Hardwired to Connect, or Triggered in Childhood?

“Humans are social creatures – we’re hardwired to connect. Even when we’re not actually connecting digitally, we’re in a constant state of heightened anticipation.”  ~Arianna Huffington – The Sleep Revolution~


By Peter B. Giblett

08/09/2017

It is true, but not all humans are naturally social creatures. For many, connecting with others is hard. Very much a learned skill rather than something that comes naturally. For this memoir, let me start where I need to start…

Mind Altering…

Hi, I am Peter, I am dyslexic. It is psychedelic and chaotic, but dyslexic brains work differently than most people’s. As many as one in ten humans have a mild form of dyslexia. The mild forms are normally resolved easily, early in childhood. Although I work with words every day of the week, I am still dyslexic.

My son had a severe form of dyslexia and attended a specialist school for dyslexic children in Lichfield, England. My mother was diagnosed by an expert as having Asperger’s Syndrome. This has been described as autism for higher functioning people, meaning sufferers have a higher IQ. These conditions (Asperger’s, Dyslexia in all its forms, and Autism) are related to each other and have one common side effect – sufferers don’t connect in the same way most humans do. Many live very isolated lives, being socially challenged, ill at ease with the outside world.

Dyslexic people have structural and functional differences with how their brains work. These differences do not affect intelligence. Most dyslexics have higher intelligence. My son was tested when he was at school and found to be in the 97th percentile, meaning that he was in the top 3% of intelligence of his age group. The problems of dyslexia relate to the processing of words (the sounds and the text) which are processed disjointedly for sufferers.

Memory

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One side effect I have found is that many memory improvement techniques do not work for me because of the differences in how dyslexic people store information in their brains. I find visualisation or hooks have no impact and do not improve memory. I have taken at least 6 different courses, and read countless books, during the last 20 years. I have found I either know something or I don’t, and those things I know I have a photographic memory for.

There is only one technique that works, the mind map. Yet this technique was not designed as a direct aid to memory, but rather, to aid idea development and design.

I have learned to connect. It does not come naturally as Arianna Huffington suggests it should. The key word here is “learned”. Connection has been a learned skill rather than being hardwired and must be re-learned and re-learned as time ticks by. Having never easily made friends, I have few people around me in my support system. I had to learn every one of the basic courtesies like saying “thank you” when people help. I could so easily have been one of those geeks who sat in the corner of the room not saying anything to anyone, doing my job quietly and effectively.

Country Lanes

This is all but for a woman I met on my first job. I was 20. She, much older, probably in her 40s at that time. She wanted a young man to help her with something. Being the youngest employee, I accompanied her in the red sports car she owned. We went charging off down those English country lanes, well over the speed limit, taking those curves as if it were the Parabolica bend at Monza Autodromo in Italy. Our task, collect the Christmas tree for the company’s lobby. My task, purely, to act as ballast for the return trip. Employees from the supplier tied it down to the car. We returned along those same roads, fully laden at top speed.

I don’t remember this lady’s name, but she helped me develop as a person, bringing me out of my shell, helping me talk to people, teaching those niceties I had never learned before. Because of her, I became part of the family at the company. I wish I could remember her name, but sadly that took the toll of time. By the time I left that company I knew the value of those little courtesies that most people take for granted but had to consciously think about them whenever I communicated with people.

peter1

Looking back on those conversations, I realise there are many things other people take for granted that I have never known how to.

Journey of Life

My wife used to chastise me on those occasions when we had guests because I did not offer them beverages. It was not a case of not caring for others but simply assuming they would speak up if they needed anything (the opposite of how many people had been brought up). I was never shy about telling people what I needed. She had to teach me that it was impolite not to offer beverages to people and that people expect to be asked.

These were many lessons of this type I had to learn on this journey of life. I can never take anything for granted.

You see what I mean about the brain functioning differently? There is no intention to be rude, but it can often seem that way. It is simply a case of the brain being wired differently. Knowing this, I have passed many of the lessons on to my son. His classic mistake was calling us from a mobile (or cellular) phone. The conversation was somewhat like:

“Hey Dad, can you help me?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Which road do I need to take to get to (he named the place)?”

My wife, being present, indicated to me that she wished to talk to him. However, as soon as I told him the route he needed to take, he ended the conversation (without a ‘thank you’ and before I could say another word), then immediately turned off the phone. Yes, I said turned off the phone. It did not run out of power, it was turned off.

… No Answer…

I dialed the phone number immediately, then again, another three or four times, but he didn’t answer. Later in the day, he told us that because he had the information he needed he simply pushed the “off” button on the phone, turning off the power. He was not thinking that other people may need to talk to him. Something most people consider as the reason for having the phone. Do you see what I mean about brains being wired differently?

The only reason he needed the phone on was when he needed to talk to others. Many dyslexics have been trapped in a cage for years, not a real jail, but a social cage, and, as a result, know the only person they can rely on is themselves. They block others out.

peter2

Today he doesn’t have a cell phone, probably the only person in his generation not to.

Neural Activity

Adam Waytz, Psychologist and Associate Professor of Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University agrees. “Aristotle’s famous aphorism (that humans are by nature social animals) needs to be retired.”” He goes on to say, “sociality is a dominant force that shapes thought, behavior, physiology, and neural activity.” He concludes that “enthusiasm over the social brain, social hormones, and social cognition must be tempered with evidence that being social is far from easy, automatic, or infinite.”” The reason, these processes rely on being triggered.

For most people, the triggering happens in early childhood when their parents (mainly their mothers) show them how to behave in each circumstance. My mother was skilled at manipulating people and bending them to do things for her. She had little interest in the social niceties. I never received guidance on these triggers at that time, giving me an awkward start to life. Yet I must thank those who helped me along the way (even if they do not see this). Today, I appreciate the value of being a social animal. I make mistakes along the way and must learn new triggers from others.


Monthly Contributor: Peter B. Giblett

peter

Peter B. Giblett is a freelance editor and writer with a background in business and technology management. He is also a non-practising lawyer. English born, now living in Canada. He’s an Alumni of City University (London) and University of West London. Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a novel he is currently editing. He runs his own blog at called GobbledeGoox, which provides thoughts on writing, blogging, words, and wordcraft.

Other Items on Two Drops by Peter B. Giblett

Peter B. Giblett writes his own blog called GoddledeGoox, where he discusses thoughts on blogging, writing, words, and word-craft, take a look. He is a freelance editor and writer.

The featured image is Psychedelic Chaos by NoOnexy, a CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay


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S.W. Biddulph

Scott Biddulph is a published writer, author, and poet from North Georgia. He began writing as a youngster and followed his lifelong dream of reaching people through the written word when he returned to The University of North Georgia in 2013 to finish earning his BA/English with a concentration on publication and creative writing. His publications include the following: an eBook, Apples of Gold: A collection of inspirational short stories and poems (Smashwords, 2010) and a paperback, Voices from the Heart, (Createspace, 2012). His poetry is published in Papers and Publications Undergraduate Research Journal. Vol 3 (2014) and the award-winning Chestatee Review (Spring, 2015), among other places (Check his LinkedIn profile for a full list of his publications). He is currently working on publishing poetry, creative non-fiction, academic essays, and his memoir. ******** Scott has also worked as an intern editor for the University of North Georgia Press. As a freelance editor, he has done the layout and design of several books and magazines. He is currently working with several authors on various publication projects in which he is either ghostwriting, editing manuscripts, or doing the layout and design of their books. ******** Finally, and most importantly, he is a father, grandfather, husband, and dedicated Harley Davidson rider. He and his family enjoy the beauty of the North Georgia Mountains where they live—especially their screened in back porch where they love to bird watch. ******** ~ "I love realism. I love writing about the raw, down-to-Earth, heartfelt realities of life. I love to write in a way that reaches into the human soul—to take the greatest pains and struggles in life, and make them a blessing to others. Fantasy is a wonderful, interesting thing—but real-life situations, feelings, fears, and dreams are an unexplored ocean of stories that need to be told." ~ ~Scott Biddulph~

15 comments

  1. Peter, thanks for your memoir. I love the transparency in your piece. As a child I had a very bad stutter which kept me from speaking. I attended speech classes all through junior high. I still stutter occasionally but only when flustered or very excited. So, I can relate to you!!!

    Like

  2. Very fascinating article that I could appreciate. Although I am not dyslexic, I was very isolated and overprotected as a child. My parents were self-involved and mentally unstable so even though I observed social graces, they didn’t always take. I was extremely shy and didn’t make friends easily and still don’t. My parents came from a culture where people are very social and they were always the center of attention (even my dad, who is not very social) and they always made me feel like my shyness and self-imposed isolation was a defect rather than just my personality. I totally agree that it is NOT a given that all humans are social animals and we need to respect all human beings, even the non-social butterflies.

    Tam May
    http://www.tammayauthor.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Peter – Thank you for writing this post. I learned quite a lot about you and about dyslexia. Being misinformed or ill-educated (probably the later), I understood dyslexia to impair ones ability to see letters in their correct order. I had no idea it carries social ramifications as well.
    As far as remembering the names of the people who helped you along the way – I have often heard it said, “They may forget a name, they may forget a fact, but they will never forget a kindness.” You have remembered the important thing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Getting letters in the correct order is a problem for dyslexics when writing. Personally I can never remember people’s names, but I know there is a cure. Another lady I worked with found out about this then every day, for a week, came up to me and said “Hello I am Sue King”. Of course I remember her name today.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Peter, I would have never guessed through your writing that you have a form of dyslexia. Your caliber of writing makes me think of you as a prolific writer. Your communication comes off very articulately in my opinion. Thank you for the memoir. John.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My form of dyslexia was mild. The one thing my parents installed in me was the necessity to use and explore the English language. It is those other niceties I missed out on. I never found out I was dyslexic till taking my son to this specialist school. It makes sense, because I could never finish a school exam. I was always half an answer short. I spend more time than most writers editing my work.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Peter, This is a powerful read. I wish everyone who works with kids would read it. I have been a reading specialist for 20 years. Dyslexia is a very real issue for so many of the students I work with and each student’s version of it is different. Often what works for one student will not work for another. I have a bag of tricks, but sometimes none of the ones I teach helps and we have to find something new to help them cope with this difficulty. And, you are right that many student with these kinds of learning differences need instruction in social skills as well. Fantastic piece…thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Michelle, I enjoyed writing this. It was triggered when reading those words by Arianna Huffington, because I have always had challenges connecting. Dyslexia, in my experience is not treated as seriously as it should be, especially in the education community. Yet dyslexics can live live normal lives with the right assistance.

      Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, there is a stigma about the term dyslexia. In England the term Specific Learning Disability (SPLD) is used. There are many associated problems, dysgraphia is a more severe form where a sufferer has problems with fine motor control, dysnumeracy (or dyscalculia) where the problems are associated more with numbers rather than words, where arithmetic is a problem. The are all linked to some form of brain system dysfunction.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi, Peter. Thank you for such an open, candid, and informative piece about autism, social interactions – learned, taught, and practiced, and how dyslexia influences your learning.

    One thing that I could relate to was your example of not offering beverages to your guests. When men come into my office, I’ve already let them in.

    I then return to my desk and they stand there in front of it. I often forget to say, “have a seat”, or “sit down”. Why? Because I already invited them in. I assumed they wanted to stand, and have to catch myself. Then some will say, “no, I’ll stand.”

    Confusing. I’m thinking of a sign that says, “If Marilyn answered your knock, and you’re in her office, sit or stand, it’s your choice.”

    Liked by 4 people

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