Influence of My Wife & Best Friend – Extract from ‘Look Into My Eyes’

The biggest influence in my life has been my wife. A clear sign of this was when I gave my speech at our wedding. I wasn’t nervous through the wedding, as everything was planned and should have carried out as planned. Some bits that were likely to ruin the plans were getting me frustrated and angry, but it was nothing I wasn’t prepared for. The speech, however, definitely didn’t go as planned. When it came to me doing my speech, I had practiced it a couple of times just to make sure I was able to do it just glancing at the notes I had written down. I didn’t expect any kind of reaction with my speech – my job was to thank everyone for coming, thank the caterers, and thank my wife for marrying me, before telling her how much I love her and saying a bit about how we met. What confused me was that I started crying. I couldn’t understand why I started crying because, as my best friend had said, I am like Spock: I don’t do ‘getting emotional’. The only way I can describe my experience of this is like a computer suddenly crashing. It took me by surprise, as if my brain had just fried.

This is one of the biggest changes my wife has helped me with. When we met in 2001, I was cold – although I tried to meet her needs for hugs and affection. But as the years went on, I started crying at happy and sad films, and now find I cry really easily at these films – yet real things still don’t often cause me to cry or get upset. My wife encourages me to socialise – to not be a hermit – although at the same time, she isn’t overly social, so we don’t go out often. She talks to me about me and teaches me to not just focus on me, but also to focus on her. I believe that, for anyone with Asperger’s, being in a healthy relationship can help you make changes to those parts of you that you need to work on, because you put effort into learning to put someone else first, and to see how you can meet their needs. It isn’t easy to transfer these skills to the real world, to being the same with others, but you are taking the first step. I definitely feel I probably come across better with others now because of my relationship with my wife.

My wife has given me the strength to believe in myself as a person; she accepts me for who I am and helps me to accept myself. Some aspects of me may be areas I would like to change and wish were different – and they may change, as I continue to develop – but I accept myself for who I am now, and I know I have at least one person on my side. She may get frustrated with aspects of me from time to time, but she accepts me for who I am. I think everyone else in my life also accepts me, but my wife understands me the most, and is willing to do things like make me a den when I need it; she will also pull me up on behaviours I need to stop.

My best friend has also helped me develop. He will challenge me and drag me out to be sociable – and he defined the roles of our relationship as ‘Kirk and Spock’, which is a very accurate description of us. He also shares in many of my interests, and is curious about learning more and making discoveries. He has also somehow managed to remain a friend for over half of my life, through many life transitions.

Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis, & Me by Dan Jones, is available in Paperback and for Amazon Kindle: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196

The Value of Autism & My Views on a ‘Cure’ – Extract from ‘Look Into My Eyes’

I think I am like most others with Asperger’s, in that I see it as something that is a part of me, not as something to be cured. It doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could change some aspects of myself, and I am aware that parents of children with low functioning autism often say they wish there was a cure. As autism is a spectrum, there are some people who have limitations but wouldn’t want to be cured of their autism, and others who have significant limitations or debilitating behaviours or traits; they or their carers would like them to be cured.

I have thoughts of concern if there was a pre-birth cure, so that people were no longer born with autism spectrum disorder. My view is that anything which persists in nature is either something that isn’t detrimental to the survival of that being, and so it isn’t screened out by evolution, or it has advantages to survival. From my studies and my experiences, I feel autism has evolutionary advantages – but to have those advantages, the genes have to be passed on. Some people will be high functioning, and others will be low functioning, but all those who survive will pass on genes linked with a propensity to have ‘autism’, which – for future generations – could be high or low functioning. Those with high functioning autism, I believe play a role in human progress. It doesn’t mean non-autistic people don’t advance humanity; it is just that people with high functioning autism are good at focusing on a task and obsessing about it, and so they make discoveries that others wouldn’t have made, because they wouldn’t have obsessed about that topic in the same way.

Most people who have advanced science have done so through obsessing about a topic and focusing on tasks. They don’t seem to get bored of the task or topic and they can keep at it for years. Non-autistic people could obsess and focus on a topic like this, but most people fill their days with many different elements. I can focus on hypnosis for the whole day; I can miss eating and drinking and sleeping for quite some time without being aware of it. I can also comfortably spend each day not interacting with others. Most people want to take breaks; they get bored or tired of what they are doing, and they start talking about it not being stimulating enough. They want to socialise, whether it be having meals with a loved one or with friends, or going to a party. Many people want to progress in a job or role, rather than to do the exact same job for 30 or 40 years. For many with high functioning autism, behaving in this way comes more naturally.

If there was a stone age society and everyone was doing their role – gathering wood or fruits or vegetables, or out hunting – there could be someone with Asperger’s who isn’t out hunting, is seen as a bit odd and a bit of an outsider, but they have an obsession with how arrows travel through the air, and what makes the arrow go further. This obsession doesn’t get anywhere to start with; no-one is really interested. But then, after years of experimenting and learning and trying different things, the Asperger’s person suddenly finds a combination of wood for the arrow and a way to shape the flint to make it sharp and streamlined; he perhaps adds the idea of a throwing device, able to propel the arrow. Suddenly, this can give the stone age tribe a survival edge. As society has progressed into the digital age, there are more jobs suited best to those with high functioning autism, which is probably why there is an above average number of people with high functioning autism working within the science and maths professions.

Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis, & Me by Dan Jones, is available in Paperback and for Amazon Kindle: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196

Primary School Years: Developing Influence Skills – Extract from ‘Look Into My Eyes’

Although during my primary years, I had poor emotional connection. I didn’t really notice it. From my perspective, I was living in my own world. My dad had written about my poor emotional connection, and mum has mentioned my difficulties with emotional connection, but to me, I was more interested in doing things on my own. Human nature is a wonderful thing, although I didn’t approach others to try to befriend them. Others would sometimes approach me; I liked familiarity and certainty, and I disliked engaging with people. I think I was lucky in some of my early ‘a-ha’ moments!

One such moment was realising that if I had a friend or two, I felt more comfortable speaking with them than with people I didn’t know. I was able to learn how they would respond, and if they walked away and stopped spending time with me, it wasn’t important – but while they were there, I could use them to make my life more comfortable. Writing this down here with my ‘adult head’ on, I feel like it sounds bad. It was, and still is, one of my ways of coping with the world.

If I wanted something, all I had to do was find a way of getting the person I was friends with to be the one to sort it out. So, if I wanted to have something to drink I would try to think about how I could encourage my friend to go to a teacher and ask for me. I would do things like encouraging them – saying that it would be good if we could both have a drink – or I would appear to be helpful and if we were doing something together, like making something, I would offer to do a task I thought they would least like to do. I’d say, “I’ll do this if you want”, and while they are pleased with me doing something they didn’t want to do, I would say something like, “This is quite difficult, would you be able to grab me a drink?” I would try to make it look like I didn’t want to stop then, because I was so focused on getting it done – I’d get the message across that what would really help me to get things done was having a drink…

As an adult, I now know that I was playing into a theory from social psychology about how people like to reciprocate – if you do something for someone, they are more likely to do something in return. Between about eight and ten years old, I learnt a number of these techniques to influence situations and to make them more comfortable for me. Then, in later life, when I discovered hypnosis, I realised that many of these techniques are in fact hypnosis techniques. Another technique I used to use was one for influencing groups of people. When I was in the playground and would want to play manhunt, for example, and everyone else was thinking about playing football, I would suggest the idea of manhunt loudly enough for the children either side of me to hear the idea, I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. After a moment or two, if those children quite liked the idea, they would suggest it, and gradually the idea would spread through the group, until the children who actually made the decisions picked up on the idea. Then, one of them would suggest it, and everyone would agree with the person who suggested the idea. No-one would realise that I had suggested the idea first, and I didn’t care whether I got credit for the idea or not – as long as we were doing as I wanted.

I saw this happen to other children, where they would suggest ideas, seemingly get ignored, then eventually someone else would suggest the same idea and everyone would agree with that person; the child who originally suggested the idea would get stroppy about how they had come up with the idea first. It confused me as to why they got stroppy when they were doing exactly what they wanted to be doing. Did it really matter who took the credit for the idea?

This idea didn’t always work – not all my ideas were things that everyone wanted to do – but if I was expected to play with other children, I would rather do something I see as having educational value than just, say, playing football. I liked manhunt because I got to practice evading capture, I developed skills for sneaking around and having patience. I could see that these skills could have value. I couldn’t see how chasing a ball and hitting it into a net had value. You also don’t have to work with others when playing manhunt. You may share a team, but you still work on your own, whereas with football you are expected to work together.

I have never been particularly competitive, but I do like to do the best I can – and I stick to rules. I don’t have a very good emotional connection with others and struggle to understand their perspectives on many emotional issues. Mum and dad have both described how I seemed to have poor emotional connection. I have learnt over the years how I am supposed to respond in some situations. I still make mistakes, but I do much better than I did when I was young.

Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis, & Me by Dan Jones, is available in Paperback and for Amazon Kindle: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196

Primary School Years: Friendships – Extract from ‘Look Into My Eyes’

Many of my earliest memories are from my primary years. I don’t really remember much before that, and what I think I remember, I can’t be confident about – are they my memories, or just memories based on photographs I have seen? In this chapter, I will share my experience of my primary school years from about five years old up to ten or so. During this time, I began to recognise that I was different and started to learn about how to cope with the world around me.

Mum always described me as having a lot of common sense. I would describe myself as having common sense that sometimes isn’t common, and other times doesn’t make sense… From a very young age, mum trusted me to look after my younger siblings. She had tried babysitters, but often I was still the person with the most common sense in the room. I had good observation skills for safety, and because I couldn’t care less about most things that others seemed to really care about, I was often very calm. If there was an incident that needed to be handled I was likely to be the one who could work out what to do, and then calmly do it. This trait has helped immensely throughout my life.

Mum was a riding instructor, so growing up, she had to work when everyone else was off. My stepdad was a landscape gardener, so he worked long hours whenever the weather was suitable. Because mum taught people to ride horses, I spent most of my time around horses as a child. From the age of about eight, when mum was teaching, I would often be looking after my brothers. We would be at the riding centre, so mum wasn’t far away if we needed her – she couldn’t afford to have anyone else look after us, but she trusted me and felt I was responsible enough to look after my brothers. I knew that if there was a problem, I could either find mum, or seek out any of the other adults who ran the stables.

I remember some of my first experiences attending my first primary school. It was a small school with a cold outdoor swimming pool. I have certain memories that stand out about the pool. I remember flies floating in the pool. I remember the smell of the water. It smelt like water – I mean, it didn’t have an odd smell – but I remember the fresh watery smell from the pool. I also remember the feeling of being in the water, and remember times when my nan would come along and help out during swimming lessons. I didn’t like the swimming cap I had to wear. It used to hurt my head when I put it on and took it off. The cap would stick to my hair and felt like it pulled hair out of my head whenever I took it off. I did enjoy swimming though. My favourite thing about swimming was being underwater. I loved putting my head underwater, and as I got more confident, I would hold myself fully underwater at the steps. I loved how the sound changed underwater – it was quiet and peaceful, not as chaotic and overwhelming as the world above the water. I remember believing I could almost breathe underwater. I was aware that I couldn’t, but I felt that I was able to stay underwater longer by relaxing and imagining I was breathing, so I would make all the actions of breathing without actually breathing in. I would almost cycle air round, as if I was somehow breathing within myself.

I didn’t really have many friends in primary school. I was polite, so if someone engaged with me, I would be polite and do my best to try to engage with them back, but I didn’t really have much interest in interacting with other people. I would much rather have spent a break time at the hedges around the outside of the school grounds searching for snails and looking at other creatures. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I would take an ice cream tub around with me which I would fill with leaves, twigs, snails, caterpillars or grasshoppers. I wasn’t necessarily very good at socialising, and didn’t particularly care about others. That isn’t to say I wanted bad things to happen to others – I have always wanted everyone to be alright – but I was far more caring of animals. One day, when I was out with mum while she was teaching horse riding, I found an injured grasshopper. I took it home and tried to nurse it back to health by creating an environment for it and giving it some food.

Unfortunately, it didn’t survive. I didn’t get upset about it not surviving. I wanted it to live and get better, but my attitude was: once it had died, it had died. I did all I could think of to try to save it, and to my knowledge I couldn’t have done more. I remember burying it in the garden, because I thought that was what was supposed to happen to dead things, then I got on with my life. I didn’t get upset about not being able to save it, because I had done everything I felt I was able to do.

At one time, mum tried to arrange a birthday party for me at home. She invited many children I knew, and on the day of my party, no-one turned up. I think this was a telling sign of my relationships with others. I was polite to people but never really invested in my relationships with the other children in school. I was pretty much the same at home. I would prefer to spend time alone doing my own thing, but was generally polite. I don’t recall too much play with my brothers. When we did play, it was usually something active like hide and seek or manhunt, or it was making dens or climbing trees. It wasn’t really things where I was having to play with my brothers, but more things where I played alongside my brothers, or could feel like I was doing my own thing or engaging in a project – making something for some purpose.

I was far better at getting on with adults. I would ask questions all the time about things I was interested in, wanting to know more. At school, I would take my time getting ready to leave lessons so that the other children would leave and I could then ask the teacher any questions I had. If the lesson didn’t interest me, then I would get out as quickly as I could to try to avoid being stuck in the middle of a crowd of children all leaving at once. If I had to choose between spending time with children or adults I would usually choose to stand around the adults, and would normally latch on to one adult whom I would sit next to and talk to. That adult was normally chosen because they’d first approached me and started talking to me, but they would then be stuck with me until they walked away. If they walked off and left me, I wouldn’t seek anyone else out; I would rather sit on my own and keep myself to myself. Sometimes, another adult would come and talk to me and I would then talk to them about topics I enjoyed until they walked off too.

Look Into My Eyes: Asperger’s, Hypnosis, & Me by Dan Jones, is available in Paperback and for Amazon Kindle: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196