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Carol Grigg Counselling

Share your untold story

Validating "vignettes"

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Shared Memories?

Posted on September 16, 2016 at 3:19 AM Comments comments (21)
In Nola’s presentation (February and September ASPIA partner support group meetings) she shares some really interesting things about memory in ASD.

In some of my ponderings this last month I jotted down in my notebook how we don’t develop shared memories with our AS partners.

How many times have you been referring back to an incident or experience where both you and your AS partner were present, and shared the experience at the time (or so you thought), but your recollection and his/her recollection are so completely removed from each other, you feel like your partner is lying or making up a story, or wasn’t even there.  Very disconcerting.  This aspect alone leads to much conflict in our relationship situations, because if you don’t have a similar memory of the same situation, then how do you build on the experience or use it as a reference point for other points of discussion or decisions?  Or even just enjoy the experience of knowing you share a memory that has meaning for you as a couple or family, and that contributes to the relationship or family history in a positive way.

This phenomenon tends to add to the perception that nothing in the relationship is ever resolved, and that we’re never on the same page with our partners about anything.

Nola’s research into memory actually sheds some light on this, reassuring us that it is a valid phenomenon, and that our AS partners are not actually lying, they are presenting aspects of the situation or experience that they do remember, based on the other strong parts of their memory, which usually relate to concrete facts or actions.  They tend then to present the memory according to what information they recognised, or that they value, or that they believe they experienced, from their perspective, and sometimes they then construct the rest of the story around that, but it will be a different version to the memory we have of the event, and the meaning we gave it.

Our NT brains tend to fill in all the connections and create a more complex and complete memory of an experience because we are aware at the time, interacting with others, creating meaning as we go and are then able to put it into words in a way that others can generally relate to.  That doesn’t mean we don’t forget things ourselves sometimes, or have a different perception of something that took place, but the essence of what I’m writing about is a commonly occurring experience in our relationships.

I did know someone on the spectrum once who was actually able to run off a commentary of a situation, as though he’d memorised it as it happened and had a running commentary going in his head, which he then would share when it came up in discussion.  What was missing though was the meaning or interpretation of the situation that most ordinary people would take from the situation, and in its place was an analysis or judgment from his own perspective, which omitted the “general” view that others would have had of the same situation.  So he could be relied on to remember all the actions and facts that happened, chronologically (and according to the priority he placed on the information), but his interpretation didn’t do anyone else justice.  But, he felt very confident in his memory of the event, and who can argue with facts?

Relationship Capacity

Posted on June 28, 2016 at 8:17 AM Comments comments (163)
It occurred to me that our relationships cannot grow further or deeper than our partner’s capacity for relationship.

I feel it’s important to sit with this thought, even though it’s painful, because it informs how and what we continue to invest in the relationship.

I know it’s not “cut and dried”, and every relationship has its own capacity, but a great deal of distress comes from unrealized or unrealistic expectations (in any situation in life), and sometimes it’s kinder to ourselves (and possibly to our partners too) if we can adjust these, and seek meaningful connection and experiences through other avenues or ventures.

Just one word would do

Posted on June 28, 2016 at 7:48 AM Comments comments (1)
In all my conversations with partners of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome I hear partners yearning for some form of acknowledgement from their Aspie partner.  I know what they mean, I know what it feels like to have that yearning.  Just one word.

One word that tells us they see us, that they understand how we’re feeling, that they know what we need, that they recognise our need for connection, that they understand what we’re saying, that they know we love them, that they value who we are, that they notice what we do, that they appreciate our care and all our effort, that we are important to them, that they care about us, that they’re sorry for words or actions that hurt us, that they love us, that we matter.

That one word would make it all ok.  Just one word.  It seems so simple.  But that one word would convey a world of meaning that our partners do not understand and cannot articulate.  They look at us blankly, or argue the point, or think we’re trying to compete with them.  It’s like we’re asking them to suddenly speak fluently in a foreign language.  A language they don’t comprehend and have no words for.  How can they see or measure what to them seems invisible?

Often our children are more fluent in the language of acknowledgement, of appreciation, of recognising another’s contribution or significance.  How joyful does it make our hearts when someone stops to say thank you?  How do we live with joy when the one we’ve chosen to love goes through each day offering no acknowledgement of any way we’ve made a positive impact in their lives, and worse still, seems to notice only when they perceive we’ve impacted negatively?

I’m asking questions I can’t answer.  But it’s better if we change our expectations.  Changing our expectations isn’t about letting our Aspie partner off the hook necessarily.  It’s about doing something to help us avoid our own repeated pain, disappointment and despair.  Let it go, grieve for it, and expect only what’s realistic.  There may even be other relationships or situations where we’ve been hurt and also need to let go of the expectation to be known for who we are, or acknowledged for what we contributed.  Once again, it may be the limitations of others we need to understand and accept.

It’s a normal yearning to be acknowledged or valued, a normal need, one that neurotypicals understand and participate in, naturally.  Once again, let’s seek out, nurture and draw on the relationships we do have where there is a solid reciprocal quality present.

Invisible

Posted on May 18, 2016 at 8:41 PM Comments comments (19)
I recently began to write the beginnings of another poem, but haven’t developed it yet.
 
It began with thoughts of how painful it is to our core when we realise that there is no longer anything interesting in us to captivate our partner’s attention.
 
When we realise we were just the special interest of the time.  So adored.  Such a priority.  The centrepiece of the story.  We felt so loved and loveable.  We didn’t know any different.  Just thought we’d found that one soul that was made for ours and wanted to share our space, forever, together.
 
Now we sit neatly on the mantelpiece, no longer the centrepiece.  Or maybe we’re smiling from a frame on the desk.
 
We’d thought it was actually about us.  But it ran its course.  The exploration complete.  Every angle covered.  Learned all they could.  Topic exhausted.  Box ticked.  Partner secured.
 
We feel invisible.  Though certainly a useful item on the mantelpiece, we never gather dust.
 
Note I said “learned all they could”.  The limitation is with them.  Our relationships can only go as deep as they can go.  They cannot know us deeper than they can be known themselves.
 
Our hearts feel tricked.  We invested so much.  We want to grow deeper, together.  But living along the surface is all they can sustain.  Gathering items for the mantelpiece, collections for the shed, knowledge for the head.
 
The diagnostic criteria states that AS characteristics become more and more apparent as social demands exceed their capacity to meet those social demands.
 
We are living with partners who have reached their capacity for emotional intimacy and interaction.  They cannot go deeper to the level of meaning that we seek and need in order to thrive.

Our speaker at this month’s meeting (ASPIA 7 May 2016), Clinical Psychologist Jeroen Decates, reminds us over and over again that we must find ways to have our neurotypical needs met – to be with those who “know us”, know our essence, and can sustain deeper interactions with us.

Some seem to have it covered

Posted on April 2, 2016 at 8:13 AM Comments comments (8)
In my counselling and personal experience I’ve begun to be aware of a subset of AS partners who perform very highly in the job description of partner as though they must be applying themselves to it as a special interest.

We’ve heard of some who’ve made their partner their special interest (long-term) with a high level of adulation and attention (maybe stifling) but still don’t connect emotionally in any consistent way, but I hadn’t focused previously on some who actually make it their business to be the best partner anyone can have, leaving no grounds for anyone to fault them.  They have it covered.  Except the partner still feels so alone and emotionally empty.  Many practical and physical needs are well catered for, solutions are swiftly provided to meet any difficulty, but the partner still feels invisible as an actual soul with feelings and emotional needs.

The performance may be flawless, but it’s still superficial, just ticking the boxes, like making moves on a chess board.  Very deliberately it would seem.  Partners report feeling like their partner heads them off at the pass constantly. Like all their needs have been analysed and predicted, with solutions applied before they can even think let alone open their mouths to ask.  And how dare they ask or have a need that hasn’t been catered for already.

Maybe there are other factors in these situations.  There’s an awareness and a capacity to perform that many Aspies don’t seem to have, but nevertheless I’ve heard it enough now to want to include it in what I write about.  Emotional intimacy, closeness and connection are still missing, but most other bases are covered in a way that leaves no ground for complaint.  A great deal of intelligence is being applied here.

In a couple of these situations the relationship has actually been ended by the AS partner when the non-AS partner persisted in asking for emotional intimacy and change, or questioning the AS partner’s performance in any way.  Seems the preferred path may be to leave rather than acknowledge an inadequacy or a need that he/she has no solution for.

Link to Harvard Happiness Study

Posted on April 2, 2016 at 8:01 AM Comments comments (131)
While I was still trying to wake up this morning I listened to something that a friend shared on facebook.  I don’t usually bother with talks or you tube videos via facebook, but the topic was about a 75 year Harvard study on happiness.

I was quickly roused out of my drowsiness as the speaker said the words “living in the midst of high conflict is really bad for us.  High conflict marriages without much affection are very bad for our health, in fact worse than the experience of getting divorced.”

The talk had nothing to do with a study into relationships affected by Asperger’s Syndrome, but I’m sure everyone reading this thought will relate to his words.

I have since found the link to this talk, and listened to it again.  It’s very good.  The link is below.  I wondered if it could even be something our AS partners would listen to, being a “Harvard study” and all that!

Compulsion to Correct and Criticise

Posted on February 29, 2016 at 6:29 PM Comments comments (13)
A common thread in most of my conversations with partners seems to be the Aspie’s capacity for criticism and negativity and the impact on us as we live with this day in and day out.

At our workshop with Tony Attwood in March 2015 someone in the audience asked Tony if people on the Spectrum are normally pessimistic or is it from childhood trauma and issues.  Tony’s answer was that pessimism, negativity, “glass half empty”, etc seem to “come with the territory” of being AS.

It seems that many adults on the spectrum compulsively focus on what’s not complete or correct and compulsively need to correct it.

Rather soul destroying when the object of constant criticism and correction is us.

Do our Partners trust us?

Posted on February 29, 2016 at 6:24 PM Comments comments (22)
This is a good question, but very complex as members of a partner forum explored recently.

As with many aspects of relationships affected by AS, the matter of trust may vary wildly from one couple to the next, but I’ll share the thoughts that I shared, that are related to my own experience.

My comment within the forum was that “I think their trust (AS partner) is closely linked to what their values are and how they believe we are complying with those.“
 
My recent experience was with a partner who had values linked to finances and asset building, he was a hard worker and honest in his business dealings, but even though I was as honourable and transparent as I could be and contributed as much as I could and pulled my weight, I didn't let him be “in charge” of my stuff, nor did I follow his directives and therefore he persistently demonstrated suspicion towards me.

It was crushing because I'm sure I contributed to our shared lifestyle far more than he gave me any credit for, and all the while my own asset (home) was left to slowly run-down because I didn't have the funds to maintain it.

So, as I said in my initial comment, it seems to depend on what they value and how well they perceive that we are complying with that as to whether they trust us.

I'm not saying everyone’s situation will be the same. I know my ex-husband (I was married to him for 20 years) never seemed to trust me, but it wasn’t about finances or assets with him.  He was very ego-centric, and having me in his space made him feel very threatened, which I think many other partners find is true too.  We expose their poor attitudes and behaviours and hold them accountable which they don't seem to forgive us for.  I never felt like I had any credibility in his estimation, which tied in to his trust in me.

Added to this is something I wrote about not that long ago, about how they seem to build up a perception of us based only on our reactions or negative responses to their poor attitudes and behaviour and they don’t balance up their perception of us by all our good qualities and all the amazing things we do do, particularly for their benefit.

These seem unnoticed, and seem to be irrelevant to them and their estimation of our trustworthiness, or not.

So disheartening.

Colluding with the Delusion

Posted on November 19, 2015 at 4:27 AM Comments comments (6)
For better or for worse, a very strong thread that runs through our support work is the need to be understanding of our partners in relation to their AS characteristics and difficulties.  The truth of the matter is, this mostly means that we have to be the stronger, more accommodating human being in the situation, and go without the consideration and accommodation that rightfully should be ours too in a partnership or marriage relationship with another human being of equal status.  But this is the nature of it.

We “get” that the AS person has so many limitations in areas we are so natural in, and of course we can feel considerable compassion for their struggles and deficits when we see how stressed they can become in work, home or social settings, until we are reminded of how stressed we have become trying to stage manage home life every moment of every day to avoid the AS partner going into shutdown or meltdown and the consequent disastrously stressful impact this has on the relationship, on the family, on us!
 
That long-winded introduction was heading somewhere …

I was thinking how extremely sensitive the AS partner is to any hint or whiff of criticism, to the point that they read criticism or personal attack into innocent statements that are just factual about whatever is taking place at the time, or for the purpose of making some sort of arrangement or improvement to household functioning or relationship quality for the benefit of all.  It’s called “family life” actually.

I thought of the word “collude”, how they seem to draw us into colluding with them in their belief that they are without error, that their perspective is correct, that their way is best, that they are a more advanced human being who we are privileged to be able to learn from.  We find ourselves rehearsing every word, every phrase, every statement, every conversation before we speak it to purge it of any taint of criticism or judgment or attack, to the point we just can’t speak or deal with anything for fear of bursting their bubble.

And that’s how I think they like it, or in fact need it to be.  There is only room for one reality to exist.

Perhaps they have arrived at their position and perspective as a result of having felt different throughout the formative years when social acceptance and inclusion were everyone else’s priorities, but they couldn’t achieve this, and so they had to become confident in whatever skill or strength they had in order to create an identity of their own.  Still different.  But typically using a skill or gift that has been more highly developed than any non-AS person can achieve.  One that sets them above as well as apart.  One can understand this happening, their reliance on their superiority in a particular field as a “shoring up” of identity.

But as patient and sacrificing partners, we struggle every day with this apparent arrogance they portray and our own sense of powerlessness to influence them to consider our perspective, comment or suggestion as valid or acceptable, and so we become silent.  Or eventually leave.  No other option seems available to us.

What is even more horrifying and disabling for us is the requirement on our part to patiently endure being corrected, directed, criticized and often rudely spoken to regularly by our AS partners, sometimes constantly, as they work on forming us into more complete and tolerable partners for themselves.

While we weather the torpedo blasts of rage and reaction they direct towards us if we suggest an imperfection in them.

Survivable?  I think not.

Carol Grigg OAM, Dip Counselling, MACA Level 2
www.carolgriggcounselling.com.au

Using the effort of another

Posted on September 2, 2015 at 7:28 AM Comments comments (14)
A couple of days each week I work as a Generalist Counsellor for a rural health service.  It’s been a great way to gain experience with a wide variety of personal circumstances and different age groups.  I love it.

I was in a counselling session with a male about my own age a couple of weeks ago and he was explaining to me that he was a bit shy socially, and then he said something that completely stopped me in my tracks.  A light-bulb moment.  (Or another hit in the head!)

I believe I did very well staying composed and not letting on that he’d said something of great significance to me.  However I did gently ask him to elaborate a little because it was helpful information in my work with him anyway.

He told me that he likes being around friendly and outgoing people because they do all the work.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Is this what was happening when we first met our partners?  And is this a role we continue to fulfil for them?  And for others?

My client did say that he found social situations and relationships difficult, but clearly he’d learned a very effective way to manage this.  Without effort on his part.  Using the effort of another.

Slightly annoying?