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Seeing The Election Like A Book: How Asperger Syndrome Gives Me A Different View Of The General Election

14/05/2017 15:17 BST | Updated 15/05/2017 09:23 BST
Karlos Wayne via Getty Images

It's well known that AS (Asperger Syndrome) can mean you don't see the world the same way neurotypicals do. This article was actually inspired by a journalist's remark, jokingly wondering how I wouldn't get bored keeping up my blog series The Election Diaries (tracking the 2017 election day-by-day.) I suppose, to anyone else, it might be something you'd get sick of pretty quickly. But to an AS mind, it wouldn't - especially not one who interprets the world through stories, like me.

People still aren't entirely sure what's behind the "special interests" aspect of AS - heck, they're still not sure what's behind AS itself. But everyone I've met with it seems to have their own ideas of what motivates their interests, so maybe it's like everyone getting a different radio frequency.

But my current interest in politics probably comes partly from my interest in stories. Watching a General Election is like watching a narrative or a TV series-there's a beginning, an arc throughout, and a conclusion. And dramas along the way.

As a kid with AS, who suffered from limited empathy and theory of mind as a result, stories were always how I understood the world. I learnt empathy through fictional characters, through taking dilemmas I found in stories and applying them to my real life. (This created some problems when I went through the customary Enid Blyton phase. Most people don't describe things as "spiffing.")

So looking at the world through the prism of politics is a similar experience. It's like watching a cast of characters act out a drama, towards an inevitable ending, following the rise and fall of a dramatic arc. For me, it's an intriguing experience to look at the twists and turns along the way.

Ever since I was young, I've written a near-daily diary, chronicling my life almost as if it's a novel. I'm a writer: writing and narratives are how I make sense of the world. And that's even more relevant for me - AS means I have more problems making sense of the world than most people. Even now, when just going through daily life, I find myself narrating the world in my head, noting how I'd write conversations I'm having out as dialogue.

Elections provide a chance to see different points of view, clashed together. One key feature of AS is an inability to see others' points of view - problems with looking through someone else's eyes. It's another reason fiction's so helpful to me. It might be why I always loved watching PMQs and debates - to see two differing points of view, and the reasons set out for them, is helpful for me. It's clear - which is what someone with AS needs. The tactless honesty that can be an AS symptom, the black-and-white thinking and taking things literally can also be a way of cutting through the rhetoric - if someone's going back on something and there isn't a very good reason, they lied. If someone said they'd like to do something, but they don't do it, that's not lying because they only said they'd like to. It also provides an opportunity to see things in shades of grey (something that can be difficult for Aspies), to learn that there isn't only one right answer.

I was always an argumentative child. I've always liked the arc of an argument. But also, as someone who struggles to understand emotions, I can be oddly fascinated by other people's. It's an interesting aspect of being insulted or trolled on Twitter. I can find the emotions of the people writing to me amusing - sometimes because I don't understand them, sometimes because I do. Not having a natural understanding of emotions means I've always had to work harder to work out what people mean, which now serves me better because I can read between the lines a lot more. I can tell when someone needs to feel they're right to maintain their view of the world. I can tell when people gathering together to lob insults makes them feel a little stronger than they do alone. In my mind, it's obvious these people are just upset that I've challenged their worldview, consequently making them feel insecure. To me, they're a little like the minor characters in a story - not relevant to the main plot, not significant enough to be important.

AS probably makes life more difficult for me. But I like the way it lets me look at the world. It lets me see things, elections and all, through stories. It lets me structure world events in the shape of a plot in my head. It lets me shape a narrative around the way I see the world.