Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

The thing that is common to all of these people was the heightened level of anxiety they were experiencing. Anxiety is a learned drive and, like all drives, it adds drive intensity to any other drive or response with which it becomes conditionally associated or habitually connected. So it increases sex drive if anxiety becomes connected to it. But what would connect these different forms and sources of anxiety to the sexual drive?

In Deryk’s case it was probably the physical proximity to the genitals of the evoked anxious tension. Tension in the genital region can increase sexual excitement and thus establish the association in the brain between the tense arousal and sexuality.   In the cases of Chester and Chuck it is possible that the electrical stimulation from the epileptiform ‘short-circuiting’ affected not only the centres for the perception of visual angle (resulting in the DDT performances) and the autonomic nervous system roots (to create anxiety), but perhaps also the sex drive centre (and perhaps also the reinforcement centre). The concurrent activation of some of these centres might establish a connection between autonomic anxiety and the sexual drive, or the short-circuiting may merely have activated strong sexual drive.

The sequence of events in Bart’s situation was complicated. It probably involved two pairs of associations, with his neighbour as the common element in the pairs. On the one hand, there was an obvious association between the ‘helpful’ neighbour and his son (the first victim). On the other hand, there would have been a traumatically-conditioned association formed in his mind between arousal of traumatic anxiety from the traffic accident and its most immediately associated stimuli when Bart was looking at the helpful neighbour ‘sensuously’ rolling the retrieved cigarette between his fingers. The sensuousness in the immediate stimulus may have transformed the traumatic anxiety to sex drive. But Felicity was never able to figure out the connections involved in Benny’s life between the traumatically-conditioned anxiety and the sexual drive.             Perhaps all these possible habit-related connections did in fact take place. And perhaps sexual drive was increased by anxiety having become associated with it. But what is the relevance of all this to homosexuality? The information bearing on this question comes from a different source — research by two of the leading sexologists in the field of variant sexual object choices, Freund (not Freud) and Barlow. Although the conclusions they drew from their data led them in almost diametrically opposite directions, these two researchers adduced the same kind of information. It is likely that they might have been led in the same direction by their data if either one had also considered some other known facts. The other known facts need to be mentioned first.

First, all drives oscillate in a wave-like fashion. At times we are hungry or sleepy or need air, and at times we are not or do not.  Drives go up and down over time.

Second, drives cumulate with each other, so that if we are tired and hungry we are apt to feel both the fatigue and the hunger as stronger or more poignant than the amount that each alone would warrant. That is, drives add together if more than one are high at the same time.

Third, if we were to plot on a graph the relationship between drive strength or intensity (on the horizontal axis) and ‘turn-on’ or felt excitement (on the vertical axis), we might be surprised by what we would find. Of course, with low drive there is a low level of subjective ‘turn-on’, interest or excitement. As drive increases, turn-on or excitement increases — at first. However, after a certain intensity of drive, if drive increases still farther, turn-on or arousal flattens off. And then, if drive is increased farther still, turn-on actually declines (turns off). For example, if you had a high level of sex drive, but you were also very sleepy and very hungry, the cumulation of these three drives together would result in such a high level of drive that you would feel neither sexy nor sleepy nor hungry — you would feel nothing much at all, or just ‘blah’. The graph between drive and felt turn-on is called the ‘inverted U’ relationship between drive and excitation. This much is basic Introductory Psychology and it has been known for many, many years.

Fourth, we come to a bit of speculation. It is Felicity’s belief, with emphasis on belief, that each one of the ‘partial sexual impulses’ (kissing, being kissed, hugging, being hugged, looking, being looked at, touching, being touched, etc.) is more easily or more fully gratified heterosexually than homosexually for both genders. Felicity believes that’s a given for all people. Now, if that were true, and if, throughout the course of growing up, everybody had free and uncomplicated sexual experience (the idyllic notion of ‘free love on the beaches’), then, due to the slight advantage afforded by each of the ‘partial sexual impulses’ in heterosexual experience, in the long run everybody would end up being heterosexual — quite apart from relationship complications. That is, for example for males, over time the female would become the high drive, preferred sex object. The male would also be a sex object, but associated with low sex drive and low turn-on.

If this picture is correct, then, on the ‘inverted U’ graph for males, the female as a sex object would be at the high point on the curve (i.e., moderately high drive, high turn-on), and the male as a sex object would be down near the beginning of the curve (i.e., low drive, low turn-on). If you find the above hard to follow, why not draw a picture of an upside down U graph for yourself, put marks to show the male and female as sex objects on the graph as suggested, and look at it.

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