21 July 2014
Language Of The Heart (Part Two)
“Words may help you understand something. Experience allows you to know it. Yet there are some things you cannot experience. So I have given you other tools of knowing. These are called feelings. And so, too, thoughts…
Your experience and your feelings about a thing represent what you factually and intuitively know about that thing. Words can only seek to symbolise what you know, and can often confuse what you know.” From ‘Conversations With God’, by Neale Donald Walsch
So, to continue, my problem is that I don’t see beyond what I literally see, and I have no idea what other people see, so I assume that they see what I see, and that what I am seeing and hearing is what they are saying (get your head around that one if you can!!) Only to frequently discover that it’s not.
It also dawned on me that not all autistics have the exact same problem. Sure, we all share the difficulty with social communication and understanding (which not only includes language in the form of words, but reading body language too), but they don’t all depend on language the way that I do. And yet some of them live full and successful lives; have found ways to compensate for what they ‘lack’; are happy and accept themselves as they are; and trust what they feel. My autistic friend is one of them.
She has the ability to see the essence of what is being expressed, along with any literal interpretation she might have. At first sight it can appear that she is not that literal at all, especially not when compared to me, which I have concluded must mean that she isn’t: that the part of the brain which deals with language interpretation is not as affected in her as in me, or that she is not quite so far on the autistic spectrum. All of which is quite plausible - after all, we aren’t all exact replicas of each other.
But it seems as if, when she reads something, she is not reading solely with her eyes, simply engaging her brain - she is reading with her heart, her soul, her whole being, which appears to compensate for the literality. She trusts and depends on her instincts.
I, on the other hand, don’t trust mine at all. I was raised differently: I learnt to doubt, distrust, ignore, suppress, and fear what I felt. If I couldn’t name it then it didn’t exist. And I did it so well - the evidence of this is that I’m still doing it now, though I’m hoping that there is a shift taking place, now that I’ve seen this truth.
I have learnt to place great importance on words: it has not served me well. I read and re-read things, in the futile belief that understanding will come by constant repetition and familiarity. It doesn’t work. If all you can see is the surface, then all you’re going to see is more of the same surface when you’re looking at it from the same angle, no matter how often you look at the same thing!
Then we have my attempts at trying to see beyond the literal meaning. Not good. I invariably misconstrue what’s trying to be conveyed, as I strain my brain to see beyond my limited viewpoint. This usually leads to long bouts of deep analysis, where I manage to bypass the point completely - all because I’m still doing it through my ‘eyes’, with that part of my brain that doesn’t process language well. Plus I’ll often try to look for the deeper meaning to things which have none, and are actually meant to be taken at face value.
But then there are times when I have discovered the essence of what I am reading - which appears to occur when I’ve read with my heart, and my feelings have been engaged, not just my mind. Like I’m connected to God, who then does for me what I can’t do for myself, and opens my mind to a more unlimited veiwpoint. It might still take me quite a few attempts at reading something before I get beyond the surface, and if I try to force understanding then it doesn’t work. But if I relax, and let God lead the way as it were (or, another way of putting it, be guided by my feelings) then it gradually comes.
Words, I have finally realised, actually impede and limit my understanding. They clutter my mind, and distract me from seeing the true meaning. They fill me with doubt, leaving me constantly questioning the validity of what I feel or experience, causing me confusion, resulting in a constant state of indecision and conflict. I get caught up in the minutiae of trying to determine the exact meaning of a word or sentence, which narrows my focus, so shutting me off from the bigger picture.
So what does this mean? It means, I hope, that there is hope of change.
It means that if I give up trying to force a part of me to work in a way that it can’t, and being totally dependent upon it, and instead shift to learning to tune into and trust what I feel, then I might well have a better chance of communicating and understanding.
It means that I might learn a more effective way to utilise my ability to read, without being dependent on the words themselves to impart the meaning.
It means that I might shift my perspective even further to see it not as a liability, a deficiency, or a problem, but as something that allows and encourages me, and all those with whom I engage, to find more effective ways to interact - to see that my autism is not meant to limit but to liberate me.
And the truth is that words are not that effective at all, as it says in the quote at the beginning of this article. Even when used between non-autistics, they frequently miscommunicate and misunderstand when relying on them. After all, isn’t that how arguments and wars are often started? One wrong word and you’ve got Armageddon!
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."