I.

Two things hit close to home recently. One was a quotation from Grady Towers' essay "The Outsiders":

The tragedy is that none of the super high IQ societies created thus far have been able to meet those needs, and the reason for this is simple. None of these groups is willing to acknowledge or come to terms with the fact that much of their membership belong to the psychological walking wounded.

I first ran across The Outsiders several years ago. That phrase, "the psychological walking wounded" has stuck with me ever since. It's just too poignantly accurate a description of my sociomental life to forget.

The second is from Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade:

If you have social anxiety, which I am told that some do have, you’re always worried that your secret thoughts will be made known to others by some betrayal of your own traitorous mouth.

To which I thought "yes, a thousand times, yes." To my mind, any minor thought crossing through my head is in immediate and serious danger of being broadcast to everyone nearby. This feeling manifests on two levels. On the first level, I somehow alieve that people can accurately guess, and know they can accurately guess, exactly what I'm thinking (because everything in the world is about sex, this crippling fear mostly manifests when speaking to attractive women). On reflection I believe this is absurd, but the alief sticks.

On the second level: I have mild Tourette's, which involves muscular and vocal tics. One of my vocal tics involves chunks of whatever's currently in my phonological loop involuntarily coming out of my mouth. This makes the risk of thought-broadcasting much harder to dismiss as absurd; it is a thing that can and does happen to me, albeit usually in small enough chunks that I can cover it up.

The feeling this invokes is best described with an example. I write stories, often fairly dark ones. Sometimes I'm writing in my head. Perhaps a piece of one scene involves a character saying to another "I want you to die."

This is not something I want coming out of my mouth, unexplained, when talking to anyone I care about! But sometimes I'll be composing something in my head among company, and be struck by the fear that if I don't keep a very tight grip on myself and ensure that all my actions and speech are deliberate, it just might.

This is one of the many reasons I find company stressful. Deliberate self-control is not something I want to be exercising every minute, even if I am enjoying myself. I need to be able to check out and not feel like I'm inviting a social catastrophe.

II.

There's a hilarious series of shorts I watched recently called "Inside the Ass-Whooping," which chronicles epic beatdowns from cartoons and anime. They do a little stinger at the end of each episode; for example, the soldier at the end of this one looking up at the Hulk just before an imminent Hulking, with the voiceover: "at this moment, {whoever} realized...he'd just fucked up."

I figure this is how normal people view the social faux-pas. "Oops, I just fucked up. Better apologize so we can move on, and try not to do that again."

Now imagine that the guy looking up at the Hulk does not, in fact, realize that he's just fucked up. As far as he knows he's just standing on the corner, minding his own business, and then a big green guy kicks him through a tree.

The important bit here is that because he doesn't realize he's just fucked up, the "better try not to do that again" part never happens. This is what it feels like to be an Aspie: You say "hello", and get kicked through a palm tree for your trouble. You don't understand what you did to prompt it, so you do it again, and get kicked through an oak tree this time. You still don't understand, so you ask the kicker why they are kicking you so that you can stop giving them cause to. The response is new and different: You get kicked through a redwood instead.

Obviously these aren't literal kicks. In my experience, others just suddenly don't want anything to do with me -- an aversion so powerful that "what did I do?" also goes unanswered. This will not actually kill me but isn't exactly pleasant either.

I have, I think, figured out why "asking why they are kicking you" doesn't work. I think it's because by the time you get to that point, you've alienated someone sufficiently that they just want you to go away, and there is a fear that giving you the slightest inch will result in you Not Going Away. This, like the thought-broadcasting thing, is not a hypothetical; it's something that has actually happened to me, repeatedly, and has cost me both new connections and ancient friends. In most cases I still don't know why -- or how to keep it from happening again. This leads to learned helplessness, because that is just what brains do when confronted with the intersection of punishment and chaotic inversion.

III.

Now put parts 1 and 2 together. I have one defect that (appears to) make social faux-pases highly likely, another that leaves me unable to recognize them when they happen, and a societal context that forbids feedback blunt enough to be recognized.

Is it really any surprise that anxiety bordering on paranoia results?