Thursday, October 15, 2009

Social Conditioning?

For someone with Asperger's, I'm seen as a very social person. I don't necessarily socialize often, but when I'm at school or in class I'll greet people, ask them how everything is going, be nice to them and do my best to treat them with respect. I do this because, not only is it an unwritten rule in our society, but because I was bullied a lot in grade school and have vowed never to treat anybody the way I was treated.

Socializing is seen as a positive thing in our society. Why is that? Are we all putting on a facade to move past everybody else in pursuit of our own selfish gains? What tells us to do this? Is it our fathers and grandfathers working up in their respective professions? The money-obsessed individuals our society seems to be full of? The fact that the charming, charismatic guy who has no other skills will move further ahead than the quiet guy who is brilliant at what he does?

Why are we told to be nice to others? Furthermore, if somebody disrespects us why do we become upset?

I feel like I was trained to be this way at a very young age. As a child, I would hear, "Don't do x, do y and z instead, people prefer that."

I can understand restricting actions that initiate discomfort in the other person, such as pulling someone else's hair or kicking them. What I don't understand are the restriction of certain social behaviors, such as outspokenness, or saying things that unintentionally offend somebody.

Language is a thing that humans developed. We didn't develop pain, we came with nerve endings that send signals to our brain when we've been hurt. While physical impact can be painful, words aren't. Words may affect our emotions, but I feel as if this is a byproduct of social conditioning.We are trained when to feel happy and sad, or at least I was.

In the beginning, I didn't care whether a bully called me names. But as I grew up, I realized that the bully's actions hindered my peers' acceptance of me, and because I was taught that friendships and relationships are some of the most important things out there (also social conditioning), this made me upset. Due to a chain reaction of responses to my actions I wasn't fulfilling the requirements of human contact.

The question is: why are we this way?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines conditoning as:
Pronunciation: \-ˈdi-sh(ə-)niŋ\
Function: noun
Date: 1861

1 : the process of training to become physically fit by a regimen of exercise, diet, and rest; also : the resulting state of physical fitness
2 : a simple form of learning involving the formation, strengthening, or weakening of an association between a stimulus and a response

Note the second entry. We are conditioned to act a certain way in response to our society. We act the way we do in response to what we see, and what social rules have been laid out far before our existence.

This is why I feel like the majority of my behavior is artificial. How can we really be ourselves in a world that forces us to keep up with what is considered acceptable behavior?

I often wonder: if I weren't encouraged to act a certain way, if I didn't have the social experiences I had growing up, would I still be the same person? Are we really our true selves or has society shaped us into who we are today? Is it possible for a person to be their true self if they are being involuntarily molded into a pre-existing standard?

I need to hear your thoughts on this. How does this make you feel, what is your opinion? Speak to me!


LizzieK8 said...

For the NTs, acceptable behavior is the norm. It's like breathing for them. Conscious thought it generally not part of it. They "know" what is acceptable behavior and just do it.

We don't know it. We have to make a conscious decision for each action and often are confused as to which action is indeed acceptable. That leads to stress and anxiety.

The alternative is to not play the social game and be an outcast or at least looked at strangely.

I found the answer to be only acting socially acceptably when it was absolutely necessary to accomplish the task I set out on, keep myself safe, or not embarrass my family. The rest of the time, I give myself permission to act as is "normal" for me. I also chose to pretty much become a hermit.

SavedAspie said...

I think a lot of us feel like the majority of our behavior is artificial.

For me, it's the only way I can "get along" in this world. I can't do my job, get good help when shopping, or even ensure my son gets the best treatment at the daycare without playing the social game.

I hate that, because I feel like all people are worthy of being treated with respect.

But the bottom line is, if I'm dressed poorly, hunched over, looking down and having a hard time making eye contact (how I get when really stressed) it is hard to get treated well in public.

But if I'm well dressed, hold my head up and approach people confidently (though it's an act that drains me), and ask them about themselves and their lives (though usually I don't care), I get better treatment and service.

DumbBaby said...

This is such a well written post! I certainly dont understand some of society's rules on human behaviour, a lot of them change every hundred years or so anyway.. I like your blog, its a bit different.

pink said...

aw thank you! that means a lot :)

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