Can Paul Ekman International training in emotions help those on the Aspergers spectrum?(see News item)

An account from a delegate who recently attended our three day course - Emotional Skills and Competencies

"I would like to report on how thoroughly deep is the impact of the ESaC training on my daily life. 

I am Asperger, a syndrome that is one of the autism spectrum disorders. Comparable to what is shown in the movie 'Rain Man'. This account is based on my experience of living with this condition all of my life and my own understanding of the condition having read many books and University reports. I understand that the most relevant characteristics of this syndrome are:

The biological difference in the bulk volume of the amygdala in the brain - the consequences of which is that we feel emotions much more strongly than most.

Our lack of human in-born social procedures and, consequently, our incapacity to understand any type of message if not expressed with straight and clear words. This makes us incapable of percieving second degree information or deductions that come naturally for most human beings.

A strong resistance and rigidity against any form of change. To these topics may also be added the too large gap between different intellectual abilities, which leads to high-level performances in some domains and low performances in others. Most Aspergers have in common a rather high performing memory and clarity in thinking.

 

It was a piece of sheer luck to hear Mr. Arnaud Blavier's interview on the radio, explaining the new emergence of Detego Group, the Benelux representative company of Paul Ekman International, and to learn about existing training courses being delivered around the world, approved by Dr Ekman himself.

Mr. Blavier was gracious enough to meet me several times to understand in-depth what my challenges were and to establish if his training could help me. He firstly recommended that I read Professor Ekman's book "Emotions Revealed" and then to meet again to to further discuss with him my comments and questions about what I had learned.

It slowly but truly became obvious that ESaC training would not only be a route to a better understanding of non-verbal messages, but would be also the basic apprenticeship to help me see how non-autistic people use their innate abilities to succeed with social exchanges with each another. This training seemed like it would enable me, for the first time of my life, to discover how and which emotions are shown and expressed in daily life by people around me, through a mixture of five communication channels - rather than exhaustively with words.

Professor Ekman's books, research and trainings allowed me to understand how normal human beings function in daily life and see how they interact, often sub-consciously, with their fellow beings. This first step allowed me to establish an understanding of what I am actually doing and, more specifically, what I so differently do.  What I do is not wrong, nor better, I feel, although I, and many other Aspergers,  believe that the rest of the world is wrong and we think so much more logically and right. When reading his book "Emotions Revealed" it was quite obvious for instance that my emotional timeline feels like it works differently than others - my perception is that my system, from trigger to impulse to action, works way too fast and too strongly, which led me to label my approach as "insane". Another incredible and sharp revelation was, as no one ever before had expressly told me, that I need to watch the whole face of others to whom I am speaking. I had only focused on people's teeth.

 

As I now know, the teeth are virtually useless in helping me understand others, as opposed to muscles, skin color and wrinkles. So, this helped me to understand my difficulty in reading others' emotions. I imagine this might seem preposterous to those people who take this for granted, as I now know this 'watch-people's-faces procedure' is a human in-born social way of functioning. I would invite you to envisage for just one minute working with someone who always wears a face mask; how the lack of this universal clue (about how they are feeling) creates a barrier for me any time I engage with someone.

So the decision to attend the training was made.

At the beginning of the training, attendees were requested to take a recognition test on micro-facial-expressions that often occur for only 1/25th of a second on the face - I was not able to identify a single one among the set of fourteen pictures. At the end of this session, half-way through the course, we were again invited to do a similar test, on which I obtained twelve correct answers!

 

At the very end of this ESaC three-days training, I was quite devastated when realizing how deep and large the gulf was between myself and normal human beings, but I was struck with the evidence that I was not any more thinking in terms of abysses - never to be filled in - but in terms of mere gaps, above which bridges could be built, and even more with the idea that the constructions of these bridges, not only started from my side, but also from distinguished researchers like Professor Ekman, and the two amazing trainers (Arnaud and Aaron) who do not only impose a lesson, but propose throughout the training permanent, individual, inter-acting exercises and challenges, to not only learn by heart, but implement the procedures within our immediate social surroundings.

More than just a skill to better refine in-born social inter-actions and understanding one another, I firmly believe Professor Ekman's approved workshops represent a fantastic "therapy" to help autistic non-fully functioning human beings, to understand, extend, and gain access to the world of social life.

I am currently forty-five years old, I will probably turn ninety by the time I will be able to really become quite proficient in social activities. I cannot forget how my life was hell as a child, nor will I forget the impact and opportunities this course gifted to me. I thank you so much, just because you represent a hope for autistic kids, I really remember how it was.

In conclusion, I do sincerely hope this Paul Ekman International training will be promoted to others like me to help autistic children and adults to enhance their quality of life and bring them happiness by becoming a functioning member of this wonderful emotional life."


(name withheld for privacy).

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