Yesterday I watched an amazing performance of a poem by a blogger I follow and really enjoy – Rhi.  One of the things that she talked about was the love. How much love there is, and how much that I love plays a part in her autism.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “special interests”, ultimately accepting that designation… and then again taking issue with it. I’ve written before about how our special interests should not be pathologized, but should be welcomed and appreciated as the amazing things that they are in a relax. 

In truth, one of the things that sets autistic people part is our passion for specific subjects. Our delight in the details. Our all-encompassing absorption in a topic for an aspect of life that manages to break through the noise of an overwhelming environment and hold us so rapt that nothing else matters. The pain goes away. The frustration subsides. And we enter into a state of flow, which has been called out by famous psychologist as A Thing That Matters.
This being said, If flow is really that important to the human experience, why then are we pathologizing our intense ardor for certain specific interests? Why would anyone think to label something that absolutely envelops us in ecstasy as something pathological or the sign of a disorder? 

I think, perhaps, the issue lies in the dearth of that kind of experience in the neurotypical world. I’m not sure that I have ever met a neurotypical person who was even capable of experiencing the depth and profundity of “autistic-grade” special interest focus and ansorption. For that matter, I’m not sure I’ve encountered autistic-grade levels of love and exuberance in the neurotypical population for anything of consequence, very often, if at all.
It’s almost like they – the non-autistic doctors and psychologists – have no idea what it’s like to love anything that profoundly and that deeply. And since they cannot conceptualize it, let alone have that same experience, to them it seems unnatural or disordered.

I think perhaps that the lack of capacity for that level of rapture, that level of absorption, that level of pervasive devotion the blocks out everything but the object of your affection, is a sign of an under-developed personality. I’m not saying that the diagnostic professionals are incapable of developing that, quite the contrary. But the complete lack of imagination in figuring out how to accept something so fundamentally joyful, something so pervasively delighted, is not the place from which anyone should be judging another human being, let alone labeling them disordered or developmentally damaged.

In the end, we all have to live together. Like it or not. Ideally, we’ll learn to do that on ways that don’t elevate lack of understanding over the miraculous… that stop giving darkness power over light. 

It’s a goal. 

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7 thoughts on “

  1. “Special interests” strikes me as a rather condescending term (not that I’ve got anything better), kind of likening people on the spectrum to children. I was talking to my therapist recently about my love for movies versus my wife’s preference for TV shows—I like having a beginning, middle and end in a tidy little package, where my wife prefers bite-sized chunks of story that may or may not build into something larger over time. My therapist submitted that for me, maybe it’s about having causes and effects shown on a compressed timeline, with clear connections between them. Like that’s my respite from dealing with real life, where all those points of data are spread out and intermingled with hundreds of others that are related to something else, or nothing at all. I understand absolutely the joyfulness for us in these things, but maybe they’re not seen in others (or not seen as having the same importance) because we have a greater need to avoid burning ourselves out trying to make sense of, well, everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post. It reminded me of how easily people seem to get, well, kinda scared by my enthusiasm. We hit on a topic that makes me “light up” — really get into it — and they back away. Physically, sometimes. That, or I’d be mocked for it. Yeah, never understood how that kind of love for something was treated as weird, funny, or even scary.

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  3. Couldn’t agree more. I was pondering this morning about how my passions are all based in being connected to more than just people. How grey the world must be without the joys autism brings.

    Thank you for sharing my face too 😄

    Liked by 1 person

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