Today I needed to rescue a student who was stuck in a tree! During playtime I was sought out by a kid to come rescue his friend. I duly offered a hand and asked another adult to stand close by in case the student fell forward when jumping down from the tree.
It was hardly a rescue – he held my hand and launched himself downwards, knees bent to absorb his impact he gave the appearance of a gymnast and not a scared pre-teen. It occurred to me as I was counting traffic light changes on the way home (4 at first lights, then 2, 3 and 2) that the student gained the confidence to jump because I told him he could and I assumed he would be able to. I was in political terms ‘assuming competency’. Luckily for me the reasons behind my assumption were not called into question as they were all about me and how hard it would be to work out what to do if he couldn’t jump or climb down!
A number of adults I know are currently deciding whether to have faith in their abilities and jump out of the places they feel stuck or be paralysed with fear and act as if they are stuck up the proverbial tree. Work choices, living situations and relationships – these can all be wonderful or extremely frightening.
I grew up with constant change and I do not have what is perceived to be a ‘typical autistic spectrum’ reaction to choices and change, unless of course the choices are not in my control…. But that is another blog post. What I want to discuss is how to look around and work out how to get out of the tree (situation) you are stuck in or to make yourself more comfortable so you are content to sit in the tree.
The interesting thing about the playtime rescue was that there were three other children happily playing further up the tree, none of whom wanted to get out anytime soon!
One of the great things about being on the autism spectrum is my aspie logic. So when I have a problem – for example being situation that I feel trapped in, I can logically make pros and cons lists. As a friend said today, our focus on what we want varies from person to person and these long term goals and values will influence our decision making. Even when looking at situations logically, I factor in emotions and values. For example, when talking with Nina, I asked why she did and didn’t want to move workplaces and towns. Nina said that all her other friends had pointed out the financial benefits of moving. I asked again about the cons and these were all very emotive things, feelings, a sense of opportunities etc.
Logically if money was the most important thing to Nina she should take the new job. If however she could manage financially without taking the new job, she should not move, because all the personal values are more satisfied by staying put.
When my partner said last year, “let’s move to Aussie,” I did my quick pros and cons (better weather, no earthquake damaged home, no stressed beyond belief colleagues, having to find new jobs and make new friends) and said, “sure, why not.” The decision took 5 minutes and then I jumped out of my tree and across the Tasman Sea.
I am always comfortable leaving situations that are unpleasant or make me feel trapped. I am amazed by colleagues over the years who go to work day after day who hate their jobs, when all they have to do to solve the problem is apply for jobs they would prefer until they get a new job. I am equally amazed by people who buys things on credit without having the money to pay for them as one of my core values is an abhorrence of debt, although to be honest terror is possibly more accurate. Yet, I think that for some people possessions are what they value most highly.
People should never persist in being trapped or stuck up trees. Asking friends or family for ideas to get down or find a new way to be where you are at is a good starting point, as the student sitting happily in a fork of the tree showed. I am not advocating jumping without a safety net into a patch of cacti – just being open to the logic of the situation. What could make it bearable or even enjoyable? If nothing or only crazy and unrealistic things then what are the other options? How can you go about making one of those a reality?
Life seems to have stressors at a large number of points but with a helping hand they can be dealt with much more easily.IMG_0527.JPG