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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Geese Whisperer and An Example of Worst-Case Scenario Thinking

Early this morning before I headed to Eldora Speedway to get ready for the final USAC .25 race of the year I got in a round of golf. In starting the round I was told that I had to play at a decent pace as a tournament was beginning later in the morning. I was fine with that and to the first hole I went.

My first shot was great, my second one wasn't. My 2nd shot went shorter than I could throw the ball and as I was proceeding to my ball I heard a whistle. If there is one thing I have learned in life it's that whistles are used when something has gone wrong. Nobody is going to come out of the blue with a whistle with good news. And, as I looked over my left shoulder, I saw a golf cart headed my direction.

Panic. That's what happened to me; pure panic. I quickly thought back to every second I was at the course as I tried to figure out what I could have possibly did to be in so much trouble. The cart kept getting closer and was one fairway over and I was shaking in fear as I prepared for whatever tongue-lashing was coming my way. But what did I do?

Now the cart was nearing the hill that would lead it onto my fairway and then I noticed a bunch of Canadian geese congregating. Then, the golf cart crested the hill and made a turn and was no longer headed right for me. All the while the driver was blowing the whistle and then I realized that I wasn't the one in trouble, but rather this driver was out to annoy the geese so they would go congregate elsewhere. And that's exactly what it was as wherever the geese waddled to so did the golf cart.

So this isn't the most exciting story I've had from the golf course, but it is a prime example of the potential worst-case scenario thinking that seems to happen to a lot of us on the autism spectrum. I don't have middle ground emotions; things are either all fine are all wrong. If anything goes slighting askew, such as a whistle blowing golf cart, I instantly begin to think about what I did to cause it. And after that happens my body goes into a full defense mode as I prepare for an unknown and infinite number of possibilities.

All this is an automatic response. It isn't like there is a choice on this as the fear response is instant. There is no thought like, "I wonder what that is? It's a whistle, but why? Who's it for?" None of that happens. What happens is this, "Oh my goodness! ALERT! Is the world about to end? What did I do wrong? Did I do something wrong and not know it? Wait, what have I been doing? Okay... I don't know. How bad is this going to hurt? And how long?"

After the geese whisperer chased them off towards the other side of the course he then rode off into the sunrise, I guess to chase another gaggle of geese (they are gaggles, right?) but just because he was gone the after effects of fearing the unknown worst-case scenario remained with me. When there is a fear spike like this the emotions remain well after the fact. Eventually, about 5 holes, or 45 minutes later I began to finally come back to normal.

This is my example. Others will react differently, and others may not react at all to a situation. When there is a response like mine please be aware that everything becomes sharper and harsher. All my defenses are on maximum alert as I fear everything. So please keep this in mind, say, if there is an unexpected noise, or an unexpected knock on the front door. What may be routine, or perhaps a little off for you may be taken as a threat on a cosmic level with feared consequences so unimaginable that they... are you ready for this?... can't be imagined. Again, each person is going to handle these events differently but just keep in mind the response, at least for me, isn't one that I can simply turn off.

1 comment:

  1. thanks, Aaron. I am grandma to amazing 10 year old aspie-boy G as well as 9 other grandkids. I've read a bunch of medical/educational stuff about the autism spectrum but your blog has done more to deepen my understanding of G's reactions to things than anything other source. G & I are close, and I want to understand him and help him put words to his feelings. thanks for the insights. I read every post, and many have touched me, particularly this one.

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