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

Primary School Years: Meditation, Animals & Developing Interests – Extract from ‘Look Into My Eyes’

At about eight years of age, I found a book that had a profound influence on me – The Magic of Thinking Big. This was a book I found lying around the house one day, and as a small child who loved magic, seeing a book with ‘Big’ and ‘Magic’ both written in the title was enough to make me want to know what it was about. The book taught me that you can achieve almost anything; you just have to plan and put in effort.

I learnt an incredible amount between the age of eight and ten – it has helped me immensely. The next significant learning wasn’t until I was 13, when I discovered hypnosis. As well as discovering The Magic of Thinking Big, I also lived in an environment that allowed me to spend a lot of time in the woods – or at least outside, with nature. I used to spend much of my time sitting in trees. I found life at home often stressful and noisy, and I wanted to escape, so I would go into the woods. I would find a tree, climb up high, and sit on a branch with my eyes closed, just listening.

In the tree I would focus my attention on the sounds of birds. I would try to locate where they were by focusing on individual sounds. I would focus on the sounds of the rustling leaves and try to notice each individual one, trying to break the sound down and see how it was formed. As an eight-year-old, I had never heard of meditation, but I had discovered meditation for myself. Sitting in a tree doing this helped me to feel calm; it helped to shut out the ’noise’. I think I was lucky having the opportunity to grow up in the countryside rather than in a town during this period of my life. Warningcamp became a place I would call home as a child – and still think of as home now.

Having a mum who was a riding instructor also gave me the opportunity to be around horses for all of my childhood. Mum has always told me I seemed to have a natural talent for horse-riding. I think I just feel a closer connection to animals than I do to people. Animals don’t expect me to try to communicate with them verbally – they don’t communicate with multiple messages, like people do. Most animals communicate very simply. People can say one thing and mean something else, and then when you don’t understand that they meant something else, they get annoyed or they tell you that you are stupid for not realising or understanding. On the other hand, an animal will just communicate one message at a time.

I used to have no problem getting on to any horse and riding it – horses seemed to trust me, as I did them. That doesn’t mean I thought they would never hurt me, but what I trusted was that they would be clear with their messages, and that I would understand them. Most wild animals, and many other animals, don’t demand my attention. I like being in nature, just observing, rather than needing to play with the animals. I love observing and learning, and it was this mindset which helped me to discover meditation sitting in the trees. All I was trying to do was to observe and learn. In the same way that someone parking a car may turn the music down to help them park, I closed my eyes to help me hear and focus.

During these early years, I started to become aware of patterns. I don’t know whether I had always liked patterns, but I was becoming more self-aware and so becoming more aware of what I liked and didn’t like. I seemed to have an ability to guess well with competitions like ‘how many coins are in the jar’. At a country fair, when I was about eight, I guessed the number of coins in a jar and got it correct. During the summer holidays when I was nine or ten, myself – along with many other children from the two primary schools in Arundel – painted a mural of different animals. On the last day, we were told to guess how many animals were on the mural, and the person who guessed closest would win a prize to be presented by the Mayor of Arundel. I guessed closest – just one number out.

Many of my lifelong interests started between the ages of five and ten. I have always been confused by people changing tastes and interests as they grow up. My view is that if you like something, why would you one day not like it? Between five and ten, I developed an interest in the music of Elvis Presley; I discovered books that taught me things, rather than just being stories; and I started meditating, although I didn’t know it was meditation at the time. I also became aware of some of my habits which would sometimes get me in trouble.

If I heard tunes or sounds, I would make the same sound myself, usually whistling it. I would copy words or phrases that people said which, for some reason, resonated in my mind when I heard them. What’s more, I would often copy them in a replication of the person’s voice. I didn’t realise that mimicking people could offend them – it would just happen automatically. I didn’t even realise I was mimicking them. And when I became aware I was saying or doing something, like whistling or saying a phrase in a specific way, I didn’t normally know where it came from or why I was saying it – it would just happen.

I would find myself mimicking accents and speech patterns that seemed to resonate with me. The best way to avoid offending people was to avoid people, to try and keep my mouth shut, and to keep what went through my head in my head. This was never easy, as most of what I would do would just happen. Often others would point out to me what I was doing, and I found it very difficult to stop something when I didn’t notice myself doing it.

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