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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 (435)

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’t cope with and proceeded to behave very badly as a result. I’m sure they went home shaken and angry, believing their own “stand” to be a justifiable “right”, but their unwillingness to comply with a “reasonable” request in particular circumstances had set up the confrontation. They tried to present paperwork claiming “exemption” from what we requested, but there were over-riding factors, policies and issues that required us to require compliance while they were present in our facility which was shared with other physically vulnerable people.


As situations so often do, it triggered my thoughts about ASD in relationships, the subject I frequently write about. A common topic of sharing in our support group meetings and in counselling sessions is the inflexibility of the person on the Spectrum in a range of circumstances, but particularly in the home. This relates to what I’ve written about in my new book “Straight talk for partners” about fixed views, perspectives, opinions, procedures for tasks, etc. I believe I can see that the person with ASD adopts a stance on many things, believing this will actually remove potential for discussion, challenge, confrontation or conflict, when in fact in this crazy challenging world, a fixed stance on anything actually sets up challenge, confrontation and conflict because none of us can navigate our daily exchanges with other people and circumstances without discussion and negotiation. Hopefully, we mostly do this respectfully.


Of course, formal policies and procedures are in place in many situations to reduce hazards and risks in order to keep people safe, meaning there are times when we all have to comply with these “rules” as it were, but so many of life’s situations require comprehension of the bigger picture, the reasonableness to take into account the varying needs of everyone present, the ability to compromise or relinquish one's "perceived" rights in the situation, and awareness of the outcomes that are being aimed at. This is defined as “cooperation” and “collaboration” for the greater good.


Whilst we are aware of and admire many people with ASD who are able to see and take brave stands for “big world” issues that affect the globe, or to show compassion in relation to disadvantaged groups of people or animal welfare, in some situations they can seem strangely unaware that those around them, particularly in their immediate space or household are fragile too, are worthy of care, and need considerate and respectful exchanges, not challenge and confrontation for just trying to negotiate a fair and compassionate outcome for all involved.


 

Transactional Skills

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


This morning a friend shared an article about “Breadcrumbing” (see www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/202202/5-signs-breadcrumbing-in-relationship 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-absorbed uncaring self once they’ve had their need met.


It explained how the partner is affected – knowing constantly that there is potential for a wonderful exchange between them, knowing it can happen at any time and knowing that she/he doesn’t want to miss it when it happens next time, and they wait … The next time only ever happens on the terms of the self-absorbed one, never on the terms of the partner, but they wait because it’s so worth it. Except, in time their perception of self and their worth is deteriorating to the point of virtual disablement. In the eyes of the one they love they only have worth when the other deems them to have worth – for something they want. When one is within this type of relationship it is difficult to be objective, and to be strong enough to make a choice to cut ties and get out of reach of the self-absorbed one. This would require validation from someone external to the situation, and a network of support that can’t fail.


Of course, I can see that this is also what happens in relationships where one is ASD, but I believe there is a fundamental difference. Firstly I have to say that there is no difference for the partner – the effect of only having worth when the other needs or wants something will erode the non-AS partner in the same way that it would erode any partner. But, I believe the difference is that an AS person will have developed the basic skills necessary to make transactions – scripts and behaviours to achieve a purpose – to get what they want and need. Then, like the former example they will retreat back to their self-absorbed, “apparently” uncaring state.


With an AS person, however, this happens because their deficits lie in capacity for relationship and social engagement. They cannot sustain consistent relationship reciprocation as one would tend to see in the “typical” population (not that typical people are shining examples of healthy relationships in many cases, sadly).


But the AS person is just doing what they need to do in order to survive – initiating a transaction that will result in the supply of whatever they want or need – then they revert back to their default position of detached and self-absorbed.


The effect on the partner is devastating – feeling needed and loved and effective for specific needs and wants at random times, and then they’re invisible again, or in some cases an irritant. The relationship can feel beautifully reciprocal … but just for a few moments or for a specific purpose. The transaction is made, and is over … until the next need drives the next transactional exchange. Soul destroying for partners because we stay available, always caring and always ready …


 

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 into the fog of the future. Every day I just face the front and set out on my way, not knowing what I’ll encounter from one moment to the next. I trust my ability to handle ordinary stuff, and my past experiences and accomplishments reassure me that I have some useful tools in my toolkit to help me handle a wide range of happenings. But the truth remains, we never know what is just around the next corner, or what will suddenly appear out of the fog to challenge our expertise and skills.

On the road I turn on my headlights. Other motorists will be able to see me from behind or in front. I trust that others will also have their headlights on, but suddenly out of the grey fuzz one appears with no lights, silver in colour, and barely visible. I’m reminded to slow down even more, that all I can do is manage my own vehicle, my own speed, my own visibility. I watch the painted lines along both edges of my lane. I stay within, while I move cautiously forward in faith, not too fast, not too slow.

I’m reminded of what I’ve learned about those who are affected by the characteristics of autism. The anxiety they feel even when there’s no fog, or perhaps everything is fog to them. The fear of not knowing what’s next, the fear of not being able to recognise or read a situation, of not knowing which tool or strategy to use, not knowing which words are correct, not knowing how to negotiate something unfamiliar, not knowing what’s expected or not knowing that something is expected at all.

I appreciate afresh how distressing that must feel, and how lucky I am to be able to remember my past experiences and how I negotiated them, what worked, what failed and what to try next time. My tool kit is well stocked because of these experiences and the knowledge I have gained along the way. I feel confident that I will be able to manage a wide range of unexpected situations, even when other people are involved. For this I am thankful.

On the road, just having membership of a Motoring Association eases much anxiety if my vehicle were to fail or be damaged in some way. I can call them.

In life, I know I can reach out to a friend, a family member, a neighbour, a doctor, a therapist, a helpline or other service provider if I am facing a situation that stretches me beyond my repertoire of skills and resources.

A comforting thought as I remember the fog.

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