Tug o’ War

Neurotypicals are infuriating. We know this. Interestingly, they frequently feel the same way about us. Although my frustration with them undoubtedly shows in these blog posts, in reality it isn’t so much a matter of blame as it is two very different brains playing Tug o’ War. Sometimes people WILL do things that are wrong. As will we. Humans have a tendency to do that. On the whole, it may prove more efficient to leave the matter of guilt aside for the moment.

In my own struggles, and what I hear from others, a word that tends to come up is ‘hypocrisy’. Hypocrisy in neurotypicals, that is. Hypocrisy in the sense of ‘play acting’ is something we engage in quite a bit, in order to survive this weird world.

I’ve Googled hypocrisy, and it turns out that what it means is ‘the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, esp. with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretense, sham. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another.’

From our point of view, neurotypicals engage in this sort of behaviour with depressing frequency. We are diagnosed with a disorder where one of the symptoms is decreased ability to empathize. (It should be noted that there is a distinction. We don’t do well with empathy in the sense of taking on and reproducing the other persons feelings ourselves in order to relate to them. We don’t do well with sympathy but CAN be very compassionate. All of this is, of course, fairly generalized). The word ‘autism’ itself means ‘focussed on oneself’.

We have some limitations, and to function properly within any group, and that includes church, we need some help. We don’t do well with change, we do need a lot of predictability and clarity, and we can be completely oblivious to any unspoken communication going on around us. We’re not all that good at adapting; it’s part of the disorder.

And yet time and again all of us notice that the neurotypical people around us are reluctant to learn what autism is, do not empathize with us, are not predictable or clear enough, and expect us to keep up with their odd ways of communicating.

And expect US to adapt to THEM.

When we’re doing very well, when our head is empty, when we feel good and function as we wish, we possess a degree of flexibility. When stressed, faced with something unexpected, in situations that we do not understand and have not encountered before, whatever flexibility and ‘normalcy’ we had goes right out the window.

To us, neurotypicals lie. Almost all the time. They make promises they do not keep. They make assumptions. They say one thing and do the other, their words do not match their expression.  And they do not realize how hypocritical this makes them seem to us, because to them it is mostly normal.

Are they hypocritical? Sometimes, yes, they are. Neurotypicals too can be breathtakingly callous and careless. There can be several reasons for this.

  1. They genuinely do not care. They want things their way, and if you cannot keep up, tough luck. They’ll throw you to the wolves. These people are best avoided.
  2. They are ignorant (1). A lot of the time it is a matter of misinformation. There IS a lot of misinformation about autism around, and it can be tricky to really understand autism and its underlying problems, particularly when it comes to highfunctioning autists who have developed coping methods. Offer these people information. If they refuse the information and persist in their ignorance, leave them be. Your relationship with them is not important enough to them to educate themselves, so don’t waste precious energy trying to build one.
  3. They are ignorant (2). Many times, just like we aren’t always aware of our own behaviour patterns, neurotypicals do not realize the hypocrisy and unpredictability of their own behaviour. It is not usually such a problem to them – in fact, we live in a society that takes great PRIDE in being unpredictable and unreliable. 9-5 has become a dirty word, dependable has become ‘inflexible’ and being late is fashionable, because it shows how incredibly BUSY that person is, and how many things have to be accomplished in too little time, preventing arrival at the agreed upon time. There is very little we can do about it; if highfunctioning autism proves to be an evolutionary adaptation, we will eventually create a counterweight to this behaviour and restore balance to the Forc…eh, societies we live in. Until then – tough luck. All we can do is explain to them that to us, it IS very important, and could they please accommodate our inflexibility since they are so very flexible?
  4. They are incapable. Let’s face it – we can be incredibly difficult at times. The level of predictability and reliability we require to function optimally is so high that without a lot of effort, most neurotypicals aren’t going to get there. They also miss a lot of what they consider details, which means their information supply isn’t always sufficient. Just as stress can cause us to revert to more ‘autistic’ behaviour, stress can cause someone who is normally very predictable and reliable to drop the ball once in a while. As difficult as it is, we must make allowances for that – meaning, accept that there are legitimate reasons that may cause such things to happen. If a person is normally reliable and suddenly shows such behaviour, it may mean something is wrong with them. Inquire after their health and well-being. If it is par for the course for them to behave like this even after you have provided information and requested their support, they simply are not able or not willing to invest the effort. Minimize your efforts to build a relationship with them or even interact with them.

You will have noticed that many times I have recommended not to invest in relationships with people that show are certain behaviour. I am only just learning to follow my own advice here, and I do not mean to be rude. However, we have a limited supply of energy to devote to social interaction and limited skills in the area. We easily overexert ourselves. We must economize. Not because those people are inherently evil or wrong, but because we do not have the energy required available to us.

It is very simple home economics, really. If I have 1000 dollars a month, and I need to pay 350 dollars in rent, 150 in utilities and 150 in insurance, and I need 200 for groceries, I have 150 dollars left to spend as I wish.  There are numerous ways I can spend it, however, I am limited by the 150 dollars. I wish to buy some new clothes, but I also need to get my bike repaired. My mother has her birthday and requires a present.

I may be able to do all three if I shop at thrift stores for clothes, and give my mother a mostly home-made present – this is coping. I know what is available to me, and I make choices accordingly.

But what if I have 1000 dollars a month on average? And I am not entirely sure how much is available to me each month, and my expenditures vary? One month I have 800 dollars available, one month I may have 1200. One month my utilities are 100 dollars, the next month 175, and the months do not coordinate. The utilities bill may be 175 in the month where my income is 800. That makes budgeting a bit more difficult and calls for a careful preservation of reserves and budget cuts to compensate the ‘rich’ months with the ‘poor’ ones.

Although like all comparisons, this one goes astray at some point, it is pretty much like this with us. We’re on a tight budget. If we’ve managed our reserves well, we may at times be able to do something we’d normally not be able to do – like one might save up to go on holiday. Likewise, we are on a tight budget when it comes to energy we can devote to social interaction. The less predictability and reliability, the more energy we have to expend. That is why we do best to avoid or limit our interaction with people who are not reliable and predictable, because doing so easily causes massive budget overruns. That is not their ‘fault’ per say, but it is important for us to live within our means as much as we can. People who are willing to help us and cooperate with us increase our budget, or at least, take little out of it. With people who do not, we must make careful calculations of how much we can afford.

It’s easier said than done, however. We are constantly being pulled in all directions by the demands of the world around us, who have far more ‘funds’ in social energy available and also seem to acquire more by spending it. That being the case, it makes sense that they are occasionally baffled by our refusals.

As for the hypocrisy – at times we can provide an eye-opener to people. At times we can explain and reach a compromise, or at least, understanding. At times we will just have to suffer through it. And at times we will, for the sake of our own sanity, have to cease our interaction with people.

 

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