First thoughts, second thoughts, third thoughts. How many times can one person come along the same road and see the same landmarks and try to look at them in a new way? Lots of times, if you want to know the truth.
I've spoken before about second-guessing ourselves. To an extent, everyone does this, it's a part of life and makes humanity the great thinker it can occasionally be. The main reasoning behind re-thinking a subject is to explore it, to see it from all possible angles and, ultimately, to make a decision about it, even if that decision is simply whether you agree with it.
The other, less satisfactory, reasoning behind second, third and fourth thinking is either the inability to make the decision or to re-visit past events, still thinking about them as if you could have done something differently. These are both closely linked with self-esteem and self-doubt, and often form a part of the internal aspie processes.
If you are already thinking through how to do things on a daily basis, even for events that are familiar to you, it's not so surprising that you plod through other events and experiences a few times, when they don't occur all the time.
Aspies have a need to make things familiar, even if they've never done them before or have no real way of knowing how things will turn out.
Similar to a wedding rehearsal, the aspie will plot out the variables of something that is yet to be and see if they can make it a little more routine, with the expected outcomes branched out neatly on a mental diagram. A map for life, perhaps?
If the event has already happened and something went wrong, or feels wrong or makes the aspie uneasy, it will be re-played on the internal super-computer. This can be the case even if we know exactly what went wrong and don't doubt the outcome. If the event has been disturbing in some way, it will be re-visited.
This isn't the same as laying in your bed, flicking through your regrets. It can be applied to anything, just so that life makes a little more sense. It's a way of bringing meaning out of potential chaos.
If the event went the right way but was dramatic enough to impact on the aspie psyche, then it will be thought through again, just to examine it, to turn it over and see if there's anything that went unnoticed the first time.
This is a way to understand life, other people, our reactions to them. We are always searching for hidden meaning; we assume there is hidden meaning, even in everyday happenings, because so much of meaning is already hidden from us.
I think this need to re-think and re-visit is fundamental to an aspie's sense of security too. There's the childish belief, not often expressed, that if you can think about and visualise something enough, then it will lose its power over you and you will be in control.
Rather like when children imagine what they would do in a dangerous situation - they have their actions planned out and are the champion of the story. It's the children who don't have an exit strategy you have to worry about, as it's a sign they feel powerless. As children, we are already powerless, so this planning ahead and imagining is a way of coping with that, of denying it and by denying it, making it not true.
As an adult aspie, we know that by thinking things through, however many times, we can't make them true or untrue. If they have already happened, it's too late anyway. If they are still to come, we have enough life experience to realise these things have a will of their own and are not often in our control.
And yet still we think, and consider, and wonder, and make decisions based on these internal musings which, sometimes, have little connection with the reality of the situation. Whole life decisions can be based on what an aspie imagines will happen and whether that inner visualisation has enough power to take on a life of its own and seem true.
I guess you might say that aspergers comes with its own, in-built quantum generator. We don't manufacture whole universes, but we do create endless possible scenarios of this one, so that we can filter through them to give ourselves the heads-up on what the future might hold. Or on what we could have done differently in our past.
There's the other side to this, where you re-imagine your past and place yourself in the future that would have been. Very dangerous territory, that one, as you are following a route not even born, that was never meant to be and yet it holds an allure for the aspie in trouble, or denial, as it whispers to you, 'this might have been your life, this could have been yours.'
It can be a useful tool to watch and listen to these numerous thoughts on how things might be, or have been. We can learn a lot, so long as we don't use them as a stick to beat ourselves with. If you can keep an eye out for your lurking self-esteem issues, then you can learn new things about yourself and the world by studying them again.
Look out for the complete re-write, though. That's the one you need to avoid. It can have you living a perfect life, with great hair and everything just so, if only you had done this instead of that. Life doesn't work that way, for anyone.
No matter what your logic tells you, once it's done picking over the past: life cannot be held up to the sun and peered at without squinting. If you could see everything clearly, without the squint, you would send yourself insane. What would be the point of living if you knew everything and never made mistakes? What would there be left to learn?
Have the thoughts, first thoughts, second thoughts, third thoughts. Be a little wary by the time you reach the fourth and fifth. Keep an eye on yourself beyond that. Use the inner visualisation to help yourself, not to fill out the jowls of winky old regret.
Become wiser, readers, even if your wisdom only helps you understand yourself. And if you do stray into those other universes, be kind to yourself when you get there.
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