After publishing my last post – that one about punishment – it was brought to my attention that possibly what I am describing (recognising punishment where there is none) is not caused by my ability to recognise patterns but by my difficult childhood experiences. I’d like to discuss that further here.
I did mention here a few times that my dad had mental health breakdown when I was little and he never recovered. His mental health problems were making him difficult to be around and he was physically aggressive towards me and my brother on more than one occasion, but then, I personally know a couple of people who were treated worse by at least one of their parents even though the parent wasn’t going through mental health breakdown, and, considering this is not something that people discuss openly and I’m autistic so I’m not someone who people easily confide in, yet I was told about them, so that makes me think that those situations are probably not as rare as we want to think.
Before my dad had a breakdown he was actually my favourite parent – I much preferred him to my mum. Also my mum never punished me, not even by using natural consequences, so punishment is definitely not something that I experienced a lot in life. Yet, I recognise the pattern easily.
For comparison I will discuss the pattern of ‘luck’ here, that I also seem to recognise very easily, even though I experienced it even less than I experienced punishment.
So, first of all, let me ask you, what do you think luck is? If someone was born in a wealthy family and their education and wellbeing was being taken care of, they are obviously much more lucky than someone who’s parents were struggling to make the ends meet, but they were not more lucky than another person of similar background that they will probably associate with, so what is seen as luck by poor people will be normal for those who are born to it.
What is a lucky event then? It’s something that is positive but also extremely unlikely to happen. If something positive keeps happening to you over and over, you will not see it as luck any more. Possibly it’s a result of a hard work or certain qualities that you possess or just something that you see as normal (like maybe your parents giving you £1k every month – yes, you are lucky to have parents who can afford it and are willing to support you but if you get it every time it’s not luck any more – I hope that makes sense).
I disclosed here a while ago that a few years ago I received a larger sum of money from an unusual source. It allowed me to buy two bedroom flat with only small mortgage, that I already paid off. So in this way I see this as luck, obviously, but the money was not something totally unexpected for me (like a lottery win would be, for example), therefore I didn’t see this as extremely lucky event.
When I think about it, I only experienced two extremely lucky events in my lifetime, and yet, I recognised them as luck straight away and they made me extatic for a few days on both occasions.
First one was during biology test in secondary school. I was not very well prepared, I knew a couple of subjects very well but others not at all. Students in Polish schools sit in pairs of two at the same table, so what teaches often do during tests, to prevent cheating, is to divide the classroom into two groups: lefthand side is group A, righthand side is group B – and each group gets different questions. And what happened during that test was, my group only received questions from subjects I knew very well, while the other one only from those I had no idea about! How lucky that was??? I got 5 (equivalent of A) and if I sat on the other side of the table, I wouldn’t even pass!
I mean, I get it, that didn’t have any impact on my entire education and career but it was positive and extremely unlikely, yet it happened to me. Possibly that is not how neurotypical people see luck, but for me the element of probability is very important.
The second extremely lucky even happened around three years ago. I was walking around a supermarket looking for a particular sauce that I needed rather urgently, and it was not there and there was no staff around to ask. Finally I just decided I’d go somewhere else next day to look for it. It wasn’t a big deal as I generally like shopping, so didn’t mind going to another supermarket but I felt a bit deflated. When I went to the self service check out, I suddenly found it there – it looked like someone abandoned it so all I had to do was scan it and it was mine!
How likely it is that from all the items the supermarket has in stock, exactly what I needed was abandoned and it didn’t get tidied away before I got there? Extremely unlikely, you need to agree on this! And yet, it happened to me – so that made me feel like the luckiest person in the world (well, ok, winning a lottery would probably feel a bit better).
So what I am trying to say here is: even though I didn’t experience many extremely lucky events in life, on both occasions I recognised the pattern instantly. How? Lucky events are often featured in films or are being discussed in social gatherings – so I didn’t need prior personal experience to recognise one. Therefore the same could probably be said about punishment – the fact I recognised the pattern doesn’t mean I experienced a lot of it.
It now makes me think that, possibly, we as society should abandoned the idea of punishment entirely, not only for autistic people. I’m just suggesting it here but it may be worth at least a discussion.
Anyway, it’s my birthday today and I believe I’m 44. I did mention before I’m not into dates and anniversaries, didn’t I?
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