The adaptability paradox

As you may have gleaned from earlier posts, I’m a big fan of our natural ability to adapt, change, and generally make improvements to ourselves and our lives. That positive feeling is something I’m sure won’t ever change – but a dream has made me think about the other side of adaptation. It reminded me that adaptation is not a byword for positive change.

A long time ago I had a friend who, by Aspie standards, was very close. For a long time I tried to help her make improvements in her life because there were a lot of things she was unhappy about. I could never understand why she couldn’t make changes. She was always adamant that changes could not be made, or were not necessary. What had happened?

She’d adapted so well to her circumstances that she was unable to realise an alternative

If you live with something for a long time, especially if that ‘something’ builds up gradually, it becomes normal. You can get used to being overweight, or feeling ill, or avoiding new situations. You can even get used to being depressed or anxious. And if that is your normal state, how do you know if it’s possible to feel any better? How do you know if it’s worth making an effort to try to change?

Shouting at the TV

Have you ever watched a soap or documentary that made you angry enough to shout at your TV? I do it all the time, even though I know it changes nothing and makes me look stupid. Every time I remind myself that it’s a futile gesture – but it’s only the TV I’m shouting at so there’s no harm done.

Do not make this mistake in real life! If you have a friend who is stuck on a problem and they seem to be going around in circles, stay calm. Even if you give them the same advice a hundred times, don’t be angry or annoyed if they don’t take it and can’t seem to change of their own accord.

If people are going to make changes then it’s down to them – they have the right to adapt however they see fit. Just because you think they could be doing much better doesn’t mean they will, or should.

The comfort zone

Our ability to adapt means we’re always in danger of finding new comfort zones. The trick is to make sure you don’t get stuck in any that are actually bad for you.

If you’re used to being overweight then you probably won’t be too concerned about overeating, until you end up with type 2 diabetes or have a heart attack at the age of 35.

If you’re used to being lonely it might seem preferable to spend another night in, rather than going out and trying to socialise which would seem strange and difficult. But you might end up wishing you’d got married and had kids by the time you hit 50, which is a lot of lonely years.

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2 comments
  1. byamtich said:

    I enjoy how you point out you don’t want to adapt to something mal-adaptive. You are speaking to high standards. This comes up a lot as an Aspie- what do I give myself flexibility around, and where do I challenge myself to push through. This particularly comes up in relationships. I address some of these topics on my Aspie blog also.

    bobyamtich.com

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