Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Felicity added that the problem was not really just as simple as that. There were at least four other complications. First, the unusually high sex drive, brought about by the addition of the ‘x’ drive to the sex drive, would be reduced, so the person would tend to feel less chronically sexy. The main effects of that would be that he might think about masturbating a bit less often. And also, because the sex drive would be lower, the sexual experience would probably be a little less ‘exciting’ in a tense way, and a little more ‘enjoyable’ in an intense way. At least that was what some people reported after treatment.

Second, the person might feel heterosexual, but his penis might not respond, at least at first, as though he were a heterosexual person. This is because he has had a great deal of learning experience (with others and in masturbation with associated fantasies) of rewarding his penis for becoming and staying erect in response to male sex objects. After all, ejaculation is a mighty strong and pleasant reward, and it had occurred many, many times following becoming excited and erect with males and to fantasies of males. If it turned out he wanted to be completely heterosexual, it might be necessary to do some things to help his penis to learn to become erect in response to females. This could be accomplished on his own by ensuring that, during masturbation, he was always fantasizing about women for some time before he ejaculated. Alternatively, it could be accomplished in the phallometric lab by training erectile responses to female images, using a reward administered for each progressive increase in erectile response while he was looking at pictures of females.

Third, he was used to talking to men and to making sexy and provocative comments to men as part of their preparations for sexual activity. He knew that was easy to do. Either the man would react with anger or shock and turn him down, or the man would go along with the preparations for an agreement to fool around. But women would pose quite a different problem. They are strange people who not only don’t understand that sex is sex and that you ask directly for it, but who even seem to become offended if the matter is broached too directly. It’s almost as though they don’t want sex. At least that’s how some men perceive women. If he decided he wanted to be heterosexual, he would have to learn a whole new set of skills including a new kind of assertiveness, a set of ways in which to give expression to his feelings, and even a greater sense of freedom in experiencing and expressing the softer, perhaps ‘unmanly’, emotions.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, he would have to learn how to be much less ‘in his own head’ or introverted. Felicity felt that he had to go into a lot more detail here. He pointed out that Englebert had always been somewhat more introverted and in his own head than extroverted and action-oriented. Introversion is a result of little more than the mediation of experience with words. Of course, Englebert wanted to know what that meant. Felicity gave an example. A mother, seeing a child walking toward a hot stove has three choices of response. She can say nothing and let the child get burned. If she does that, the child’s flesh will soon heal, and the child will have learned a valuable lesson by direct contact with part of his world. She can ‘flip out’ and start screaming out warnings. The child will think something is wrong with his mother and, if anything, he may end up a bit paranoid. Or the mother can tell the child: “Don’t touch the stove; it’s hot and you’ll get burned.” If the child then does not touch the stove he will have learned to be a bit more introverted. He will have learned to mediate his experience with words: that box thing over there which he hasn’t touched yet is a ‘stove’. And he will have learned to reason by association between ideas: “It’s hot. Does she mean like the hot water tap is hot? I’ll get burned. Does she mean like a sun burn?” Words and ideas mediate his experience.

But words have no existence except as sounds made or as ideas or thoughts in the head. Unlike the world around us, they have to be kept alive by being repeated. This is done in thought, or by talking to ourselves. But to think or to talk to yourself, you have to pay attention to the thoughts going on within. This turns the attention inward, and that is called ‘introversion’.

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