Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Final Word (for now) on The Sunglasses Experiment

I have been thinking, almost nonstop, about my sunglasses experiment since I concluded it. I have had so many thoughts that it truly has been difficult making sense of it all. In this entry I want to just write out my current thoughts. I may repeat some stuff that I already wrote, but I'm hoping with writing about it again it allows me to get some new insights.

The #1 thing I wanted to discover was the difficulties with eye contact and which way of the road is it difficult. Is it that I am looking at you or is it that you are looking at me? My conclusion, right now, is that it can be either depending on the situation.

Random eye contact with a stranger may initiate a random conversation. It may start a whole script of ,"hello, how are you..." and those are very difficult for me. Therefore I will shy away from eye contact for this reason.

For people I know, or come across on a daily basis (think Taco Bell staff) eye contact is difficult for reasons that are different. To make eye contact with these people creates so many thoughts. When I had the sunglasses on and my prolonged eye contact with the Taco Bell cashier I was almost drowning in my own thoughts. There was a rush of emotion and I was confused by this. More information came in than could be processed. Yes, I believe I felt emotions such as empathy, but at what cost? If I, at my current state of being, had that reaction to everyone I would have no time to process my own thoughts because I would be constantly bombarded by these rushes of information.

There was a key line in that last paragraph in that I said, "current state of being". What I meant by that is that I do hope to continue wearing the sunglasses because I am wondering if I will eventually become desensitized to such rushes of information.

Eye contact with people I know was discovered to be difficult as well. This is because, I discovered, eye contact with those I know lets them in on my thoughts in my mind. If I am looking somewhere, or at them, they surely will know what I am thinking. Since I struggle with realizing that, "I think therefore you know what I am thinking" isn't true the only defense I have against this is avoiding eye contact. If you don't see my eyes directly you can't possibly know what I am thinking.

I was hoping to learn that there was simply one stumbling block to eye contact, but that is not the case. The mystery behind it is deep and has multiple reasons depending on the situation. Because of this I don't know whether or now I can call what I did a success. I answered some questions only to discover that there are more questions that currently can't be answered. I discovered that I am more comfortable behind the glasses, but other people seem to talk to me more with them on and because I use the lack of eye contact as a defense the mirrored glasses negate that.

Again, was it a success? I don't know. I hope I provided some insights as to the difficulties behind eye contact and even though this is the final word for now the thinking will continue and I will still wear the sunglasses. This isn't a short term deal and over time I hope to be able to provide you with some more thoughts on this topic.


  1. I would say that getting through the month and taking risks made this a success, Aaron.

  2. The fact that you tried something different should be considered a success. However (and a big one), finding constructive ways to address it is extremely important. I know touring to speak about autism is very meaningful to you... and same goes with racing. But, as a fellow autism advocate and from my experiences, I worked on my areas of deficits for a bit FIRST before I go on my initial advocacy efforts. Then, I continuously try to improve or keep up the skills I already got. The reason I take this route is that I come from a background where opportunities are not handed to me on a silver platter. I had to do what I can in a socially acceptable fashion and follow appropriate procedures to seek out opportunities.

  3. I wish I had found out about the sunglasses 10 years ago. My friends son, now 18, looks at the ceiling while talking to people. I wonder if it would have helped him when he was a little kid and only looking to the side..because now people think he's dishonest and he's having difficulties getting a job.And there's no way he'd do a sunglasses trial now as he's in total denial of his Aspergers..