“‘blindness” revisited

The original post must have been among the ones lost to the Blog-Eating Beast a few years ago, because it isn’t here now… The topic has become relevant again, however, because a few of the bloggers I follow have been commenting (with far more calm and coherence than I would, if I tried to tackle the topic) on the book To Siri, With Love, and it seems that one of the biggest problems with that book as a whole is that the author has accepted “Theory of Mind” as fact, when it’s actually nothing of the sort.


Once upon a time, I used the word headblind in a post, and someone commented, ‘You mean mindblind.’ The commenter went on to explain (in case I didn’t know, because of course I didn’t know — I must be mindblind myself, since I used the wrong word *rolls eyes*) that this word means the inability to recognize that other people have their own thoughts and feelings. ‘People with autism are mindblind,’ said the commenter.

(If you want to read about why “Theory of Mind,” the idea that autistic people cannot recognize emotions in others or even realize other people have feelings/thoughts of their own, is flat-out wrong, here are a few links:

“Without #TheoryOfMind, #ToSiriWithLove wouldn’t be the dumpster fire it is”

“Debunking the Theory of Mind”

“Clinically Significant Disturbance: On Theorists Who Theorize Theory of Mind”

“Theory of Mind, My Ass”

“Interaction Takes Two: Typical adults exhibit mind-blindness towards those with autism spectrum disorder”

A big thanks to blogger Aspie Under Your Radar for sharing the links.)

The relevant part of the lost post had to do with psionics, by the way, which makes the insistence that I’m mindblind kinda funny, if you find subtle yet over-the-top irony amusing.

I won’t say that mindblindness or at least the appearance of same isn’t ever real, because I’ve seen it in several people. The thing is, those people were not autistic. Mindblindness is more likely a trait of narcissism, which is something else entirely. (Yes, I’m well aware that some of Teh Expertz say autism is basically just Narcissism Lite, that having autism means you think you’re better than everyone else and that’s why you don’t make eye contact or have any interest in celebrity gossip. At least two of Teh Expertz have told me to my face that I have an IQ below 60, too, so maybe they don’t know as much as they think they do… although we can’t say that, because they’ve already decided that we don’t know what we’re saying, that we just echo words we hear someone else speak without comprehending the meaning.)

Headblind (I have no idea if this word is in common use anywhere — I picked it up from someone else more than two decades ago) simply means not a telepath, empath, precog, clairvoyant, etc. Most people are headblind, and if they’re not, they’re most likely latent empaths (of the non “garden variety” — most people, including autistics, have garden-variety empathy, which is the ability to look at or listen to another person and have some idea of what they’re feeling and to care about those feelings). Many people, including some autistics, even feel what that other person is feeling. Then there’s the psionic version, which means you don’t need to see or hear that person in order to feel what they’re feeling; you may not even know someone is there until you “hear” their emotions.

I‘m not headblind.

I’m not mindblind, either.

I do have a hypothesis (yes, hypothesis, not mere conjecture) about one of the things that could lead to “normal” people thinking autistics can’t understand that other people have feelings, too. Y’see, everyone lies with their words at one time or another. Most people will sometimes lie with their voice inflections and facial expressions and body language, too. (We admire people who do this professionally for the purpose of entertaining us; we call such people actors.) Very few people, however, lie with their surface emotions, if only because it never even occurs to them to do it. After all, it’s not as if anyone can detect or even guess at those emotions, as long as the words and the voice and the face and the body are all telling a convincing lie… (Yeah, that last bit was sarcasm; it’s how I deal with overwhelmingly stupid concepts. Better than throwing things, right?)

Except some of us do detect those emotions. And when they don’t tell the same story as all the rest, we may become confused, or we may (rightly) assume that the thing that can’t lie is the thing that’s telling the truth, so we respond to the emotions instead of to the face, and then some “expert” uses this against us to “prove” that we can’t even understand that other people have emotions…

Imagine you’re colorblind and cannot perceive the difference between green and red. You show a photograph to someone who isn’t colorblind. They see things about the photo that you do not see. Does this mean they’re the one who can’t see colors? Does it mean they can’t see at all? Does it mean they are incapable of realizing that colors even exist?

It’s kinda like that, except colorblindness is recognized as a real thing, and no one wants to “cure” people who see in the full visible spectrum. No one says seeing in the full visible spectrum is a sign of severe mental illness because red and green are the same color, so if they “look different” to you, you’re delusional.

(See, I can use a metaphor for this that isn’t about sound. I still like the sound-based one better, though: Therapist telling me I’m a Very Bad Person for being incapable of recognizing that other people have feelings is like if I flinched at every loud noise and someone then told me I’m a Very Bad Person for being deaf. I didn’t make eye contact because I didn’t want to feel what Therapist was feeling while he sat there hating me, since that would interfere with me trying to get treatment for my PTSD, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, Therapist also shouted at me, his face less than twelve inches from mine, that I’m a liar for saying I was never in the military. As we — my twin and I — say when we’re in a serious-joking mood, “We have no military record of which we are aware.” Therapist was apparently of the opinion that no one can have PTSD without having been in combat during military service, which just proves that Therapist was not qualified to be a therapist. )

Personally, I think it’s a possible sign of mild mindblindness to assume –or insist –that another person means something other than what they said just because you aren’t familiar with the word they used. ‘You mean mindblind, not headblind.’ Um… No. I mean headblind. And I did give a definition/explanation of that word in the blog post on which these comments were made. Even when I tried to clarify further, I was told, ‘No, you mean mindblind, and if you weren’t mindblind yourself, you’d know that it is really the word you mean…’ But yeah, I’m the one who can’t recognize that other people have thoughts and that those thoughts are not always exactly like mine. *rolls eyes* If irony actually were flammable, I could heat my house for this entire winter with that bit right there.

(This is what happens when I lose patience with stupidity: I say things that, under normal circumstances, I know better than to say out loud. “Don’t scare the normals” combined with “Don’t poke the bear.” Well, the metaphorical bear and its gopher minion can kiss my ass.)



About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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