How wonderful would it be to have a “refuge” or a place for respite where partners could care for one another, and especially at times when the neglect at home is extreme or severe to the point of being dangerous.

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