Non-linear thinking

Although I’ve already published one post today, I just had to share a quote from this article which nails the kind of non-linear thinking that defines, well, me! Its a typical trait of an autistic mind and comes from Part one of the article “What is autism?” by Dr Melanie Hayworth on the website Reframing Autism (which I recommend as a source).

Anyone following either (or both) of my two blogs, perhaps especially my other one Spinning the Light which is my free-for-all dive into topics that interest me, will have noticed this non-linearity in the way I draw connections and find patterns across vast periods of time, snippets and tidbits of my experiences and other people’s, many different sources and perspectives of information, such diverse topics and many varying types of approach, plus a whole array of contributory sensory and intuitive information to come to the conclusions I reach. This may seem daunting, unconventional or even muddled to some people but (hopefully) I draw things together to some sort of conclusion in the end; or, at least, it feels that way to me…if harder to share in such a way that other people join you in your hypothesis by the end of your writing efforts (though they may feel the truth of some of it…even where linear “evidence” is lacking).

Bear in mind, also, that we are headed towards a far less linear experience of life, not least as humans develop in sync with technology and continue to think more outside the box to draw on a myriad different pools of knowledge, simultaneously and with more and more pull towards unity consciousness, which takes focus upon similarities and collaborative potentials over differences and conflicts. Hyperconnectivity is the model for the future and we have made it an inside job already! Interestingly, I’ve just read something similar about how massive fungi networks collaborate with the rest of the ecosystem in the incredible book “Entangled Life” by Merlin Sheldrake (there goes my pattern noticing brain again). We could start to think of our brains as a kind of super-processor, pre-wired for more futuristic times.

To me, this is my “normal” and the reason is “orthogonal” (that is “non-linear”) thinking. Diving into my thoughts is a daily adventure that could lead, quite literally, anywhere and never gets boring; I simply don’t relate to the limitations of a linear “this leads to that leads to that” step-by-step process of processing and would never choose to make that my default, which is not to say my way is better (and it comes with many challenges) but its certainly better for me, thus I embrace it. I also find it hard (I’ll admit) to settle down and focus on one task; it always feels like I have a piece of thread tied to each of my fingers and toes and am constantly set upon weaving them all together, in equal part, from many different angles. I’ve long thought of it as an absence of synaptic pruning in a world full of neat topiary, in which case I am the crazy tree with too many branches but perhaps a charm all of my own!

I’m quite certain its one of the main reasons I am so contented inside my own head and in solitary for much of my time; I’m just so busy and distracted with all these patterns to play with…on the inside (you could list this as one of the ways I have “problems” I guess, but it really doesn’t feel that way to me). So, the following description being the best I have ever come across, here it is (and if this happens to describe you, take in these words and then why not contemplate how accomplished your orthogonal thinking is and be proud of the incredible way you are made):


“One of the hallmarks of the Autistic experience is “orthogonal thinking” or an “orthogonal mindset”. The word orthogonal is defined as “not pertinent to the matter under consideration” (deriving from the Euclidean geometric definition of right angles, or of things perpendicular to each other). Orthogonal thinking is the ability to draw on ostensibly unrelated elements to inspire new perceptions and ideas (in contrast to “linear thinking”).

There is neurobiological evidence which explain why orthogonality is so much a part of Autistic thinking. For my purposes here, though, it is enough to say that Autistic individuals engage many more – and different – brain regions when we process incoming stimuli than typically developing (TD) brains. Autistic brains have additional neuronal pathways (termed “hyperconnectivity”) that are diffuse throughout the brain.

I want to make the point here that “hyperconnectivity” is a value-neutral term. More does not necessarily equate to better (or, indeed, worse) connectivity or processing. Hyperconnectivity comes with strengths and challenges, as I’ll discuss further below. Autistic hyperconnectivity simply “is”; it is a difference that impacts the way that Autistic people are, which is neither preferable nor inferior to the way that TD people are.

As a TD brain develops and matures, diffuse connections become more focal (so only the strictly “relevant” regions of the brain “fire” at different stimuli). The Autistic brain, however, does not generally become more focal, so that our connections remain diffuse throughout our lives. Essentially, this dispersion of “firing” neuronal pathways means that Autistic individuals draw on many different regions to interpret and process incoming stimuli.

It is unsurprising, then, that we make connections where others see none, or draw together what seem like disparate experiences or ideas to achieve new and exciting innovations, because the neuronal pathways in our brains are “lighting up” and connecting in unusual and new ways as we process information.

With sincere thanks to “What is autism? (part one)” – Dr Melanie Hayworth, Reframing Autism

4 thoughts on “Non-linear thinking

  1. I think I really noticed my brain was wired differently during ‘A’ Levels – I found it difficult to ‘just answer the question’ my brain would fire off in all directions and I’d often come up with very original and innovative thoughts! But of course these were not the text book answers the examiners were looking for especially as they often challenged the validity of the question …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes I strongly resonate with that Clive and, though I mostly managed to keep myself entrained to the appropriate thought “corridors” in my A levels, it was when I did my English degree that it backfired. I was told my final project, part of the scoring for my degree, on the topic of Virginia Woolf, went off into such an explosion of unfathomable ideas based on how I felt I felt I had gleaned a meaningful pattern of colour-references, like a secret code, underlying her use of metaphor that they really didn’t know what to make of it so they dropped me a grade from my predicted “first” (pretty much hinting that had only been done as a kindness as my exams had gone alright otherwise I suspect they would have thrown it out). I had assumed I had a bit of freedom to explore my own ideas for once, being a project, but it really didn’t pay off as they just couldn’t relate! The irony is, I suspect Virginia Woolf herself would have understood where I was coming from as she had that kind of thinking…

      Liked by 1 person

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