Literal thinking & #Aspergers

Yesterday I could have chosen any 1 of  5 topics for today’s post.

This wasn’t one of them!


I have been taking a growing interest in Haiku over the last few weeks.

Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese micro-poetry that is really drawing me in.

  • I like the minimalism
  • I am attracted to the structure
  • I love the density of detail
  • It has a strong intellectual foundation
  • I feel a resonance with the evocative, imagistic language
  • I find it Spiritual, Beautiful

The irony is that I don’t really ‘get’ poetry and I never really have, other than simple, mechanical, rhyming poetry!

  • At school, Shakespeare and classical literature felt like extreme sports!
    • I was lost in space
  • When I discovered I have Asperger’s this all finally made sense – or so I thought

But here I am getting absorbed with something akin to condensed Shakespeare!

What is going on?


Haiku often/usually includes the linguistic device known as juxtaposition.

  • Metaphor makes an assertion: A is B
  • Juxtaposition invites us to compare A and B, to think, to decide for ourselves – to discover and experience the connection

How I wish my teachers could have explained Shakespeare to me like this!


Dimension can be used as an analogy.

  • Similie is 1 dimensional
  • Metaphor is 2 dimensional
    • same plane as similie but much greater scope and far more courageous
  • Juxtaposition is 3 dimensional

So what does this have to do with literal thinking?

My Autism paradox

As I started to read more about juxtaposition, I could feel a revelation beginning to unfold.

That I would be able to make the leap:

  • from a purely intellectual understanding of Haiku and literature in general
  • to a more artistic understanding and appreciation

A growing sense that I might at last, be able to make peace with Shakespeare.

And then it hit me this morning, like a lightening bolt!

My Autistic mind

I realized that my thinking, my creativity, my sense of humor, the way in which I process sensory input is all Juxtapose!

I am always putting things side by side, comparing them, visualizing them, making conceptual leaps, joining dots that many don’t see.

So why was Shakespeare such an insoluble and brutally frustrating puzzle to me?


Those are not my ideas!

They are somebody else’ ideas and I seem to be hardwired to collect other people’s verbal information, whether written or spoken, through a literal lens.

  • I can make people laugh but I often can’t distinguish between someone being funny or serious!

But once I have understood and contextualized external verbal information I can go to work, painting pictures in my head.

  • Seems with verbal information I have a USB problem, rather than a CPU problem

My ‘literal thinking’ seems to be confined to external verbal information input.

  • How about you? Is this your experience, or that of your child?


How ironic that with a mind that runs in large part on juxtapose, Shakespeare was totally incomprehensible to me!

This revelation spills over into the NT practice of speaking ‘indirectly’, the bane of my life, but I can see from the word count that I need to stop here to avoid this becoming a newspaper article or a research paper!

To be continued……..

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Angel
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 07:49:32

    I love Haiku’s! I started trying to them myself about a month ago… I think. Then, I stopped because I got busy. They feel clean, direct, and calming to my mind.

    I have always loved poetry, Shakespeareish, literature typey things, but honestly I did not get them. Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorites and after reading his work for years and years I am only now “getting” some things because I delved into the history. It is starting to click. The same thing happened with Jane Austen. I had no idea all of these social dynamics were going on. I liked the books for history and I was interested in their cultural behaviors.

    Many of the poems or books I read I can read over and over again finding new details and understandings because it is based on my “new” experiences or understanding of the world, and myself. I have to experience it before I can understand it.

    I discovered also that if I read a book, then watch a film based on it, then read it again it is much easier for me to see and comprehend things.

    I had my lightening bolt moment last year and that is when my poems started rushing out in more creative ways. Maybe you are about to burst into new creativity! I am excited for you to see how you process all of this and read your new experiences!

    I would love to read the paper you found on Juxtaposition/Metaphor and analogy, could you sent it my way?? 🙂


  2. Trackback: Gratitude « Postcards from the edge of the Spectrum
  3. Aspie Writer
    Oct 14, 2012 @ 14:09:31

    You made a great point here…

    “I realized that my thinking, my creativity, my sense of humor, the way in which I process sensory input is all Juxtapose!

    I am always putting things side by side, comparing them, visualizing them, making conceptual leaps, joining dots that many don’t see.”

    I think you’ve explained it beautifully. It is funny that the subject of both Shakespeare and juxtaposation came up just now. I have been avoiding taking the Shakespeare class, which I need to complete my degree.

    In the past few writing classes I have taken, I have been continually praise for my use of juxtaposations. The first time I received a “great juxtapose” remark, my thoughts were…”Oh, I didn’t mean too.” I don’t set out to write and put things side by side in comparison, that is just he way I think.

    Then the topic kept coming up. When I read this post, it clicked. I write that way because I too think that way! That is just the way I process information and the way it comes out. But–it is the imput that seems to get scrambled somehow.


  4. Michele Schwien (@MLSchwienD)
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 01:25:47

    I enjoy Shakespeare – MacBeth, Taming of the Shrew, Cymbeline, Two Gentlemen of Verona, King Lear, All’s Well That Ends Well.

    Some ideas the plays deal with include: ambition, power struggles, war, love, infidelity, jealousy, murder, madness, guilt. But the ideas are not what have made Shakespeare popular for over 500 Years. They have stood the test of time because they are about relationships and feelings. And the actions they take when they feel certain things. While the plots are extreme – they bear no resemblance to what my life is really like –but I can still empathize with what the characters are going through.

    Effectiveness of juxtaposition is relative, in part, to the experience of the person. Have you read any of Dan Arielyl’s books regarding “Predictably Irrational”? I think I’m fairly rational (for a NT anyway), but my guess is my Aspie son wouldn’t agree with that.

    My son is funny! Whereas you say you can’t distinguish between someone being funny or serious my son doesn’t even try to decide which it is. He automatically defaults to everything and everyone is funny. Discipline can be problematic.

    When he feels comfortable in his environment and there are no large, complex social etiquettes to follow, he is enjoyable to hang out with. I believe people who “live in the moment” tend to be this way. Since they are not concerned with what they “should” be accomplishing now to prepare for the future, they simply focus on their immediate environment. My son has an uncanny ability to notice completely obscure details and then expand on them by tying in totally unrelated things. It’s actually pretty humorous.

    One of my favorite times of day is when we first sit down for dinner. My NT daughter and I usually start chatting about what happened during the day. My son sits quietly, busy eating his food. He’s usually done eating when my daughter and I have barely started. This leaves him free to fire off a round of funny observations about our earlier conversation.


  5. Michele Schwien (@MLSchwienD)
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 01:26:59

    Oh – and I ordered Flatland. Looking forward to reading it – and hope it will be something my son will enjoy.


  6. Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman)
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 13:51:46

    Made me think of how often I will ask Best Beloved why one character in a show would react to statement x and if it were statement y. “But he didn’t say that!” I would cry. And BB would say, “No, he didn’t say y, but he meant y.” Ah. Then I can return to trying to figure out which character is who. Prosopagnosia makes following movies tough. Since I say what I mean, I find it confusing when other people blow up about what they “think” I said. Metaphor is not a problem for me. It’s reading between the lines I don’t get.


  7. A Quiet Week
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 12:00:47

    I needed to revisit this post! This is mindblowingly revelational. I don’t think I processed it all the first time I read it.

    I also have a USB problem. I find that occasionally I need extra time to mull certain types of information, then BAM! I am hit with an overwhelming revelation. The simultaneous connections are staggering. Grasping something for me is rarely a trickle, more like an H-bomb!


  8. stockdalewolfe
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 09:04:48

    Yes, I am an Aspire and a literal thinker. My husband, also Aspie, delights in pulling my leg because I never see things comical coming. He says I am funny and others laugh at me but I cannot make them laugh with jokes and all. Interesting post. Have to think more about the dimensionality points you made.


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