Bathtime blogging – continued pondering on the difference between ego based personalities and non-ego based…
It’s a curiosity to me that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorders…such as sociopathy and psychopathy, are described as of higher than average intelligence – as am I, as a higher functioning autistic. However, I find the explanation proposed as the root their tendency of narcissistic personality types to abusive or selfish behaviours doesn’t sit well with me.
It is proposed to be rooted in a physiological difference in the narcissistic brain which means their higher intellect usually comes with a deficiency in socialisation and that this is specifically expressed as a lack of empathy.
Why do I find this such an insufficient explanation? Because I am autistic. Specifically, I am Aspergers. My IQ is high. My need for social feedback is low and always has been. So why am I not a psychopath?
Autism is often undiagnosed in women because typically they learn to “fake it” better than men. Those are all sweeping generalisations of course but for the purpose of pondering are hopefully sufficient.
This apparent justification of a tendency to cruelty or violence due to a lack of the normal mechanism of empathy doesn’t make sense to me. It really doesn’t. If that was the underlying cause, autism would increase your risk of being psychopathic. But it doesn’t.
Also, after some self analysis, I can confirm that I do have empathy. But I think maybe I learnt it via more intellectual process than neurotypicals do.
I have never had a tendency to violence. I have always had very high principles and my family actually considered me an “authority” on moral issues from a very young age. I can work things out in a dispassionate way even while experiencing the emotions…somehow I experience them from a position of observation. The chances of me doing something impulsive or without self awareness are so remote as to be pretty much impossible for someone like me. So reacting to aggression with aggression doesn’t happen. It is a puzzle to me that some psychopaths can’t do this. And I think it’s rooted in emotional intelligence. It’s the point at which the autistic and the narcissist part ways.
I suppose my reputation as an “ice queen” comes from that seeming impassive view point. It could very look like I have no emotional reaction to emotional situations. Like there is a disconnect. But that’s only how it looks. I know how it feels and can describe it. That trademark autistic “blankness” doesn’t mean I have no empathy or no emotions…but it does mean I am less likely to act out or react impulsively.
It does mean by nature I am a bit of a shut in…a natural hermit. Some Hikikomori are high functioning autistics as well.
The tendency to emotional self reliance seems offensive to some people. But there have always been hermits. “Troubled geniuses”. In the past they were considered the spinsters, midwives, witch doctors, healers…they were sort of revered and feared. But considered an important part of the human “tribe’; often as a bridge between the world and the metaphysical realith. We even consider witches to typically and traditionally be of this type. Same with mystics. In fact, I am so “normal” as the modern day hermit, I am nocturnal as well – something that was always attributed to people like me historically! Shamans, wild men, wise women, healers, counsellors…I decend “spiritually” from a long line of people who filled a similar place in society.
I tried to explain this to someone once…that my mind works in such an abstract way, that if I wanted to I could reason myself out of existence. That’s what hyper rationale is. It can sometimes look from the outside like people with autism act irrationally or think irrationally…in fact it’s the exact opposite and it can be a problem. Staying grounded is something I have to do consciously. I have to make normal stuff routine otherwise I might reason myself out of doing the things I need to do in order to only do things that use my brain!
I think most people with high functioning autism will naturally develop their own strategies for these things. I can’t spend my life studying and meditating but failing to eat or exercise or put the trash out. But my motivation for doing those things is probably very different to someone who is neurotypical. If I do my accounts properly and organise things properly, it means I don’t have to waste time thinking about things I think are mundane…things that seem “off my radar” in fact!
Anyway. Simply put, my mind works differently – but it’s not a disability to me – it’s more like an extra ability. My life is the way I like it. Those who know me understand me. Those who don’t are off my radar. Those who underestimate me or make assumptions about me tend to find me disturbing to be around!
But why would the increased intelligence, difference in empathy and social needs in Autism and Narcissism that are apparently similar, result in such different personality types?
All I can think is that the Narcissist perpetuates an immature emotional connection to their ego consciousness; they don’t mature emotionally the same way as others.
The Autistic doesn’t either. They seem to either move past it or never have it.
For my own part, I have never rebelled…I never had tantrums…I never (even as a very small child) saw others as authority figures. The crazy independence was hard for my parents to deal with because it simply wasn’t possible to tell me what to do. Not because I was naughty…but because I really couldn’t be “corrected”.
When I think back, I think managing me would have been easier if they had approached me the way you approach training a dog! Because being told what to do or doing things without a reason or because the consequence was being told off weren’t deterrents to me!
I think Narcissistic personality types may seem to act similarly at times, but their motivation is so far alien to me, I don’t understand why they would be violent. It seems utterly nonsensical to me.
This has led me to conclude that perhaps the autistic spectrum and the narcissistic spectrum reflect the two sides of everyone’s mind. My autism puts me at one extreme…a psychopath is at the other end. I think maybe the less autistic you are, the more narcissistic you are. And there is a range we consider “normal” somewhere between the two.
More pondering required I think!