Passive Aggressive Behavior and How to Change it

Lots of folks are fond of pointing out when others are behaving in a passive-aggressive way, especially when those “others” are your partner in a relationship.  But did you know that passive-aggressive behavior was trained into most of us in childhood?  And did you know that passive-aggressive people tend to be attracted to passive-aggressive partners?  AND did you know there is a solution that can turn your life around??

pa-raven

You may recognize passive-aggressive behavior as what happens when your wife or mother vacuums the floor when you’re trying to watch the game, but it STARTS with the fact that she was trained NOT to ask you for help with the cleaning.  That’s right!  Well meaning people train their kids that its RUDE to ask for some things directly, or to say what you really mean.  Sure, it SEEMS nice to avoid asking people for help and instead wait for the “nice” people to offer their help.  It seems “nice” to ask your friend details of their day first as a segue way into dialogue when you’re actually aching to talk about your OWN week.  It seems “nice” to ask your co-workers where they’d like to go for lunch when you’ve actually got your heart set on Chinese.  But these are NOT nice ways to behave.  These are passive-aggressive behaviors parading as “nice”.

 

If you find yourself hinting around about what you’d like for your birthday, or waiting to be asked or surprised, you, my friend, are passive aggressive.  If you call up a friend and ask about her day, then stew because she doesn’t reciprocate, your passive-aggressive (P-A) training is interfering with your life.  If you go along with what your friends want to do on your night out but find yourself vaguely prickly and disgruntled without knowing why, you’re one!    If you find yourself getting angry and silent a lot without really knowing why, you too.  If you can’t ask for what you want in bed (even if your partner wants to know!) its time to re-train yourself!

pa-jesus

As adults, we all have the right AND the responsibility to re-train ourselves.  If you’ve read The Secret, The Law of Attraction, or other such books, you know that you can achieve your dreams if you focus on what you truly want.  But your P-A training may have been so effective that you can no longer really identify what you want out of life or even lunch.  This is sadly unfortunate but common.

 

How to Change?

Re-training yourself is both easier and harder than you think.  It’s easy because you only need to practice ASKING for what you want and SAYING what you mean early and often.  It is difficult because doing so goes against all your training.   It may feel awkward, rude or incredibly difficult to start speaking up at first.  You may discover you often have no idea exactly what you want.  Alas, you’re in good company.

But if you want to stop your angry outbursts, stop hinting around and being misunderstood, stop manipulating others to get what you want, the solution is always the same:

  1. Identify your wants and needs
  2. Say it out loud.
  3. Say it to others.

With practice, it will become easier and more natural.

What if you’re struggling with step 1.?  One solution is to place your hand over your heart, ask yourself how you feel or what you want & notice your feelings.  This is an NLP technique that makes good decision-making easier.  Begin to use this technique whenever you’re unsure of your feelings or desires.  After some practice, your own feelings will become more and more clear.

Step 2. involves speaking out loud to yourself.  Even this may feel awkward at first.  But ALL healthy people talk to themselves and talking out loud is practice for speaking up to others.

When it comes to step 3. you’ll want to guard against anger.  It might at first seem like you have to feel an angry sense of injustice before speaking up to others.  Some “How To” memes may even encourage your right to say “NO” and reject those who seem to bully you into going along with the desires of others.  But as an adult, you owe it to yourself to accept that no one in your life is overriding your wants and needs, you’re simply letting them have their way by keeping silent.  Don’t muster your courage to speak with anger or blame.  Simply speak up when you know what you want.

pa-comic

You’ll also be speaking up to say what you DON’T want, but avoid focusing on the No’s.  In fact you’ll do well to soften the No’s by using phrases like:   I’d rather not.  I really prefer not to.  I’m going to have to decline.  I’d love to, if only I had the time.  I’m afraid I’ve got my heart set on something else.  So kind of you to ask, I’ll take a rain check.  Soon you’ll find that the only one who was bullying you was yourself and the voices in your head.  Voices, btw that may sound vaguely like an angry parent telling a child its rude to ask…or deny.

Remember: speak your desires early and often.  Soon it will be fun and easy!  If the transition back to getting what you want out of life (instead of what everyone else wants FOR you) is too hard, come in to Clear Mirror Healing for help and support.  We’ll get you back in charge of your own life in as few as 3 sessions!

Footnote:  If you’ve read all this and find yourself thinking “Huh, I always speak my mind.”  It’s very likely you are somewhere on the ASD spectrum ( See ASD is NOT a Disease  )  And all your parent’s efforts to train you out of speaking clearly and directly have happily failed.  Congratulations!  If you want to find friends who are also clear, direct, uninhibited and TRULY KIND, look for other ASD folks.  They’ll be the one’s speaking up only when they actually have something to say…and the one’s who’s fashion sense is a bit unique…and the one’s content with a good book or their own solitude.  You know the type:  the folks like YOU.

 

 

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Navigating Emotions – for Aspie’s, ASD’s and Normals

My college sophomore constantly discovers differences between herself as a Aspie* and her bell-curver* classmates.  This time she found she is a lot worse at understanding other people’s facial expressions than she first thought.  A teacher showed her class a bunch of faces and ask them to identify the emotions expressed.  Every one else was immediately naming the emotions they were supposed to be. But she didn’t even get a third of them right.  She was coming up with a couple answers that each could be and doubting herself because there wasn’t any context.  All of her answers were usually wrong from the intended one.  She was able to connect her confusion to experiences of working on projects with partners who would not tell her how they felt about something even though she asked politely more than once. It was a frustrating situation.

Bellcurvers = Normal

Bell-curve-normal friends suggested that “most people* do not say what they are feeling verbally because they are in fact saying it with body language and facial expressions. Most people are born programmed to be able read these signs with no effort. The people in the class could distinguish the emotions from the pictures because the furrowed eyebrows and tightly puckered lips will mean anger in any context, so no context is needed.”

Me (3yo) and my sister. I'm on the right, obviously.

Me (3yo) and my sister. I’m on the right, obviously.

Me at 5yo. The only one NOT smiling.

Me at 5yo. The only one NOT smiling.


Reflecting on my own childhood and youth, I realized that I have studied these silent signals since I was quite young, with the intent of blending in and passing for normal.  If you look at my earliest childhood photos I am the one with the blank, often serious look on my face.  The same look is used for early diagnosis of autistic children.  Later on I affect an expression more in keeping with the others.  But as late as high school I clearly remember friends and strangers alike passing me in the hall and shouting at me to “Smile!” and “Don’t be so serious!”  It was a command that I thought very sexist. “I’m not your hood ornament,” I would think, “If you don’t like my looks, look at someone else.”

Me in High School practicing “Normal” (On the left, obviously)

But I did try.  From elementary school on I recall watching and copying  people’s gestures and expressions for hours at a time.  In high school I made a study of people’s walks.  My Aspie sophomore has the walk typical of most ASD folks:  hunched shoulders, hands dangling limply at the sides, slightly concave chest, feet sloping forward in an awkward shuffling pace.  If you are ASD and want to find others in your tribe, look for that walk.

The ASD walk

The ASD walk

All that studying of mine has led me to be a very good counselor.  And since I have been working as a counselor for many years now, allow me to share some of my observations as well as skills and techniques for navigating the world of emotions.

Skills for Understanding Emotions

As a therapist, helping people sort and deal with their feelings is pretty much my job.  Once I have an idea what kind of feelings are blocking a person, the hypnosis can be VERY effective at changing the negative patterns for good…in just one session.  So the real challenge is simply getting people to talk about their feelings.  Despite what our normal friend said,  I can tell you MOST people are out of touch with their own feelings, let alone other people’s.  Often, they manipulate themselves into feeling things they were taught was appropriate. Example: women will often deny feeling angry and instead say they feel sad. Thus, anger over something they could stand up for and make it STOP…becomes depression because they don’t vent it, they push it inward where it begins to eat away at their happiness.  Similarly, men often deny ALL feelings BUT anger.  And, like the women with their depression, when men channel all their feelings into anger they create more problems than they solve.  Problems like rage, belligerence, isolation, alcoholism, and violent crime.  (It’s not because they’re men or women.  It’s because of how they were socialized as children.  If you have children in your life, PLEASE read:  How to Raise Children and Pets  )    Don’t take my word on this, go ahead and look it up.

What you’ll find is statistics that show depression is much more common in women than men, and men are more likely to show anger, suffer alcoholism and commit violent crime. This has MUCH more to do with socializing and parenting kids to fit into discrete little boxes called “male” and “female” than it does with the actual differences in male and female brains.

Another problem I see with the BC-normal assumption that recognizing emotions by expression is somehow instinctive?  Normals* often place responsibility for other people’s feelings on themselves & NOT on the one feeling stuff.  This can lead to a lot of problems.  As a baseline that kind of thinking leads to people who, like my clients, do not even know WHAT they are feeling, let alone how to process it.  It can also lead to irresponsible behavior (making others responsible for our feelings) and in some cases it leads to manipulation.  There’s an old stereotype that says women use tears to manipulate their men.   In my experience, though, MEN use emotions to manipulate just as much as women.  But when we take responsibility for our OWN feelings and let others do the same, there’s no room for manipulation.

The way to do it is say what you’re feeling as soon as I can identify it.  Also say what you want, early and often.  When you cry, it’s NOT because I’m sad or hurt, its to release a big wave of emotions – any variety of emotions.  Always let people (especially the men) know, “I’m  NOT hurt or sad, I’m just overwhelmed with ______ (happiness, relief, stress, worry, etc).”

If you are a BC-Normal and you’re still reading, first:  Thank You!  Secondly, please consider that recognizing other people’s feelings is probably NOT instinct.  It’s probably conditioning and rote memorization.  You’re probably guessing those feels wrongly about 50% of the time AND that is probably leading to misunderstanding, confusion, and frustration.  And it’s probably may allow other people to manipulate and use you against your will.  At the very least, it is occupying a significant portion of your brain and energy that could otherwise be used for creative problem solving.  So, the following tools could really free you up.

Guessing rather than expressing feelings makes for great comedy.

Guessing rather than expressing feelings makes for great comedy.

Skills and Tools – for Getting People to Talk about Feelings

One of my techniques for helping men open up and share so I can help them is to start an argument. This also works well with military women.  If you get someone to debate with you about any topic you will begin to hear bits and pieces of their emotional life.  I’ve learned to listen to what they are NOT saying and you can too.  If a person says, “My GF is totally vegan, she won’t even buy meat.”  He hasn’t told me that he’s NOT vegan.  He hasn’t told me that he’s annoyed that his girlfriend won’t go to a steakhouse or bring home some fried chicken for dinner.  Those are the things he’s NOT saying.  Those are the things I write down as emotional road blocks. You can also use empathy to sense their feelings.  But everyone has a bit of empathy if they dare to use it.

Empathy for a friend

Empathy for a friend

You can also get people to share feelings by asking for advice.  Mention an imaginary “friend” who’s struggling with…whatever.  But its a Rule that people often like to give advice about other people’s feelings, rather than talk directly about themselves.  Most of the time we are projecting our own feelings when we consider how others might feel.  They may also volunteer what this other person “should” do, which gives you the chance to ask “Why?”  At that point they will likely share anecdotes from their own childhood that are key to their emotional state.

By far my favorite technique is the Pregnant Pause.  I simply ask directly, “How are you feeling?” or “How do you feel about that diagnosis (project, upcoming test, etc)?” And. Then. Wait…………………..and wait……………..and wait………  Most BC-Normals are VERY uncomfortable with silence, so they will begin to hunt around and guess at what they might actually be feeling.  Then my job is simply to repeat what they’ve said so they can hear it for themselves.  They say, “I’m fine with it.”  Me, “You’re fine…?”  Them, “Well, you know, I’m a little nervous, I mean, shouldn’t I be?”  Me, “So you feel nervous?”  Them, “Hell’s bells!  I’m in a complete panic!! What should I do?!” Me, “Oh, sure, I’ll bet anyone would feel a bit panicked.”

You see, BC-Normals have been conditioned to look outside themselves for approval.  Aspie’s and other ASD’s* are simply resistant to that kind of conditioning.  If you ask an Aspey friend how they’re feeling about the up coming presentation, expect her to pause for a few moments and then report, “I think I’m well prepared, but every so often my thoughts spiral into a crescendo approaching panic.  I’m just not that comfortable with so many people looking at me.” or they will simply say, “I’m not sure HOW I feel, its such a jumble of things.”  In any event, and ASD will tell you the truth as best they can, no guile, no subterfuge, no “shoulds”.  ASD’s are not necessarily better at feelings, they just resist the conditioning that convolutes them unnecessarily.

Skills and Tools – for Spotting Feelings

If you can’t tell by looking at someone what they feel, you may try to get a response by asking directly, “What are you feeling?” But there are many situations in which BC-Normals won’t answer that, or won’t answer honestly.  Remember, the reason is likely because they’ve been conditioned to think people should guess their feelings.  If you ask directly, they may get offended, or begin to blame you – especially if what they’re actually feeling is something they’ve been taught is “rude” or “wrong”.  Don’t feel bad and don’t accept blame.  It’s really NOT about you and there really are NO rude feelings and NO wrong feelings.  It’s just unfortunate conditioning.  And by “conditioning” I mean they were smacked every time they did it wrong, usually without explanation.

Guess Work

Don’t give up, either!  Say something like “You look cross”
That usually gets the person to say, “No, I’m ______( tired, jealous, angry, hungry).”  Notice, ALL of those feelings can look alike.  Also notice, when you guess at someone’s feelings, soften the word a bit.

  • Instead of Angry, say cross.
  • Instead of painful, say tender.
  • Instead of depressed, say sad.
  • Instead of panicked, say uneasy.
  • Instead of exhausted, say tired.

There’s a reason for this softening.  It is important, because the poor Bellcurvers have usually been punished for emoting too strongly.  YES, actually hit for crying! They may have internalized the notion that some emotions can be TOO emotional.  This is hogwash and poppycock.

poppycock hogwash1

Emotions are never too anything.  They are exactly right for the individual feeling them, unless they are being stuffed, stored, or inverted instead of being ventilated by identifying them and talking or acting on them.  But, if you guess using an intense descriptor, many bellcurvers will deny the feeling, even if you got it exactly right, because they’re afraid of being too emotional.
Lastly,  if you’ve tried asking, and you’ve tried guessing, and they still won’t share, you don’t need to bother yourself with their feelings.  All you need to do is communicate.  What you say is:  “Well, I don’t know how you feel, so I can’t take your feelings into account.”  Then do your best to shake off their stares and glares and funny expressions and move on.  Do your best to work around their feelings, whatever they are.  Eventually, this technique will either get the BellCurver to put their feelings into words for you OR it will get them to share their feelings with a third person or two (in the form of gossip), who will most likely tell you about your friends feelings.  Regardless of whether you hear the feelings from your friend or a third person, count it as good.  You’ve finally got the info you needed.  Your friend got to express themselves.  And MOST importantly what other people think of you is None. Of.  Your. Business.

In fact, I’ve had people tell me they thought I was “really cool” because I don’t care what “They” think.  Huh, imagine that!  Cool because I don’t even try to be cool.  And all this posh glamour can be yours at the low, low cost of Minding Your Own Business!

Angry?

Angry

Angry?

Pay attention to my anger!

Frightened?

No please!

Happy hour?

Wine?

 

 

 

 

Skills and Tools – For Dealing with Your Own Feels

Avoid emotional tangles and passive-aggressive mean-fests by applying these neat-o skills:

  1. Identify your own feelings ASAP. Say, “I feel _____.” both early and often.  That will keep the simple feelings from building up into unmanageable globs of mish-mashed feelings.
  2.  If you’re not sure HOW you feel, but you know you are feeling something big, Say, “I need a day (moment, few hours, week) to think.”  Say, “I don’t know how I feel yet.”  “I’m not sure how to feel about that.”  “I’m not ready to talk about it.”  Then, please take the initiative to bring up the issue again when you can name some of your feelings.  Remember:  You’ve got a right to ALL your feelings.
  3. Telling others that is something that works well too.  Whenever other people tell you THEIR feelings spontaneously: “You’ve got the right to your feelings.”  I’ve used that as a parent:  Kid, “I don’t want to go to school!! I HATE school!”  Me, “You’ve got the right to feel that way.  I’ll give you 15 minutes more sleep, then we have to get moving.”  As a teacher: Student, “I HATE you, Ms. Thompson!” Me, “Ok, you’ve got that right.  The assignment is due by the end of the class.”  And as a partner: BF, “You’re making me mad!!”  Me, “You have a right to your anger.  Any thing I can do differently?”
  4.  When talking face to face make emoticons with your face and hands.  If you’re not sure which ones to use you can watch anime characters, matching the faces with the feelings or words.  You can watch your teachers, parents and friends then recreate their expressions and tone, like I did.  You can also try out for plays or hire an acting coach.  A lot of ASD people do VERY well as actors.  You get to try on a bunch of different personas without risk and the director will often tell you what emotions to show for which lines.   And its fun!  Which is the MAIN point of emotions: to know when you’re having fun and to have fun with other people as much as possible!

*Aspie, ASD = Asperger or on the Autism Spectrum

*Normal, Most people, Bellcurver, BC-Normal = Not on the Autism Spectrum

ASD feels KEY: 3, 11, 3, 2/5 – 2/5, 8, 2/5, 4 – 2/5, 13, 6, 7 – 11, 8, 15, 16 …..oh, whatever!!

 

 

 

 

More About Autism – Stimming

I “accidentally” diagnosed myself as Asperger’s/ASD when I was helping my daughter answer some detailed checklists for her counselor.  I guess I’m one of those females that slipped through undiagnosed.  Looking back, I can see that what I did was observe “normal” people in social interactions, notice patterns, and develop algorithms to explain the appropriate behaviors and then store those algorithms as “rules” to follow in social situations. These rules have helped me pass for (almost!) normal most of my life and I have relied on them to help my daughters through social situations.

In any event, I’ve long been aware of my differences.  I just didn’t know there were others like me.  But one of the distinctive things about the ASD brain is that all ASD folks are wired differently.  Yet there are similarities.  There are patterns that can help parents of ASD kids as well as adult ASD folks like myself.  My goal is to help explain what’s going on with the mental wiring and how you can make the most of the advantages…and circumvent problems.

stims

Stimming            

One type of behavior that sets the ASD population apart is stimming, short for self-stimulatory behavior.  The thing about it is most all people engage in stimming when they’re trying to think.  If you’ve ever tapped your pencil, drummed your fingers, chewed your nails, or scratched your head in thought, you have engaged in stimming.  So why is it that ASD folks get so carried away with the stimming that they are known to rock themselves, flap their arms, chew pencils into twisted skeletons, talk to themselves out loud, or pace incessantly?

stim pencil

The answer is basically that people stim NOT to think but to STOP thinking.  Stimming is just a way to distract the conscious mind so that the subconscious can use the brain long enough to come up with a new idea. Most of the creative new ideas are products of the subconscious, which operates outside of time to access ALL of our memories at once, cross-reference them with the problem at hand and come up with new possibilities at the speed of thought.  In order to let the subconscious do all that we’ve got to stop thinking of the problem consciously.  And, as I mentioned in my last article ( link!) ASD people think a lot more than normal.  So, it often takes more stimming to stop the ASD conscious mind long enough to access the subconscious.

Another part of the answer is that ASD kids often have people who attempt to stop their stimming before it has had the desired effect.  So then it becomes a circular exercise.  The stimming increases and may take more dramatic forms (like slapping one’s own head) as the ASD person gets frustrated or overwhelmed with emotions, whilst still attempting to clear the conscious mind and get back to the original problem and its solution.

How to Control Stimming

Given that, what’s the best way to stop a person from wild uncontrolled stimming?  DON’T try to stop them at all.  Instead of getting all bent out of shape because someone is tapping or rocking or talking to themselves, try building some acceptable forms of stimming into their day.  There are companies who have wonderful collections of objects for stimming, from textured putty to chew-able jewlery, to phone cases with built in bubble wrap.  And you can also rely on everyday objects, like bubble wrap, silly putty, moon sand, gum, etc.

stim toy

stim toy

In fact, you can teach any child to engage in stimming in order to access creative ideas, integrate newly learned information, or process emotions.  Teachers and parents would do well to follow any 20 minute lesson with 10 minutes of stim play, such as sand and water tables.  Or kids can hold a bit of clay or putty to fiddle with DURING lessons.  Even better, hands on activities can be used at regular intervals to allow students to make those neuron connections.

chewy jewlery

chewy jewlery

What you want to avoid at all costs, however, is pressuring an ASD person while they are stimming.  Remember, all people use stimming to problem solve.  So if you fuss at, restrict, shame, talk to or otherwise interfere with an ASD person’s stimming you are actually heaping on more and more problems to be solved.  Now, in addition to a thinky problem they have a complex emotional problem or two.  This will only make them need to stim faster, harder, or longer.  Instead, just hand them something to mess with and leave them alone for awhile.

You might also want to consider that YOU may be the problem that needs solving.  If you are insisting that the ASD person do (or STOP doing) something that defies reason and logic you are presenting them with an untenable problem.  Such a problem will require a lot of stimming to solve.  There are many such unreasonable requests built into what we call “societal norms”.  For example we may insist that a person wear uncomfortable and restrictive clothing, put water on their face, eat foods that are strangely flavored or weirdly textured, stand up in an erect fashion, sit still for long periods of time,  rub a prickly brush coated with a chalky tingly paste around in their mouths, pull another brush painfully through their hair, ALL before leaving the house for school or work.

brush-hairwash face2

They may be expected to RESIST normal human activities such as digging in their nose, mumbling to themselves, wiggling, releasing bodily gasses, scratching itches, or any array of primate grooming activities native to our very species.  If your senses are much more finely tuned than the “norm” all of these things may cause you problems.  Introduce sights and sounds that may pass below the perception of most “normal” folks (see: linky!) and your Autistic person has a weeks worth of problem solving built into the first couple hours of the day.  Is there any wonder that the stimming gets more and more exaggerated?

So, part of the solution may be to simply CHOOSE to let things that really don’t matter, NOT matter.  Or to become aware of sensory distractions that may be “white noise” or “part of the scenery” to the less sensitive person.  Or to ask.  Or to let the ASD person know their requests will be honored.  Does it really matter that a child eats their lima beans if it makes them gag?  Aren’t there other veggies they could consume?  If they want to wear their favorite shirt everyday, why not buy 5 or 6 identical tops?  Albert Einstein did that as a professional adult.

There are many ways to handle and manage stimming.  The first step, really is to understand that stimming is NOT a problem.  Its a problem solver.  The problem may be that social norms have evolved to support a non-thinking, insensitive, unaware average population.  And its become fashionable to force sensitive, quick-thinking aware people to dumb it down in order to fit expectations.  But what if individual happiness was more important than fashion?  What if diversity was more valued than fitting in? What if we could usher in that utopian future simply by pausing every 15-20 minutes to let people think?

stim2

Even if you or your kids don’t seem to be on the ASD spectrum, you can still benefit from creating the pattern of taking stim breaks for thinking and integrating new information.  Its that “study break” that everyone recommends but instead of wandering off in search of a snack or spending an hour watching TV, you simply set a timer and play with clay or bubble wrap or manipulable toys.  You let your thoughts slip away.  Let yourself become absorbed. Then ten minutes later your brain comes back on-line refreshed and you’ll find you have some new ideas and inspiration!

I use stimming in my office all the time.  I find that I can take a client’s detailed history, making notes.  Then I can step back and look at those notes while drumming my fingers, humming, and fiddling with papers.  And, (once I’ve reassured my client I haven’t gone mad) boom! there’s the perfect plan for their treatment popping into my head.  You see, every problem CONTAINS its own solution, but sometimes the connections are buried in your subconscious memory.  Something that you haven’t thought of in years, something that your mind learned while you weren’t really paying full attention, a chain of events with a missing link, then suddenly something clicks into place and fills the gap.

Think of stimming as the process that gets things into and out of the deep freeze of the mind in useful formats.  Then find a few favorite stim toys to keep at hand, and watch what your amazing mind can do unleashed.  You need never have “writers block” again!  In fact, you can use your subconscious to create new solutions, problems solve, simulate test runs, make connections to old information, notice patterns, weed out outliers and data that is inconsistent with tested facts and systems.

Stimming Idea Links:

https://www.pinterest.com/tolleythompson/aspergers-asd/  

http://www.stimtastic.co/

bubble wrap phone case

bubble wrap phone case

 

 

 

 

ASD/Aspergers is NOT a Disease!

Let me start by saying Autism Spectrum Disorder including Asperger’s (also known as ASD) is NOT a genetic disorder! Yes, it is genetic, but NO its not a disorder. ASD occurs in people who’s brains are wired to be SMARTER and MORE ANALYTICAL than the rest of main stream bell-curve-normal folks. Babies are not born with the symptoms that make ASD kids most difficult to parent because it is POOR PARENTING practices that cause those disruptive symptoms.

"Most People" are bell-curve-normals.

“Most People” are bell-curve-normals.

When I say these kids are smarter, I mean smarter like a supercomputer, not smarter like ‘fills in the blanks on worksheets well’. And therein lies much of the problem. Supersmart kids do not follow foolish rules even if everyone else is following them. Supersmart kids do not obey because you “said so”. They don’t obey because you threaten to spank or punish them. They have already thought it through and they will do the thing that makes logical sense to them, even if your rules, or all the social pressure in the world say to do different.

Einstein also exhibited ASD signs: delayed speech, poor social skills, some teachers even considered him "retarded"

Einstein also exhibited ASD signs: delayed speech, poor social skills, some teachers even considered him “retarded”

Now, if you are a flexible parent who can actually LEARN FROM YOUR KIDS, your ASD child will not develop the most difficult traits on the “symptoms” list. But if you think parenting means molding your kids into the kind of people you think they should be, you’re in for a bad time. These are children who, even as toddlers, are well aware that your ways are illogical, inefficient, or wrong and they don’t mind setting you straight.

If the thought of a kid correcting an adult makes you want to punish the child YOU need to reevaluate your values and goals. That is the kind of attitude that contributes to the “dumbing down” of each successive generation. You cannot expect generational improvements if you devote yourself to keeping the kids dumber than the adults. Moreover PUNISHMENT DOESNT WORK for anyone. In particular, it doesn’t work for ASD kids. Any form of punishment, but especially SPANKINGS and physical punishment will BREAK these children. Think of them as supercomputers with fine delicate wiring. If you beat on it or pound on the computer in frustration it will NOT work better. It will, in fact, develop permanent processing problems.

When you beat, spank, punish or force your little supercomputer kid they will begin to regress. They may stop talking, they may stop reading or writing, they may begin to lash out in violent fits. After all that is EXACTLY what you just taught them to do! Oh, they learn well, very well. They simply resist learning nonsense for as long as they can…you know, until you force them to.

So what can a parent do?

Be real. Resist the urge to pretend a hubristic infallibility as our parents’ generation did. If you make a mistake, admit it. Apologize. Find a better way. Once, when my little ASD daughter was about six years old, I tried to introduce her to the delicious taste of rhubarb that I enjoyed as a child. But, for whatever reason, she didn’t want to taste it. I cajoled, then I teased, then I insisted. Then I broke into a mischievous game and chased her through the house with a spoonful of rhubarb pie and forced the spoon in her mouth in a fit of laughter. My daughter wasn’t laughing though. She began to cry. Then I began to cry. Then we laid back holding one another’s hand while I observed, “No one likes to be forced, do they? Even when its a good thing being forced is bad.” She tearfully agreed. I vowed never to force her to do things again. She agreed never to do that to someone else. And we never have.

She got over that episode of bad parenting because I got over it. Kids, even ASD kids, are very flexible and forgiving as long as we learn with them. I have had the good fortune to teach many ASD kids and I have found this to be consistently true. Teach and parent using logic and mutual learning and they respond by being bright, well behaved, brilliant thinkers. You WILL need to get books on parenting without punishment because all kids WILL push your buttons, ALL of your buttons at once. This is pretty much their job. So figure out what you will do when your kid is pushing all your buttons at once and still looking for one more, and make sure its a strategy that doesn’t involve punishment, physical or emotional violence. Otherwise, you will simply revert to just what your parents did to you and it won’t work.

I have also had the good fortune to heal ASD kids in my practice. They respond very well. The problem is usually that I can’t fix their parents. So the kids just get broken again and again until the damage becomes permanent. If I can’t get the parents to grow up and stop hitting and forcing and punishing their kids and START using their WORDS and their BRAINS like big Mommies and Daddies, the kids may well end up demonstrating all the increasingly negative traits on the ASD symptom lists.

Today's ASD kids would fall into the "head and neck" of this Nessie style curve. (You know, if they could all take the same test)

Today’s ASD kids would fall into the weird “head and neck” of this Nessie style curve. (You know, if they could all take the same test)

A word about Social Norms

Most adults and bell-curvers think that social norms are easy and intuitive. To ASD people they are quite difficult. That is because they are almost all culturally based and completely divorced from reason or logic. In some cultures it is good manners to look people right in the eye when they are talking to us. In others that would be very aggressive or insubordinate behavior. So the poor supercomputer kid or adult may do most social behaviors “wrong”.

Thus, most ASD folks eventually come to prefer the company of books or computers or pets and to suffer some form of “social anxiety”. This also accounts for why girls with ASD are under-diagnosed. Girls have multitrack minds and so can better observe subtle differences in social behavior. Many even develop strategies, rules, and coping mechanisms to comply with the unreasonable social expectations and thus to blend in. Others learn to ask or to be very transparent with their communication. The bottom line? You won’t be able to “cure” your ASD child of their awkward social behavior. But if you can explain the expectations or rules in concrete terms, you can help them adapt and blend. Example, “Its considered rude by adults to avoid eye contact when we speak to you.” works much better than, “Look at me when I’m talking!!”

I am eager to hear from ASD kids and adults about their thoughts on my observations. Do you agree? Can you add to my pointers or correct me? I’m also happy to hear from parents of ASD kids.

Words that make me Laugh

There’s a hypothesis called Sapir–Whorf hypothesis that says learning language actually shapes our reality because WORDS for new things allow us to THINK of things we never thought of before!  I’ve learned 5-6 different languages (if you count English) and I believe this is true!  More importantly, I think that the more you LEARN words, the more you can LAUGH at the otherwise dull, sometimes dreary things most folks call REALITY.  And…you may actually be able to create your own, alternative reality …where ordinary events are knee-slapping funny, for reasons only you can fully appreciate.

Welcome To My World, Sugar!

My favorite word of all times is from Spanish.  One day I will whisper this word throatily into the warm ear of a lover and seduce him on the spot!  My word is:  ferrocariles.  In Spanish you roll the double Rs in a sexy way that sounds like this:  fe.ro.ca.ril   (Click the word…listen to the pronunciation by Adelaida, that’s it!) Oooh! What does it mean?  Railroads!…somehow, I find the irony even sexier than the sound of the word itself!  Greasy, sweaty, smelling of iron…

Ferrocaril

Ferrocaril

In Seattle there were more words for RAIN than I had ever encountered.  The Inuit have many words for SNOW.  The French have countless words for LOVE.  In Swahili, the word for HAND was called mkono.  When I asked the word for shoulder a villager pointed to his shoulder and said, “Mkono”.  What about this, said I, pointing to my elbow?  Also mkono.  So Swahili is NOT the language you use to teach human anatomy, or possibly even play “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” with kindergartners.  It’s a trade language, so it depends on standing right in front of people and using a lot of gestures and facial expressions to communicate.

But once when we were walking outside, one of my students pointed to a big red stinging ant and asked, “What do you call this insect?”  “Ant” I told him.  Then he pointed to a poisonous black and white fuzzy insect and asked its name.  Again I said, “It’s an ant.”  His friend asked about the deadly safari “ant”, then the tiny sugar “ants”.  Finally, in an amusingly animated voice the student declared, “Do you mean to tell me that all these different insects are called by the same name?!”  We laughed till we cried.

ant

Ant…

ant2

…also an ant…

The other day I introduced a new word to a Buddhist friend:  schadenfreude.  Its a German word meaning: the happiness derived from another person’s misfortune.  My friend attempted to soften the meaning to something very PC, like slapstick humor or a genuine misunderstanding.  But, NO!  Its a German word!  It means the nasty thing it seems to mean!  You remember Germany?  From WWII?  And WWI before that?  The country with the highest ratio of bed-wetting men, most of whom don’t STOP wetting the bed until they join the military.  Why?  Because the potty training of toddlers is THAT HARSH!  Hello?  That’s right!  You DO get it…its just an ugly word for an ugly impulse.

My point, I suppose, is that words are FUN!   Even when they reflect some nasty reality of our culture, or the culture of others.  Somehow, when we capture big horrific ideas into tiny little sounds, roll them around luxuriously in our mouths, then release them for all to hear….we gain mastery over their sharp painful edges…we control THEM.  We touch them. We lick them!  We chew on them! We make them FUN!!

Here are some new words for 21 century America:

  1. Footwear – After 9/11, then came the “shoe bomber”, then the good people of TSA coined the word “footwear” as used in the sentence, “Please remove your footwear, and place it in the bin.”  It seems, once they decided to X-ray everyone’s shoes some smart Alec’s decided to snark back, “But these aren’t shoes, they’re boots!”   Then came “sandals”.  Then, to keep people and their sassy ways under control, TSA officials began asking people one after one to remove their “footwear” and left it at that.
  2. Personal Items – Long ago when air travel was something special and nice, we all carried baggage.  We gave our baggage to baggage handlers and they returned them to us by way of the baggage carousel.  Or we placed a carry-on bag in the overhead baggage bin.  A comical, if unpleasant start to a vacation was when someone lost his bag in flight.  But now we don’t carry bags.  Because they charge us extravagantly for each bag.  And, God forbid, we leave one unattended and end up thrown in the pokey awaiting trial for terrorism. No, what we do now is we stuff things in our pockets and our purses.  We put them in the pouch of our hoodies.  We cram things into plastic shopping totes.  We hang things around our necks and we loop things over our ears.  We scurry furtively on board like the sleek and cowering beasties we are with a collection of stuff that are now called, “Personal Items”  And we make sure we look around as we exit because “The airlines cannot be responsible for lost personal items.”  No longer any mention of ‘baggage’.
  3. Godspeed – It used to be that when a friend went off on a vacation you told them, “Bon Voyage” in the French tradition.  But there are times when one must travel for more somber purposes, such as a trip home for a funeral.  At such times it seems in bad taste to wish a “Bon Voyage” which literally means “Good Trip”.  Those are the times when you squeeze a hand tenderly, or chuck a shoulder warmly while holding back tears and wish the traveler, “Godspeed”.

So the next time you enjoy commercial flight you may notice one fellow traveler laughing hysterically at nothing.  That will be me, doubled over, tears running down my cheeks.  Really enjoying my trip!  If you would be so kind, please post my bail and explain that I’m not dangerous.  I just enjoy insanity encapsulated into fun words with rich histories.

“Good morning, folks, please step to the left, remove your footwear and personal items and place them in the bin for an X-ray.  Step forward when called and present your ID and boarding pass.  Then bend over and grab your ankles for the metal detector wand and Godspeed!….Godspeed, my friends!”

TSA

TSA

 

*After reading to a couple friends I realize my humor is a little obtuse.  The thing is, I encountered the TSA-style treatment at least ten years before 9/11 when traveling in the Middle East. But now, more than ten years after the event, when almost every week a new country or city is bombed, we Americans are still whining about the inconvenience of having to remove our shoes.  And we still think, “But I paid extra for the special calfskin boots with matching handbag, don’t I deserve special treatment?” No! TSA is saving your life!  Your calfskin boots will seed the clouds just the same as everyone else’s. Take them off!  And there still seems to be a preference for targeting brown people rather than all working together.  We are the new Cesar, fiddling while Rome burns down around our ears.

 

Marriage, Affairs, and what Really Works

There is a simple formula for forgiveness and it is understanding.  When we fully understand another person’s feelings, motivations and choices it is impossible NOT to forgive.  But until we truly understand, it is just as impossible to forgive.  People often delude themselves by pretending to forgive or forcing themselves to forgive, but it’s never real and there is always residual resentment that festers.

I have had the honor of helping many folks recover after an affair has rocked their relationship.  The healthiest couples always seek to understand the root causes and motivations of the affair for themselves or their partner.  Those are also the people who find ways to forgive and rebuild.  The sad truth, though, is that a number of people seem to have been conditioned to believe that they SHOULD NOT forgive or even understand.  They seem to be driven by sentiments like “What will my friends think?” or a paradigm that says “I DESERVE to be angry!  I DESERVE vengeance!”   I’m not sure where these paradigms come from or who exactly they think is cross-examining their private relations, but I know this sort of mindset only brings misery to everyone concerned.

If this has been part of your way of thinking, let me offer you advice I once got when I was new to psychic abilities and could ACTUALLY hear what people were thinking and saying about me:  What other people think of you is NONE of your business!  Once I made it my policy to remind myself of that truth, life genuinely got better.  There will always be naysayers.  There will always be yappy dogs along your path. But anyone who is more interested in talking about your life than living their own, really is NOT someone who’s opinion should concern you.  They are, in fact, admirers!

lion

That said, I’d like to take the idea a little deeper.  It just seems to me that the Western world’s one-size-fits-all approach to marriage is not really fair to anyone.  If so many people have affairs and/or are hurt by affairs, maybe monogamy as defined by the State just doesn’t work.  I mean, does it really make sense to go into a legally binding contract for a lifelong relationship with someone WITHOUT negotiating terms?  Just because the government or a religion says “this is what you get, take it or leave it” why would we suppose that could ever lead to true happiness?

Now, I’ve always been a religious AND spiritual person, but this just seems absurd.  Why would any two adults let an organization define the terms of their most intimate, most important relationship?  And if we do so, why on earth would we suppose it would make…and KEEP us happy?  My point is NOT that we should eschew marriage.  My point is that marriage, its terms and expectations should be negotiated like the contract it is.

contract

Would you sign any other sort of contract without reading and discussing its terms?  What about a contract that bound you into a LIFETIME commitment?  Don’t you think your attorney would advise you to look that thing over?  Review the terms?  Understand the definitions?  Even negotiate a point or two?

My contention is people should sit down, discuss and negotiate.  Otherwise one partner may be signing that contract thinking you are obliged to clean the house every day, make supper every night, agree to sex 3 times a week, pop out 3 babies and raise them in your spare time, all while keeping your girlish figure AND a smile on your face.  Meanwhile the other partner might sign thinking you are going to get a promotion every year, provide for retirement, wine, dine, and romance them at least once per week, take them on luxury vacations, happily change poopy diapers and listen while they vent about their hard day every time you get home from work.  Sound familiar?

Sure, some of those are old-fashioned ideas, but all of them are deeply entrenched in the cultural psyche and they hover in the back of our youthful dreams and fantasies when we think of marriage.  Know what else is dancing around back there?  Happily Ever After!  That’s right!  How are two people with such grand expectations going to achieve any happiness if they never discuss those expectations?  Leave alone EVER AFTER, puleez!

The real truth is, people all have quite different expectations of marriage and relationships.  Their families have expectations too.  And often extended family can be very persistent about getting THEIR expectations met!  After all, they don’t have to live with you, or fight with you before bedtime!  They can wreak their havoc and walk away because they have not signed a legally binding contract.

in laws

I think maybe, when we are mature enough to sit down and negotiate marriage line by line, value by value, we will truly be ready to live it.  I also think we will be mature enough, as a society, to discover that marriage is NOT just for one man and one woman.  I think we will soon discover that marriage is NOT just for gay couples, either.  I think we will discover that a marriage of 3 people, 4 people, or 5 people may actually work BETTER than two for a lot of folks.  We may discover that people only have affairs because forcing ourselves into a couple is NOT really what works for everyone.  As we relax and loosen up our definitions we will probably find something that works best for OURSELVES.  And we will probably find that that kind of happiness makes it much, much easier to let other people find what works best for THEMSELVES.  And wouldn’t it be nice if pursuing our own happiness ALSO meant letting other folks do the same?

Who Wants to Play a Little Game?

stars
In the distant past there were some problems. I could not see where the problems came from, but I began to notice problems took hold and spread everywhere. I was very very small. So I was not only able to go unnoticed while all the others died, I was able to watch. Eventually I began to observe patterns.
Then I began to experiment with different solutions. Most, of course, were unsuccessful, So it has taken a very long time.
Finally, I created time. Time is the forward motion created by non-stop industry in a singular direction. That industry must be balanced: a little physical work, a little mental work, a little spiritual work each day. Sex, when done properly, works all three, if you do it right. And it recharges and revitalizes the participants. Obviously, most people don’t do it right.
I make a habit of forgetting what doesn’t work, except to remember the lessons so that I don’t repeat mistakes simply because they’ve become familiar.
I have invented timelines. They are like games based on the 10 worlds, and 10 worlds within each world. There are places where the timelines meet and you can hear people on other timelines. By communicating with them and working together, you can solve the riddles and get the clues that open the next level. If you die in your world, you simply reboot. You take a rest and get reborn again at level one. Sometimes you can pause and press “help”.
You can take as much time as you need. But the only way out is to play through. At the topmost level you can stay as long as you like helping others on their own timelines. But the game doesn’t stop, so you just keep creating new challenges the longer you stay. The games are adaptive so that the experience and the challenges become a reflection of the learner, the gamer. At the highest level, the “help” may come in the form of coded messages. Often the help lines are manned by other players on other timelines, in other world’s. So if you have passed their level of play, you may have to decode their messages AND sort out the bits that are true and accurate using only your own wisdom.
So there is some danger that even at the highest levels, you may get deluded and led astray by seeking help outside yourself. Or you may hear the messages sent by other players and think they are ahead of you on their timeline, when actually they are behind. If they are only a little behind you, their words may sound like guidance, but they are not in the right order, so you can still be led astray. You must learn to rely on your own wisdom while also seeking deeper learning and teaching others who need help on their timelines.
At the top level of world 10, you can actually cross over into other world’s or timelines. This is very dangerous work because as a “real” player in another player’s timeline you can attract attention and come under attack from the game itself, almost as if you are an antigen entering the body. So you must learn quickly to adapt and blend in. You must make good friends. Then you must level up through the obstacles in their game, just as you did in your own. But the game will seem strange and wrong because the rules are not your own. The game has adapted to teach it’s own player. You must then find ways to teach the game by bending and breaking the rules until it is teaching its player to catch up with you.
You can also look for the “real” player in the game and help them directly. This is especially tricky. Because as the game adapts the “pretend” players come to look and act more and more like the gamer. And, if he fails to progress, or stays too long at one level, the real player may look less real than the functional parts of the game. There may also be players from other games in his game. When you encounter them, you should attempt to wake them up so that you can form a team and help each other, and also help the player to play through properly.
When enough players have played properly, the “winners” from each timeline are born in the timelines of others and the timelines themselves begin to converge into one big rope of woven timelines called “real time.”  Remember, there is no real time. It is just an expedient means of teaching us how to live in the real world. But as the timelines converge and the players become more and more powerful, the lines will collapse into one. And you have to pull the real player through into your timeline somehow. You can always create new timelines within the game as a way to experiment with solutions. So time itself doesn’t matter, but timing is critical.
Sooner or later, everyone has to wake up. The players that have learned to help others wake up just fine. Players who have evolved from the game itself may choose to delete their memories and go back into the fabric of the game or the gamers. Or if they have evolved beyond their roll in the game, they can choose to play their own games or even live in the real world with the other winners.
But the real players, the gamers who leveled down too much, or stayed too long at one level losing power pose a problem. They can cause trouble for themselves and for others.
I created the games. I leveled up and I now play in all the games, walk in all the worlds helping and teaching and playing along. I have a real player in this world that needs extraction and a limited time before the game shuts down. I’m running out of ideas. I’m open to help and suggestions. I need real time solutions. I’m putting out the call. Anyone who can hear me, please call in, come in or tap in.
When you are called into The Game you will be given a new name. Use that name to open doors. The game will teach you things you never knew.  At each crossroads there’s a little who’s who.  You will make friends from near and far.  You’ll find out how to fuel a star, and when the game ends you’ll find yourself in a New World and finally see a flying car!
To start the game just say in your heart, “YES” when you are ready to start.  You will get a call to play, take action and you’re on your way.  The clues will come when you least expect them, you’ll know they’re real so don’t reject them.  We play for fun, we play to learn, speak up when it is your turn.  Below are some clues, you’re on your way, get in The Game, come on, LET’s PLAY!!
#gameoflife

Guns That Kill People

I know, I know, guns don’t kill people, people do.  And I get that.  I really do get that.
As a matter of fact. I get, in a very firsthand way why people in this country SHOULD be allowed to have guns.  I grew up in a family of hunters.  For most of my childhood I had never tasted beef.  The only meat my family and I ever ate was venison.  This wasn’t because we were rugged outdoorsmen trying to make a point.  This was because we were poor country people living on a minister’s salary.  We couldn’t have afforded to eat meat if my Dad had not been a hunter.

And he was a real hunter!  The old kind who spent all day tracking and waiting patiently in the woods, reading little signs in the forest, and talking to nature.  He really did too! My Dad would pray out there in the woods and ask the deer who would not make it through the winter, the one who would prefer a quick clean death, to come to where he was.  I remember he once killed a big twelve point buck who was blind in one eye & slightly lame in its hind leg.  The meat of that deer carried us through the whole winter.

12 point buck

12 point buck

Once, when my brothers were older, Dad went hunting with my teen-aged brother and his best friend.  The friend wounded a deer just before he had to leave and get to his job.  So my Dad tracked the wounded deer all that day and all the next day, just to put it out of its misery.  It was bow season, so when he finally found the big buck he had only one shot to kill it before it would be off tearing through the underbrush, running away.  He missed.  When the deer took off running, it was slow.  It was wounded in the leg.  So my Dad took off too, on foot, chasing the deer.  Now, if you know anything about deer, you know there is no man alive who can chase a deer on foot, in the woods, and win.  Deer are very fast.

But my Dad must have been talking to that deer, or the Great Spirit or Mother Nature or something, because my Dad caught up with it.  The deer tripped over a root and went sprawling into a clearing.  My Dad tripped over the same root and went sprawling into the same clearing, face to face with the wounded deer.  Now, again, if you’ve spent your life on concrete you may think deer are soft.  But if you’ve ever been up next to a real deer, you’ll know that face to face with a big strong buck, antlers and all, that the deer is going to win in any hand to hand battle.  My Dad must have known this, but to him there was no option.  The deer was wounded and would die a slow miserable death from infection, or my Dad would risk his life to do the right thing.  Armed with a hunting knife and a large stick, Dad wrestled the deer for an hour. He finally flung his body onto the deer’s back and while it tossed him around, cut its throat with the knife.  It wasn’t as clean or as quick as he had hoped.  When we butchered the deer we found more than 10 knife cuts.  My Dad did not get out of bed for three days & he never really hunted again.  He never killed a deer again.

All this is just to say, my family’s hunting style was the old ways, the Native American way.  In tune with nature.  Calling out the sick and the weak.  Killing only to eat.  Risking your own life to do the right thing by the people who feed you when it came to that.  There are still hunters like this.  There are still families in the US who depend on venison to get through the winter.  So, that makes one kind of sense.

There are also great bands of humans who call themselves hunters but treat their guns and their trucks like people and treat their dogs like things, and treat the deer like things, and treat Mother Nature like a thing.  For a first hand account see Max: A rescued Hound. (click to connect)  These humans should not be called hunters.  These humans should not even be called people.  And these humans should NOT be allowed guns.  Plain and simple.  These are the kind of people who kill people without remorse and without cause.  The proof is already there because dogs are people, deer are people, and Mother Nature in all her glory is a person.  These folks kill for entertainment.

african huntingWhen I came back from living in Kenya, I remember people baiting me with questions about whether or not, in a country where private gun ownership was not allowed, whether people still found ways to kill other people.  And, yes, absent firearms, people still killed other people.  Out in the rural areas they had a policy known as mob justice.  If someone out there committed a horror, groups of villagers would gang together, track them down and stone them to death.  But I’ll tell you, its a much different thing to kill a person when you can feel their rasping breath on your skin, see the fear in their eyes and know their humanity is no different than yours, than it is to stand at a distance picking off kindergartners like tin cans.  I also saw villagers build bow and arrows by hand and kill the odd antelope or warthog to provide for their families.  So, in short, I saw first hand that people without guns can still defend themselves, and still hunt.

Maybe guns DONT kill, people do.  But, I still don’t think people without humanity should be allowed to own guns.  In fact, I don’t think humans without compassion, or reason, or humanity ARE people.  So, maybe people DON’T kill people.  And maybe humans who don’t qualify as people shouldn’t be sold guns.  shooting cans

The other kind of people who should not be allowed guns are crazy people.  I think we have ALL agreed on that already.  Its not too hard to figure out who those people are, either.  The people who can watch the recent mass murders in Oregon, after all the similar mass murders in this country alone, people who can watch little school children killed, and their teachers jumping into the line of fire to protect them, and still clamor for their inalienable “right” to guns without controls?  Those are crazy people.  Those are people who SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO BUY GUNS.  Because those people no longer have the ability to reason, or feel compassion for other people.

Science and God and Bundt Cake

evolution-treeI recently ran into some debate between “creationists” and “evolutionists” that gave me cause for pause.  Its just odd to me how both sides miss the point so badly.  In the first place, its patently absurd for anyone to think that science conflicts with anything.  Science is the process for discovering truth.

creation

Science

I know, I know, the way science was taught in school left you thinking that science is a collection of data.  But no, science is the reason we collect data, or facts.  Science is NOT the facts themselves.  In fact, if you’ve been paying attention those “facts” we like to call science have been changing.  That’s right!  If you learned high school science back in the 80’s you will find that quite a few of the “facts” we were made to memorize are now laughed at.  So you have to keep up.  You have to keep learning and keep “doing” science or it becomes ‘unscientific’.  That is NOT because science is unreliable.  It is because science is a PROCESS of discovery.  Science is the tool for learning truth.

Change is the real beauty of science.  Because change is the very nature of the world.  Some things change fast, some things change slowly, some change so slowly that we think they aren’t changing at all.  But they are.  Change is the one consistent and reliable truth of the universe.  So those collections of factoids that we like to teach to the younger generations are fun and interesting, but memorization isn’t really appropriate because they are all subject to change.

If you would actually learn (or teach) science you must learn the process of scientific investigation, also known as “The Scientific Method”.  Here’s how it works (simply):

  1. You have an idea or question about life, the universe, or anything.
  2. You set up a logical “If…then” proposal to help answer your question.*
  3. You test out that proposal at least 3 different times. (the more times the better)
  4. If the results (a.k.a data, or evidence) doesn’t prove your proposal, make a new proposal & keep testing until you find a proposal that proves itself.

*Step 2 is the tricky one because you’re sort of guessing at the answer (your hypothesis).  You want to make your best guess, but you don’t want to get so attached to your guess that you start faking (manipulating) the data so you can “win”.  You have to remain devoted to the truth & realize that the real “win” is not getting your hypothesis right on the first try, the win is discovering the actual truth!

So a lot of truths are discovered by just messing around to see what happens.  You’re not actually proving anything true until you can test it by the scientific method and repeat the test over and over with the same results. For example, when I took fruit fly breeding lab as part of my college genetics course, I’d do “extra” breeding just for fun.  Like I’d find the two weirdest looking flies and breed them together to see what happens.  Sometimes I’d get a bunch of baby flies with all the weird traits, and sometimes I’d get a bunch of “normal” babies.  That was fun but it didn’t tell me any truths until I thought, “Hmmm, I think the reason is XYZ.” and then I did a few more crosses to test out my hypothesis.

mutant fruit flies

You can apply the scientific method to anything, and it doesn’t even have to be science-y.   Like when I taught school I discovered I could use the scientific method to determine whether a student was telling me the truth.  I might say, “Sam, did you finish your classwork?”  Sam says, “Yes.”  Me: “Did you really?” Sam: “Uh-huh” Me: “Is it all finished?”  So, you see, I asked the same basic question three times, three different ways.  The funny thing is, a person usually couldn’t tell the same lie three different times quickly like that. So by the third time they usually broke down and told me the truth, or at least begin to squirm uncomfortably, then I’d ask to see the classwork.  As my kids caught on I’d have to ask the question more times. “Is that so?” “Did’ya?” “Huh?” “Huh?” “Huh?”  Annoying but effective.

My point, again, is that science is a process for uncovering the truth.  Science is NOT the collection of data or truths themselves.  The truths may change as the world changes, or the data may support different truths as our technology, testing and measuring ability gets better.  But science (the process of proving) doesn’t change because it is perfect. My other point is that science can be used to prove lots of things that don’t seem like science.  You can use science to make your relationship better, or to make your faucet stop dripping, or to make a better bundt cake.  You might even use science to prove the existence of God.*

bunt cake

bundt cake

Belief

Before I go into the existence of God, let me say a word about belief.  If you are relying on science to prove or disprove things, then once enough supporting data has been collected you can say that certain things are “true” and other things are “not true”.  Belief has no role in the matter once the scientific method has been correctly applied.  So “belief” is only accurately applied when there is some supporting evidence but not enough scientifically collected data to call it “true” or “proven”.   Belief is for the gray area where hypotheses are held until the actual testing can begin. It is not necessary to claim to “believe” in gravity, as there is ample data to support it as truth.  Likewise it is absurd to claim to “believe” in evolution, as it has been well proven AND I can even set up a little demonstration where you can watch evolution happen right before your very eyes (with bacteria, or fruit flies, or any organism with a fast enough reproductive cycle that is likewise small enough to contain and big enough to observe.)

evolution in a petri dish

Belief can also be correctly applied to things that cannot be tested scientifically.  So wrose carnationhile I could PROVE that you would smack me if I asked “Huh?” repeatedly, I cannot hope to prove that roses are prettier than carnations.  I may BELIEVE that roses are prettier than carnations.  I might BELIEVE that my mother’s bunt cake is better than your mother’s.  These things can never be proven or dis-proven, so they must be held forever in the limbo of “belief”.  I might actually be able to prove (or dis-prove) that people prefer roses to carnations, but I couldn’t prove they were prettier because pretty is subjective.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  It is value that cannot be measured.

 

So if anyone asks you if you believe in evolution, the answer is, “Belief is not necessary. Evolution is true.”  The same is true of science.  If someone claims that they do not believe in science, you can reply, “Science doesn’t require your belief, science is proof.”

Creation

Now lets look at things from the other side.  Let’s look at God and spirituality and all that.  It may just be that the existence of God has already been proven.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  And what if we could prove that God is real, and God really created all this stuff called “the universe”?  That would certainly make both science AND religion more interesting, don’t you think? But, “Wait”, you say, “Didn’t you just state that evolution is a proven FACT, Tolley?”  Yep, hold on to your hats folks, cause this is where I really make my point.

Take a look at that little story in Genesis, the one about creation.  God starts by dividing light from darkness, then land from water, then makes swimy things in the water.  Next there’s creepy crawly things on land, things that fly, then “beasts” (or mammals) and then humans.  Now, if you step back for a minute and stop all your arguing, you’ll see what I’ve been seeing all along.  Someone told the story of evolution to the person who wrote Genesis.  They told it like you might tell a bedtime story to children, but its the same basic story.  And, after all Genesis was written a very long time ago and that person was probably a simple nomad who might have grown bored or confused by a detailed description of DNA, genetics, random mutations, environmental pressures, fruit flies, and all that.  Why, I even know some modern people who get bored with that.

nomadDNA New

Now we can’t actually apply the scientific method here, but we can apply reason and logic.  And logically, the possibility that evolution and creation are actually the same exact thing makes a lot of sense.  Especially if you’ve seen my demo with the fruit flies and tasted my really excellent bundt cake, all created by the diligent application of science.

Bundt-Cake-7

God*

Now if we dig a little deeper and hold on ever so lightly to our dogma, this next bit is even more fun.  Remember when we were taught in school that all matter in the entire universe was made of atoms?  And remember how we learned that all atoms were made of only three things: protons, neutrons, and electrons.  Well, now science has proven that its not true.  String Theory, as well as the Wave-Particle Duality of Quantum Mechanics, actually teaches us that those 3 things that make up every atom are really only ONE thing, vibrating at different frequencies.  And of course Albert Einstein already told us that all matter is actually energy just very highly concentrated.  Then we went on to prove Einstein’s theory that Energy does in fact equal Mass (i.e. matter) by splitting open some atoms and blowing some hideous big energy out.  (Also, that’s pretty much what the Wave-Partical Duality is telling us: subatomic particles are both energy (waves) and matter (particles) at more-or-less the same time.

string theory

To summarize, science has now proven that ALL things are ONE THING.

Now, until we can test the hypothesis it might be tempting to believe that that ONE THING that makes up EVERYTHING in the whole universe, is God.  That belief might be entirely appropriate especially if you have other forms of supporting data (like your prayers being answered).  At the very least, it would be appropriate to suspend disbelief and gather more data.  I mean, if you were God and you were all alone & the only thing existing in the big empty universe was you, what would you use to make the world?  I guess you would have to use your own body, or your own soul, especially if those two things were really ONE thing, as the data seems to suggest.

God is the matrix.

We could say, then that God is the Matrix.  God is the substrate.  If that’s the case, then that thing about God being both IN us, with us and all around us might start to make a different kind of sense.  Also, the bit about the first human being made from the very soil of Earth, is maybe, not so crazy after all, if, you know, the soil is not just matter but also the very soul of God.  If you got enough particles of anything together for long enough, you could end up creating a soul from the matter, just saying.

So, if you’re still following the logic, the only thing that really DOESN’T make sense is why we argue.  Or why we don’t treat the environment with the same respect and dignity that we treat our own bodies, or the bodies of our dear departed who have come from the soil and now gone back into it?  And why on Earth don’t we treat ourselves with the same respect and dignity we reserve for God?  And why don’t we treat each other as both God, and as ourselves?

We have a bunch of religions and spiritual practices telling us this same basic thing in different ways.  Now we have science proving it true.  Even if we could listen with no more sophistication than a simple nomadic sheep herder in a semi-desert thousands of years ago, we might hear enough truth to believe it.  Or at least write it down as a hypothesis, suspend disbelief and gather data.

I love bunt cake

I love bunt cake.

 

 

 

The Parent-Child Relationship

I find it disturbing how many parents take it for granted that their children will one day say, “I hate you!”  Parents and parenting “experts” alike laugh it off like its a natural part of the landscape.  Even more distressing is how often parents of adult children deal with estrangement, distance, and alienation from their grown kids.  Mostly its distressing that people usually blame the kids in these cases.

Parents-Estranged

Children come hard-wired to love and forgive their parents no matter what.  If that love sours, its we, the parents, the adults, who need to take responsibility – both for its cause, and for its solution.  But most of all, we should be proactive from the beginning to ensure such powerful love doesn’t turn to hate.

The biggest part of the cause seems to be that parents try to fill a role.  They try to present the facade of “Mom” or “Dad”.   They make poor decisions (usually based on their own parent’s behavior) then they hold tight to their decisions because “I’m the Dad.”  They make mistakes but never admit their mistakes or apologize because “I’m the Mom.”  They base their parenting role-play on the notion that because they are the parent, they cannot be their child’s friend, or even an equal.  But all people are equal, and children know that.

parenting2

Let me introduce a new idea in parenting:  the relationship.  Regardless of what your grandparents, in laws, or friends on Facebook claim, parent and child are bound together in a relationship.  Like any relationship it must be built on fairness, trust, communication and honesty.  Anytime you step into a role and present a false persona you are choosing to destroy the honesty, trust, and communication.  You cannot live with another person for 18 years or more, presenting a false persona, never letting them see who your are as a person, and expect that relationship to last.

Those small people are astute observers.  They see what you are and what you’re not.  They see through your facades and your role-play.  They see what you hide from the rest of the world.  After 18 years of life they will either see you as the sham that you are, or they will see you as a real human being, delicate and beautiful, trying your best, failing more often than you succeed, struggling to do better each time.  They will watch your every move, your reactions through thick and thin.  They will see you at your best and at your most humiliating and shameful.  They will either see the fierce, glowing beauty of the human heart, or they will see the paper tiger with nothing behind it.

My suggestion is to conduct the parent-child relationship like you would an ideal relationship with someone you love, respect, and admire.  Trust them to be capable of only what is appropriate to their age and stage of life. Admire their efforts.  Appreciate their intentions. Thank them for every chore or favor they complete.  Apologize when youre wrong and learn to do better.  Most importantly, be real.

parenting

Be your real self.  Cry when you need to.  Laugh as a way of life.  When you’re angry, tell them why.  Don’t let them think they are the cause of your anger.  Don’t take out your anger or frustration or disappointment on them.  They will blame themselves for everything that you feel unless you explain the real causes of your feelings.  So, let them be your allies.  Tell them what you’re going through.  Let them help in whatever way they can.  Let them cheer you up.

Let them see you recover, get back on your feet, and try again.  They will learn from your struggles how to handle their own.  If they never see you lose, if they never see you lost or confused, they will become overly critical of themselves when they face these inevitable human experiences.  Let them learn from your good and your bad.  Let them learn what it is to be truly human.  And let them see you improve over time.  Let them see you grow stronger with each challenge, more capable with each obstacle you face, more compassionate and brave with each emotional blow you endure.

If you raise your children as real loved ones, allies through the hard times, companions through the loneliness, contributors to the victories, then they cannot help but love you for a lifetime.  The true beauty of the human heart is in its tenderness, in its ability to endure and grow.  Knocked down ten times, it stands up eleven.  There is no tenderness in falsehood.  There is no beauty in a wall, unbending, unchanging except to crumble over time.  The fierce beauty of flowers is as much in their delicate nature and their brief existence, as in their colors.  Find an artificial flower, covered in dust, colors fading with time, and where is that beauty?

Do not raise your children like a machine, repeating only what it was programed to do.  Raise them with heart, learning as you go.  They will teach you the details.  They will change you as they change and grow.  As long as you keep making new mistakes, and don’t repeat the old ones, you will always be the perfect parent.  As long as you don’t pretend to be better or worse than you are, they will forgive you all your many mistakes.  They will learn to love you with all your imperfections and that will teach them to love themselves, with all of theirs.