The lovely thing about dysfunctional families, John Bradshaw reminds us, is how easy they are to recreate in any moment of our life.
We can always find new people to play the old roles that we are familiar with, always find someone who will treat us like our parents did, always reenact and affirm those old patterns and challenges.
I was telling a good support group facilitator about my doctor, one I have seen since the mid 1980s, talking about how he gets over focused on one thing, missing the point, and needs to be managed. “A bit on the autism scale, it seems to me,” I told her.
She grinned. “So he feels like family?” she asked.
I’m really, really good at managing people with brains that would be classified as autistic. This is a great and loving skill I have mastered over the past six decades.
To do that, I have wired my own brain to model autistic responses in others. My model of how other people approach the world is a model of Aspergers style behaviour.
It’s not that my brain came working that way, it is that my brain has been trained to work that way. When I went to an Aspergers support group last year, running into a fellow who not only looked like my father down to his Ukrainian blue eyes and style of dress, but who thought like him so much that I could help him easily, I understood how my life was shaped by my family.
When I walk in the world and approach other people with the expectations and tools I have learned to manage Aspergers, not only is my view skewed, but I also attract people who respond well to that kind of approach. I recreate my own dysfunctional family.
I was programmed to live in an Aspergers centred world, so it is within an Aspergers centred world in which I live.
And that hurts my heart. Processing everything through my head, always being the interpreter, understanding that change is either glacially slow or just impossible, well, those expectations lock me down and make me feel stuck.
[NeuroTypical]family members, over time, begin to reflect the persona of [Apergers Syndrome] behaviors we live with, 24/7. We are isolated, no one validates us, we lose friends and family, and we feel like ‘hostages’ in our own homes. -- http://faaas.org/otrscp/
The key point made here is how difficult it is to explain the affects of living with Aspergers to anyone who doesn’t understand it, to the “neurotypical.” The vast majority of support boards are filled with the cries of parents who are frustrated by their autism spectrum (AS) children, so the challenges of children who have been shaped by AS parents don’t come close to breaking through the noise level.
There are no instructions for how to clear your brain of AS training and open to a wider, more responsive world. It is a very lonely challenge, one that can easily leave you feeling lost.
To live in a world where the figurative is hidden and the literal becomes routinized has been crushing for me. One of the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers is if people have trouble getting jokes because they have difficulty with the context, nuance and wordplay that underlie humour.
I have been programmed for a world where others don’t get the joke. It has shaped me profoundly in ways that isolate me and keep me hostage. I have no time before living in this world where emotional understanding is disconnected that I can go back to.
The limits of my choices are the limits of what my Aspergers Family can understand, because those are the limits of my world.
And that feels impossible to change at this late date.