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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Impulse Control

One of Bow's problems is impulse control. Or, at least, that is one of my difficulties with his behavior.

Let's be very clear about this: there are two sides to every story, and like everything else, impulse control is something you can have too much of, as well as too little of. People who are too quick to anger can lose valuable opportunities in friendship, employment and every aspect of life. There are human beings who find themselves behind bars for life, because they could not control their momentary destructive impulses. But there are also people who get victimized all their life, because they are too slow to anger. Nobody is afraid that they'll get mad, so people walk all over them.

We seem to come into life with a built in level of impulse control. We can learn to hold back to some extent, and we can learn to simulate anger that we do not actually feel in order to protect ourselves, but there are limits to this process. It's hard to fake what you feel, and ultimately there's a certain level of honesty that each of us owe to ourselves.

Different environments promote different levels of self-control. Living in a jungle, those with too high an impulse control setting will perish. Living an ivory tower, people whose impulse control is too low will be ejected. Individuals conform to their environment to the extent that they can, but they also shape their social environment by the feedback that they give others.

Bow and I are locked into the same struggle that we see reenacted everywhere else in life. If either of us gives in too soon, then we betray the cause of what sort of world we want to live in. If we never give in, then we can't live together. It's a conundrum!


  1. I think it is very interesting and probably apt that this post generated an AdSense ad to "Help Your Autistic Child". I'll bet there are some parallels in your situation!

    What you describe sounds similar to some of my experiences with autistic foster children.

  2. Suzanne, I know it may seem that Bow is autistic, because there is a real mismatch between his expectations and ours. In fact, before Bow had language, (or before he demonstrated that he did), I used a therapy with him called Floortime which is meant for developmentally delayed children with poor theory of mind, many of whom are autistic. The therapy did help us, but one of the things we found out was that Bow was not slow -- he was too fast for us to read!

    Bow is so NOT autistic. He reads social cues really well. He can see conflicts between people when the people themselves are not even aware of them yet. He can tell when somebody is sad or happy or about to boil over with seething resentment. If anything, it is we humans who are autistic, compared to him. We need explicit language because we are so slow in making out the non-verbal cues.