I know, I know, I’ve been writing such a lot about Asperger’s lately that it sounds like it’s all I want to talk about….but then, in a way, it is. It can’t be got away from that, when a mature person, a woman, who has (over) thought and (over) felt and been (overly) aware all her life suddenly has a reason for all those things, and not only that but a mechanism for noticing she is not as alone as she thought, then the effect is to take her over as she re-examines every aspect of her life to date in a rather marvellous new light. Realising you’re not broken is no small milestone in a person’s life-long journey of feeling “odd” compared to everybody else and yet really knowing no other way to be:
“Prior to receiving a diagnosis, many people project into the confusion of who they are with a variety of labels that are self-critical and judgmental, including “weird,” “defective,” and “psycho,” each denoting in loud, clashing tones, “Something is wrong with me!” It can come as an enormous relief to discover that there is nothing “wrong,” much that is very right, and a lot that is different.” Dr Michelle Garnett on “Diagnosis in Women”, a sub-heading in Spectrum Women by Jessica Kingsley
I’ve touched upon some of the positives of this reappraisal process in other posts and am sure I will again but that’s not what I want to, succinctly (haha, let’s see), write about here, which is on a subject much broader than autism, though it has a huge bearing.
What I want to do right now is capture something very pure and simple that comes to me as a sort of “truth” about autism and other forms of a-typical “wiring” during these times. You see, as someone with an evolutionary frame of mind (you could say its my special interest) I can’t help noticing and then summarising as follows.
“The world” that humans collectively operate as is what has really become broken here….mainly because it has become lopsided or “all one way”, like a cart missing a pair of its wheels. A certain way of being has become heavily dominant and that’s the masculine way of regarding everything as commodity, the world as unsafe, people as competition….you get the idea. I would add, none of that is “masculine” per se but a “distorted” kind of masculinity…which is a version of it that has run riot and unchecked for thousands of years. So long, in fact, that we don’t remember or relate to a time before, or at least not with our minds, even our artefacts from those times being scarce and outside of our understanding and the world now a very different place as a result of what was lost, so how-oh-how do we break out of that paradigm if not with our minds (more on that beautiful simplicity below)?
There have been a lot of undesirable and self-limiting effects of regarding the world though one set of tightly banded together beliefs (since even what we regard as violently opposing opinions in the modern world are as inter-reliant as any warring family members…really, close cousins below the surface, though these opposing ideas seem to fight all the time, not unlike royal families are all inter-related at the source). Above all, such a world is largely absent of the feminine impulse. By which I mean the “sacred” feminine way of experiencing the world (nothing to do with gender), where all things are one, there is no need or ability to posses anything, the picture is much broader than we could ever know (and accepted to be so, as a “given” of life) and therefore we don’t have to go around conquering everything with brute force, ownership or knowledge. Many dire effects indeed have sprung out of the tipping of this see-saw in one direction but, in summary, they could be said to be the result of regarding everything through a set of man-made beliefs which filter everything people think they know about the world from the day they are born (or even beforehand…) and, of course, being manmade, those beliefs make everything small, predictable and yet rather fear-inducing and often rather hopeless….always another mountain to be conquered etc.
In order to progress on a more balanced and healthy evolutionary trajectory, these so-called dichotomous ways of regarding the world have to be brought back together and into harmony, as is their natural state; this is the current challenge confronting The World as a project in longevity (a project that has begun to seem rather shaky of late). Many of us talk about such an age of new harmony “coming”, don’t we, and those same people tend to believe that we are already in the throes of its reorganisation process, though we sometimes wonder if we are deluding ourselves with fake optimism…
But, genetically speaking, what would this take…in order to bring back elements of what we have lost over eons of the masculine viewpoint being just so dominant that all our cultural thinking as “humanity” now comes from inside that box of its own creating? As Einstein said, the solution can only come from outside that box…
So, how do we, as it were, lift the needle up off the record player and place it down at an earlier stage in the track in order to start over, bringing back essentially human traits that have been mislaid over time; what was bred out, phased out, suppressed and even manipulated out of the gene pool of humanity due to being regarded as counter-flow and weak by the twisted masculinity of the dominant classes that oversaw all the years when our grandparents and great great great etc grandparents were born and manipulated to fit that “normal” viewpoint? It would take a sort of throw back, wouldn’t it, like when your computer gets a virus and you are in just in such a mess that you reboot and reinstall an earlier saved version, from before the mess even happened yet, once you have done that, you still add in the best of your saved work, carefully preserved (hopefully) on some external drive, so that what goes forwards from that point is a mixture of the best of both….together.
I was reminded of a word last night and it caught my interest for no apparent reason as I was watching a documentary on an unrelated theme. The word is “atavism” which I knew I had heard, and grasped the meaning of, long before, but it caught my attention enough to pause my program to refresh my understanding of what it means.
I realised at once that it was a word I had been seeking for some time to describe myself at those moments (as happens with increasing regularity… ) when my peculiar wiring seems to give me more in common with some sort of ancient human, an earlier format, a gentler, more nature-oriented, sensorarily aware version. It’s a thought that sparks to life when I read the kind of science that loves to talk about throwbacks to the “primitive” brain, with that tone that is so disparaging and, yes, easily and smugly dismissive of how relevant that part of the brain might still be for us all as we forge our way forwards into new times on this planet. Its a thought that flickers when I read about hunter gatherers, nomadic people and their gentler, more spiritual, reverential and earth-connected way of life. It leaps when I touch upon societies built around the feminine principle, thousands of years ago, before some catastrophe gave the edge to those who used fear to conquer all. Especially in the way I interact with the subtleties of the environment, at the sensory level, and “see” via internal pictures that connect data across a broad spectrum; these skills, I am convinced, would have been so useful in another era but now they are, or can seem, quite literally, a pain and a reason for not fitting in…and yet I won’t disregard them as some sort of pathology, an illness, a problem and have remained unfailingly curious abut them on the assumption they are a gift the very moment you regard them from outside of the box. I reached this conclusion even before I gave myself the label Asperger’s yet the same applies; such people are only “broken” when compared with a model of what is typical and which (based on plentiful evidence) is far from ideal, so why do we provoke such strength of feeling amongst those who would seek to eradicate our traits rather than meet them with curiosity and optimism?
The same could be said about those who work the most diligently with autism (rather than those who seek to “eradicate” or “cure” it); they never give up on seeing the gifts, approaching with curiosity and, very often, being open to learning from the neurodiversity of those they spend time with….as is the case with so many families who grow their own collective awareness as a result of their time spent together with autistic family members, learning via them entire new ways of being, prioritising, loving, interacting with and sensing the world.
The more I read about autism, the more I have felt the affirmative of this….that is, that we are not broken except in the context of how we struggle with life as it currently is (an overwhelming mess of man-made signals and behaviours, devised this way by people who experience and prioritise differently to us) and that those of us who are innately wired to be diverse, compared to fixed ideas of what is “typical”, carry long-lost gifts and traits to offer to the world that might have been useful once…and can be again, as part of the rebalancing of such a misshapen world. And, of course, being without the competitiveness that drives NT behaviour, our contribution to that rebalancing process might not necessarily appear very obvious, not being as “successful” seeming as they would tend to measure such a thing by. For instance, we could be contributing by growing the patience and awareness of those who take care of us, even those of us who don’t have speech, for instance, or coordinated movements yet I bet ya each and every one has taught their NT helpers something important about the experience of life “outside the box”. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, there is no typical here. So, here’s the thing about autism; we are a collective of extreme individuals, each very different to the next and yet here is our collective theme, in my view. We are the very reminder of individuality in a world that has become more tediously typical than it can even notice about itself, most of the time, so locked-in to its own paradigm has it become. Don’t you find the news predictable? It’s all so darned predictable I could weep.
When I say “we” I don’t even want to limit these observations to autism since I sense the same evolutionary impulse fuelling the rise of all the gender softening that is taking place, for instance (such as those who identify as gender fluid, bi-gender, without gender…there are over 50 categories floating around on the internet now) or any group that are dismantling the walls of what is taken too much for granted as definition of who we are. How much are we learning from these individuals? How thoroughly, in relatively short time, have those people managed to unpick almost everything that was once taken for granted about the world, ongoing, and in some incredibly far-reaching and positive ways since they do away with assumption and discrimination? These are necessary processes as we feel our way back towards something we need for our future; dare I say, we need to go back to the future (atavism), as the counterpoise to the rather dogmatic trajectory that the more belief-driven half of humanity feels so committed to at any cost (having invested in it so heavily), in whose name it will never admit it is wrong or that they can’t, ultimately, control everything on the spinning lump of rock they regard this sentient planet to be. Before their extreme arrogance is the downfall of us all, we need this rebalancing to occur. The world needs these cross over areas between limited viewpoints born of linear history and the wide-open, expansive ones that come with innate diversity (those of us born outside whatever box we don’t fit into…so we simply cant be any thing other that wide open and diverse, however we may pretend) and, yes, we need both mixed together and melded, in order to make the next evolutionary leap. It’s an improbable, alchemical process, for sure, but we get there when we identify with both, as one person; making ourselves the very melting pot, which is where the magic occurs.
Nothing spans that gulf, becoming the bridge between unmeetable sides, so well as an Asperger’s woman because, I am finding, these women have had to work particularly hard to come to understand and even operate as though they are a functioning part of a neurotypical world in order to survive, not least because many of them did not reach their breakthrough understating regarding their own Asperger’s until they were well into maturity. Its a well know fact that the narrow diagnostic procedure and some misguided beliefs (here we go again) about what autism was led to countless women, many of them now my age, not being noticed as autistic as children, thus they were left to forge their own path in a neurotypical world. I am one of those women and it has been the making of me, though it’s been unspeakably hard. Thousands of such women, in waves, are now finding their way to their own Asperger’s understanding, often via health or career breakdown or the diagnosis of one or more of their children, at which point they realise “but these traits sound like me!”
Across all the years in between, they have probably gone through higher education, pursued careers, raised families, been part of communities….and, all the while, running two train tracks; that of their hard-earned “normality” and that of their precious inner landscape, where they are aware of vast other perspectives that make them feel quite different to almost everyone else they come into contact with, not to mention feeling at odds with the very way the world operates. That’s what it feels like to bring together two perspectives together as one person; because the world experienced through a set of beliefs and without them is a very different landscape yet we have to, somehow, reconcile those in order to be who we are as functioning people. The process of learning to do so can serve as a catalyst for achieving self-awareness at an extraordinary new level, as well as delivering expertise and intimacy with two very different ways of looking at the world; neither of them right or wrong, just “different”. Extreme tolerance, compassion and circumspection are inner skills we have to acquire just to keep our own wires straight!
We MODEL the very process of merging these differences to the degree that, now I realise about my Asperger’s, I find there are parts of being neurotypical that I would quite like to keep, for all I now see so clearly how they are learned and added-on to me as a skillset rather than being innate. Being jolly and sociable with other people (in the right circumstances) is a point in case; I enjoy this very much, in short bursts, as long as the conversation underwriting it is purposeful and stimulating. Playing the game of some other harmless NT games, such as sharing things on social media, is another thing I quite enjoy from time to time, though it seems contradictory with how generally private I am. I like to go out amongst crowds whose behaviours I don’t really relate to and people-watch for fun, so I’m not always the recluse or to be found exclusively in my natural environment. Therefore, in just a few months, I have discovered that I span many different versions of human being as one; as both my ancient prototype and a very modern woman, for instance, and a lover of Nature and of some (not all) technology…and these are just the most obvious examples. In doing so, I show what it is possible to be….the best of both worlds… and there are many more people like me, mixing up the everyday and trivial with vast existential thoughts in the same heartbeat. I have to allow that this is an important trait to have in these forward-thrusting times and I am seeing this mixture of apparent opposites or seeming contradictions (I love a good paradox!) in some of the most interesting individuals. Now is not a time for sitting aloft and aloof on hillsides contemplating the meaning of life at a safe distance; it’s the doing of this from within the heart of the fray that is creating some sort of magic spell or the reweaving of a tapestry that had become threadbare. As the saying goes, we chop wood, carry water, even as this is going on.
I also appreciate, like few others that I know, how the same sensations can present as an almost completely different landscape according to whether they are experienced from within or without the belief filters; and, I sense, its useful that some of us are out and about noticing this as much as we are. My sensational range became almost unbearably painful when I first started to dismantle my learned layer of adopted “buffers of belief” a decade or so ago (for all they turned out to be rather ephemeral in my case…one puff and they blew away since they were only surface deep) because my innate sensibilities were already wide open to environmental sensory cues that others don’t seem to notice and now they were left naked and exposed. It wasn’t so much that my beliefs were so deeply ingrained, as in the case of an NT going through this kind of perspective change, but that the layer underneath was so hypersensitive and switched-on to a vast range of sensations that are not typical (or advisable) in this day and age, it seems, that it felt like having a layer of skin removed and everything was pain for a few years. So, to survive, I have had to reinstate the best beliefs that I am capable of summoning from within myself, via my consciousness, to make my world more tolerable than its ever been (the power of the human mind to create newness is unsurpassable; and as within so without); since, yes, a human being needs some beliefs to give their life structure and resilience, but not necessarily those unconscious ones that are drummed into their head by the conquering cultural viewpoint from the moment they are born. Can we dismantle and then rebuild everything we experience from a different, or vastly broader, higher, more liberated premise without experiencing extreme overwhelm; the kind that blows us apart with too many sensations to deal with, rather than the bare minimum of information that is currently drip fed through our cultural belief blockade everyday? People like me have to deal with that conundrum every day…
The degree to which NTs operate through a series of belief filters, colouring everything they experience before it even gets to their mind, is astonishing to an Aspie who enjoys people watching. If you can imagine what its like to be a deep-thinking and sparky-minded Asperger’s, and yes desperate to have meaningful interactions with other people because you are, after all, perfectly intelligent, articulate and (in your own way, with somewhat different motivations to the cultural norm) eager to share and bounce ideas around with others. So you go into a social setting and you assess who you are dealing with and, immediately, you start to notice that, though you are on the same topic, this person over here has this particular filter, that person has that filter…its like each neurotypical person you converse with is seeing their world (THE world….really, the same world) through a pair of beer-bottle thick goggles of a particular hue; sometimes many layers and hues deep. It could almost be an amusing game to do this; except for the part of you (the lonely part) that genuinely hoped you were on the same wide-open wavelength with someone, enjoying one of those unlimited conversation that take you higher and higher and higher… but then the other person start to show signs that their Icarus wings are wilting in the bright light of the sun you led them to. They cant keep up, their eyes are glazing over. Resistance comes into their mind and they won’t be led any further. It becomes apparent they see things in a much more narrow way due to a belief they keep hitting upon, like an impervious glass ceiling in their unconscious thoughts. They are almost with you, wanting to be with you…but they are like a butterfly caught against a pane of glass and now they are tired, they’ve had enough and they withdraw.
So, again, I don’t limit this theory of atavism to just those on the spectrum, or those who, through the catalyst of whatever a-typical trait they were born with, have had to expand their horizons to make peace with their personal preferences in order to claim the life that is as rightfully theirs as the next person. There are also those people who, through meditation, spiritual adventuring or questioning what life is all about at the broadest philosophical level, beyond any pre-instated mind corsets, reach that glass ceiling and actively drill holes in it, seeking a way out of all their limits. These people, who become diverse by choice, actively embracing the opportunity to acquire new wiring throughout the course of their lives (at whatever age) and encouraging neuroplasticity to occur to support their personal evolution, are so important; true game-changers. So I’m not suggesting that us “wire”-oddities, those of us born neurodiverse, are the special or predestined heroes of the piece; only that we are working together in what seems to be a most beautiful partnership with anyone else who embraces diversity, whatever their angle or motivation. Thus, as I have found, we may discover many friendships waiting for us in the spiritual communities or amongst “new” scientists, philosophers, gender nonconformists and so on because we notice these traits in common and it forms a new language of sorts. Honesty and straightforwardness, unconditionality, acceptance, a lack of duplicity or hidden agenda…these are some of the traits I find in common amongst such folk and the more we gather around the exercise of such traits, forming a sense of community built upon them, the more quickly we usher in an alternative kind of world.
These people (just as we do) are adding all-important weight to the see-saw of perspectives; helping us all to find a middle-ground between those caught up in an idea of strictly linear human achievements and those who possess more of a multi-timelines attitude that simultaneously incorporates perspectives that are ancient and, in genetic terms, “lost” (…but not so when we go beyond the linear genetics…) and a golden future we are already dialled into.
Because they are not lost if we are capable of assembling them again. There is a thing in genetics called “recombination” which allows for genetic traits that have been lost (or so was thought) to reassert and reassemble though the subtlest cross over of some latent, ancient, trait when combined or activated by its similar part. And I suspect it is not all to do with cross-breeding, though it has to be in part; just look at Silicon valley where autism and thinking outside the box is, apparently, rife as a full-blown “autism epidemic” (quote Steve Silberman) due to so many computer geeks, attracted there by the IT industry and to each other due to the sharing these traits, starting families of their own. Families like mine, I sense, also contain such an information subtlety in their un-gene pool of hidden gifts (my parents both oddballs from odd families) and those traits have found “their time” to flourish and shine over the last 100 years over three generations, though I bet we have been some of the odder members of society for hundreds of years. Perhaps if autism and other neurodiversities litter your family, the same goes for you. Yet I also feel there is a contagion of ideas going on here, one that does not rely on genetics but passed freely as frequency from those who are diverse to those who are not and I am more than familiar with what its uptake feels like; it can light up a whole room, as people start to glean something beyond their own previous limit-point, just from being around someone that models diversity, and so the spirit is of being set free, of elation and expansiveness, like when laughter tinkles through a room and lifts the mood, only far more powerful. When I notice this effect kicking off around me and other oddities like me, I find myself smiling at those who seek to limit neurodiversity as “a faulty gene”.
If these are genetic traits at all, they aren’t genetic traits in the affirmative (they still struggle to find genes that = autism and, I suspect, will continue to struggle to “nail it”, as they so long to do) but they exist in the void, as so many wonderful things do; like a particularly high note waiting to be sung. The world need that note right now, perhaps a chorus of them, and all we are doing by singing that note, en masse, in our outside the box, quirky, unlimited by belief systems kind of way, is modelling something that many others on awakening trajectories can take encouragement from. We aren’t the evolution ourselves but we are a big part of it; this rebalancing of hemispheres in the global brain, and so I do believe the sweep of autism and other such neuro- and other-diversities across the planet is timely; I sense there is much more to come; and I expect (just as I am seeing) that many on the spectrum will serve, in a sense, as a wake-up call to others, whether they realise they are serving thus or not. They do this by crossing the paths of neuroptypicals who, through their own compassion and curiosity and inner work, are already lined up waiting to hear such a call (as a seed awaits the droplet of water); and so I do think this is a collaboration “by design” (at last, a group activity we can be part of, whey-hey).
Therefore, I don’t think we are the centre of the evolutionary momentum that is occurring or the most important aspect of it… but I do sense we are extremely important to it and the reason for this is so simple that it needs no further explanation to anyone who is already shaking free of their rigid belief systems enough to grasp what seems so logical and, really, quite, biological here…for there are no mistakes in Nature. Neurodiversity is not a mistake, we are not broken; it is the mindset that thinks we are that is in need of revision and that process is well underway.
Meanwhile, perhaps the most frustrating thing is, those wired a-typically see how there are simple solutions at our disposal and here, the biggest frustration at the heart of that frustration, lies the main issue. NTs seem to make the world so heinously overcomplicated. If we find it all so simple, you may say, then why don’t we fix it….but the first hurdle is how complicated it has been made for just so very long by NTs, and the second is that our viewpoints are often treated as though naive, like those of little children who haven’t yet learned the ways of the world. Well, if that’s what it takes…
And it could all be so much more simple than what I am seeing “out there” if we would only work together more, beyond the sides of the box.
I started to write another post after my weekend away visiting my daughter where all her frustrations with the state of the world, with work, with everything going on around us all (we had such an interesting and dynamic..ultimately uplifting…conversation) could be summarised as frustration with this very fact; how all is turned to competition, even at the subtlest levels, in the neurotypical world which, whether due to genetics or my parenting style, is not her natural place. Her department head had just given them all a huge rollicking, as a collective, because (though instructed to work together to pool their considerable strengths and resources in a way that could overcome any weak areas in their current project) the majority simply won’t collaborate, however much pressed. These individuals are too fixed upon holding everything they have, or at least the best they have, so close to their chest that there is no give, or, they give out what they could easily do without, seeding an air of mistrust and resentment. Nobody will risk being the first to break out of this pattern to forge a new way. They may even put on a show of collaboration…smiling through teeth as they do so…but they won’t give it all over to the collective; not ever. Remind you of something? Perhaps, the way the world is tackling the matter of the ecosystem, for instance. The same in personal scenarios; all around her, so much drama is cooked up for the sake of making drama, to “keep things interesting” and because this is normal so, in choosing to be different to that, speaking her mind, showing her feelings, being honest, she is left feeling vulnerable and at a disadvantage. No (as I pressed upon her), someone has to be the one brave enough to change these ingrained behaviour patterns first and when she is able to model a simpler, happier life as a result, maybe then the effect will ripple out. The point is, we have to start modifying these behaviours somewhere.
The first post I wrote about this conversation I had with her was long and indignant; became all-too overcomplicated itself…caught up in the contagion of overcomplicated NT ways (see how easily this happens if we let it)…and so this is the clear-cut abbreviation. The bullet points are as follows: those of us who are different already, or ready to give different a try, need only model these ways in our own lives, keeping things simple and without agenda, sharing what we deem useful (regardless of how others choose to interpret our motivations for doing so), knowing when enough is enough, continuing to be unconditional love personified, and also not allowing ourselves to become depleted and sickly through the contagion of these old-defunct ways while they still grind on around us. Now is our time to shine “just as we are wired” whilst holding to this simplistic path since it is the premier gift we bring to the table. All we ask is that we be met as we are, not with the agenda of “fixing us”, and in the spirit of curiosity and openness that will allow our gifts into the mix in ways that could benefit us all.
Every now and again, I write a post that is a bridging post, its very subject-matter straddling two hemispheres to join masculine and feminine perspectives, both physical and spiritual approaches, the practical and the much more abstract topics I tackle, to make something of a whole. I can tell this is one-such since I can’t decide which of my two blogs to publish it in, so I will publish it in both and take it as a good sign.