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.