19. Autistic scripting and why you experience higher levels of rejection than othersJan 10, 2023
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The habit of scripting - mentally rehearsing how to be and what to say - may have been a thing that kept you safe.
Let's LOVE on scripting.
LOVE on the version of you, that uses it to keep you safe.
That safety is from the EXTRA amounts of rejection folks like you and I experience, just by being someone who thinks, processes makes sense and expresses against the grain of 'normal'.
Unfair and unfounded amounts of extra rejection is the weight you bear in this cultural moment. But it's also the thing that sharpens our experience of what in our culture is harmful; And our wisdom to know what is healing and create solutions.
Those solutions are seeded in self connection, and nurtured when reflected accurately by others. That accurate reflection is harder to find for non-normative bodies and minds.
Normal is a fiction that our social structures have reinforced - but it's only real to those who benefit from it;
Who pre-judge your non-verbal cues and decide you aren't worthy.
Keeping safe from the judgements of those whose social ease is guaranteed, is not something to feel bad about.
But scripting is also... a response to what doesn't fit, instead of an expression of what does.
I used to script every social interaction.
Days if not weeks ahead of meeting up with people (or even going to the corner shop), I’d be thinking about what to say and how to say it.
However, I reached a point where it no longer helped.
In fact, I’m not sure it ever helped.
Yes, it kept me under the radar, and approximating ‘normal’. But it also kept me in the anxiety loop of trying to maintain a version of me that was… false. It kept me from myself.
Scripting is imagining: how would this land if I said it in the eyes/ears of a specific person, or people with high social ease and capital
(a.k.a. all the people whose approval I want to win, because I already know I don't yet have it, and use that as a reason not to accept myself).
The scripted fantasy of acceptance is also sourcing a dopamine hit of good feeling of approval within, as a distraction from how you really feel.
Scripting was feeding a false ego constructed self that I couldn't maintain.
That was exhausting to prop up and pretend to be.
Meanwhile reinforcing the belief that I wasn't enough, and that I needed to have the right thing to say, in order to BE enough.
But if you know deeply that you already ARE enough, then self is not something you have to conjure up or THINK.
SELF is not something you have to keep consistent, or monitor in your thoughts.
Self is just whomever you are being, in that moment.
Self connected = able to connect with others.
Scripting was safety... but now it feels like restricted access to self.
In this week's PODCAST episode, I get into why scripting might be part of your go to toolkit for dealing with neuro-normative socialising.
But why true self acceptance invites you to find out who the unscripted version of you is.
Hey, sibling, today, I want to get into a whole series of episodes that are about social communication, relating relationships, belonging, interacting with other people. And I've been thinking about this and how much what's underpinning what I want to say, is connected to rejection, and how much we experience a higher amount of unnecessary and unfair rejection. And so really, a lot of what I want to cover is with the goal of just validating that this may have been your experience. And to really give you as much thinking and ideas and evidence as possible to know that the reasons for this have nothing to do with anything about you being inherently bad or wrong or worthy of rejection. Even though it may feel that way. Even though you might look at your past, you might look at your experiences, and feel like well, there must be something because of how hard social interaction has been, how stressful and anxiety inducing other people can be, and how painful the amount of rejection that you may have experienced might be to the degree that retreating away from and being isolated. And also being lonely, may have been a large or predominant part of your life. Right. So if that's the case, I am hoping that what I'm going to share in this and several episodes, were really just give you a lot of Yeah, validation that this is something that may have happened, but it's really not about you, it's really, really not your fault. And it's really not a reflection of who you are. And I know that you know that. But these experiences of being rejected at an above average level, and in many different scenarios can create the unconscious belief that it's about me, it's something I'm doing wrong, I'm bad, I need to be something I'm not I need to fit in, I need to change myself. And so when that is the conclusion that you make deep down, it becomes the lens through which you interpret everything, right. And so it can add another layer on top of what is already hard. And what is already hard is a social landscape that I think yet it carries. Things are extra hard for people who process and think differently and have a different body and pro and make sense in ways that aren't as easily translatable. And that don't land as easily, but also experience the predominant or majority of people around them in that way as well. Like people just don't make sense. Why are we doing small talk? What is this all about? So that's my intention and the kind of overarching theme. And this episode is just on scripting. And the reason I want to talk about scripting is because it's been it's been a subject that's come up with lots of different people that I've worked with several of my one on one clients and several siblings in the Solar System. in different ways, and my own experience of unlearning scripting conversations, I would credit with being one of the biggest, most impactful transformations on my sense of self, on my levels of social anxiety, and on my ability to feel connected to other people. So, with all of that, I want to start with a study from 2016, with a ridiculous title, called neurotypical peers are less willing to interact with those with autism based on thin slice judgments. So that mowdy title is for a paper that discusses some research, which was into the immediate first impression judgments made by so called typically developing people of autistic people, and finding that it was significantly less favourable. Not only that, but immediately those those immediate first impression judgments that they made, led to I quote, reduced social intentions, as in this person is not making sense to me, they're not conveying the social, this my thoughts, not the papers, they're not conveying the kind of social currency and belonging cues that that I look for, then, therefore, not someone I'm going to pursue getting to know, right, so neurotypical people, if we're going to really generalise thinking that autistic people are less relevant, less interesting, less worthy of getting to know, based on very immediate, superficial reading of nonverbal cues, and also verbal cues that are not about what was said. And there's another level of this, I quote, This may reflect a previously unrecognised contributor to the reduced quantity and quality of social interaction experienced and a quote by autistic people. Well, yes. Ha, yeah, it's not news. So this is something that I wanted to bring into this, because of how this study points to the the reality that you are just going to be navigating a world in which there is a predominant way of thinking and processing and doing social interaction in which you make less sense. And in which you're making less sense to them, leads to them making the conclusion that you are less relevant, and less carry less social currency, and therefore are less interesting or worthy or important to them. Okay. So this may have been part of your experiences, and probably will be a big factor in your experience of hiding and masking and trying to second guess and calculate how to be and try and fit in with other people. And be in the exhausting work of trying to do all of that. And so scripting is a part of that. And so this is really what I wanted to frame scripting with, that we experienced this level, this level, these increased levels of rejection in ways that are really hard to pinpoint the source of like, okay, I'm being rejected. I don't know why I must be doing something wrong. So the paper said that it's not based on what you say, but how you say it, and the nonverbal cues that surround that. So the way you move, the way you act the way you maybe dress them very tiny, subtle indicators for how you naturally think and process and relate that mean that they aren't receiving a clear signal. Right? So it's not that you lack social skills, but that the social signals that you give out or just on a different frequency, a different language, and a harder to read, to those whose social language is predominant and To constantly affirmed, and is the one that is belonging to people who are the most well resourced in terms of how they think and express. So instead of opening up to include you, they're not receiving a signal that makes sense to them.
And therefore, it's much easier to just judge you as the human brain in action. And they already decide before getting to know you, that they aren't going to put any effort in. And so they have reduced social intentions, right. And then you experience rejection of very subtle types, not just explicit, or bullying or anything like that. Very subtle forms of rejection, where you're just kind of sidelined or left out or wondering why people aren't making the effort with you or giving you attention. So you end up having these low quality interactions, low levels of interest, and wondering and internalising it as something that you must have done wrong, or that you are doing wrong, or that you are wrong. And that over a long time, over and over repeat experiences of that are going to create a belief that not only that there's a right or wrong way to be with people and do social communication, right that other people have social skills, and you don't, but also that you are doing it wrong, that you don't know how to do it, that everyone else seems to have the script, the manual, the instructions, except you. Or even deeper, that you are just fundamentally wrong, or bad, or there's something about you that is not worthy of acceptance and inclusion and belonging. So add to this, the just the general social landscape, which is influenced by the culture of work of opportunities, have values of, you know, things like what makes a person interesting or worthy. And so we have all these added layers. And then there might be this other layer. And this is theoretical, I'm not sure if this will be the case for everyone. But there may have been some of you were, they've been experiences where they have got to know you. And then something you said, or sharing yourself in a certain way, maybe increase their openness to getting to know you. And so the difference between being rejected or not, feels like it's about what you say, and that what you say matters. So add that in with the belief that there's a right or wrong way to do it, that you are doing it wrong, that you don't know how to do it. And what happens is that your experience of social communication becomes about saying it right, having the right thing to say, and avoiding saying the wrong thing. And then another layer, this is a many layered cake. So adding on top of that the fact that many of us because we are just processing more sensory experience at any given time, we're noticing things we're taking in sound sights, things around us that other people aren't noticing. So there's this added, like split focus in distractibility. And also, that it just takes us sometimes longer to process speech. So then processing what the other person said, and then trying to have the right thing to say readily for the moment when it's your turn to speak. And work out when that is all of that becomes a highly stressful anxiety inducing experience. Right, a deeply disconnecting, stressful experience. So Q social anxiety, your belonging is tied up with in your own thinking, right, the the beliefs that you've interviewed may have internalised from these experiences, your belongings tied up with your ability to keep up with conversations, and to say the right thing. And also do things like small talk, which sidenote, I think really is just a carrier for the predominant. I don't like the word neuro type, I have to say, but the predominant neuro type to suss out and experience each other's nonverbal cues and just genuinely vibe each other out. And so it's not really about what's being said. It's like, oh, we're just feeding out each other's energy. And but, but the ways of interpreting and sussing each other out in that small talk moment in those small talk moments don't really translate, they don't really work across different cognitive styles, right. And so with people whose ways of processing and making sense and relating, if that's not incompatible with you, and if they are being affirmed and resourced in all of that. And so they're thinking that their way of being and their way of expressing and their way of interpreting the world is just the reality, then they're gonna look at you and be like, you don't make sense to me your nonverbal cues are not giving me the signals of social status, and currency and belonging and insight that I can sense will be helpful. So I go, you are not relevant. And then meanwhile, you're in this game of trying to catch the right moment and say the right thing and work out what the right thing to say is and process everything that's being said. And trying to fit in. Alright, so if that is the case, for you, along comes scripting, right. For some of you this is when scripting enters. scripting, let's zoom out for a second. And just say that everyone's scripts, people script talks, people, even TED talks, TED talks, I believe they have a very specific format for what is said when it's highly scripted. I script this podcast, scripting is a really useful tool for communication. Right, it means you can be ready to explain an idea or a message in the best way possible. However, notice how scripting is really only effective when the conversation is one directional. So this is why many of us prefer public speaking to unstructured small talk in a group, myself included, public speaking way easier. However, in the kinds of scenarios that I've just described about being with other people in loose unstructured social conversations and being judged. prejudged trying to keep up operating from the belief that there's a right or wrong way to communicate that you need to have the right thing to say that saying the right thing at the right time is the goal of social communication, then this can lead you to end up and this is what I did, rehearsing and scripting and running things through your head of how they might go imagining conversations ahead of time before social events. And doing that with conversations with speech that isn't one directional. And so I want to talk about the impacts of this and the problems it created for me and many of my one on one coaching clients. And it's also come up in the solar system for siblings too. So I know it's not a rare problem. And I know that there's solutions, right? There's ways to move through this. And you're not alone. Okay, so this is you, you're not alone. This is common. And my goal is to give you a perspective and a taste of what's possible. So that you know that there, there is another way that you can get to experience social communication. That isn't as stressful as this. So scripting, social interaction used to be something I did, I would say, for for almost every social event, or at least the ones I knew were coming, I would be anxious about them way in advance. And to deal with anxiety would conjure up imagined versions of what it would be and the kinds of conversations that I predicted might happen. And I would imagine things I could say, in those situations. That relieved that sense of anxiety for a minute that felt like okay, yeah, that's how I'm going to set that's how I'm going to be that's what I'm going to say. That's going to be the things that are going to
make me acceptable. And obviously, that's not what the thoughts I was actually having. I was just doing it, I was just imagining it was just happening automatically. So what ended up happening was, I was rehearsing all of these things in my head how to be but this also became a habit that was happening even when I was alone. And there was nothing coming up. Right. This would become a habitual state of my mind to be in this kind of running monologue of thought checking and running my ideas of The things I might think or say, or share with other people against this idealised, edited version of myself that I'd imagined in my head. So I'd be completely alone and this internal monologuing Woods would be there, right. And it would feel like, it would feel like in my brain having airport security checks for who I was being what I was thinking, the words, I might say, even to myself, in my own head, as if every single thought had to run past the social approval guards. And so I'm listening to my own thoughts through the imagined lens of their eyes and their thoughts and their judgments. And when I say they, I really mean, the people who either collectively represent those, I've felt let the least safe with all that I'm most desirous of their approval, as in, I don't already have it. So type of vigilance. And it comes from thinking that I need to make sure I'm acceptable at all times, and trying to maintain this idea of self of who I needed to be around other people in order to be okay. Right in order to be not only acceptable to them, but also just feel okay, and avoid rejection and the pain of that. And this internal monologuing and scripting ahead of time. Didn't really feel good, right? It kept me in these loops of anxiety, and indecision, because it's like, oh, can I make this decision? Can I make this choice for myself, I need to double check it with the thought police, right. And so it's a state of disconnection from self. It's a state of, I can't actually be in my body. And in my, in my own experiences, I've got to check and correct and approve first. And then the other side of this was the impact that this had on real conversations, which is that I, especially if I'd scripted and rehearsed and imagined and conjured them up in my head beforehand, including an image of myself an idea of myself, and an idea of them, and the ideas of what they might do and what I might want to say, what happened was, okay, I might be able to approximate that, roughly, and possibly, to not experience over rejection. But so many times when I said the thing that sounded good in my head when it came out, it fell flat. It sounded terrible. It was weird. It was disjointed. And then they would respond in ways that I hadn't pre calculated, they'd go off script. Played go off the plan that I was enacting in my own mind. Right. So I say that to say that scripting conversations that are not just one directional, not only does it not actually work on the hole, doesn't work to create connection, right, doesn't want work to create ease, it doesn't facilitate you being yourself. But it reinforces the belief that there are right things to say and right ways to be, and just create some more and more of the same social anxiety, right? It doesn't actually solve the problem. It makes me constantly think about, oh, no, I did that wrong. Or oh, no, that's like another data point I need to add into my scripting. So I want to give you a perspective on this that radically, radically, deeply transformed not only my experience of social interaction, but also the folks I've worked with to that impacted their experience of dating of friendships have relationships with family or chosen family, but most of all, their experience of themselves while with other people and their experience of themselves when alone, which is that they feel genuinely connected. And they didn't have to do or say or be the right thing. For that to be the case. And unlearning the habit of scripting everything. Actually how help them get there was a big piece of that. So when you're scripting, and this is, this is the perspective I want to give you, when you're scripting ahead of time, what happens is that you create a false image of yourself or a false ego, self, and a false image or concept or idea of the other people involved. Right. So it's a kind of conjured up illusion that you're training your thoughts and your emotions to believe is real. Even if you're like, No, I know it's not really I'm just imagining it. But it will have an impact on then your ability to be present or not, your ability to actually connect with how you are experiencing those interactions. And it means that when you're in them, you're not in the moment. But instead, you're seeing everything through the lens of how you've imagined you, how you've imagined them, and how you've imagined it will go. And this also means that you have pre decided and pre interpreted them you the conversation. And therefore, everything that happens is in comparison with that. And it means that you're not able to be open to the unknowns of who the other people are, or what will happen, or of how you will experience it. So those unknowns might, might even be negative, right? And I want to just validate that the feelings underneath this habit of scripting that aren't getting processed, might be negative, right, they might be coming from all of those repeat experiences of rejection, they might be coming from the ways that you reject yourself along with that, by believing that you aren't enough that you need to show up in a certain way, that the ways that you naturally just communicate are not good enough, and that you need to have the right things to say. But what happens with all of the feelings of past rejection of anxiety of fear of panic is that they don't go away, they just get expressed somewhere else, right, they just show up in your life in a different form. So that might be the exhaustion afterwards, it might be the anxiety of all of the work involved in trying to be something you're not. It might be in the reclusive or avoidant tendencies it might be living in fear of really looking at yourself, and having the type of encounter with yourself that is required for self acceptance. So this is the self suppression that happens that is a hallmark of, of scripting, when you're acting from an illusion, and a false ego self, like a version of yourself that you're thinking, instead of who you actually are, what you're actually experiencing, then what you're doing is you're reducing who you are to something that will fit within certain limiting lines of acceptance, right, you're reducing your sense of self, you're reducing possibility. And you're relating to others as if you need to perform for them. The right things to say, instead of listening, experiencing them, and sensing your own true responses. Self is not something you can think
self is not fixed is not consistent. If you find yourself imagining and thinking a self, if you find yourself conjuring up versions of self and saying this to this person or doing this, whenever you're thinking self, you have to know that it's it's a construct that your ego is creating. It's a set of thoughts. It's a mental illusion. And it's going to get in the way of you being yourself. It's imagining how would this land if I said it in the eyes and ears of this specific person, or this general population of the people who have sought social ease and have social capital. And it's also giving you a temporary dopamine hit of that good feeling of approval. conjured up in your mind having that thing to say that pleases them and that gets you that approval and so your own fantasy becomes an addictive place to escape to, to avoid the actual feelings you're experiencing underneath. So all that it's done doing is feeding this false ego idealised, probably neurotypical, approximating construct itself. And it's going to keep you from experiencing and connecting with people and with yourself while with people, it's going to generate emotions and ideas that are also coming from fear, right? Or from assumptions and from your past. So it's going to keep you stuck in your past and in the anxiety loop. And this was me, right? That anxiety loop leads to where it led me to tensing my throat, to really not being connected to my own intuition and my own experiences, and to going nonverbal at times. Right. So this was me, scripting didn't solve this, on learning, scripting, solved it. So scripting, it's okay, if you do it. And I don't want you to now go away and judge yourself for it. Become aware, allow yourself lots of time to just notice if this is something that you do, to allow it to be something that you do, to grow that awareness. And to not judge it and not judge yourself. For doing it. This has been a coping mechanism that kept you safe. Right? So we want to love that you did this, that this is a habit that this is something that has helped you. But you now get to work on withdrawing your energy from that, right. So it takes time, your brain will want to keep running that motor, so it will still have steam, and it will still do it. Meanwhile, you can just if you notice that it's happening, bring your awareness into your body and into how you're feeling. And then work on those beliefs that this has created. Right? that I need to have the right things to say that I need to have a particular persona that I'm being when I'm with other people that I need to say the right thing, that I'm not already acceptable, that when people reject me, it's because of me. So you don't need to hold any idea of self to be who you are. And in fact, when you don't, when you let go of needing to have a mental conjured idea of self, then you get to actually be an experience and find out who you are, and be surprised at finding out who you are. And that surprise, that discovery that unravelling that opening up is really the gift of getting your life and your mind back. I feel like I finished one life. That was several decades. And that involves a lot of scripting, and involved me thinking that there was a certain version of myself I needed to be and I'm in my second life. And that second life came out of allowing myself to not know who I am, not know, what I do, or how I how I do things or what I like or who I like, and to be in the finding out. And you also get to find out that social interaction can feel good. When you are accessing your intuition, your intelligence, when you're connected to your body, when you're willing to feel all of the shitty feelings that come with a social landscape that contains a lot of rejection in sense with certain people right and to not judge yourself for that when you unravel those beliefs about needing to have something to say or the right thing to say, when you stop giving energy to this idealised false version. And you get to encounter unmute yourself for real and meet other people for real. So this is what I and those have worked with on this now experience real connection. Real, imperfect peopling and real presence real self serenity, real boundaries real connection. I hope this will help you to see where maybe there's some habits you have around managing social anxiety that come from things that are not your fault. That internalised often as thoughts around, I'm not doing this right or I need to do this right And then it's possible to have a different experience of being with other people. Not all people, right? Not all contexts, not all the time. But enough that that experience allows you to know deeply that you are enough. And then to begin to find out who you like being with who you are, and what kinds of structures around your socialising really suit you. A last note, I want to say is, this, for me really underscores why it's so important to spend time with other people who think and process and make sense the way that you do. Right? When you can experience the, what's called cognitive empathy, right, which is not so much about I know how you feel, it's that I can read your body, I can read the way you express, I can read the way you move your eyes, I can read the way that you speak. And you make sense to me. And being around people who make that extra level of sense. Which is was the subject of another study, which is that people have similar so called neuro types, or, or diagnoses or, you know, cognitive styles have a heightened cognitive empathy, right, there's, and that's evidenced by the level of rapport that's possible. So maybe I'll link to that study as well. That between autistic people, there's this higher, much higher level of rapport, and that that's perceived, not only by the people who themselves, but by outside people observing that happening, that when we get together, we can read each other, we can reflect each other back, I see you, you see me, there is a level of connection and a type of intimacy a type of, into me see a type of I get you, you get me, that isn't possible with everyone. And that when you experience that, and you've had that in your nervous system of like, the relief of that, and you have that as a regular thing in your life, then you get to know on a much deeper level below thought in your nervous system, like deeply are no, this isn't about me that the kinds of rejection I've experienced. Were just what what David Melton calls a mismatch of salience, right, it's just, it's just two ways of being that make less sense to each other. Except that one of them there, well, the world is structured more healthfully towards more enabling towards, and the other not so much. Right? We are in the not so much. We are in a space where connecting with each other, and affirming that is the it's like the incubator, it's like the conduit, the the nurturing soil, out of which to grow, structures and ways of thinking and social
habits, rituals, needs, ways of expressing, that can then start to be much more visible and can awaken those whose realities are constantly affirmed that there are other ways of thinking and being and that those carry value that you are worthy of getting to know and that you are someone who is deeply lovable, and already worthy of acceptance. All right, we're gonna finish it there. Um, let me know how this resonated. If you're not in the discord community, come join us. Don't be shy, or do be shy, join, lurk, be quiet, read everything, and then decide if you want to interact and share your own thoughts. And there's lots more in the discord community. Lots of different threads, resources, and a space in which you can connect over the types of experiences that you may have had, and know that you're not alone, that this isn't about you, and that there are ways that we can start to address all of the impacts of it. Okay, love you lots. Bye.