Listening, Communication, and the “Social Barrier” on the Spectrum

Rosemary Stephens "Girl in a Foreign Land"

“…if you want to LIVE TO YOUR FULLEST POTENTIAL, and live a good life that you can die being happy with, you need to put yourself out there. You need to interact.”

By Austin John Jones

Socializing can be difficult for people on the spectrum. Ever had those moments where you want to make eye contact, but the feeling of looking someone in the eye is just…so intimidating, that you just can’t work up enough courage to do it? Or how about when you want to just have a good time with everyone, but you can’t do anything but check Facebook on your phone, or play one of those addicting phone games, or just text your friends because that makes you feel more comfortable than actually talking to someone.

Let me tell you, this feeling is all too familiar to me. This feeling…this “bubble” I am inside of, that keeps me from being a person of my fullest potential, this is what I call “The Social Barrier.”

I guess this isn’t just for people on the spectrum. I think this is pretty common for some people. Having the courage to socialize is a very brave thing for a person to do. And with all the anxiety, and depression floating around in our world, it just becomes harder to deal with.

I try to look people in the eye. I really do. But I am fully aware that half the time, I am looking at my feet. But I have certainly gotten better at it. What has been the key to doing this? Getting to know the people I love and then trying to get to know the people I don’t know. I guess I would say “you just HAVE TO TAKE THE RISK.” And it really does feel like a risk.

So many people just want to stay at home, read a book, play video games, not get out in the world and talk to people. The world can feel so harsh. The world can feel like it is not forgiving. But if you want to LIVE TO YOUR FULLEST POTENTIAL, and live a good life that you can die being happy with, you need to put yourself out there. You need to interact. You need to have fun.

I knew for a long time what it felt like to be alone. It is the worst feeling in the world. But now I have friends. Now I have people I can call every day that I spend time with and talk to. If you are interested in someone, ask them out to lunch sometime. The worst thing you can do IS NOT ASK. The worst thing they can say is no. And you just move on. Don’t cry about it; don’t feel disappointed. They just said no. And that is fine. But I have to admit, I don’t always feel that way. Sometimes when people say no, I get very sad and hurt. I don’t understand why they don’t like me or want to talk with me, but then I just make myself try again with different people.

There are billions of people on planet earth to meet. BILLIONS!!! Sometimes I stop and realize how many people I can meet and have fun with if I just try, if I just give myself a chance. I have to try. You got to try too. Take the step. Make the jump. You will feel better if you do. Take that risk.

And in the words of the Michael Jackson: “Make that change.”

***

My name is Austin. I am an artist. I am an art teacher. I am a gamer. I am a storyteller and a writer. I love my community, I love my friends and family, and I am on the Autism Spectrum. My favorite game to play with my friends is Magic the Gathering. My favorite video game to play is Spiral Knights. I am a Guild Master of my Spiral Knights Guild: Altosk. I am an avid Hearthstone player.My favorite food to eat is Mexican Food. Specifically Carne Asada Fries and California Burritos. I went to Art Center College of Design for college and graduated with a degree in Illustration.

Art work: Rosemary Stephens “Girl in a Foreign Land”

3 Comments

  • Another great post, Austin. I could relate to trying to break out of my “shy” bubble when talking to people. With a lot of practice, I’m much better at striking up conversations. Stick with it, Buddy, you are great and have so much to offer!

  • Dear Austin,

    There is more than one way to put yourself out there.

    Writing this post, to my opinion, has more impact than hours of physically being with friends.

    Our bubble is both a pain and a gift.

    Many people find it very easy to socialize, but find it very hard to be with themselves alone.
    Each of the two is important, and often the last is more important than the first.

    Being with ourselves buys us depth. Socializing gives us a way to express this depth.
    There are so many other ways. Art in all its forms is a great one. Math and science is another.

    The modern world we live in is often becoming more and more shallow, often violent.
    Many people lack hope and meaning not because they cannot interact with others – it is because they cannot interact with themselves.

    A person like you has a gift. Once you regard yourself as a teacher, you will find many students.
    Teaching art is your way to teach the internal world to others.

    Looking people in the eye is a great thing.
    Most people take it for granted, since it is so easy for them to do that.
    Looking in the eye is a direct soul to soul interaction.
    Ask any two NT persons to meditate for 10 minutes while looking deep at each other in the eye.
    Most two people you pick will fail to do that, unless they are in love.
    Most people look in the eye not because they learned to realize its depth –
    It is because they learned to avoid its depth.

    Think positive.

    You have a gift that many other lack.
    They truly want to learn from you.

    Love,

    David Goren.

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