I have learned a new technique to dealing with being a perfectionist and in general to dealing with the kind of black/white mind my autism has given me. It is a very effective mental technique that helps my mind adapt to the world around it. It is simply training my mind. I have to train my mind to not have the automatic thoughts that are associated when something goes less than perfect in my life. Let me give probably the biggest example of this.
I hate being criticised. When someone criticises me, the thoughts that grow through my mind are “You didn’t reach your full potential” or “There is someone better than you”. Such thoughts can be very detrimental, especially since my mind in its natural state has trouble seeing subjectivity and see something as correct or incorrect. Sometimes when I’m criticised, I can even freeze up and can’t do anything productive for an hour or two (such times only happen now and then fortunately). I have, however, just recently talked with a friend who has perfectionistic tendencies herself and she has used the technique of training her mind out of these automatic thoughts and found it very effective. This weekend, I tried doing the same, and I’m finding it with a big relief that it works.
Whenever I’m in an imperfect situation and let my mind wander where it wants to, it will inevitably go to the ‘negative’ of the situation, the characteristic(s) that are making the situation imperfect. What I do here is shift my thoughts out of the ‘negative’. This is by no means something that comes natural to me and it requires persistence and perseverance to get right. With a little effort, however, I find that it can be done. It requires getting rid of some previous thoughts like there is something ‘bad’ about being criticised and replacing it with thoughts like “I will allow the world to criticise me, regardless if how much or how little the criticism is justified and how harsh the criticism sounds”. After all, people respond in speech on impulses and emotional cues, so if they have a reaction (positive or negative) to something you have done or said, it may not be completely justified or at least not phrased in the most appropriate way. For example, when I’m criticised, sometimes it can sound like the criticizer is being very harsh when they do not mean to sound that harsh and are only offering the criticism as a way to help me improve (and they certainly don’t want me to freeze up for a couple of hours and having me feel stupid).
It’s training my mind to get rid of these automatic thoughts and to replace these with other thoughts that is helping my black/white mind appreciate the shades of grey there are in the world, especially dealing with such things as subjectivity and emotion. And as I continue to adapting, the more human I’m feeling.