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What makes up your thought process?
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What makes up your thought process?

As posted in the Autism Speaks forum:

I am curious to know what it is like to be an NT (neuro typical or someone with anything but autism-if you prefer) from an NT’s perspective.  Autistic people are welcome to post here too.

What I am trying to gain from this exercise is a broader understanding of people and their thought processes. Please remember, there are no right or wrong ways of thinking. I believe within both the NT and autistic realm, each person’s way of thinking is unique. The human brain is like a snowflake. They may look the same on the outside, but upon closer examination no two are alike.

Be brutally honest with yourself and explain how you think to the best of your ability.
Here are a few questions to help jog your mind.

1. I’d like to know what your thought process is like. How do you interpret new information? When you read something or see something, what goes on in your head? Do you rethink what you read, reflect upon it. Do you imagine yourself in that situation, or something different?

2. When someone talks to you and shares their story, what goes on in your head? Do you set up a mental movie of that person in their situation?  Or do you feel their feelings. If you feel their feelings, how do you create those feelings in yourself?

3. Someone really popular tells a joke that is boring. Either that or the joke is something you just don’t get for whatever reasons. Do you laugh along? If you do, do you laugh because you find it funny or because you feel compelled to laugh?  If you feel compelled to laugh, what makes you feel that way?  Is it a form of anxiety?

4. Someone you know gossips about someone else and it happens to be mean gossip.  How do you handle the situation?

5. When someone comes by obviously sad, upset, or angry over something, do you find it more important to sympathize with the person or find out what is the cause of the feeling?
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Here are my answers:

1. I describe my thought process as a combination of words and animation. These may be live action movies, or they may be animated.  Sometimes I develop a creature rather than a person.   If I am reading a story, I find myself in the situation of the main character. I take in the descriptions and create them into a mental scene. As I read, the setting comes to life like a DVD or a TV show. I can imagine the character’s voices, etc.

If it is not a narrative, I may try to make it into one in my head. Otherwise I interpret the information as a speech and hear a spoken voice in my head from reading the material.
If it is something coming straight out of my head it either gets translated into a speech. (which is how I am typing this. Sometimes I whisper parts of my speech as I type) If it is something like my fiction stories, then I am translating something I am seeing animated in my mind to a written form. Unfortunately lots of details get lost in translation.

2. When someone speaks with me about something that occurred such as their work situation, I translate what they spoke verbally into a mental image and movie. I set up a graphic setting based on my experiences. If I have trouble mapping out the setting, then I like to ask the person questions, such as how big of a building they work. Do they work in a cubicle or a closed room?  What is the environment like, etc?  This all helps me make a detailed image. The more detail I get from a person, the better I can calibrate my vision of their setting to how what it actually looks like.

A downside to this way of thinking is I tend to miss chunks of the conversation and have to ask for the person to repeat. This can drag the conversation down and frustrate the person I am talking with. They seem to be expecting me to just nod my head or something quick like, “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope tomorrow will be better.”

Another “downside” is I can’t focus on whatever facial expression I have on my face. I can’t focus on creating the right face and create a mental movie of the person’s story at the same time. If I stare people think it is rude.

3. If someone tells a joke that is boring, I don’t laugh… If I’m compelled to I may chuckle, but it is more an anxiety thing. If the joke is offensive, I write off that person and not respect them the same unless they can prove me they are worth my respect for them. If the joke is not offensive and I feel brave, I may try to ask to see why it is sop funny. I’m hoping that the person will give me clues. If I get the right perspective, perhaps I too will find the joke funny, once I understand.

4. I take a very dim view of gossip.  If it is against me, I feel hurt and angry.  If it is against someone else I feel bad, because someone out there trusted this person and they violated that trust and turned against that person. I also feel sorry for the gossiper because I wonder why he/she feels they must do this. What is pressuring this person to gossip about a friend? What is their motive?  And I feel confused about the people who follow this person. Why do they bother to listen to such ****?  What do they find so funny?  Are they afraid that they too will be turned against?  Is it fear that compels people to follow along?

I tend to just listen off in a distance reflecting upon these thoughts once I am aware what is going on.

5. I’m curious to know why they feel the way they feel. To me understanding people on an emotional level is a weakness. Expressing my feelings in a way people understand is another weakness. I don’t know how to describe and express “sympathy” or “empathy”

But if I can break past that hurdle and get the person to talk about what caused them to feel the way they feel and express the situations leading up to that feeling, I can assimilate the information and render that scenario in my head. Out of that, I can pull up some of my own personal experiences. Let’s say someone is telling me they just lost their child. I’ve not had children so I can’t relate…  But what I can do is go back to experiences in my head where I lost something valuable to me and analyze what I felt back then. Was I upset? Did I cry? Then I think about my pet. How would I feel if my cat suddenly died?

Using those I can try to imagine what it must feel like to lose a child.  That way I can try to relate.
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If this is too long, please let me know how I can condense it top make it easier to read and understand.
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