San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
The Pattern Detectors: Part 1
Temple Grandin is an autistic college professor known for two things: First, her high degree of social skill has made her the rare autistic person who can communicate the perceptions and thought processes of autistic people to the larger world.
Second, her autism has given her a deep insight into the perceptual world of animals, especially cattle. Because of her ability to perceive how cattle respond to being herded and sorted, she has designed ways of treating them in corrals and at the slaughterhouse that are far more humane than previous methods.
In her book, Animals in Translation*, Grandin observes that while animals live entirely in the here and now, noting mostly the things that affect them immediately, humans are the masters of detecting patterns. They see the “larger picture,” which allows them to do things that animals cannot, such as plan far ahead.
If you are always noting the position of the sun and stars, over time you make successful stabs at predicting the seasons. Predict the seasons and you can invent agriculture or position yourself at the right time to intercept the migration of edible animals.
(That isn’t to say that intelligent animals like dogs, cats, dolphins, and apes cannot think ahead, but they can’t do it in the systematic, abstract way humans do. Without language or writing, they lack the means of creating an elaborate long-term memory they can pass on to their children.)
So, knowing we are creatures who see overall patterns is the key to our overall success. It can also be the key to our management of type 2. If we know we are capable of detecting patterns, even though we may be starting from zero, it gives us the confidence that we can achieve some level of mastery over our diabetes.
Say you’ve just been diagnosed with type 2. Your doctor has given you a flurry of pronouncements and instructions that sound much like the speech of the grown-ups in a Charlie Brown special. But at least you now know that blood sugar levels are your main concern. How do you begin forming a picture of your particular pattern?
On Thursday, June 7, I’ll offer a series of steps that will help you get started and acquire a sense of control over this new-fangled thing called living with type 2.
*Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin, 2005, published by Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-4769-8