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[personal profile] moonflower77
The following can be considered cognitive processing flaws as much as personality traits. All of them are due to the fact that Azila's nervous system was intended to function within a communal telepathic system, which included both an "internal language" (which was why there were moments when the thoughts of the constituents sounded like a loud chorus) and the direct transmission of emotions and imagery. Humans, on the other hand, are separate entities and communicate emotion indirectly, through body language or by introducing extra layers of meaning to their verbal exchanges; Azila lacks an innate capacity to decode either.

- Brutal honesty:

Like a witness in a court of law, Azila tells "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". Within the group consciousness, information was shared by 100%, nothing was concealed or distorted and there was no concept of an "uncomfortable", "offensive" or "hurtful" truth - only statement of fact, which carried over into her present state. This was especially noticeable during the first months following the deassimilation, after she started to speak in a more comprehensible manner; she was as earnest as a seven-year-old and would give as truthful, exhaustive and complete response as she could to any question. As she learned more about other people's responses and became somewhat less oblivious to the way her words could affect them, she grew more reserved, less willing to share whatever was on her mind.

When she does speak, she is blunt. Over the years, she hasn't learned to be evasive and has no intention to try. She did learn to lie, but cannot distinguish between the social contexts that do or do not necessitate the telling of a "white lie", and the notion itself is too foreign to her - she doesn't understand why one would have to do this. At the institute she was somewhat infamous for entering without a greeting, walking over to someone, reporting some major distressing news without any attempt to mitigate the message or to prepare them through some form of preamble, then leaving without a farewell and slamming the door behind her.

These days, she tries to be more cautious about what she says, or when, but has trouble holding her tongue and often blurts out the truth without thinking. By the time she realizes that her words were inappropriate or insulting and regrets them, it is too late. If she tries to correct herself, she may end up giving a back-handed compliment (however unintentional), worsening the situation further and causing even more discomfort and embarrassment on either side. Likewise, her apologies, coupled with visible signs of anxiety like sweating, shaking hands, darting eyes and shortness of breath, are awkward and harrowing for all the parties involved. This is one of the reasons Azila chooses to remain silent whenever possible.

Understandably, Azila is not known for her subtlety. At best, she is thought of as a caring and loyal, but rough - at worst, she is seen as inconsiderate and insensitive, lacking an elementary sense of tact. She, on the other hand, expects others to be as forthcoming as herself, and, when they aren't, is confused and upset.

The intricacy of our verbal exchanges makes no sense to her. She frequently wonders why - why complicate matters intentionally, why interfere with our own capacity to communicate, why be indirect and long-winded where we can be direct and succinct? Why not channel the effort into something more beneficial and fruitful than generating unnecessary complexity? From her perspective, our conversational tactics are passive-aggressive and manipulative. She is perplexed as to why we won't approach each other and ask and/or tell whatever we want outright, which, to her, is the one reasonable approach to adopt if one cannot establish any telepathic links, cannot communicate thought and emotion directly and has to rely on written or spoken language alone. What we do instead seems to be a twisted, elaborate mind game where we pretend to read each other's minds without being actually able to do so - making unfounded assumptions and taking offense if they prove to be untrue, or withholding the truth on purpose and checking whether others will be able to guess what it is, punishing them with a negative emotional response if they don't or rewarding them with a positive emotional response if they do.

- Literal-minded:

If one filtered out the "noise" in the form of misused or unnecessary words and broken structures and condensed Azila's speech into the most concise form imaginable, one would discover that she means exactly what she says, no more and no less. This is exactly how she comes across when she uses sign language: direct, precise and to the point.

Within the collective consciousness, communication was exact and direct, because it extended beyond human language and its limitations; nothing could be hidden, insinuated or left between the lines. Because of this, Azila tends to take others' words at face value. It is extremely stressful for her to navigate a conversation and decode the strategies we use on a daily basis to circumvent the topic, be vague, introduce intentional double meanings, overstate or understate. The effort leaves her exhausted and is, more often than not, futile.

It would be inaccurate to say that she doesn't understand figurative language; she does, but the degree of success depends on how visual the given figure of speech is. She far less difficulty with original (poetic) metaphor because of its vivid, fresh quality, which allows her to freely use her visual thinking, and because the connection between the images is easy to trace. In conventional metaphor, on the other hand, the original connection is often faded with overuse, or lost, which makes it a lot more confusing. In that sense, she is somewhat like a second language learner - she does have the capacity to understand figurative turns of phrase, but most of them are unfamiliar and take her longer to process.

The same goes for humor. She is able to grasp quite a few jokes, but they are usually lost on her in conversation - her mind just won't make the necessary connections between images on time. If given sufficient time for her mind to flick through her mental catalogues, locate the necessary images and find the parallels between them, she will be able to appreciate the joke after a pause or possibly even to respond.

- Lack of certain vital social constructs

As a hive-creature, Azila has had trouble understanding certain concepts that stem from individuality and couldn't have existed in a group consciousness, such as possession, privacy, or social rank and status.

Property, for example, continues to present a problem - a notion that would be perfectly clear to any human toddler sitting in a sandbox and quarreling over a toy. On an intellectual level, she understands that the members of this society are individuals, separate entities not linked together into an shared network, and, as a consequence, each of them prefers to have a separate environment - a certain space of their own, objects they like, need use on a habitual basis, and so on. She is also aware of the way society will codify this, entering a house or set of objects into a record as associated with a certain person and allowing them to lay official claim to these possessions.

On an emotional level, however, she has no sense of what ownership entails. She just doesn't seem to be able to able to develop the same attachment to objects or dwellings. Instinct tells her that resources must be distributed between the members of the community and accessible to each of them on demand, and any property must be communal - in fact, there should altogether be no property as such. She, for her part, can strip off her last shirt for someone who has a greater need for it, in the most literal sense, or give them her last food supply during a time of famine without a second thought; the idea that one might choose to keep these resources to themselves and refuse to share is preposterous and near-incomprehensible to her (interestingly, though, she doesn't think of humans as selfish, though she may call them that when she is on edge and lashes out in self-defense - she just finds them hard to understand and feels that she fails to grasp something significant about them).

She does grow attached to her clothes and to her own scent in the fabric, which is one of the reasons she is reluctant to have them replaced, but this is rather arbitrary and weak; she will still offer and/or give them away without any regrets if she has to. Her living quarters do produce a strong attachment insofar as they remind her of home, and give her a certain emotional stability and warmth, but again, it's not the actual house or apartment, as a piece of real estate, that she would be reluctant to part with. If she learned she could return to her real home, she would leave at once and not look back.

Similarly, she has no sense of privacy. This manifests not only in her tendency to touch other people and move in too close for comfort, but also in her lack of ability to single out other people's possessions, unless they are pointed out to her directly, and to refrain from using them. At first, she could take an instrument or other item of equipment without permission or open someone else's shoulder bag and look through because she was curious to find out what was inside. Just as she frequently watched Initran as he slept, she would rummage through his backpack, cupboards and drawers, or try on his clothes when she wasn't home. He did his best to explain that while he didn't mind and she could continue to do any of this with him if she wished, she shouldn't do the same to anyone else because this is against the accepted rules of conduct.

These days, as with physical contact, she has moved to the other extreme, on the principle of "better safe than sorry". When she finds herself in an unfamiliar environment, she will ask for permission to use just about anything she comes across, which can drive other people to distraction. For example, if she were in an office, she would ask whether she could use the shared kettle every time she wanted to make some coffee. The best solution would be to give her a very concrete instruction, with the possible exceptions detailed, such as: "You can use the kettle whenever you come here, any time you like, unless someone else has filled it up and is waiting to make their own coffee".

She has much the same difficulty with social distinctions. Her own community was egalitarian in the extreme. Though divided into functions, everyone had an equal status; each caste, and each separate organism, were valuable for the super-organism as a whole and made a unique contribution to the shared consciousness. As a result, she has a serious problem understanding how persons in some positions enjoy more respect than others (while certain social strata, on the other hand, are outcasts and are treated with scorn and contempt). To her, any honest job is useful and necessary, and should be respected the same way as the others. In addition, being blind to non-verbal signals and other social cues, she is unable to determine a person's rank from their manner, and doesn't know how to treat them. This results in her sense of social distance being haywire - she may be official and distant with friends, but, at the same time, direct and on familiar terms with someone seen as a figure of authority.

This has added one more notch to her reputation as a "difficult" person: she was regarded as disobedient, rebellious, disrespectful of authority, although in actual fact she has a great respect for the law and for various social rules and regulations, and is more than eager to observe them, if only she knew what they were. She is reverent toward those whom she has already recognized as her superiors and makes every effort to follow their lead and carry out their directions. The only situation where she will disobey is when the order clashes with her fundamental ethical values - in this case, she will defend her position in a very vocal and loud manner (in every sense down to the literal), dispute the issue with those who had given the order, and, if she has to, take it to a higher authority.


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September 2017

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