Last time, I looked at a couple of small examples of how the future actions of aspies are often dictated by their emotional baggage and suggested that the long term memory and inability to let go could be root causes.
This time, I want to look at how that emotional baggage transforms itself into rules and begins to take over our lives.
The Leap from Memory to Rule
If a piece of baggage affects you enough to be constantly in your memory, it soon begins to transform itself into aspie rules. Sometimes these rules are good but sometimes they're too restrictive.
About 16 years ago, when I was only starting my second IT job, I made the mistake of forgetting to back up some address book data when wiping an employee's laptop computer. I did back up everything else but the address book data was in an unexpected location.
Although the employee in question wasn't particularly senior, he complained to management and I was reprimanded. What he didn't realise was that I would stress over that particular set of actions for the remainder of my six years in that company.
I stressed so much that it quickly became a rule to back this data up first. Then the rule expanded to an active "hunt" for data on laptops and finally to network backup options which border on paranoia. I've never since lost data when wiping a laptop - even when the laptop is otherwise inoperable.
My backup before wipe procedures have resulted in increased time being spent on the task and increased storage space being used. I back everything up. Favourites, Icons, Wallpapers... the lot. I'm often told that I don't need to backup internet bookmarks but I do it all the same. It's data and my rule says that it can't be lost.
I once had to leave the room when a junior employee repeated my original mistake. I simply couldn't handle the stress of seeing the mistake repeated even though on that occasion, no complaints were made. Sure, my data safety rule is good but it has its downside too.
Every Waking Moment
Over time, stronger rules and baggage start to pervade your every thought.
My father used to have a saying "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well". He wasn't a man who accepted imperfection in work. He would tell me that if I wasn't prepared to do something perfectly or correctly, then I shouldn't do it at all.
If I did things wrong, he would take over and redo them.
As a direct result of my father's mantra I've had a drive in my life to do things perfectly - or not at all.
Failure and even minor imperfections trip massive and sometimes near suicidal guilt trips.
I was nearly suicidal when I had my first car crash as a teenager because my nearest rival, my elder sister had - and still has, a near perfect record. Nowadays, I don't drive much ostensibly because I prefer being a passenger but really because I don't feel that I do it well enough (ie:perfectly), so it's not worth doing at all if I can avoid it.
I was even closer to suicide when my marriage looked like breaking up. Thankfully my wife and I managed to find a solution as I have no idea how much worse things might have become if I'd failed in that situation.
Every error I make, from programming glitches at work down to typos on the blog eats away at my self worth. Even worse, some of my rules prevent my errors from being corrected. I have to get it right the first time and many of my errors are doomed to remain as corporate records to haunt me.
Then there's cowardice; I rather doubt that I'd have much fear in a "self-sacrifice for the greater good" situation but show me a tough gardening job and you'll see the real coward emerge. I'm terrified of failure you see. If I can't do a perfect job, then I'm too terrified of failure to do anything.
I'm not, for a minute blaming my father for this aspect of my condition. I've internalised things from both my parents, my friends, my teachers and my experiences. After all, it's natural that we all internalise things that are said and done in our environment. I like trying to be perfect despite the downside that comes with it - it's tough but it's a good thing.
As a parent though, I now have to be painfully aware that any messages that I repeat constantly are likely to be internalised by my own children to become the emotional baggage that defines them in their adulthood. It's one of the main reasons why I've mostly abandoned any forms of discipline which involve aggressive tendencies such as shouting or spanking.