What Is The Rule System?
A concept that will be brought up over and over and over and over again in my posts is The Rule System, commonly shortened down to The System. The Rule System is the most defining trait of autism for me. It is the guide to life, the way to all that exists, the provider of answers and origin of breakdowns.
People with Aspergers tend to have difficulty getting outside of established ‘schedules’, and a failure to adhere to these schedules is able to trigger a breakdown in many of them. I used to think I was exempt from this but alas, I am not that unique. In order to circumvent this, I informally created The Rule System in 8th grade and have been adding onto it and defining it more since.
The Rule System is a massive list of mental rules about what actions are allowed in what situation with which exceptions. The System has 3 kinds of rules within it
3) General Truths
Starting from the bottom: General truths outline the very foundation that every other rule MUST abide and pass by before they are even allowed to exist. Examples of general truths include “It is bad to hurt other people”. A more complicated one though would be “it is always permissible to guilt people into action so long as the intended result is not selfish.” Another fairly common one I have to use is “People only are friends with those who are useful.” These truths also detail the patterns that emotions have; they follow very simplistic laws.
The Definitions provide the interpretative meat of the System. What does it mean to guilt people? What does it mean for something to be selfish? Selfless? What does it mean to ‘hurt’ somebody? What is a friend? What does it mean to have a “good heart”? what does it mean to “be yourself”? It is perhaps the most philosophical section of the System since all of this requires precise diction and attention to define everything to work flawlessly with the rest of the system.
The Rules are the end result of the definitions and general truths. I used to think I had control over which rules existed, but I am wrong. The System is independent of any control that I have; I do not make the rules, I just follow them as they appear before me and exist. Rules take the standard form of:
“In x situation, x action is/isn’t allowed with the exceptions of x”
Rules are formulated through combining general truths. If I am in a situation where I have to decide to give a gift to somebody, for example, it would be cross-referenced through the System to make sure that action is allowed.
“People enjoy giving gifts”
“People do not enjoy feeling guilt”
“People feel guilty about receiving too many gifts too quickly except in the instance where such an obligation for those gifts may exist or the gifts are free”
“Too many gifts too quickly” follows a gift-time ratio of about once every two weeks for free gifts and once a month for gifts exceeding a cost of 10 dollars. Obligations or special event gifts do not count toward this total.
If you want to give a friend a gift, you are allowed to so long as it has been at least 2 weeks since the last non-event one, except if there is some implied obligation.
That’s a standard idea of how the Definitions, General Truths, and Rules all work together to create the defining guide for every possible action in life.
When I first started using the system, it was not so formally defined nor was it even very long (11 pages typed out Freshman year). The bulk of the rules have been added in as I’ve learned more general truths and definitions. Also when I first started it, I had to actively think about the system every time I even got up from my chair and wanted to move somewhere. It was mentally exhausting. Nowadays, it is more intuitive and I’ve managed to force most of the rules into my natural behavior and patterns of thinking.
The System has an extreme requirement however: every situation MUST have a rule to it. Failure to have a rule is punished by the System through an autistic breakdown.
This requirement applies for all 3 categories of rules. If I don’t know the name of an emotion, if I don’t know the general truth to a scenario, or if I can’t figure out the rule to a situation, I will have an autistic breakdown.
The System is merciless, yet necessary. Without being able to feel most emotions, I don’t have much of a choice. I am bound to the System and just go through the motions in solving it. Even though the System is my own creation, I really don’t think I have any control over it at all.