They're All Out To Get Me!!!
For the record, I'm not a deeply paranoid person. I don't really feel that they are all out to get me. At least not all of the time. I'm going to talk about the unfortunate catch 22 that exists for me as an Aspie.
Simply put, because I've developed learned responses to the people that I meet daily, I regularly find myself second guessing what I have analysed about the social interaction I've been engaged in.
Where does this sometimes overwhelming sensation come from? For me, it comes from not knowing what people are thinking. I know some may say that that is part of the human condition. Never truly knowing what people are thinking unless they tell you, and even then they might be lying. However, please remember that all the social clues that most people can pick up on don't transfer to my brain. Over the years, I've learned many strategies in order to get a ballpark idea as to what those social clues are, but they are often incorrect. Sometimes comically so. Not a day goes by that I don't ask my wife if she is ok. That sounds like a lovely thing to do doesn't it? I think so too. However, this question is one levied at her at least two to three times an hour if I can't tell if she's ok, which I pretty much always can't. She loves me for it I'm sure, but there have been times when a slightly more curt response is returned. "Greg I'm fine, stop asking. I'm really fine. Don't worry."
I always find it interesting that my wife will almost always include a "don't worry" in her reply. No matter how impatient she may have become, or how angry she may be, she will more often than not add that all important "don't worry" for my benefit. She knows me very well. She knows that if that isn't included and I still dwell on what irrelevant analysis I still feel is necessary, I'll eventually spiral into the dark chasm that is my paranoid brain.
I suppose it's a by-product of all the endless analysis that causes that feeling of paranoia, anxiety and doubt. Every thought I have, every choice I make, every second of my day contains this analysis. My brain rarely shuts down. This is part of who I am so please don't worry. I happen to like my life. However, as tiring as the analysis can be, it's fundamental to getting through a day socially. So I'd ask, is paranoia part and parcel to being on the autistic spectrum?
As it comes from not knowing what people are thinking, as it is a principal by-product of constant analysis, surely paranoia is unavoidable for an Aspie? Throughout my adult life, I've never been able to avoid the PAD sensation (paranoia, anxiety and doubt). It's a glaze that pours itself over my rational thought. It can be crippling. Not knowing what to expect from people, how they might react to what you say, how you say it or even the way you look when you say it. I regularly imagine scenarios (ridiculous scenarios) that cause the additional PAD sensations. Someone hasn't called in a while. I must have grievously insulted them. There is no other explanation. I forgot to post the letter I was asked to. I've let that person down. They hate me now. There is no other way they can feel.
However, when you're in the depths of a PAD sensation and you get thrown the bone of freedom, the sense of relief is simply amazing. It's all tied up with anxiety. Feeling the odd one out. Self censorship. Missing the boat. I should be somewhere else, doing something else, having fun. But I wasn't invited, no one likes me, I've caused offence, I must be a bad person.
How on earth do you get yourself out of that spiral? Sometimes a logical solution comes to the fore. I love those moments when I've managed to convince myself that someone hasn't called me because I did something wrong, and then they call me. After the two second self berating, I answer with a smile on my face.
More frequently, the solution for me tends to be more inevitable self analysis. Speaking harshly to myself puts me back on point. My wife always sees me right. Usually by telling me to stop. "Don't worry." As always, it's how you deal with the sensory information that comes your way that helps you to select how to react.
I don't think it's something that I'll ever overcome, but it is something I can live with.