Aspergers and Mindfulness

 

The Oxford English Dictionary describes mindfulness as follows:

A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I appear to have stumbled upon this during my recovery from Major Depression, since being diagnosed 9 weeks ago.

Discovering mindfulness

I discovered mindfulness during the week following my Depression diagnosis.

I described  my initial revelations about my lifelong pattern of absorbing the negative emotions of others and my tendency to assume responsibility for the negative emotions of others in Aspergers and Emotions, which I published in September.

This was followed by an account of my diagnosis, my condition leading up to diagnosis and my subsequent recovery, with the help of prescription anti-depressant medication in Aspergers and depression

Mindfulness – keep it simple

There is no shortage of books on the subject of mindfulness, but to date I have not read any of them.

I described my technique for cultivating and maintaining mindfulness in a tweet a few days ago:

  1. Stop
  2. Build in a pause
  3. Breathe
  4. Acknowledge anxiety, fear, panic etc BUT stay focused on your goal
  5. Keep calm and carry on

Mindfulness in action

My anti-depressant medication lifted the fog and allowed me to see clearly again.

  • It has also resulted in a more healthy and meaningful connection with my feelings

When a situation now arises that would previously have had me imploding in a panic attack, I have found myself questioning the situation like a logic puzzle.

  • How were you feeling before this happened?
  • What is the essence of the situation that now presents itself?
  • Is there any reason why my happy, confident and optimistic feelings should be neutralized by this new situation?
  • NO!
  • In that case, deal with the situation analytically and continue, while nurturing the positive feelings

I have been enjoying considerable success with this technique WHEN I remember to control my impulses with reason and logic.

Sometimes I forget to do this, but I seem to be quickly noticing my forgetfulness, by being aware of my changing feelings when I am met by challenges.

The other day I found myself in a situation that would have sent me into a panic attack 2 months ago.

  • I acknowledged the situation, analytically
  • I prepared myself for what might be an emotional assault
  • Even accepting that I might need to run for the Xanax bottle
  • But my feelings were unshaken
  • Not even a ripple of anxiety

Mindfulness does not eliminate stressful situations and encounters.

  • In fact sometimes it’s quite an effort for me to ‘stick to the script’

But what I am finding is that mindfulness is getting easier to apply and is starting to become a habit.

Aspergers and mindfulness

I am actually finding my version of mindfulness quite natural and easy.

I find the process very Autistic!

  • Analyzing the situation
  • Monitoring my feelings
  • Asking some logical questions
  • Making a logical conclusion
  • Acting on my logical conclusion

This is also the essence of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

  • Identifying negative/toxic/unhelpful thinking patterns
  • Challenging those thoughts
  • Modifying my thoughts
  • Embracing and celebrating the empowerment and joyous impact on my feelings

The Aspergers/Mindfulness paradox

It is no small irony that the very condition that leads to anxiety and panic attacks, is also the basis of the remedy, at least in me. Giving me the capacity for that hitherto elusive ability to ‘self soothe’

Much like the maxim that opportunity is often found disguised as hard work.

 

Mindfulness – keep it simple 🙂

 

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. spectrumscribe
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 13:11:10

    Thanks Ariane. There are metaphorical storms and there are literal storms. This week you had both and I am glad you and your family are safe and well. Thanks for sharing. Mindfulness is a very recent addition to my life. I am overjoyed with the discovery and the journey.and hope this will encourage others to begin or continue their journey with Mindfulness and to realize how easily within their reach it really is.

    Reply

  2. olafdupont
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 12:30:11

    My wife and I are homeschooling our two aspie boys (3 and 5) and starting a mindfulness program for developed especially for kids. I hope it’ll help reduce or control their anxiety. If it does, I’ll post an update here within 6 months or so.

    Reply

  3. Michele Schwien (@MLSchwienD)
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 09:41:18

    I like your sentence: “It is no small irony that the very condition that leads to anxiety and panic attacks, is also the basis of the remedy.”

    Autism deals with social impairment. When my son is alone his thought-feeling link is appropriate and he is naturally happy/content. His biggest obstacle is when other people create the rules and place demands on him. “Writing project is due Friday.” Since writing is a non-preferred activity odds are that he won’t meet the deadline. Actions – and lack of actions – have consequences.

    I work at being mindful when I realize I’m projecting what my son’s future is going to be. If he doesn’t do homework he won’t progress into college. If he doesn’t go to college will his intellect be under utilized? Where will he live? Mortgage (or rent) is due the first of the month. In order to be able to pay it you have to have money. To have money you have to be able to keep a job (which infers you can’t play video games all day). To keep a job you must perform certain duties. A boss can tell you what those duties are. A boss will fire you for not doing your job. Where is he going to live? With me? What happens when I die? What can I do now to make more money so he has more money later in his life?

    I try to guide him on what it means to be accountable but eventually he will be the one to determine the quality of his life.

    Reply

  4. Emily Herzlin (@emilyherzlin)
    Nov 12, 2012 @ 11:08:11

    I absolutely love this blog post. I teach mindfulness meditation and used to do behavior therapy with autistic children, and I always thought there was a connection there. You’ve made that connection clear for me. Thank you for writing this.

    Reply

  5. Nils Geylen (@nilsgeylen)
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 07:29:02

    I’ve tried mindfulness a number of times, but always hit a wall precisely because of the cerebral aspect. Analyzing is what I do already; trying to get in the moment is indeed something I need, but focusing on it seems to drive me farther away instead.

    I’ve also tried a number of relaxation techniques that borrow from mindfulness, but immediately felt that focusing on either a state of being, or on separate parts of my body, sends me on the wildest of tangents.

    Other verbal or cognitive therapies appear to have had the same result (or lack thereof).

    So far, I’ve had the best experience with yoga. Clearing the mind by using the body actively (a non-natural exercise to me) seems to work better. To me the contradiction is in the fact that getting out of the moment through yoga, serves me better afterwards because it leaves me in a seemingly more focused state.

    Good luck with the experiment though, and keep calm.

    Reply

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