Read the article:

  1. Introduction
  2. Brain and context
  3. Other theories
  4. Examples
  5. Chaotic emotions
  6. Left and right
  7. The observing self
  8. Organising idea »
  9. References

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Caetextia and CFS

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Caetextia as an organising idea

The term Asperger’s syndrome was derived from the name of the doctor who first described its traits, and means nothing in itself, whereas the term caetextia represents the underlying condition. Because the name is innately descriptive, it points to more effective ways that we can work with and relate to people who have caetextia. Because they can’t read context and can’t, therefore, take certain necessary cognitive leaps for themselves, caetextic people can bene fit from ‘borrowing’ someone else’s brain to help them learn how to do what others can do instinctively. Someone has to explain the rules of behaviour to them, using clear, concrete, terms and train them in how to keep to those rules. As people with caetextia are very literal minded, metaphors, when used, must be extremely simple. (For instance, Ivan used the metaphor of a train switching between tracks to convey to the woman who wanted to become a Buddhist that she could choose to ‘switch’ to behaviour that would please her Catholic mother (ie go to Mass just during her brief visits). People with caetextia may have little or no facility with guided imagery and it works less effectively with them.

However, we have often found that teaching them breathing techniques to lower anxiety can help them a lot. Those vulnerable to outbursts of extreme anger have also found helpful the idea of identifying the anger as a wild animal that they need to let calm down (by taking time out and doing some aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging or other energetic activity).

Undoubtedly, many highly imaginative right brained people, who may be vulnerable to psychotic thinking, display caetextic tendencies that compromise their ability to connect to the ‘ordinary’ world. Anyone involved in psychotherapy soon comes across such people: emotionally intense, self-absorbed patients whose strong imaginations are not moderated by their left brain. They spend much of the time disconnected from reality, pay only lip-service to reason and are often eccentrically involved in ‘arts and crafts’. Despite showing undoubted signs of creativity, they might not be able to discriminate good work from bad and can take their work intensely seriously, even if it isn’t particularly good. It is important to recognise, however, that people suffering from psychotic illnesses, perhaps the majority, do not necessarily suffer from caetextia; their vulnerability arises from traumatic experiences and an imaginative mind. It is also important to recognise the developmental potential in creative people with caetextia. Some of them mature as they grow older, improve their ability to read emotional contexts, resolve their emotional problems and become more secure in themselves, whilst still retaining their creative faculty.

Caetextia is a significant disability yet, much of the time, manages to go unnoticed. This is because, when a person at the higher end of the autistic spectrum becomes familiar with an environment, and what is expected of them in it, they may become sufficiently competent and confident in that role, so the caetextia remains concealed. This is analogous to somebody with a poor sense of direction. When that person is in an environment that is familiar to them, their poor sense of direction does not reveal itself. It is only when they find themselves in unfamiliar territory that it becomes obvious that they cannot naturally find their way around it, whereas the brain of someone with a good sense of direction automatically maps it. For instance, in a large, unfamiliar hotel, when someone with a good sense of direction first makes their way to their room, their brain automatically not only records the route but, when they come out of their room, automatically relocates them in its mental map, so that they walk the right way back. But, if someone has a poor sense of direction, the brain will remember only the direction taken to the room. It hasn’t recorded an internal ‘map’ and can’t reorient position accordingly, so when the person leaves the room, they find themselves going in the wrong direction.

Of course, lacking a sense of direction is not a serious disability and can be compensated for easily, unlike inability to recognise context. Thus it is that many people with unrecognised caetextia end up seeking therapy because of difficulties with emotions such as anger, anxiety or depression, aroused by problems in new relationships, confusion about sexual identity, unmet sexual needs, obsessions, inability to hold down a job, managing money, etc. We suggest, therefore, that caetextia (context blindness) not only plays a role in autism and is the key deficit in high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome but degrees of it affect very many more individuals than might be thought of as suffering from an autistic spectrum disorder at all.

References »