I’ve been writing a series of posts in which I categorise different kinds of people into being empty people, half people, full people, or hermit people. And recently I realised that this is not something that most people can identify with, because it’s not how they experience socialising. I experience the social world in a very different way to most people. And part of my realisation has to do with my Asperger’s perspective, the different wiring of my brain, which means that I’m looking for different things in relationships and am fulfilled by different kinds of connections than most people are.
I wrote down a list of all the friends I’ve ever had. And the only people who went on to this list are people I felt I had connections with. And ‘connection’ is an important word for me, because that’s always what I’m looking for in relationships. I find knowing someone to be rather pointless unless I get that feeling of connection when I’m in their company. If the feeling of connection is not there at all, I can have conversations, I can do social things in the company of other people–except there is “the sugar high” and “the hit” missing from it. For me, it’s much more like acting or performing a social role, unless I find that feeling of connection.
And if the feeling of connection is there, then I enjoy the company of the person so much. And spending time with them and getting to know them, and doing things together and having conversations—it’s all so enjoyable: it’s what makes life feel alive and feel great. But I haven’t had a lot of experience of connection and getting that sugar high with that many people—and, in particular, for sustained periods of time. As I said, I wrote down a list of all the friends I’ve ever had, and it turns out that I haven’t spent that much time with most of them in real life, face to face. With a few I have, and we are still friends, but life doesn’t bring me in regular face-to-face contact with the people I have close connections with.
So most of my life has been a search: looking for friends, wanting to feel connected. During most of this search, I blamed myself. I thought I must be doing something wrong, or there must be something wrong with me. This was the only way I could explain why I wasn’t finding the kind of connection I was looking for. Because I have been in situations where I knew people, and I spent extended periods of time with them, but the sugar-hit feeling of connection never ever came with them. I had company but I felt empty with these people.
But eventually I reached a point where I was confident that my social skills were OK, and then I had to ask: “Why, after all this searching, is the loneliness still there?” I didn’t have enduring connections with people I saw regularly, apart from some family members and one childhood friend. But other people came and went, and the relationships never endured.
Now this year, slowly, slowly, having realised that I have Asperger’s, I have begun to take a different perspective on all this searching. All this searching has been for full connections. And, looking at my list of friends, I realised that roughly 85 percent of them have some seed of Asperger’s in them. That’s quite hard to define; it’s more something directly felt or known. To satisfy my curiosity, I have asked many of them to take the test for Asperger’s, but they say, “No, I haven’t got it; it doesn’t describe me, doesn’t fit me.” But, knowing these people, I see some kind of seed of it in them. OK, they don’t have Asperger’s, but there’s something there.
Some of them do have issues with socialising and some not. Some are actually quite good at socialising, but interestingly, do have the core loneliness inside them, which I am aware of because I have asked questions about it. These friends of mine are also searching: to find this connection with other people, which no matter how many friends they have, still feels elusive.
So when I looked at my list of friends, I could see that most of them either have a seed of Asperger’s in them, or quite likely do have Asperger’s but don’t know it. It’s most likely right-brained Asperger’s, which is easier to hide or to be in denial about. Especially considering the age of some of these people, it would be a rare thing to be diagnosed with it. So I realised that my constant search for connections has been a search for other people with Asperger’s or at least some seed of it, because these are the people with whom I enjoy that sense of connection. And I don’t feel that sense of connection with people who don’t have that seed. It doesn’t come later, no matter how much time I spend in those relationships. There can be entertainment in knowing them; there can be evenings passed in social company. But I never get the sugar high of connection with these people.
So if a person doesn’t have the seed of Asperger’s or whatever it is—I’m not even sure, because some of these people might not have Asperger’s—then I feel loneliness. Whereas a so-called “normal” person experiences loneliness when they are alone and there are no people around, I feel lonely when I’m in a room full of people who don’t have the seed of Asperger’s. I’m reaching for connection, for the sugar hit, but never finding it.
The real-connection friendships I’ve had have not always been smooth sailing. They’ve not been: there have been dramas and invasions with some of these people; and sometimes we fell out permanently, and the relationships didn’t endure. But for as long as the relationships lasted, we were deeply connected.
As I see it, these real-connection relationships are defined by acceptance of the other: acceptance of the weird ways or eccentricities; understanding of the other person not being perfect either. And also these people are willing to be known: they don’t close themselves off or wear a mask—at least in my relationship with them. I don’t know if it’s different in their relationships with other people; I can’t answer that.
So if you weren’t able to identify with what I said in my previous posts about half people, full people, et cetera, then let me know what you think in the comments; but I reckon you don’t have this seed of Asperger’s or whatever it is—the seed of needing connection. So it’s not something that you’ve experienced, and it’s not something you can see in your life. It could be that you get your feeling of connection from being around people in general, or that you don’t need to know people deeply to experience connection.
And, going back to my issues in Turkey: the Asperger’s experience is a lonely and challenging one in many respects in any culture in the world. But when the culture is very suppressive of eccentricities and individualities, and the culture is more about conforming and everybody thinking the same, and there’s a lot of forcing and non-acceptance, then this kind of culture is much worse for people with Asperger’s, or the seed of Asperger’s.
So, is it really any surprise that many of them give up and hide away in the hermit’s cave? And also, is it a surprise that people give up and hide away when manipulations in relationships are so widely accepted and considered normal? A person with Asperger’s, or a seed of Asperger’s, is emotionally naïve in many respects, and it’s easy to invade or manipulate them. Or it’s easier to invade or manipulate them. And when you’ve been through that kind of experience, it’s very much a “once bitten, twice shy” situation. Coming out of the other side of manipulations, and all that kind of thing, you want to protect yourself, go into your tortoise shell, and just say, “World, world! You just really burnt me again, and I think that I’ve had enough for the time being.”
I can also see in myself that a lot of the travelling that I’ve done, and doing different things and moving to different countries, has been a way to stave off the loneliness, because when you keep travelling and moving around, you can explain and squash down the lonely feeling just by saying, “Well, I don’t know that many people here yet; and when I know more people here, it will be different.”
But in my experience, that lonely feeling is always there unless I’m with someone who also has the seed of Asperger’s. So I’m moving around all the time, looking for that seed, but hardly ever finding it because it only grows where truth and freedom reigns. Although travelling does help unearth that seed, because travelling brings out more openness in people. So it’s easier to get to know people than it is in normal everyday life, where most people are not looking to develop truly deep relationships with new people they meet. But for a short time while someone’s on holiday, it might just happen that way.
So I see in myself that the constant moving has to do with trying to get away from that loneliness and make excuses for it. There have been some places in the world that have been better for me. But even if I am to go and permanently move to one of those places where I’ve experienced that it’s better for me, that won’t change the fact that, for me, the feeling of connection, and that sugar high, is simply not there with most people in the world—in any country, anywhere.
I don’t have any solution to this other than something that has been brewing in me for quite a long time: the idea that the solution to loneliness is never to be found by looking outward. So I am thinking now that searching for someone who makes it go away is the wrong approach because it can only ever result in endless seeking. Maybe the answer is to find that feeling of connectedness by looking inward. Or maybe through activities like reading, studying and learning, you find connections with Reality, with what’s true; or you go outside and find connections with Nature; or you do some artwork and find a connection with what’s beautiful. Sometimes I am getting into that, and then other times I feel lonely and misunderstood.