I just came across this very insightful blog entry: Transforming the Obligatory into the Desirable: Autism & Shamanism (Perceptual Warfare 18) By jasunhorusly January 15, 2013 which is helping me solidify some of my thoughts on sensory intelligence.
It echoes some of the thoughts I expressed in a presentation I recently made at work: 2012 sabbatical findings: part 1.
I am glad to be able to finally find material that relates to my own understanding of sensory integration difference. I have not written in this blog for a while as life has taken its toll and demanded my full attention, but things have changed for my family. My son, who had been previously evaluated as autistic, has now been confirmed to be gifted, highly gifted in all areas of intelligence, interestingly enough except visually where he is considered “normal”. No wonder he is a highly sensitive person. As time passes, he has settled in his body and mind and is able to recognize some of his abilities.
I wish mainstream society culture would start to accept multiple forms of intelligence as a gift not a pathology. Why can’t we make the connection between genius and extra sensory abilities? As Nicholas Humphrey explained:
‘We believe that artistic savants have direct access to “lower” levels of neural information prior to it being integrated into the holistic picture, the ultimate label. All of us possess this same lower-level information, but we cannot normally access it’ (Snyder 1999,588). ”[i].
Why can’t this level of access also be recognize in scientist and other type of brilliant minds?
I am becoming increasingly convinced that highly sensitive people are a genetic, and spiritual, family. It is clear to me that there is a link between giftedness and sensitivities, at least in my family and the families that I know with gifted children.
This is where this text really hits home for me. I enjoy the way jasunhorusly turns the question around, what if you could become a “functioning autist” by dwelving in certain types of trances?
“Also this from “The shaman’s initiation,” by Joan Halifax. The subject is schizophrenia, but autism was a subset of the diagnosis of schizophrenia until 1971, and there remains a significant overlap between the perceptual modes: “[Silverman] characterized schizophrenia as a disorder where the individual withdraws from society and the outer world and becomes preoccupied by internal processes with a resulting disintegration of the personality. (…) .”
Here is the notion of positive disintegration that Dabrowski discussed as a normal patrt of a gifted individual’s journey towards self-realization. So this notion of the need to dwelve deep into the mind is present in other cultures as well.
I am also becoming increasingly convinced that functioning autism and adhd are the opposite ends of the same sensory spectrum. As I explained in the presentation I made, it is becoming clear to me that these labels correspond to hyper and hypo reactions to sensing the world and really are two ends of the same attention spectrum. On one hand, all individuals are overwhelmed by their sensory to the point of external reactions. In some cases, individuals are such pain from sensing the world that they must reduce, and eventually shut down their broad attention capacities to eliminate the pain (the autist end of the spectrum) while others are wired to reject or enact the energy of these overwhelming sensations by moving the body (the adhd end of the spectrum). I am so glad to find a text that talks about this narrowing of attention. As Siverman quotes by jasunhorusly explains as being part of the disintegration:
“ This is followed by a narrowing of attention, a withdrawal from the external world, and an increasing absorption in internal experiences, accompanied by an increasing difficulty in differentiating between reality and fantasy. (…). Silverman (ibid.) noted that those who have made it through the experience can manifest great mental acuity in which sensitivity, awareness, and creativity are definitely increased. He noted that when a crisis occurs in the life of a person from certain tribal cultures, it is socially as well as psychologically appropriate that the vocation of shamanism is considered as modus operandi for the resolution of the problem.”
These activities are not understood as pathologies:
“Western society views such psychological experiences from a pathological perspective, whereas primal peoples often find them acceptable within the context of the shamanic world view. Both schizophrenics in Western society and neophyte shamans can learn to use their altered perception to a good advantage in the process of cognitive reorganization. . . . . It is what anthropologist Victor Turner (1967) has called ‘transforming the obligatory into the desirable.’”
I find fascinating how science is beginning to correlate some of the cultural believes of more traditional societies. Jasunhorusly is not the only one to believe that
“If there is a link between the autistic perceptual mode and high affective empathy (and relatively low cognitive empathy), this might help to explain why autistics do not respond well to cultural indoctrination or conditioning: because, being highly empathic, they don’t subscribe to an “us and them” view of the world. To perceive autistically means to have highly amorphous boundaries between the self and the environment. One response to this amorphousness is to try and shut out the environment any way possible and withdraw into the “self”(i.e., the inner world). This is a common “symptom” of autism, and even the source of the term itself. It may even be that a less defined sense of self, or at least a less rigid identification with the self, is the primary component of the autistic perceptual mode.”
These processes are not random and seem to be really specific to highly sensitive introvert people. I recently came across an article from Stony Brook University which explains this scientifically. According to the article: Highly sensitive people less influenced by culture (http://talentdevelop.com/articlelive/articles/1042/1/Highly-sensitive-people-less-influenced-by-culture/Page1.html)
One of the study conducted by Dr. Arthur Aron’s analyzed how a basic temperament/personality trait, called sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), interacts with culture and neural responses.
The major finding of that study was that the frontal-parietal brain region (see Figure in original news release) known to be engaged during attention-demanding tasks was more activated for East Asians when making judgments ignoring context, not their specialty, but was more activated for Americans when making judgments when they had to take context into account, not their specialty.
They found SPS as a trait yielded a very clear pattern of results:
“Culture did not influence the degree of activation of highly sensitive individuals’ brains when doing the two kinds of perceptual tasks used in the previous study. “It was as if, for them, culture was not an influence on their perception.”
Highly Sensitive people or sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) are highly empathic…. And high empathy does seem to by-pass cultural bias…. Wow… No wonder we pathologies these forms of perceptions…. We can’t mold them via social acculturation. Empathy if understood as another ”sense” becomes the only one that is not molded by culture.
[i]From Shamanism and Cognitive Evolution [Commentary on Michael Winkelman], by Nicholas Humphrey, page 91: http://www.public.asu.edu/~atmxw/shamanismcognitive2.pdf