Katie Rose Pryal tells a story illustrating the difficulties she and her son have with surprises, with a preface about Christmas. I’ve discussed this before. As I had it, “gifts are better than presents”, in that, to my mind, presents are presentational and involve not just uncertainty and surprise but social performance.
Presents are sort of a perfect shitstorm. Gifts, for me, involve the view of giving which places the givee and not the giver at its center; as such, if someone’s brain requires predictability and control, you take that into consideration if you want to give them something. Surprises, well, are right out.
What I learned from Katie Rose Pryal is that there’s a god damned term for this, and it’s a pretty apt one.
Today, I say that I hate surprises, and I really, really do. What I prefer, what I need, is to be able to set my expectations properly. In psychology, the word for this need is “previewing.” Previewing is when you let someone know what is coming so that they can manage their expectations properly—especially when, because of how their brains are wired, it’s a little harder for them to handle chaos than it is for everyone else to do so.
My brain requires previewing in as many things and as many ways as the world around me will afford it. This isn’t just about presents. It’s about things like needing doctors or their staffs not to call me without first sending a message telling me they are going to call me and telling me what it’s about.
Having a term now is useful, especially in that last context, because I can (no pun) present this idea to them not as a patient being difficult or asking for some sort of special treatment but as an accommodation.