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I was working with a young man who has autism today. He was upset because for logistical reasons, we had to ask him to leave his room and his video games and come with us to the office on an errand. He was extremely upset about it, saying that he didn’t want to go to the office because it was boring. Unfortunately, he didn’t really have a choice in the matter, and eventually he agreed to come with us. Part of his treatment program is getting him to interact with other people in a socially appropriate fashion, but he would much prefer to play video games in his room all day, every day.

I thought about it for a while, and wondered if he might want to meet a few of my friends that make video games for a living. It seems like if there was anything that may make him interested in talking to someone it might be that. I asked him if he would be interested and he said he didn’t want to. He already had to go one place today and he was not leaving the house again. I explained that it wouldn’t be today: I would need time to contact my friends who make video games, but that if he was interested we could set it up for sometime in the future, like Saturday.

He explained to me that the future didn’t really exist, and that it was all crystal balls and guessing. I told him I was pretty sure that Saturday was going to come and we could make plans for it. He reiterated that there was no future, there was only the things we do now to create the past. I tried a few different avenues, like pointing out other plans he had in the next few weeks were also in the future, and that it was possible to make plans like these. He explained his position a few different ways too in order to help me understand his perspective, but the words “no future, no future” over and over again in different ways seemed so bleak to me.

Maybe they are bleak for someone who doesn’t have much control over his life. Living the way that he does, I could see that he may not feel he has a lot to look forward to. Many times plans end up getting readjusted, changed or cancelled on account of money issues, gas issues, staffing issues, trips getting cancelled because someone goes to ER, or someone throwing a fit. Maybe the sheer unpredictability of it seems like it isn’t something worth planning for only to have plans get ruined. But that isn’t consistent with the way he explained his perspective.

Many of us emphasize building a future, making our lives better, and sometimes making ourselves miserable when things fall through and the future looks bleak. I’ve experienced that a lot in this economy. Yet many meditation and therapies try to get people refocused into the now rather than planning for the future or ruminating over the past. His perspective was that people should do the things right now in order to build their past. I think it is a point worth pondering in further detail about what the implications of that belief are. Call it a character building exercise.

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