In a discussion with my boyfriend about the perception of people around us, we developed a model we later called “Pinocchioisation Process”
We were walking hand in hand along a street in Berlin when a man walked past us saying something like “now, just hold on really tight.” I was rather confused because I couldn’t understand what he was talking about but my boyfriend Stefan said it was a derogatory comment about our holding hands as a couple and Stefan went on about how that man had seemed defensive, angry, lonely and self-conscious to him. To me, he was just a blank, “mannequin-like” being to which I attributed no emotions or background.
Together we explored my perception of the people around us and ended with the image that unknown people indeed do have a “mannequin”-image to me, except that I, of course, know them to be people, they move and talk and thus give glimpses of something like different motivations or intentions. But all in all they are blank puppets to me. Just when I get to know someone, they become more and more a person. I still don’t credit them with an inner life of their own, most times – not intuitively, at least – but they develop personalities, characteristics and meaning. In a way, it mimics the transformation from the wooden doll Pinocchio into a real boy, hence the name of the process.
I don’t know if that is typical for people with asperger’s syndrome – I don’t know anyone else. Is it?
What do you think?
Today, I found that I do not automatically attribute thoughts to other people. But maybe no one does that?
My father asked me, if I intended on getting my driver’s license some day, I answered the question and about half an hour later I noticed that I did not ask myself why he asked that in this specific point of time and what he thought about my reply. Retrospectively it was as if I did not attribute any thoughts, other than those he voiced, to him. I suppose that is how I usually think since it wasn’t any special situation; I might have noticed now because I spent more time than usual with observing my thinking processes lately.
Maybe that is the difference between a true Theory of Mind and an intellectual compensation? But then, I’d have to know how other people function in such a situation… I have to study how I attribute thought to others in a social interaction where I actually have to make use of my planning and analysing skills to follow a conversation. Maybe I just compare the current conversation to similar ones I’ve had before?
A computer might be a good analogy; I see what is on the screen and I know – most of the times – which buttons I have to click to get the results I want to get without understanding how a computer functions. Sometimes, however, I click a button and get a totally different result and then I have to guess how to proceed from there. But the more I click on buttons, the more experience I get about which button does what. However, I still don’t know anything about programming and the underlying structures.
To extend the computer analogy to myself: whenever there are people around me, I’m running on battery and I can only charge it, when I’m alone – or with one of a handful of special people. If it runs low I have to change my energy plan to reduce performance and save power but if I can’t escape to solitude after a while I shut down. How someone can recharge batteries with social interactions is a total mystery to me.