The Bucket Theory

An Aspie’s theory similar to the “spoon” theory. (

old-19673_640Ever since being diagnosed with lupus, angie and I have used the “spoon” concept to communicate about her energy and what she can accomplish in a day. Back in December, I was trying to communicate about how stimuli can have different effects on me, as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, and I came up with the “bucket” theory to describe how I see/deal with stimuli.

Imagine that I start off the day with a bucket. I hear something intense on the radio going to work, a couple of golf balls get tossed in the bucket. As soon as I get in, I get slammed with several problems all at once and folks are getting into my personal space and I am quickly overwhelmed. More golf balls in the bucket. Someone is wear really crazy perfume and it just assaults my nose. More golf balls in the bucket. I’m asked to do something in a social situation that I don’t have a good idea of how to handle. This time, a huge softball goes in the bucket. Then I get home and the granddaughter is visiting and the house is full of shrieking, jumping, running, slamming doors, waving arms, TV is on full blast. LOTS of balls go into the bucket.

At some point, what’s going to happen to the bucket? It’s going to overflow and I can’t hold onto those balls. I need to do the things I need to do in order to deal with the overflow/overload, so that I can empty the bucket some (or all), come back and be OK.

Problem is, I don’t always have a consistent bucket size. Sometimes it’s a HUGE bucket and I can deal with ALL the things. Sometimes, it’s a shot glass and I can hold only one ball, if that much. It varies on my sleep, on my diet, on the amount of stress in my life. And the balls themselves – the size of them or the number of them, represent the stimulus or situation and how much it’s going to impact me before I overload.

For me, the bucket represents the fact that as an Aspie, I react to stimuli by trying to deal with it, but the intensity in how I process things gets to a point where I can’t contain it and I don’t interpret things in the same manner that NTs do. That filter isn’t there and those situations where NTs can handle it normally become very intense moments, especially those moments where I’m dealing with the “social blindness” that I may have in particular situation.

I think realizing that I have to be aware of where I’m at with the bucket, and that I’m responsible for taking care of myself, have been huge in my comfort level in being an Aspie. I can be proactive in trying to understand how big my bucket is, and manage myself to that. I can better forgive myself when I need to take a moment (or an hour) and unwind and empty that bucket a bit. I can also look at angie and tell her “bucket filling fast” and she’ll understand, at some level.

I think I’m going to start using the bucket theory a bit more to explain to NT’s how I process stimuli and how I deal with it. I may come back and revisit this.

(Copyright, 2013, Michael Shorten, All rights reserved)

Published by

Master Michael S

International Master 2014. Member of: Chicago Leather Club, Chicago Leathermen Group, MAsT: Greater Chicago. Longtime leatherman. One of the Four Horsemen.

5 thoughts on “The Bucket Theory”

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog jere. Thank you for posting it. I have Aspergers Syndrome also and have been looking for a way to explain my over stimulation and meltdowns to my Master/Daddy. I think your bucket analogy will make a lot of sense to him. Thank you 🙂


  2. Oh, WOW! Knowing and using the spoon theory regularly, your bucket theory makes SO much sense! I can even relate to it, because even though the social situations aren’t typically difficult for me, I do, most definitely deal with sensory overload. Sound is usually my biggie, but tactile simulation (tags, seams, certain touches, being touched to much ( though this is rare in a sexual context), etc.,( rarely visual, other than flashing lights,& that can be instant overload .). Thank you so much, for this new tool!


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