applying ourselves

thursday 29 december 2011


Heard yet another provocative radio story this morning. Provocative to me, at least. And I heard it twice. It was a story from our region, from western Mass. Some reporter or writer or whatever (I didn’t care about her enough to pay attention to her name or profession) went to to find two Aspergians who were in a romantic relationship together. Such a couple was found right here in Amherst and Greenfield. This reporter or whatever was interested in seeing how two Aspies navigated the perils of romance.

So she finds these two people and in October she starts spending time observing them and talking to them. When she was describing certain tendencies that many people with Asperger’s exhibit, she pulled out the psychobabble-bonehead terminology and started my blood to boil, as so often happens when someone (unjustly, not very logically, in my opinion) plays the PBB card.

We Aspies, many of us, have the ability (for such I choose to call it) to focus intensely when something stirs our intellect, or our imagination, or our emotions (yes, many Aspies do indeed have emotions). If we suddenly  take an interest in Swahili, then we will study Swahili with great focus and to the exclusion of other pursuits until we’ve learned what we want to learn.  Or if we’re working on a painting, we may not sleep or eat much until it’s done. And so on. These are just two examples. And if we are the emotional type of Aspie, then our emotions are just as concentrated and focused as our interests. Enter the psychobabble.

The female half of this Aspie couple happens to be one of the emotional variety, and when she is sad, she is very focused on that sadness, on every nuance of how it feels and how it manifests itself and what brought it about. I call this attention to detail, both internal and external. I call it feeling one’s emotion with presence of mind, rather than simply stuffing emotions down and pretending they’re not there.

But the psychiatric community has named this kind of intense focus that Aspies (and even some neurotypicals) can level on a task or an interest or an emotion, perseveration. They have taken the word persevere, which in general has a very positive connotation and is considered a good thing, and have butchered it into this new frankenstein: perseveration. A bad thing. Too much. Too much focus, too much attention to detail. A disorder. Not the variety of the human personality, but yet another freaking, stinking disorder.

I obviously disagree. Strenuously. Both as a human being with a quite good brain who happens to be very emotional,  and as an Aspergian, I will rail against psychobabble that is not useful, that is even harmful, that turns the variety of human personality into an encyclopedia of disorders, until I am either dead or in coma.


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