Did anyone else find the Chris Packham show (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09b1zbb/chris-packham-aspergers-and-me) worrying?
Had Chris chosen to be single, I would have applauded every aspect of this show and agreed wholeheartedly with his horror at the 'curative treatments' he witnessed in the USA / sentiment that his Aspergers was an intrinsic and positive part of his make-up.
But he isn't single, and I was horrified at how casually the show treated the dysfunction in his relationship with Charlotte.
He admitted to having difficulty in empathizing with other humans. The only feeling he expressed for Charlotte was gratitude that SHE loved HIM; he showed her no affection, avoided physical contact with her, said that he only knew how long they'd been together because she had told him (10 years), aggressively forced her to greet his dog before he otherwise acknowledged her after a significant period of time apart... for her part she acknowledged many difficulties in the relationship but the show presented her concluding that it was worth it because she so admired how his mind works. Was that just editing? Can it really be enough? Surely anyone can admire how his mind works, it doesn't mean that you have to be in an exclusive 'romantic' relationship / 'partnership' with that person to witness it.
I worry for her enormously, because I am only just now recovering from a "catastrophic" end to a relationship with a man on the Autism Spectrum. I wrote on this forum about it last year. The short version of it is that I supported him for years, and he ended our relationship a few hours after my Dad's traumatic death because HE found it too intense.
There was more too, but beyond the scope of this post. It's impossible to express the psychological impact these events have had on me, it was devastation upon devastation. That was about a year and a half ago. It has been a very tough time and although I'm starting to pull through now, my own mental health has been in the toilet for most of it.
What is a relationship for if not reciprocal intimacy and support? The show completely glossed over his really unpleasant attitude to humans in general, and Charlotte in particular. In addition, I'm concerned that the show may have given the impression that treating a partner with such disdain is acceptable. It's not.
I completely agree that Aspergers has unique potential to offer a whole other set of intellectual skills which are of enormous value to humanity, but it is my opinion that it is irresponsible for someone who does not have the capacity for human empathy to be involved in a romantic relationship.
Chris Packham has just posted a thank you which is worth reading:http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/news/aspergers-and-me-thank-you
Got emotional reading that...particularly the p.s’s
I think that a great many NTs watching the programme DID look at Charlotte, sitting there all alone, and thought they could detect her feelings being potentially neglected and hurt by aspects of her relationship...
However, I didn’t interpret CPs treatment of her to be ‘negative’ 'dysfunctional' or that of ‘disdain…’ that’s the whole point with NDness really, it’s not appropriate to interpret behaviours or intentions through an NT worldview.
Accordingly, I interpreted CPs behaviours and feelings towards Charlotte and his relationship as simply being a part of who he is; and a very frank and honest insight into exactly what he is personally prepared to do or give (and not do or give) in his relationship with her...
It is highly personal and up to us all, as individuals, (NT and/or ND) to decide exactly what we are prepared to give and do in a relationship…and our choice alone also as to what we are prepared to accept or not accept from others too?
And so I think it is really Charlottes business alone to decide what she is prepared to accept or not accept in her relationship and from CP?
One mans meat is another mans poison after all.
I am, however, really glad that you are starting to now 'pull through' what sounds like a really awful time of it.
Ps. It really is so very interesting how we do all interpret the world, people and events so differently....I interpreted CPs 'insistence' on Charlotte 'greeting the dog' as a result of him perhaps feeling embarrassed and perhaps not knowing how to manage greeting Charlotte (the initial intimacy of being face to face with one another) after having spent time apart...
Very perceptive of you.....and particularly with the added complexity of a camera crew looking on.... x
Although CP is used to cameras, I think his T.V work has always been focused on (able to hide behind) the animals, so it was very brave of him to make a programme in which he bared his own soul.
Thanks so much for all your candid but kind replies. I haven't responded til now because discussing this issue has been very triggering for me. After a particularly low point a few months ago I've learned that I need to build a fence around my mental health and protect it as a priority. So I've been trying not to dwell on this debate, so close to home as it is, too much.
Although several people made fair points (about the lack of time available, the show being focused on the positive aspects of autism, impact of the film crew on Chris' behaviour etc), what I have found most impactful about this thread has been the sentiment of a lack of care for people who get hurt by the actions of loved ones on the spectrum. Direct quotes being: “I wasn't bothered about the girlfriend”, “I don't have any sympathy for the two females... they knew the score”.
While of course I agree that “It is highly personal and up to us all, as individuals, (NT and/or ND) to decide exactly what we are prepared to give and do in a relationship…and our choice alone also as to what we are prepared to accept or not accept from others too”, it’s rarely that simple. In my research since my own awful experience, I have read that my experience is common – that the autism spectrum individual will be attracted to a naturally empathetic person, who often has their own self-esteem issues. In short, someone who is willing to give more than they believe they deserve in return.
My partner was very happy to share what he was willing to share, and was happy if that made the other person happy (like in the film, Chris is a wonderful father figure as he’s very happy to take his step-daughter out on wildlife adventures). In my experience, this was the only side of my partner I saw for a long time, long enough for love to grow. Then when incidents in which reciprocation was called for, and he proved unwilling to give or share in any experience that was meaningful to me but was outside his own interest or comfort zone (like how Chris responds to his step-daughter’s request to attend her graduation, how his sister describes her whole childhood experience with him), my low self-esteem was such to make excuses for him, and tell myself that they were just minor issues, didn’t matter in the bigger picture.
Then a bigger picture event occurred. My Dad died, and my boyfriend just discarded me. After years of telling me he loved me and wanted to make a life with me, less than 24 hours after the toughest loss of my life he tells me that he doesn’t think he’s ever loved me and wants out. To say that there’s nothing wrong with a condition that would make an individual think that this is acceptable is dangerously misleading.
A friend sent me an article on “Empaths and Vampires”, and it’s the only way I’ve been able to make sense of his actions. That he was an energy vampire, who drinks of the kindness of empathetic, self-effacing women. Bereaved, I ran out of juice and was therefore of to use to him anymore. The immediate and total switch-off of his feelings for me at this time was so dramatic that it seemed very much like the result of cold calculation – she wants from me more than I can give, so therefore, I’m out of here. This is why I think it’s dangerous to gloss over the terrible harm that lack of empathy can cause, with a view such as “it’s not appropriate to interpret behaviours or intentions through an NT worldview". Just because someone has a reason to act unkindly doesn’t make it ok.
So this is why I worry so for Charlotte. As ‘Tortoise’ mentioned – she has expressed her hopes that they will move in together soon, does that seem likely? Look at Chris’ thank you message, not a mention of Charlotte…
Yes, it is her choice to be with him, and yes, maybe it’s not as bad as it looks. But as so many respondents said, human relationships ARE complicated, and when we act with our heart rather than our head we can get deeply entrenched in sticky situations that we may need help to get out of.
I’ll end by just saying this, for both NT and Autism Spectrum partners – use my experience as a litmus test… If, and when, some painful life event happens, will you be able to be there for the other person? Have that conversation now, before it actually happens and save yourself the extra pain of finding it out at the worst possible moment.
I have enough experience of my own thanks.
you seem to be biased from your hurt.
I wish you happiness.
Is this really possible to predict, how any of us (any human, I mean) is going to react to terrible things happening to someone else or themselves (and the second would also affect how the first should ideally look like)? If you ask this question before it actually happens it may seem a lot easier to deal with it, feelings will probably be less strong, the urgency to do something and do the right thing isn't there, you don't see someone suffer and suffer yourself for being unable to make them feel better (or at least thinking that you are unable)... Don't think that's an ND-specific problem although finding your own and other people's feelings overwhelming quite easily will not help. We can only trust someone and hope for the best - or not trust others...
Packham's thank you message was about the programme about his Aspergers, kept professional and left out the personal. Maybe he doesn't want relationship bringing into it and making a circus out of it.
What about Packham if she decide's she wants out?! What about the effect on him?! She will easily find someone else. How easy will it be for Packham?! Is your concern not misplaced from your experience?