Background to my interest in teaching children with autism


                                                                        Chapter 4

                                                Anger — Energy Intolerance

Introduction — Anti-Social Pro-Sociability

If ‘hatred’ is the extreme experience of ‘closeness intolerant’ hostile people, then ‘rage’ is the extreme experience of ‘energy intolerant’ angry people. However, there is an additional event which occurs in the ‘energy intolerant’ to convert their anger to rage — an event which is described in a later chapter. Meanwhile let’s look at the main source of this kind of experience of anger.

Picture a test tube — don’t worry, this test tube is a little different from the last one. Into the bottom of this test tube, pour all of the body’s energies. By energy is meant here the sum total of what the body does. The body is little more than an energy-producing machine. Each type of cell produces its own kind of energy for the body to use. Bone cells are rigid and produce energy in the form of resistance against compression or bending — to allow the bone-supported parts to bear weight. Muscle cells produce contractile energy — pulling across joints to allow movement of body parts. Nerve cells produce electrical energy — to allow transmission of messages from place to place in the body, allowing the executive functions of the brain to coordinate what the rest of the body does. Skin provides tensile energy to stretch as may be needed. Some organs and glands are chemical factories to produce chemicals which release their energy in bodily chemical interactions. Everything in the body produces energy.

Having said that, the most visible kind of energy produced by the body is that of the muscle cells which create motion. It is this energy which probably best represents what was intended when you were asked to imagine pouring all of the body’s energy into this test tube, to measure its amount up the side of the tube.

Across the years of growing up, a funny thing happens. The child feels energetic, exuberant and boisterous. In a big deep voice, the father orders: ‘Don’t you raise your voice to me!’ Something wrong with using energy in forceful activity? And a waxy cork of fear becomes attached to the energy, covering it with a film ‘to keep it under control’. The child comes in from playing in his/her Sunday best on a rainy, muddy Sunday. The mother looks horrified and screams at him/her. He/she doesn’t know anything about laundry or about the mother’s concern with cleanliness. He/she was just having a good time and being energetic. Something wrong with energy? And another waxy cork of fear is laid over his/her energy ‘to keep it down’. He/she runs energetically through the house, and the mother anxiously warns about bumping into the furniture and the precious ornaments. He/she doesn’t know the value of such things?! Is there something wrong with energy? And another waxy cork is installed to foster carefulness, He/she is energetic and restless in school, and the teacher thunders: ‘Sit still and pay attention!’ Something wrong with energy? And another wax cork is implanted over energy. He/she is wrestling with a little friend from down the block and the mother, who is worried what her neighbours will say if their child is hurt, stops them with anxious alarm. Something wrong with energy? And another cork of fear is learned to be associated with or to inhibit energy.          As the child grows up, these corks of fear, learned to impede the use of energy, build up in the test tube. Now in adulthood, or much earlier, if the energy is stimulated a strange transformation has taken place. If the person is aware of the ‘energy’ part of the fear-increased arousal potential, the experience he/she has is one of ‘anger’ — anger is just energy called by a bad name because of the bitter taste of fear. If the person is aware of the ‘fear’ part of the feeling in the test tube, the experience is one of ‘anxiety’ or ‘uptightness’. If the person notices the ‘corking’ effect of the fear over the energy below it, what is experienced is the effort at ‘self-control’, to hold back or to try to ‘be good’.

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