July 10, 2013

Spontaneity



After earning a degree in psychology, but before starting my training in education, I worked in a special needs program for autistic students. It was an eye opening perception shift to see the world from the point of view of my two key students. They challenged my ideas of what is real and what is important.

My autistic students disliked surprises. They disliked surprises a lot. As soon as anything approximating spontaneity loomed, emotional meltdowns ensued. I learned to stick to their program and keep things very, very predictable.

People with autism are not unusual in their desire for predictability, but represent the far end of the spectrum that is 100% predictable on one end, and 100% spontaneous on the other. Most of us fall somewhere in between, but most fall closer to the desire for predictable.

Spontaneity is usually interpreted by our structured, planned, and disciplined culture as impulsive and childish. As adults we are more likely to equate the word with spontaneous combustion than with being free in the moment.

Suddenly bursting into flames - not so good. Going with the flow of what life brings - very good.

I have found that the more spontaneous I am, the happier I am. And in a positive feedback loop, the happier I am, the more spontaneous I am likely to become.

It feels good to be free in the moment to follow our own energies and let life wash over us. The last time most of us allowed ourselves to be truly spontaneous was in childhood, and even then it is an impulse which adults wish to stifle.

Like my students, we need some structure in life to get important things done, like eating, sleeping, exercising, eliminating, keeping warm, and connecting with friends and family. The rest of the time we can give ourselves permission to set aside our rational, contained manner.

Predictability may provide the illusion of security, but one risks missing the possibilities of freedom. Life is vital when you release your own open, natural, and uninhibited self.

When we resist our own autistic tendencies, we can reconnect with our true spontaneous spirit and live fully in the moment. Who knows, great things may happen. Scientists often report key ideas and realizations "coming" to them spontaneously during periods of open relaxation.

Being more spontaneous leads to happiness, peace, and confidence. That is a good feeling to have at all times and will lead to shifts in perception.

Be More Spontaneous... Now!

  • smile at a stranger
  • do a good deed for someone out of the blue
  • get into your car through the passenger door
  • do something you have always wanted to do
  • get in touch with someone you haven't connected with in a long time
  • cook something you have never made before
  • go for a walk, ride, or drive with no destination
  • sit quietly until something happens
  • set aside some time to do whatever you want to do
  • skip work and go to the park (not near work)
  • hang upside down

9 comments:

  1. love it, i put spontanies dreads in my hair and im 50 years old, good eh ?,feeling great being spontanies , love from holland, marion anderson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marion, Good, yes! You are going for it.

      Delete
  2. Inspiring post. I have read something on autism before and what you have just written confirms my prior knowledge on this topic. Different people help us to see things differently and hopefully also learn something valuable. Ode to spontaneity :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadia, Working with these kids was one of the most profound things I have ever done. One of my students was pretty communicative, and was one of those individuals with savant capabilities.

      Although limited in his ability to function during simple every day tasks, he blew me away with his ability to recall things from his past, and calculate information.

      I got to know him well, and have wondered about him ever since I left that job to return to school. He taught me that we all have special gifts, and special needs.

      Delete
  3. For most of my life I was very spontaneous (much to the chagrin of my parents and bosses). It's something I need to recapture.

    Although I follow no set routine in my everyday life, if I'm going somewhere, I find myself needing to know exactly what's going to happen. Will there be obstacles? What do I need to do to prepare? I know physical challenges take a little more planning, but I really need to let go.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miss Marla, We can relate. Things have changed for us over the past couple of years with Linda using a manual wheelchair. Daily life is pretty flexible for us, too, but going out does present challenges that must be addressed before spontaneity can strike.

      Like, "Where can we access bathrooms?" for starters.

      Delete
    2. I'm finding it easier to just stay home. Although I'm usually content with that, I don't want the fear of going out to keep me from social interaction.

      I would never have guessed, earlier in my life, that an incline, curb or even a few stairs would be like a mountain climb. It is a good lesson in mindfulness and patience however.

      Delete
  4. AnonymousJuly 16, 2013

    Remember it takes all kinds of people to make this world work. If everyone were spontaneous certain things would go unnoticed as well. Having systems and routines can be a very important part of doing things well. getting enough sleep, eating well, and generally staying healthy does require a certain amount of routine and structure. many people with lower functioning autism require quite a bit of help with being flexible. But higher functioning autistic people in particular are an integral part of making our society work, because they are working at things everyday when other people are out having fun and being spontaneous. They are not just going with the flow, but paying attention to the things around them and planning things out carefully, conducting experiments and being some of the most important deep thinkers we have today. Many inventors, scientists, computer programmers, doctors and other intellectuals are somewhere on the autism spectrum. Routine and structure is what gives them the time to do the work they enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed there are many people with autism that are able to share their gifts with the world and make a difference.

      For the average person, though, balance between routine, structure and spontaneity is what is required. Many people allow routine to take over, and therefore more spontaneity is the answer to restore things to health.

      The right mixture is different for everyone. Personally I like a lot of spontaneity in my life after I get the things done that need to be done (and sometimes during!). But that may not be right for everyone.

      A plan is important to get things done - lets just make sure that those things are worthwhile doing and actually make the world a better place.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this post. You bring up some important issues for those with autism as well as everyone else.

      Delete

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