Mindblindness is the inability to attribute mental states such as thoughts, desires, knowledge, and intentions to self and others, and to make sense of and predict another person’s behaviour.
I believe I am partially mind blind. Mind blind is a theory that Autistic people lack or have a developmental delay in Theory of Mind. I have blogged about My Dark Matter Problem before in relation to Theory of Mind. I believe it is my greatest deficit when around people. Some Autistic people don’t believe in Theory of Mind though I wonder if it’s because they are less severely affected by this disability. In any case, it’s fair to say it’s not a concrete science but then nothing really is when it concerns the mind. Good arguments can be made for and against the existence of mindblindness.
I find meeting new people as one of the hardest things to do. If I am among a group of people that I don’t know. I can’t seem to strike up conversation. I can’t read their eyes, facial expressions or body language that well. I can’t predict if people want to talk to me or don’t want to talk to me. I emote quite neutrally and it’s difficult to appear authentic without worrying I am making other people uncomfortable. The social world often feels confusing, sometimes frightening so I will often appear to socially withdraw. It can be very intense feeling for me. I feel like a fish out of water.
Once I’m sitting down with someone with a drink I tend to relax more. I am able to build dialogue or a relationship with them if I can get to know them. Once I know someone I can model to a limited extent what they are like in my mind. I’m then more aware whats appropriate and not what’s appropriate to talk about. I have found Church helpful in talking to people as I roughly know where the spectrum of peoples core beliefs are likely to lay. Likewise if I was to visit a Jewish community I would have some idea of the spectrum there. Having been in the mental health system for a number of years I can often better relate to people with Mental illness and Autism too. When it comes to dealing with the general public I don’t tend to perform that well.
The mindblindness makes my anxiety worst. If I can’t seem to read a social situation I can say things that appear insensitive or even rude. I don’t set out to upset people but I can inevitably do so because I missed something when I am listening and reading the conversation. My anxiety means I’m usually trying to be careful with my words. Being too careful with my words undoubtedly makes some people believe I am not being authentic or genuine. Likewise, I have found the reverse when I have been too carefree. I’m not terrific with my voice tone unless I am reading a script. People have sometimes interpreted my tone as aggressive or lacking empathy. Therefore I do get anxious I’m not fitting in and behaving appropriately.
I believe the mindblindness and anxiety contributes in causing me to become paranoid. My mind will try to convince me that people don’t like me, were implying negative things I didn’t pick up, people are talking about me and even that people were laughing at me. This makes a group social situation more distressing for me. So having someone to talk to on a one-to-one basis on a table helps me be focus and be mindful of that person.
Another issue I have with Autism is sound sensitivity also known as hyperacusis. I struggle with loud noises but I have learnt to tolerate them for a limited duration. When I am manic, an aspect of my Schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, I tend to be less concerned with noise as my mind and body feel much more powerful. I have above average hearing according to a test I had in 2020. So I will tend to hear everyones conversation in busy social environments which can be distressing. Trying to filter and maintain focus on a one-to-one basis can be challenging. Noise is something I have to just suffer.
After being in a busy social environment I need quiet time alone. Yesterday, I went to two Church services. One in the morning and one in the evening. Today I feel mentally exhausted from it. So I’m isolating at home watching Star Trek and doing some colouring in my Star Trek colouring book.
These time outs are very important to me. If I had social situations like the Church every day, I would burn out from stress and become less mentally stable. I have tried to be more resilient and sometimes I have had periods when I have been more capable to handle it than other times. My life is littered with burn outs and having to quit commitments because I went beyond my limits.
I hope writing about my experience gives you insight in how it affects me and other people with autism and/or mental illness you encounter. It has took me many years to understand it and I hope this blog helps lead to greater understanding.
For further reading, it may be worthwhile reading about The Double Empathy Problem.