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    Asperger Love: Loveless Or Unloved Lovers
    By Sascha Vongehr | June 16th 2014 05:10 AM | 19 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    In time for Autistic Pride Day 18 June:

        Why do people congratulate somebody? Asperger’s sufferers often do not understand this. I asked myself:

      I’ve won the lottery, so why additionally congratulate me? If congratulation is something positive, why give it to someone who has just been lucky already?

        Hence, we feel awkward and perhaps even annoyed and disturbed by being congratulated, because it is a social interaction that we feel uncomfortable with and that feels like an ‘unfair distribution of niceties’. Congratulations are especially stressful because they usually occur close together in time, like on birthdays for example, a day that many of us dislike partially for that reason.

        After many years, something helped me to understand what congratulations really are. As an active established academic, I am not at liberty to disclose what that something was, since we do not live in a free society, but I should however stress that it was crucially my own rational analysis that revealed it to me; no therapist or friend told me, no teacher or parent. I will now tell you more about how rationality often fails to make up for the “lack” of a more natural, unquestioning adoption of social norms and various “deficits” in affective or cognitive empathy that may or may not be the true problematic of Asperger’s syndrome.

        It is not true that a congratulation is simply an expression of respect, or a confirmation about that the one who congratulates me on my achievement or accomplishment has noticed my success, which is a socially important proof for how intelligent or hard working I may be, how valuable. That is only part of it, but exchange of status information cannot be the essence of congratulating behavior, because as such it would often be indeed embarrassingly silly:

      Why would a colleague congratulate me on my promotion when the new title is right there on the office door?

        Notice that this interpretation in terms of a ‘confirmation of status-change’ is a second way of approaching this particular social interaction rationally, and it is much better, more sophisticated than the ‘unfair distribution of niceties’ above. Indeed, it is perhaps already beyond the grasp of surprisingly many people. Nevertheless, although this description points to an evolutionary source of the behavior, the hypothesis easily fails to go on and grasp any “deeper feeling” that might be correlated with a sincere congratulation. That is an intellectual failure because feelings can be described as evolved, too. The social is not trivial.

        What is still absent here is something that we on the autistic scale have a problem with: Love. Yes, I mean the strong word “love”, as I mean precisely that irrational, hard to justify feeling that makes sincere love to be love and thus difficult for the rational, rationalizing, justifying mind. A sincere congratulation is an expression of love, a gesture that is supposed to tell me that the person is “happy for me” and does not envy my good fortune; that the congratulating coworker for example is still on my side. Perhaps he thinks that he deserved that promotion more than me. However, he cares about me as a person that he knows and enjoys working with, desires to reaffirm this protective bond without doing so driven by mere calculation, and this love, although it is not as strongly coupled such as the love of a mother to her child, is still stronger than the fact of his being upset with the situation. This is what the sincere congratulation really means, because without this aspect, it is in too many situations quite inexplicable, especially with congratulations on mere luck that cannot count as an achievement. Missing the sincerity, they feel insincere.

        Without that love of friendship, congratulations are insincere, a mere acting out of good manners, but I here emphasize the sincere congratulation, because that is what I want to render acceptable to the Asperger’s mind. How much congratulating is hypocritical or insincere? This is hard to quantify and measure. However, many people with Asperger’s syndrome may think that almost all or even all of it is. Again, this is an opinion, a feeling, because there is no agreed upon measure for sincerity. This negative feeling is another reason why they do not like these social dances. Many despise insincere behavior, because such is yet more difficult to understand than honest gestures, and perhaps because insincerity hurts especially Asperger’s people more often.

        Asperger’s moralist dislike for insincerity does not imply that we are incapable of being insincere. On the autism spectrum, one often seems more sincere or frank, even blunt and insensitive, because one may not apply insincerity where society demands that insincerity be applied, such as when answering “Do I look old honey?” or congratulating the superior. Whether that makes Asperger’s more sincere is questionable, and quantifying such should include any insincerity that they apply elsewhere. Those instances may simply be missed by the observer, especially with the high functioning, intelligent cases.

        I am focusing on the sincere congratulations, partially in order to emphasize that I feel that such do exist. I have perhaps underestimated the importance or predominance of sincere congratulations, perhaps even due to a dismissal of sincerity as a reaction to having failed to perform this function sincerely myself, a face-keeping rationalization if you will. The reader may well be able to notice strongly now how my own thinking is symptomatic for that label “Asperger’s”: In absence of a reliable quantitative measure, a clear mutually agreed upon definition of “sincerity”, an assessment is not made confidently. This can be described as a failure and suffering a shortcoming, namely that of successfully reaching for a socially endorsed norm and going on with life. In my case, I choose questioning and postmodern paralysis, while a campus shooter succumbed to revenge for what he feels is insincerity all around, disregarding and finding excuses for his own insincerity.

        The ‘upon-mere-luck congratulation’, which seems undeserved because it is expressed without there being a true achievement, is inexplicable without love. Therefore, it is often seen as insincere, and so it is unsurprisingly the most disturbing congratulation to those who have difficulties with interpreting and giving expressions of love. Moreover, the misinterpretation of upon-mere-luck congratulations as upon-achievement congratulations can lead to a misunderstanding, namely the congratulation is felt to be an insult. Why? Well see, I similarly am not proud of my nationality, because I did nothing to actively achieve it. Therefore, receiving congratulations after having won a lottery feels similar to an accusation of overly proud patriotism:

      You congratulate me, but this is no achievement, and you treating it as one, especially if perhaps feeling obliged to congratulate me because you feel that I mistakenly think it is my own accomplishment, that means you think I am naïve. But I am not one of those who pride themselves for windfalls, who inherited riches yet look down upon the poor, or despise the slow of mind as if anybody earned their own IQ!

      And here you see again that the Asperger’s sufferer, who often is called blunt and without feeling, is actually sensitive, hypersensitive! He may be asocial in certain ways, but often not in the sense of being unconcerned with the social. Often, he is obsessed with the social, that source of his most terrible pains.

        As said, because it is to do with love, namely a person expressing that she “is happy for me”, the issue is difficult to understand. I did not understand what “happy for me” could possibly mean:

      How can somebody be happy for me at all, how can anything feel ‘for me’? My feeling is mine, his is his – I can never feel his, except in the sense of affective empathy. Empathy is feeling ‘with me’, not ‘for me’. And why would he be happy about my promotion ‘for me’ if not for himself?!

      So what does it mean that he is happy for me? It is misleading language but most likely has the following positive interpretation: It means that the person signals that he wishes me well rather than bad, and quite generally wants to express thus that he is a friend on my side. He expresses that he is happy ‘for my happiness’, because I am, because that makes him happy – and this precisely is ‘love’ in its apparent uselessness, in all its threatening irrationality, in all its uncontrollability whether outside or inside of me. Because if sincere, there is no intention necessary about that your congratulating behavior strengthens a useful social bond, us. And so, I can congratulate my colleague on his retirement, although his retirement even means that he no longer collaborates with us.

        You congratulate me now after my lucky win, this may mean partially that there is no envy in you, because envy quickly turns into wishing something bad should happen to me, in order to compensate for your relative loss or to punish me. This would be the opposite of love, as ‘love’ implies that one wishes well for the loved, and basically for no good reason, for no other immediate gain but the reward that loving itself can give in terms of feeling good – that is why I use the word “love” here, because that is what love is for, that is its evolved function also in case of strong motherly love. But moreover, now after my lucky win, this timing is simply a good opportunity to show love. After all, and an Asperger’s sufferer can feel empathy with this aspect for sure, it is always and for almost everybody a somewhat embarrassing social interaction to congratulate, even although there is an opportunity as an excuse. You should neither smile too little nor too much, else it may come across as insincere, and so on. Surely one cannot blame anybody for feeling completely out of place by simply going up to a coworker at some random time and saying:

      Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I am on your side and got your back, you know, I think we have a positive relation going here buddy.

      That indeed would be precisely something that an autistic caricature like Sheldon of “The Big Bang Theory” would come up with, in order to settle the timing of such expressions of love. I could well imagine Sheldon dropping a line like:

      And by the way, I told you before that my scheduling calls for this friendship confirmation session every first of the month, so you should not have taken your day off yesterday!

     

    Source: thumbpress

        I conclude that especially the ‘upon-mere-luck congratulation’ offers an excuse and has thus become the opportunity to effectively do a “friendship confirmation”. It possibly evolved from a mere exchange of status information about merited achievement, because it is usually anyways fuzzy how much achievement there was actually involved and how much sheer luck or even cheating participated.

        Extroverts have few problems with any of this, because they simply behave in these situations and feel ok doing so. There is less difficulty experienced with expressing love and interpreting expressions of love through the behavior of others. Persons on the high functioning, weakly autistic spectrum, such as those being labeled with Asperger’s, have difficulty precisely with the correct expression and interpretation of what is expressed by others. It is very wrong to say that they do not love. In my estimation, they love their coworkers more than the coworkers ever love them back, because they often do have a place in their heart for their coworkers for example, which often are the few people they interact with, but the coworkers also misinterpret and think that the Asperger’s sufferer knows no love, and so it is the people around us who indeed give less and less love back in return.

    And so we are indeed the loveless, but in the sense of that we are the unloved lovers.

    Comments

    rholley
    Very interesting.  I will probably find myself thinking and thinking about this, and when I have got there, not remembering where I started from.  So if I do not communicate further on this article, please do not take it as neglect or dismissal.  There is, though, one thing that springs immediately to mind.

    Your inclusion of the bit about Sheldon Cooper does touch on something I have been wondering.  Sometimes one feels what a nasty fellow he is, reminding one of Gore Vidal’s dictum:
          'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little'
    and sometimes it appears that he simply does not know what he is doing.

    Now he is only a fictional character, so beyond the dramatic exaggeration, you may say that he is unrealistic and that it is a false or misplaced dichotomy.  But if you are a Big Bang aficionado, what do you think of him, and any other of the Big Bang characters?

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    vongehr
    I am not into Big Bang Theory; I also do not like how they get so much of the science wrong. I include it here because it is the most widely known and relatively positive depiction of something that can be said to be not entirely wrong if it were claimed to be about Asperger's (which they of course deny just to be on the safe side). In answer to your question: There are no two alike, but those I met are rather more deep and sincere and depressed than Sheldon Cooper, but then, such would not be interesting for more than half a TV season.
    John Hasenkam
    There are no two alike, but those I met are rather more deep and sincere and depressed than Sheldon Cooper, but then, such would not be interesting for more than half a TV season.
    A few weeks ago a psychiatrist told me that in her experience many with Aspergers are depressed. I find that puzzling, not sure why that is the case. I can only surmise it is a consequence of being a stranger in a strange land.  

    vongehr
    Perhaps they are anyway, so I am not out to excuse my own failures, however, it is not a silly hypothesis that the mobbing and discrimination and constant stress through extra difficult social interaction (on top of normal social interaction being stress to us) are all doing their thing. Also, the rational questioning that we are forced into in order to cope. After all, life is fundamentally meaningless, society an evolved monster, and ignorance bliss.
    I interpret congratulations as not necessarily needing sincerity to have value, any more than other forms of politeness. Congratulations do not need to correlate to any particular achievement, they just need to correlate to a likelihood of you feeling happy.

    Social lubricant involves some cost, but is at least a ritualistic echo of an empathic impulse acknowledging that you probably have a feeling, and empathy is key in facilitating the social infrastructure you inhabit. We don't always have the time to deeply feel your happiness (or sadness), but in lieu we can still acknowledge with such tokens that you probably do have such feelings at times when these feelings typically occur - you are still seen as enough like us that we acknowledge that we *should* be empathetically happy for you. - your membership has not been revoked.

    You should worry more when you are no longer worth congratulating.

    Hfarmer
    That was all very intelligent and the last line very poignant and heartfelt if I may say.     
    My sister was diagnosed as High functioning Autistic, I was just considered behaviorally disordered for some reason, and just about everyone in my family has some issue or the other.   Not a nice thing to say but a fact.    

    For some reason we have a need to label people and "other" them.   My sister has been labeled so many ways, "experts" never seem to decide.  They tried the R word then she started making honor roll in mainstream classes and got "special mention" at her high school graduation, and is a member of the National Honor Society through her associates.  In her honesty and appearance of innocence she is an overall sweet nice person who was even the homecomming queen in her senior year.  This was 8 years ago now.   Yet she was called the disordered one.

    Many who first meet her and don't get to know her can't see past her quirks.  Acting with all the assurances that the accepted hypocrisies, insincerity, and utter BS of the majority are "normal".
      

    Question: How does it make you feel when, every time there is a mass shooting (in a place where "that's not supposed to happen") they try to say the shooter had some form of Autism?  They being news reporters often on 24 hour news channels.    
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    I don't think they are saying 'autism', they are saying 'autism spectrum disorder', which can cover, in 2014, about 80% of America. What they are saying is that for people who are not really ill, but are being medicated because they are quirky or weird or different,  psychotropic drugs may be doing more harm than good. In all of the shootings that have occurred, worldwide, the two things in common are guns (obviously) and medication for behavior.
    vongehr
    You write that as if sympathetic to that description. "not really ill" is however arbitrary in an ever more diverse population of subunits that are all no longer well adapted to the state of their environment, namely today's society, and "medication" is also extremely fuzzy. For example, in an environment where "normal" is that a primate studies two decades and then competes in a popularity contest of computer facilitated mind games relative to which we all suffer ADD (say compared to a conceivably adapted species that would have been Darwinistically naturally selected by such an environment for many generations), and given that the observed ensamble has almost no members that have not at least been medicated with lots of sugar and cafeine as cognitive enhancers and now more than 50% also having had some sort of "illegal" labeled "drug" taken at an age below full wiring of the prefrontal cortex at age 25, what then can count as not medicated? The word "psychotropic" or writing "medication for behavior" is not helpful, though I can see how you may claim it makes a difference I should agree upon.
    Simplistic answers to these questions forget that almost the whole drug consume (largely methamphetamine and pot today) are self-medication of ADD and suchlike symptoms, symptoms that interfere with modern living, which are therefore diagnosed as conditions worth diagnosing today in the first place.

    To come back to a perhaps easier understandable (but somewhat misleading level): That the worst cases have had "worse" drug intervention is simply a sign of society careing for them, to at least have tried to help. Instead of going backwards, which is impossible in evolution, I would enjoy informed discussion about cognitive enhancement. Would Elliot Rodger have become what he became if able to confront his inner demons with help of a caring guide and MDMA or if he had sparked up a blunt that morning? May we ask, may we research such and present the findings?
    Hank
    Sympathetic is not the proper word. It's simply a provocative hypothesis. I agree with your statement that many of the medications are used for the wrong reasons, which was my point (even if I wrote it poorly). We know many drugs help people with serious conditions, we apparently don't know how a subset of people will react for things not serious.

    At some point people have to ask, is it better to be a little depressed or or a little hyperactive or to have all of those other side effects - but that is a philosophical question. The idea that medication for people who don't need it may have unintended consequences is not new.
    vongehr
    I will post a second part soon where I will mention rampages. In my view, and there have been others this honest, too, we should admit the troublesome aspects as we try to advertize the many positive aspects of Asperger's, else we are not sincere and honest (which is what Asperger's often claim, that they are especially sincere and honest). I know that many will not like me saying this, but I am not surprised that many school shooters are "on the spectrum", and we do not need silly news shows to tell. Read what Elliot Rodger wrote.
    Hfarmer
    Thanks for the replies.    I can't wait for that next article to hear why you are not surprised so many shooters are "on the spectrum".    
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    The "Big Bang Theory" demonstrates your point since the Sheldon Cooper character is friends with the other members of the group. So you are right, in that it can be about love. But it usually isn't. Get a promotion in the workplace. Count the people who congratulate you. Perhaps ten do. How many of these people care enough about you to be a friend outside of work? Perhaps one does. Yeah, you recall six months ago you had a cup of coffee with them after work. If that can be defined as "love" then at most one out of ten people might have congratulated you with love in mind.

    IMO the problem many people with Asperger's have with congratulations is the requirements for various social niceties in return. As in if ten people congratulated you about a promotion all ten need to be tracked indefinitely so their successes can be appropriately recognized. Non Asperger's folks do this and other social niceties on auto pilot. As in no biggie. For a person with Asperger's it can be problematic.

    vongehr
    "it can be about love. But it usually isn't."
     You missed my implicit definition of a measure of "love" as identified with the "sincerety" of it. You may feel that you have a better definition of "love", but that is difficult to argue well.
    "How many of these people care enough about you to be a friend outside of work? Perhaps one does."
    I reject this as a measure. In my work, the work is seen as your fullfilment. Children have friends outside work, but adults have collaborators, allies, ... - at least you can see it that way, and many have to, because there is just no time - everybody is so busy and proud of it.
    "with love in mind."
    But "true love" (e.g. as the evolved urge) is not in the rational mind! Love means that you do not need to calculate it.
    "IMO the problem many people with Asperger's have with congratulations is the requirements for various social niceties in return."
    That is true, and not inconsistent with the rest (in case you think it would be). One of several reasons is that the potential sincerety is (dis)missed and a return thus rejected. 
    I feel the same way about social nicety. When someone dies we say to the survivors "I am sorry for your loss". Why ? I didn't do anything to cause the death. I have nothing to apologize for. I will listen to survivors and widows, but why say I am sorry when I didn't do anything ?

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    Here is another interesting article about the hypersensitivity of individuals with Asperger's syndrome which claims that :- 

    “A ground-breaking theory suggests people with autism-spectrum disorders such as Asperger’s do not lack empathy – rather, they feel others’ emotions too intensely to cope.”

    “People with Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, are often stereotyped as distant loners or robotic geeks. But what if what looks like coldness to the outside world is a response to being overwhelmed by emotion – an excess of empathy, not a lack of it?
    This idea resonates with many people suffering from autism-spectrum disorders and their families. It also jibes with the “intense world” theory, a new way of thinking about the nature of autism.
    As posited by Henry and Kamila Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the theory suggests that the fundamental problem in autism-spectrum disorders is not a social deficiency but, rather, a hypersensitivity to experience, which includes an overwhelming fear response.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    rholley
    Helen,

    Alwyas one for getting things from the horse’s mouth, I went searching on the Swiss Federal / Lausanne website, and found this:

    The Intense World Theory - a unifying theory of the neurobiology of autism


    Last year, one of their PhD students defended a thesis on similar neurobiological phenomena in rats.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes Robert what they are claiming is quite amazing :-
    Autism covers a wide spectrum of disorders for which there are many views, hypotheses and theories. Here we propose a unifying theory of autism, the Intense World Theory. The proposed neuropathology is hyper-functioning of local neural microcircuits, best characterized by hyper-reactivity and hyper-plasticity. Such hyper-functional microcircuits are speculated to become autonomous and memory trapped leading to the core cognitive consequences of hyper-perception, hyper-attention, hyper-memory and hyper-emotionality. 
    The theory is centered on the neocortex and the amygdala, but could potentially be applied to all brain regions. The severity on each axis depends on the severity of the molecular syndrome expressed in different brain regions, which could uniquely shape the repertoire of symptoms of an autistic child. The progression of the disorder is proposed to be driven by overly strong reactions to experiences that drive the brain to a hyper-preference and overly selective state, which becomes more extreme with each new experience and may be particularly accelerated by emotionally charged experiences and trauma. 
    This may lead to obsessively detailed information processing of fragments of the world and an involuntarily and systematic decoupling of the autist from what becomes a painfully intense world. The autistic is proposed to become trapped in a limited, but highly secure internal world with minimal extremes and surprises. We present the key studies that support this theory of autism, show how this theory can better explain past findings, and how it could resolve apparently conflicting data and interpretations. The theory also makes further predictions from the molecular to the behavioral levels, provides a treatment strategy and presents its own falsifying hypothesis.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    John Hasenkam
    I had a suspicion that there might  be an GABA issue with respect to Autism\Aspergers. The hyper sensitivity, the proneness to depression pointed to that. 
    The literature does raise this issue but it has not been much investigated. What the studies do indicate that is directly relevant to sensate intensity is the suggestion at the genetic and behavioral testing levels there is a failure for centre surround inhibition in both the auditory and sensory primary cortices. Centre surround inhibition is one of evolution's great tricks, it allows us to get focused. GABA A receptor seems to be important here and recent study again pointed to GABA A alleles(see below).

    The data is somewhat contradictory and by no means comprehensive. Additionally GABA insufficiency is implicated in a wide array of behavioral and neuropathological disorders; the latter most probably because of reduced Brain Derived Neurotrophin Factor which enhances GABA function. As to behavioral disorders it could be chicken or egg or complete bollocks. I also suspect GABA insufficiency can drive depression, especially given that BDNF involvement in depression. 

    Taurine, a safe "conditional amino acid" has a direct effect on thalamic GABA receptors but for Aspies the problem is neocortical, not a thalamic gating one. Taurine may still be worth trying because there is research that suggests it acts as a ligand for GABA receptors. You can buy it as a supplement, very safe, good for the cardiovascular system too. 

     2014 Mar 26. [Epub ahead of print]

    Downregulation of GABAA Receptor Protein Subunits α6, β2, δ, ε, γ2, θ, and ρ2 in Superior Frontal Cortex of Subjects with Autism.

    Fatemi SH1Reutiman TJFolsom TDRustan OGRooney RJThuras PD.



    Abstract

    We measured protein and mRNA levels for nine gamma-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) receptor subunits in three brain regions (cerebellum, superior frontal cortex, and parietal cortex) in subjects with autism versus matched controls. We observed changes in mRNA for a number of GABAA and GABAB subunits and overall reduced protein expression for GABAA receptor alpha 6 (GABRα6), GABAA receptor beta 2 (GABRβ2), GABAA receptor delta (GABRδ), GABAA receptor epsilon (GABRε), GABAA receptor gamma 2 (GABRγ2), GABAA receptor theta (GABRθ), and GABAA receptor rho 2 (GABRρ2) in superior frontal cortex from subjects with autism. Our data demonstrate systematic changes in GABAA&B subunit expression in brains of subjects with autism, which may help explain the presence of cognitive abnormalities in subjects with autism.



    PMID:
     
    24668190
     
    [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

     2014 Mar 19;81(6):1282-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.01.016.

    Enhancement of inhibitory neurotransmission by GABAA receptors having α2,3-subunits ameliorates behavioral deficits in a mouse model of autism.

    Han S1Tai C1Jones CJ1Scheuer T1Catterall WA2.



    Abstract

    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may arise from increased ratio of excitatory to inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain. Many pharmacological treatments have been tested in ASD, but only limited success has been achieved. Here we report that BTBR T(+)Itpr3(tf)/J (BTBR) mice, a model of idiopathic autism, have reduced spontaneous GABAergic neurotransmission. Treatment with low nonsedating/nonanxiolytic doses of benzodiazepines, which increase inhibitory neurotransmission through positive allosteric modulation of postsynaptic GABAA receptors, improved deficits in social interaction, repetitive behavior, and spatial learning. Moreover, negative allosteric modulation of GABAA receptors impaired social behavior in C57BL/6J and 129SvJ wild-type mice, suggesting that reduced inhibitory neurotransmission may contribute to social and cognitive deficits. The dramatic behavioral improvement after low-dose benzodiazepine treatment was subunit specific-the α2,3-subunit-selective positive allosteric modulator L-838,417 was effective, but the α1-subunit-selective drug zolpidem exacerbated social deficits. Impaired GABAergic neurotransmission may contribute to ASD, and α2,3-subunit-selective positive GABAA receptor modulation may be an effective treatment.

    Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



    PMID:
     
    24656250
     
    [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]







    I found this article to be eye-opening for me. I am a Navy Veteran, and one of my birthdays fell on a day we happened to be out at sea. All day people continued to tell me, "Happy birthday!" I would nod, smile and thank them. The problem was that I was receiving birthday wishes every two minutes or so, and every time I had to say, "Thank you." It got to the point where people were actually lining up to give birthday wishes just to make me squirm and here me say, "Thank you," after every single one. A shipmate laughed at me saying I was too polite and that my actions were somehow cute. I never thought about why people give congratulations; I have always accepted it as something that is done because it should be done. Now I am going to have even more of an issue giving them when necessary and keeping my mouth shut when necessary. The article was very interesting, still.