I don’t do arguments. That whole in-your-face shouting business? Take it somewhere else because I don’t want to know. I’ve gotten my reasons for avoiding these situations, some of which relate to my autism, others to my anxiety.
I’ve been in confrontations: they usually take one of two forms. It may be that what starts as a debate gets heated. Or it may be that somebody is simply angry, whatever the cause.
When it comes to debating an issue with somebody, I’m pretty keen as long as it’s something I care about or I’m interested in. The trouble for me is that some people are so passionate about a subject that they unconsciously raise their voice as they get into their stride.
Raised voices are a big, bad trigger for me. First of all the volume causes me sensory overload which disrupts my ability to concentrate on what they are saying. I start to miss words, struggle to formulate my responses. As it continues I stroke and rub my hands: a stimming response to sensory stress to help me cope. Until it all gets too much and I either become unresponsive or get the heck out of there.
A raised voice is also something I associate with anger and danger so it makes me anxious. The same goes for expansive gestures and physical proximity. Combine all three and I start to panic, my fight or flight instinct pulling me away: I think I should refer to mine as a flight or flight reflex: I don’t ever feel any urge to fight. That option is too frightening for somebody as risk-averse as me.
The other problem with arguments for me is that even if I didn’t have the sensory and anxiety issues I still have one other thing that hampers me: the processing time I need in conversations. Arguments are quick-fire interactions. I have no idea how people can sustain an exchange at those speeds: I need at least a second or three to think before I can respond. More if I’m struggling with overload. Under that kind of pressure I can’t build a coherent response so I fall silent.
And when I have gotten away from the situation the guilt kicks in: I’ve run away again, failed to stand up for myself, defend my beliefs. I rationalize that it’s self-preservation, but isn’t it the act of a craven? Well, I’ve gotten used to living with that internal conflict, that argument with myself.