This is something I've always puzzled over... even back as a child. Yet, I've only recently begun to get curious as to whether it's an autistic thing, or just me. So, who better to ask than you wonderfully resourceful individuals?!
It concerns the idea of 'me'. Constantly looking out at NT's, it's always struck me as odd the complete, utter and rigid faith they have in their own sense of self. They say such things as:
"I'm a right character me!"
"I'm a good person."
"I deserve more... I deserve that promotion / marriage / expensive car etc"
"I want a baby"
"I'm confident / intelligent / switched on / funny etc"
For me, individuals are all things at some point in their ever-fluctuating lives. But for NT's they seem to feel whatever they're saying or self-identifying with as absolute, irrefutable concrete 'truth'. They seem to posses a sense of self and inner confidence that I both fear and envy.
A good example of this is their names. I of course have a name. But, whilst I use the name 'Evan' for forms and social interaction, it's never felt like 'me'. To me, it's an label used for convenience, but I don't feel attached to it. Yet discussing this with friends, the topic came up because of one transgendered person who changed their first name, so I asked if the cis-gendered NT's would ever consider the same. They seemed completely aghast and affronted by the idea of changing their first names. Several of them admitted to disliking their given name, but said "... but it's still me!" They disliked the name that was randomly assigned to them decades ago by a complete stranger (i.e. their parents they had only just met after being born), yet still saw that name as intrinsically 'them'. To me, that seemed strange. Personally, the name of 'Evan' is considered like a piece of clothing... a superficial layer. There's no significant attachment to my name. I honestly have no idea what my 'real' name is (maybe that's just the Buddhist in me talking).
Another thing that undermined this 'dissociation' of mine concerns being diagnosed as autistic. I really had no clue. Nearly four decades had passed on this sweet earth without my having the slightest inkling that I was autistic. So, receiving the diagnosis came as a devastating and utterly unexpected blow. Whilst I'm (slowly) coming to terms with that now, the longer-term negative effect is that it's completely undermined my sense of 'self' - of any assuredness or confidence in my own resources, traits or being. After all, who can be that stupid and naïve to have absolutely no idea they're autistic?! How can I claim any sense of self-ownership about any aspect of me when I didn't even know something so utterly profound? (and now, with hindsight and education, seems so blatantly obvious)
Ultimately, I don't know what my character is. I'm bemused by who I am. I don't trust my self identity. I question and double-guess everything I do. My real motivations make me suspicious of myself. I don't have any idea as to what my self worth is... what I inherently 'deserve'. I can't tell you (like others seem to) just what sort of person I'm attracted to. I have no ambitions or goals that I'm aware of (other than my habitual stress-evasion).
I am a complete mystery to myself.
So, I thought I'd check in with you fine guys n gals to see if anyone else experiences this 'schism'?
Do you know who you are?...
I think of it this way. I am many things, each of those things is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle where each piece is but a tiny glimpse of the larger whole. Each piece by itself may have no meaning whatsoever by itself, but it only becomes something in the context of the complete picture once the jigsaw puzzle is completed and you can see the whole, where each individual piece has its place as part of that whole.
My name is but a label to aid communication so that people can identify me and speak to me while I know they're communicating to me because they use my name. My name is not unique because there are others out there with the exact same name as me, but what differs between myself and them are all the other pieces of the puzzle that make me who I am. I am a set of genes provided by my parents combined with my experiences, thoughts and feelings that shape my sense of self. To only focus on one part to identify yourself is failing to focus on the whole picture. That could potentially be conflated with "What are you?" but to me the questions are linked because what I am shapes who I am.
I'm a stranger inhabiting someone else's body.
I'm a bad dream of myself.
I'm a figment of someone else's imagination.
Seriously... I don't really know what it is to have a sense of self. I have a feeling it may be an artificial construct invented by NTs.
Yes, I know who I am.
I have also changed my name, several times ~ first, middle and surname. I have had my current name for several years now and while I like it, I can’t say I’ll keep it forever, because how do I know that?
I got my current name from the Kabalarian Philosophy Society. I typed something into google one day, regarding name changes (I was ready for another name change) and this philosophy society popped up. My initial thought was, what did I just type into google for this to show up, but when I looked a little closer, I found that it was relevant to one thinking of changing their name.
They invite you to enter your name and date of birth and they give you a free name report. Mine was so accurate that I immediately paid the money to get some name recommendations that were more in line with who I really was.
It took a while, because I wasn’t really feeling any of the names they suggested, and they sent a lot. Eventually I realised that maybe I was never going to actually ‘feel’ one, so I just picked a new first name, middle name and surname, based on the qualities they represented according to my date of birth. So far so good :) but it’s really easy to change your name by deed poll anyway, so if I want to change it again, it’s no bother.
Most people, including nt’s, haven’t got a clue who they are. One man once told me his was a post man! I said no wonder you’ve got problems if you think your a post man! Can you imagine living your life thinking you were a post man! Lol! Or any of those things they say, which you mentioned, such as I’m a good person, I’m funny, I’m kind, I’m really intelligent etc etc. All those things are just things we do sometimes and like you said, we are all all of those things at different times in our lives. They have nothing to do with who we are, unless we believe we are this body and mind and nothing else.
Evan said:that it's completely undermined my sense of 'self'
That’s a really special place to be because you can never know yourself while you’re holding onto any idea of who you are. When you know who you are, there’s not a person or thing on this planet that could undermine you. I had to breakdown completely and loose every last ounce of a sense of self before I could find myself. That’s why they say breakdowns are breakthroughs. We have to loose ourselves to find ourselves and it takes a lot of hard work and effort but once you get there you know that every last bit of effort was worth it because to know yourself, really is the greatest gift on earth and it can never be taken from you. It’s the most precious thing we could ever have.
(Martian, I suspect me and thee may inhabit very similar internal landscapes)
Thanks for the contributions. Fascinating as always.
However... I suspect we may be becoming too abstract, cerebral or philosophical. My experiences stem very much from the nitty gritty observations of real, everyday life.
Deep down, maybe the NT's are insecure and just as unsure of themselves. But, it doesn't seem like that from an outside perspective. They come across as absolutely certain in their 'truth'. They intrinsically know they're a good person, know they aren't attracted to over-confident women, they absolutely know they deserve to have a baby, and they know they can handle that unknown situation for which in reality they have no prior experience. etc etc.
One common scenario is those who go for promotions in the workplace. They do not have the skills or experience to qualify going for a higher-paid position, but they do have the bluster, inflated self-regard and confidence in their ability to 'blag it' and talk other NT's into giving them the position. I've witnessed this countless times in the workplace.
BlueRay: I don't think me not knowing myself is a good thing in reality. It's crippled me. For instance, I don't go for promotions as I have absolutely no evidence that I can do the more challenging role. It'd be arrogant to assume I could. Likewise, I won't go on dates because there's a million better people I could find as a more suitable partner - by no means am I the 'best' one. Indeed, it really is hard for me when they say, "tell me about yourself..." What makes you think I know anything about myself!
And, if I were in my teens or twenties, maybe I could be forgiven for being so uncertain. But I'm now in my forties, it's not so cute. My peers have already settled down, got married, established careers and had babies etc. They know who they are, know their self identities and know their inherent worth. To be in your forties and still have the philosophical musings of an angst-ridden teenager is kinda embarrassing to be honest. I think a breakdown may be on the cards for me at some point. The worry is that I won't survive it. After all, I have absolutely no one to piece me back together, or to provide resources to enable me to re-build myself. If I break, the harsh reality is that it ain't gonna be in a nice, happy-clappy, ethereal, holistic retreat sorta way. Rather, it'll involve institutionalisation from which I'll never fully recover, or a termination of the life contract in it's entirety. Sugary thoughts and well-meant wishes don't change that.
It's why I'd like to know 'me' - to give me something more reassuringly solid to cling to, just like most folks seem to have.
Next time you're out-and-about amongst the NT herd, just take a moment to sit back and observe them. There's no uncertainty in their claims. They are entirely comfortable and rigid in their sense of self. They know who they are.
Where do I buy that?
others do, maybe there right?
what would I know!
You don’t buy it (although it can be very expensive on the road to finding out) and just because it appears from the outside that people are confident and know who they are, it doesn’t mean they are. They might be confident in one, two, three or even more areas of their lives, but it still doesn’t mean they know who they are.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happy clappy breakdown in anyone, I didn’t even know they existed. Mine certainly wasn’t of that variety and I’ve only just realised why my autism psychiatrist sees me whenever I phone him ~ it’s becauae I was close to suicide so he wants to prevent it from happening if he can. But I had to become completely hopeless before hope came into my life and my breakdown was a necessary part of my journey ~ everybodies journey is individual to them.
If the people I’ve worked with or known in the past, could see how I’ve been living, they’d be horrified, but although I was often close to going into the psychi ward, I decided I’d do this at home. I figured that if I went into the hospital and got drugged up, my thoughts would stop for a while but I’d have to come out of there at some point and when I did, nothing would have changed because all that I would have done was get out of my head for a while. And because this breakdown has been so severe, I often times couldn’t even get myself a drink of water, for days, I knew I couldn’t handle another, therefore I knew I had to find out who I was and why I was here, otherwise I refused to carry on living.
I had no one to piece me back together. I’m doing that myself with all the help I can get. I have had to admit to myself, at 51 years old, I can’t do this alone, so I have been accepting help and I’m taking each day as it comes, one step at a time.
But prior to getting my diagnosis I did a lot of inner work. In fact I started in 1998, I think it was, when I first joined the school of practical philosophy. I’ve been to many churches and Budhist centres etc, to learn as much as I could and when I got the autism diagnosis, everything started to fit into place. But it would be another year of ups and downs, suicidal thoughts etc, and becoming completely hopeless, before I began to realise who I was. So it’s taken me a lot of hard work but it’s all been worth it, because now I can live my life according to me.
If as many people as you claim knew themselves and were so confident, we wouldn’t have so much violence or hatred in the world. I wrote some words a couple of nights ago (I write to process my thoughts) and it kind of relates to this, so I might post it, under patterns.
My short answer is no I don't know who I am.
My longer answer would be I think who I am has many layers. There are parts of my personality that come out in one situation and not another or with some people and not others. Sometimes I'm incredibly outgoing. Other times I'd like to be swallowed by the walls. I could never sum up my personality with one word. There are too many different parts to it and I think it's always changing to some degree.
I also think that people are made up of a combination of nature and nurture. Some of me I was born with, it's in my genes. Other parts of me have developed over time due to my life experiences.
As for names. My name is my identity but it's not me. I would still be me what ever I was called. But I wouldn't want to change my name. I can understand why others might though.
I'm not sure I really do, although I think I'm starting to get a bit of an idea. As for many others, the realisation I had some degree of autism has been an eye-opener for me, even if not a very comfortable one so far, but a breakthrough nonetheless.
Can I put it another way?
I often feel in awe of actors who seem to be able to construct and portray these believable other selves. It's something I don't feel I could (currently at least) do because I often feel I'm struggling to even be myself, let alone trying to be someone else. Often I find myself wondering who I am?
Does that add to the discussion?