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Executive Functioning and Mental Engagement ~ A Personal Reflection

Posted May 03 2012 7:00am

Note: I have posted a few times about some of the things I have been working through since being diagnosed with Asperger’s. I haven’t gotten a lot of response here, but I thought I would try one more time to see if these topics are of any interest to my readership here. I would love to hear from anyone who is interested in hearing more about these sorts of things so I can decide whether to continue posting them here or to reserve them for more private forums. Thank you!

I attend a monthly support group for parents of children with AS/HFA/PDD-NOS, which took place last night. It is a wonderful group with a steady core and a few others who come and go as their schedule allows, and I have learned a lot from them.

Last night, I was sharing about how I personally have lived my life feeling like I was standing by myself in one place and everyone else was standing together in another spot and that, if I could just figure out the right answer to how they think and act, I would fit in with them. I went on to say how I have been learning that “they” don’t actually all think the same way and that there isn’t “one” right answer for everything.

This makes me both sad and glad at the same time: sad because I really wanted there to be one right answer that would make everything better, but glad because maybe now I can stop beating myself up emotionally for not being able to figure out this elusive, mystical “answer.”

Then, this morning, I was catching up on a friend’s blog and found a post that mentioned this tendency ( You Down With EFD? (Executive Functioning Disorder) ). The post was about executive functioning and actually covered a lot of ground which I plan to spend some more time re-reading and thinking about, but this one little thing really caught my attention on first read (the image is from this document on Executive Functions ).

Although I have been starting to understand the way I think and that has helped me, I have never thought about why I would be like that. But this idea that it is a way to avoid mental engagement rings true for me. It IS hard, and tiring, and scary because I don’t have any way to know whether my conclusions are solid unless the other person is willing to give me honest feedback (and then how can I really know if they are even if they say they are?).

Plus, once I start thinking about possibilities, they explode in number so fast that I can’t keep track of them very well, and then it takes me even longer to figure out a response, so then I will pick the easiest or least disruptive response from the ones at hand. It seems like it would make so much more sense to just have that “one right way” to handle every situation!

Since that’s not the way things are in reality, it seems that now I need to reframe this tendency in light of the way I engage with others. If I am not going to beat myself up for not knowing how to respond immediately in every situation, then I also don’t want to respond in a way that isn’t truly engaged just to satisfy the social expectations of the moment.

But it’s also true that I often need more time to process my thoughts about a situation before knowing what I really think or want to do about it. So I need to find ways to give myself the time and space to respond the way I truly think is best, even if it requires me to tell someone I can’t give them an answer right away or that I need more information.

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