Still Looking Backwards

It was a short-term goal my therapist and I set for me, well over six months ago, to look back at my life and try to see it through “the lens of autism” in the hopes that it would make sense.

It doesn’t, still, and I have gotten in the habit of looking back and analyzing frequently.

What I talk about in my sessions with my therapist is about the feelings of isolation or being misunderstood. I can explain that as being symptomatic of autism but what stands out to my therapist is neglect.

I know I am a different sort of parent from my own.

I try to figure out what is going on with my kids in school, I play with them and their friends, I encourage them in things I don’t care for – growing out their hair, playing social video games.

I don’t always do this because I am interested, though I am. I sometimes am motivated by what I remember of my own childhood, because I don’t want my children to ever feel as I did. I felt a lot of self-loathing, and as if I were never good enough. I want my children to feel validated, to feel that their own interests are legitimate, that they matter as their own selves.

I look back and I remember always feeling as though people did not understand my intent. My intentions were often announced by me, and still not understood or accepted.
I think this is how things work, actually. I think we assign our own motivations to others and rarely accept their stated intentions as truth. For we see others through our own lenses, our own frames of reference, rather than through their eyes.
I think we also deceive ourselves quite frequently, even regarding our own intentions. So maybe it is not that people did not understand my intentions or feelings, but that I did not understand their interpretations of me- why or how they were so off.
I remember feeling gutted by the assessments of others.

This all looks like autism at first glance. But the therapist says that a skewed or dysfunctional attachment to the primary caregiver creates a bit of disassociation like this, for instance:
I have always felt closer to people who talk a lot about themselves. I often feel as though I have a better picture of them, as if they were “more real” than others who are more conservative or discreet in their self praise. This is not the healthiest, but it is instinctive, I cannot help it. I know, now, that this is my tendency, and so I try to lean away from those I am trying to lean into. If that makes sense. Because I know now that self absorbed people are not good for me (or really anyone) and that their endless chatter on their favorite subject is not necessarily the truth.
So the therapist’s assessment is that I am attracted to people who convey a false sense of intimacy (immediate intimacy) because I did not have real attached intimacy with my primary caregiver as a child. Deep shit, right? Makes for a complicated life and a lot of bad judgement of character. Like being autistic.

How can I untangle all that?

And my therapist, in case you were wondering, is pro-neurological diversity and not in doubt of my autistic assessment last year. So it is not even a simple matter of her throwing her own disbelief into it.

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6 thoughts on “Still Looking Backwards

  1. This makes so much sense to me. Disordered attachment when we’re growing up can play out many different ways, both then and now — my own instinctive-but-not-necessarily-healthy responses to people I meet are different from yours, for example — but the ache of not feeling seen, or understood, or valued? Is universal, and its consequences long-lasting.

    I am glad to hear your therapist is helping you work through this stuff, as something unique from — though coexisting with — the autism.

    • After I wrote this I had a nagging feeling and I went through my old posts. I had already written on this, and probably expressed it far better, about a year before. At least I didn’t give up on the task! Thank you so much for your support, it means a lot to me to hear from you.

  2. I think you may need to go back and look at things through the lens of neglect AND autism. A lot of what you have shared indicates that you were neglected as a child, which is a lonely thing to experience when you needed someone to take care of you. Both issues must have interacted with the other, increasing your feelings of isolation and not getting your basic needs met, along with not being able to properly address and understand your autism at that time.

    I too find myself attracted to people who share very openly about themselves, but I know that I used to do this too, believing that there was an intimacy between me and that person if I or they shared very personally. However, I read something awhile back about how sharing too much, or giving generous or extravagant gifts are attempts to establish false intimacy and create a sense in the other person that they somehow owe you in the relationship. It was hard for me to accept this because this is exactly how I used to be (and maybe still am – to some extent). I never thought there was anything wrong with generosity and I never had those motives consciously, but deep down I think there is some truth to it.

    There is a short book by R. D. Laing called The Politics of Experience. It talks about the whole experience of how we perceive others’ perceptions of us perceiving them. You might find it interesting.

    • I do find it interesting already, from description alone. Thank you for the referral, if there is one thing I will always be in the habit of, it is reading. The establishment of a false sense of intimacy is also a very common abuse tactic-as I found out years after the fact. Love bombing, I think is usually what it is called. It really does lull a person.
      To be fair, children were not diagnosed as autistic if they could speak (which I did), when I was young. So I never knew until a few years ago that I would be on the spectrum. That is why I am going back and trying to figure out what I would regard as normal (autistic children seem normal to me rather than neurotypical children) and what I was responsible for, autistic or not, in the hopes that I can feel a bit better about myself as a child after analysis. It is a slow process. I am going to look up the book. I spent a year in fiction to try to ease some stress and I think I am up to learning again.

      • Don’t take a total break from fiction. Escape is a necessity sometimes.

        I was just skimming through my own copy of that book and remembering how weird it is, maybe because it was written in the 1960’s. I do think its worth reading, but be warned to read it in small dosages.

      • It looked a bit radical. I could use a jolt right about now, so it will probably fit. Everything I read is in small doses, too busy for long days in bed with a book, no matter how I
        wish for it!

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