How to get what you want when you’re autistic

I got an email today from Psychiatry Operations Manager at Cambridge University, Dominic Drane, who stated that Professor Simon Baron-Cohen answered all my questions – well, I suppose he had, at least most of them, they just weren’t the right answers. Mr Drane also explained that Professor Baron-Cohen was advised not to email me any more, which I believe was the right thing to do. I now cannot get stressed any more about the fact that I didn’t like the answer or that Professor forgot to use capital letter when spelling my name. Funny thing, isn’t it? Perhaps as autism researcher he should have known that we, autistics, can get obsessed about small details.

Mr Drane stated that I am welcomed to contact him regarding any other questions that I think haven’t been answered, but where would that take me at the end? Professor Baron-Cohen is the best autism specialist at the Cambridge University so Mr Drane would go and ask him those questions to provide me with answers, therefore nothing would change.

From what I know I’m not the first autistic person who is not fond of Professor Baron-Cohen, and yet, he continues to receive all the attention when autism is being discussed. What can I do with that? Request that he should be transferred to a different job, like possibly, a janitor position? That’s not going to help, is it?

However, in the past I used to react this way in situations where I really didn’t like someone and wanted them to be eliminated. I never achieved anything this way and yet, next time I’d do the same thing. You could think I should be able to learn from past mistakes, yet, in those situations learning from experience really didn’t work.

I understand now why that kept happening to me: as an autistic I instinctively see life as a series of finite games, while in fact life is one long infinite game. Let me remind you: finite games have a set end point and their purpose is to win, while the purpose of infinite game is to keep playing and there is no winner or looser.

I’ll give you an example from dating and relationship here: ‘finding a boyfriend’ would be a finite game as it ends as soon as you become exclusive, ‘creating meaningful connection and fulfilling relationship’ is infinite game because you then need to work on that connection all the time, even when you’re already in a relationship.

So demanding things being done certain way (a win) was the result of me playing a finite game. Even when I knew from experience that I won’t get what I wanted, I’d still demand it. I just didn’t know any different.

Last summer I listened to a podcast interview with Simon Sinek, a speaker and a leader, who talks about infinite games in business context a lot and I suddenly had a breakthrough moment: infinite mindset, that’s what I need. Don’t focus on the win, just keep playing. What a pity no one ever suggests that in the context of autism.

Do you know what info dumping is? That’s the behaviour when we, autistics, find someone who is keen to listen to what we say about one of our special interest and we then continue to talk about it until we have nothing else to add. I realised this is also caused by finite mindset: we see sharing all the information we have about the subject as a win. But then, what happens when we ‘win’? The game is over so that person doesn’t want to talk to us any more.

We may not understand how to see things from other people perspective very well but surely we should understand the difference between finite and infinite games. Infinite are better, remember?

So how do I play an infinite game in this case? I’ll just keep blogging, that’s the only way.

Oh, BTW, I did ask Professor Simon Baron-Cohen sometimes during the summer, before I made up my mind about him, why he doesn’t suggest explaining autistic people how to use infinite game concept in life and he didn’t reply.

Oh well…

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