Background to my interest in teaching children with autism


But let’s extend this picture a bit more. Suppose the person gets the idea, either by him/her self or through training, that ‘anger’ is the worst kind of feeling — after all, it may lead to violence and do harm to others. If this happens, he/she is likely to add his/her own additional ‘cork’ of ‘intellectual’ or ‘philosophical’ or ‘reasonable’ control on top of the existing cork. This part of the ‘cork’ is felt as ‘guilt’ or the fear of doing harm. Certainly, this should increase the sense of ‘having to be in control’ — the corking effect. It may even add enough to the ‘fear’ part to convert the uptight anxiety to ‘panic’ or ‘terror’. But it does much more. It also increases the intensity or amount of the feeling measured up the side of the test tube, so that if the person’s experience is of the ‘energy’ part, the feeling may become one of ‘rage’ or even violence. The majority of rage, and the violence it may evoke, comes about as a result of fear. Most murders are performed by Mr/Ms Milk-toasts (including drug abusers, fearful of postponing an urgent drug need) who fear their own anger, and who have held it in until a ‘final straw’ triggers an outburst, maybe eventuating in the harm they most fear.

Again, it might be instructive to change our perspective on the test tube, and look from above down its throat. What we will see, in the distance, is a small circle of ‘energy’. Around it will be radiating lines of the cork of fear — like spines, whose job it is to keep away possible stimulation of the core of ‘energy’. Around the top is a larger (closer) circle representing the top of the waxy cork — whose function it is to avoid, control or defend against use of the feared ‘energy’.

What kinds of ‘defenses’ could be used to inhibit or block the use of energy? Of course, the general type of ‘defence’ is the effort to ‘control’. But control can be effected in several ways. One way is to ‘be reasonable’ — ‘let’s not get excited; let’s talk this out; let’s be reasonable about this thing’. Another way is to maintain fearful and vigilant ‘caution’ or ‘care’ — for example, not to hurt anybody’s feelings by saying the wrong thing, according to whatever rules of conduct the person has learned. This last effort at cautious control is the familiar approach which advocates taking ‘precautions’ to prevent lawlessness (the externalized or projected aspect of the fear of energy or anger) in the community — for example, to inhibit crime in the service of keeping the peace. Another way is to be helpful to others, or to get into sports — both use up energy in ‘safe’ ways. Another way is to become depressed (the extreme result of energy or anger inhibition) — how can you get angry if you are just too tired or exhausted, if your mood is too low to allow you to get going, and if your energy level is depleted? In fact, most depression is a way of preventing or defending oneself from becoming angry.

The ‘reasonable’ or other ‘corking’ defenses used to hold energy down in the ‘energy test tube’ involve the exercise of control, as well as adding to the quantity of energy feeling and fostering the conversion of energy to anger. Control works quite literally as a ‘cork’ to ‘bottle up’ the energy called anger.

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