Many years ago I heard someone speak saying “people are like icebergs, only 1/8 of an iceberg can be seen above the surface. The remainder lies beneath the surface and cannot be seen.”
Many people often keep the majority of their feelings and thoughts deep beneath the surface where no one else can see. The reason why this may be so may vary greatly with individuals.
I have met many people who appear to be trapped within a frozen existence. Their natural internal reactions seem to continue to rise back to the surface and repeat themselves even when it may seem progress and improvement has been made.
I learned from a very special individual that I met and worked with that through attempting different ways of approaching and reaching out, those who sometimes are believed unreachable and often exhibit somewhat mechanical responses can be reached and an emotional connection is possible even when it appeared to be impossible for a number of years.
I met this person in an adult day care environment. He was considered a difficult person to work with. Had very unusual habits. He had a diagnosis of Autism.
When you would first approach him or entered into a room where he was located, a very booming and aggressive voice would shout out “What’s your first name? “What’s your middle name?” “What’s you last name?” After he heard all three of your names, he would then state your full name using only the middle initial.
He did this to everyone who entered. For many years after he was known to remember people who he met and upon seeing them years later he would point at them with his finger and state their full name using only the middle initial. He would follow the statement of your name with a very “cheesy grin” and a giggle.
I found him to be a very pleasant mix of a Teddy bear like happy soul and the Tasmanian devil character that had the ability to trash a room in a matter of minutes if someone simply said the wrong words. He was a challenge and I love a challenge.
For some reason I found myself drawn to the people who others often attempted to avoid and dreaded having contact with.
This person when something or someone bothered him often destroyed things, ran out of the room slamming the door and disappeared often exhibiting self abusive behavior as well.
He had a very threatening size as well and very loud and mechanical type speech. He could write and read. He also had numerous unusual habits or “tic” like movements. He was self abusive by hitting himself in the head and face, stomped his foot, but the most offensive of his behaviors was his urge to spit when he became agitated (he always turned his face away from you and spit onto the wall, floor or on objects)
One of his undesirable habits was to tear up or destroy furniture, and one of my hobbies was doing furniture upholstery 🙂 ! A match straight from heaven… maybe?
My Life’s journey always seems to provide me with both a chuckle and a challenge!
I began to learn, simply by trial and error, how to best communicate with him and avoid an outburst of self abusive behavior and property destruction.
If I would be working on a project next to him in a room, I would notice that he watched very closely to what I was doing. I made attempts at asking him to help me however, communicating with words and attempting instruction would set off unwanted behavior.
I then decided as I was working and he was watching me…. I would simply explain to myself how to complete the job using absolutely no eye contact with him. It worked!!! I could then hand him the tools for the project and he would complete it without problems.
This lead to me being able to instruct him through written notes tacked in place, or working side by side telling only myself needed instructions. He would work next to me and break out into a giggle periodically 🙂
He was able to complete the job that a “tear down” person in an upholstery shop would do ….with the support of my non-interactive play by play self talk 🙂
We had success on other projects as well. Later he became employed by a company that made picture frames. He was asked to do a one step job applying glue to the joint that the next person would then use a machine to join together.
He had the ability to complete the job however, the challenge was he was not able to change his “ways of processing instruction and communicating with people”.
I supported him for a while at his job location. My thoughts and instructions for his co-workers was not to ask him to conform to their ways of working but to request them to adjust their way of communicating to and with him.
The job in the community worked out for awhile. However, on a very hot day…. He became very hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. He left the post in the work area to visit the bathroom….. Somewhere off the bathroom was a shower……He seen the shower….. He was hot…… He undressed and happily showered…….. When it was noticed that his work was piling up, someone was sent to investigate what was taking him so long in the bathroom 😦 ………..Not sure about any further details other than the fact that he no longer is working there.
Although I was very sad that he lost his job….. I knew that there was nothing that I could have done, even if I was there. There is a limit to what we can do for a person. There is a point when you cannot be a persons shadow and assist them by giving yourself play by play instruction on proper work etiquette.
Maybe the lesson in this story is that what may sometimes appear as a positive breakthrough may end in only being short lived fleeting moments of success 😦
I love the man no less and I am a better person from the experience of meeting him!
Always make an attempt to reach past the surface of every individual you meet to try to better understand them. We all live with a heart that longs to be appreciated. In understanding each other we improve ourselves as well!
With Respect, Hope, Joy and Love, Carmela