25. Explaining yourself

Feb 21, 2023

Episode summary:

Autistic folks,
have to EXPLAIN themselves too much.

The gap between the lived experiences of YOU and the lived experience that consensus reality regards as REAL… is a wide canyon.

Crossing it, too often falls on YOU to explain your way into their reality

SO it is reasonable to believe that
requires you to change their reality, so to fit you inside it.

To change their thinking so they understand you.

This belief holds true across instances where there is a lot at stake in being understood;

healthcare systems
legal systems
social services

But having the permission to also NOT have to be understood is also part of the solution.

Allowing ourselves to question what is STRUCTURALLY TRUE, and yet unhelpful thinking, allows us to see beyond the REALITY imposed on our bodies without consent.

To imagine outside of its dictates.

And to give permission to what can only exist when we allow ourselves to NOT be understood.

This is the contradiction at the heart of this work;
to acknowledge what is tangibly real
while also imagining beyond it.

In this episode, I invite you to imagine beyond having to make sense and explain yourself to everyone.




Hey sibling Welcome to the unmasking unschool podcast. I'm your host, Louisa Shaeri aka solar flare, we are all solar flares defying the gravity of groupthink beaming frequencies that disrupt the airwaves. And in this podcast, I share perspectives and reframes from the solar system, a liberate re framework for creative autistic folks who are seeking another way to see know and be yourself, you are not here to fit in. And the radical reimagining of how to honour all of who you're here to be begins within. Hey, siblings. So today is about the thing that a lot of us feel like we have to do, which is to explain ourselves, to explain to other people who we are, what we're doing, why we are the way we are, why we're doing what we're doing. In order to feel like we can then just go and be and do that. And I wanted to talk about this in the way of using it as an example of how sometimes we develop a way of thinking or believing that comes from real, oppressive structures. And that is useful to acknowledge right to say, This is my experience, this is my truth. Sometimes those beliefs that come from those experiences are also things we have to unlearn. In order to create power to respond to those structures. I'm going to say that in another way. Sometimes we have experiences that give us the belief about the way things are. And that the way things are and the way that we then believe things are is an unhelpful way for changing the way things are an unhelpful way to look at it. So in this episode, I want to give you an example that is both common, that is structurally true, that is experientially true. But that is also an unhelpful one to keep thinking. And my hope with this is that you both benefit from the shift in perspective with the example itself. But also that you get an insight into why what we're thinking matters, why how our beliefs, the way that we are looking. And interpreting and giving meaning to our experiences, is such a big ingredient in what we're experiencing. and is therefore and is something that we have power over right that we have agency within. Except we often just go about our lives believing our thoughts. We think 60 to 80,000 thoughts a day. And a lot of those are on repeat, right? That they're just thoughts that we just think a lot and it's just mind chatter, or its assumptions that we just got so used to making that it just feels like fact, it just feels like no, that's what it is. That's real. That's reality. But changing, examining, inquiring, becoming aware of what we're thinking, and the ways that particular ways of thinking are optional, allows us to re experience our lives in a new way. And to see them from a new perspective and to find out where we can have a different experience just from changing how we're interpreting it. So this is why in the work I'm doing with my sensory siblings, my clients, my people that I'm working with, the stuff around changing beliefs is so transformative because before they've even changed anything on the outside. There's a massive change that can happen internally to see the problem from a different perspective to look at it from the solution to get out of problem thinking and into if I've already solved it, how would I be looking at it. And that changing your thinking, the way that you're believing the way that you've been socialised to interpret things in a certain way. Or that your experiences of just keep pointing and with, with often pain, giving you the same message over and over and over. But sometimes the structures that create that message Right the people the way things are structured this the systems that we're in, even though they keep giving us that message, in order to begin to transform and dismantle those systems and those oppressive structures, you have to be thinking from outside of them. And so there are ways of doing that, where we go into our thinking, It's like opening up your computer and looking at the coding and changing the code, to then have a different reality that appears on the screen, right, so and so a necessary precursor to changing things on the outside can sometimes be to look at where am I thinking about things in ways that aren't helping me. And to clear out our thoughts from to clear out the impact the effects, the meanings, the energies of those systems out from our own thoughts, so that the lens by which we are interpreting everything is clearer, is clean, not objectively. But spiritually, like internally, it matches with your own deeper internal truth. So in a previous podcast, I've talked about your I Am story, which is really about looking at those self focused beliefs, and how you identify what how you conceive of yourself, and how much that can influence how you then show up. But today, I want to talk about external beliefs, ones that feel true ones that speak to real things that happen to you on a regular basis. And that is both that might be both structurally true, and also unhelpful. And it sounds like a contradiction. It sounds like how can it be structurally true, but unhelpful to think. So hopefully, this gives you an example and a kind of insight into why this work matters. So sometimes, we are in a place in life where we feel lost, right, we feel stuck, we feel like I've learned about this new idea of myself, I've learned this idea that I'm autistic. And it can feel like, in order for you to be yourself, you've got to change other people's thoughts, and to make things known to them to declare things to get them to understand something. And so it can be really tempting for that to become your focus, especially if you have for years, made other people's thoughts about you. Your focus, right, which is what I did for years, and it's so it seems like a natural transition to go, Well, if I'm now seeing myself as autistic and that feels freeing, then I need to make sure and bring other people into seeing that so that I can then be that right. But actually, the attempt to try and change other people's thoughts for you to then be yourself puts your whole permission and freedom to be who you are.

In other people's hands and in their thinking and it, it puts so much outside of your control. And it gives so much power to other people that really belongs to you. And sometimes the most powerful place to create changes in your own thinking your own perspective. So here's the belief, the belief is that we have to explain ourselves. And I want to show how this can be both true and also can get in the way of being yourself. Now it's really hard to imagine that this can get in the way when it's something that needs to be acknowledged. Right? There are very real things at stake in autistic people making sense to people who aren't autistic, right. There is not just social acceptance and not being rejected and misinterpreted and misunderstood. Both just on a personal level, but also with colleagues with people you work with, with people in your day to day life with people in your family. But there's also having to explain yourself in the healthcare system, or in the legal system, for example, the ways that we show pain are very different. Our relationship to pain is very different. The facial expressions that we might show When we're experiencing emotions or sensations are very different, right? So sometimes the assumptions that people make about how much pain we're in, are completely and wildly incorrect, or what mood we're in, or what we're experiencing, or where we're focusing or where our attention is, it can look really different, right? The ways that we might be moving, the ways that we might be in our bodies, the ways that we might be attuning to our senses, looks different. And then the amount of stress that we may be experiencing in institutions that come under health care, or legal systems, or other types of institutions that we kind of have to go to, at certain points in life, right, are also going to be evidence and look different, and possibly be things that we're also habitually suppressing, and aren't visible. And so there's so many levels to why we might have to explain ourselves, why we might have to find ways to communicate to people who communicate differently, that we communicate differently, and that we have a different relationship going on to our sensory environment and our internal sensations. And why do we have to do this because the way things are designed, has made it a problem in you that it's your body that doesn't fit that it's your body, that doesn't make sense that they don't get you. And because of all of these assumptions, from the way things are structured, that kind of funless are all through these one size fits most systems. And that approach to humanity to learning to communication to social interaction to knowledge production to talking, it's it's almost an often is at times just a willful refusal, for other people to have to adjust their thinking, their way of doing things to fit you inside of it in ways that mean that you feel like you make sense that they can make sense of you. And that sense making ways of translating are available. Right? And this is what so much of advocacy. And neurodiversity is asking for right? It's can you make space for this way of being Can you acknowledge that there are other ways of interpreting and expressing so for you to be seen in these restrictive systems means you have to have some way of indicating that your business is not going to work that usual assumptions don't fit, and of what is not visible, but that is disabling. And all of that responsibility is so often falling on the shoulders of people who don't fit and requiring them to on top of everything that is already disabling to then have the tools and the bandwidth and the boundaries and the backup, right the resources, the safety, to then deal with the consequences of rubbing up against those systems right of being a problem for them of making a problem or making known a problem that is so often invisible. And the same goes for communicating with people we work with or co workers or bosses or friends or partners, family, people on our street neighbours right there. And often we find people that that are more willing that are wanting and but there's still time and effort right? There's still sacrifices often shame inducing requirement to admit our own patterns of abilities and our own experiences and the ways that they don't fit in with what is valued or seen as right. And so it often comes with responses that are then ablest or problematic that are maybe belittling the problem like oh, we all get migraines from fluorescent lighting, or making it seem as though you are childlike, right? This infantilism, this belittling or this kind of special, different tokenistic, weird awkwardness around you. Or make that you mean something in their schema in their reality. That is like being used by them to indicate how socially aware they are that them regarding and making room for you is somehow equaling some social capital brownie points for them, right. So then you become this tool this token or sometimes maybe talking on your behalf, talking over you explaining you to other people, and all of which is alienating and unhelpful most of the time, right. And then there's this side of being misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented constantly, that an all of this creates this belief that you need to be explained that you need to explain yourself, and that you have to kind of compensate for all of this. And it's that act of compensating of trying to be known of trying to explain yourself, that can also create even more trouble, right, or that can just, it's like, it's like the message doesn't get through. And so in trying to compensate in trying to explain, you are then seen as being exacting or that you are straying from the correct Social Code, or you're breaking boundaries, or you are over explaining, or info dumping, or read as if you are critiquing something, or being difficult, or being suspicious, or over the top or an agreeable when often we're just trying to clarify something. And often what we're clarifying is a read of the situation in which our boundaries are different to those then what is being assumed. One of my amazing clients, you know, who you are, told me about this idea that's going around about autistic people's explaining, tendency to over explain being weaponized, right people setting us off on this kind of explaining tendency. And watching us, Joseph just go off to getting us on a rant or a deep context driven, dive into something when they aren't really listening, or they aren't really caring. So what is happening with all of this, there's a problem. And I'm speaking, first of all about the ways that the need to explain ourselves is structurally true, right? So we need to acknowledge its true before we then look at how it might also might also not be a helpful way of thinking. So what's happening, the problem is that there are things at stake in being understood.

Showing, explaining that we don't show pain the same way seeking employment. But those roots involve hidden curriculums and assumptions for how you're supposed to be that isn't explicit. And so on. Right? There's the desire to be read and seen accurately in your intentions, which can often end up with us explaining and explaining and explaining and explaining because we haven't yet received an explicit instruction from the other person of Yes, I hear you. And this is what I heard. There's the experiences of mixed messages, unclear, indirect communication. And the tendency of I don't know if you might call it the neuro majority, or people who are well resourced by common communication patterns, who are often communicating in unclear ways, right? There's things going on underneath what's actually being said, that mean other things that we don't pick up, right, because we don't communicate in that way. And then there's things that we're expressing that it also isn't being picked up. But all of that gets projected onto us. One of the things I love about my partner is that he's explicit in his communication. From day one, there was zero games really clear messaging, that he was into me without any pressure or expectation, and so to this day, have more than 16 years together. Our text messages are it's like a gazillion hearts and kisses. It's very direct, it's very clear. But then there's other relationships where people use the number of kisses to indicate how important they are you are to them or how important then that communication was. And it's like one means there's two means there's three means this. I don't really know what they mean. But I can see it happening. And it's exhausting, right. So my point is clear communication. It removes some of the fears that we've not been understood, it's an access need. And it's also really important to know that it's not all on us to make ourselves understood, right, they can do the work to other people, the systems, the structures need to be doing that work, too, they need to be creating room for and sense making structures for the fact that we just don't operate the same way for them to cross what they mean Melton calls this impasse of difference, right? There's this bridge, it's always us, it's reaching over that gap between us taking all of the risks to try and make ourselves understood. And it's time to start inviting people to make the same effort and to understand that that is what's happening. And to make known the ways that we're doing that, so it's a difficult project, because we do communicate differently. And the the, the means of making clear how we communicate differently requires communication. So it's finding the right ways to do that. There's an idea from Édouard Glissant, his notion of opacity, which I love, which is something that is also I think, important for us to put forward but which is perhaps not the most urgent, but I think, also the necessary aspect of how we can begin to solve these issues, which is about the right to not be understood. And then necessity of recognising diversities that exist beyond the scope of categorization, right beyond the scope of a singular reality, that can just objectify and fix everything. And in which you just need to know. And then you have an objective view on things, right. So a doctor, thinking that they have an objective view on what pain looks like, and hasn't had the lived experience of that gives them the understanding that it can look different in different people. It's that right? And then it's also we think differently, we process differently. There's literally different realities existing. And so when we're always having to move ourselves and try and understand other people's reality in order to make sense within it, so that we can have space within it. What we're also doing at the same time is constantly playing down and demoting and not being able to live in our own bodily lived experiential, sensory reality, right. And it's this mismatch of different realities or different meanings that Édouard Glissant, argues for, he insists that we must clamour for the right to opacity for everyone as resistance to this colonising imperialist gaze. And so opacity is not invisibility, but it's that the logics the structures, the meanings, through which a body and its meanings are interpreted, cannot be just the singular thing and should also not necessarily be available made available, it must be known that it cannot be assumed, it must be made clear that it isn't available, that there are aspects of experience that cannot be understood, but must still be given space for right and given tools and resources for so. And this was what my intention with my book loss ecology was about which was to point out that differences in cognition are also differences in reality, right? We don't live in a singular reality inside which we can build up the same knowledge. But rather we live in an ecology of realities. So defining ourselves in a fixed category in his dominant reality, this consensus reality, the scientific objective reality, actually denies our internal lived reality, which is where answers and solutions and tools will evolve from right it's inside our lived reality that the solutions exist, not in our ability or not to translate ourselves into other people's realities. So I'm going off in a bit of a complicated tangent here, but I wanted to speak To this, because autism is this category of imposing a form of transparency as glisten, would define it, where you're being read, you're being seen in a certain way. But it's not your truth, right? It's an imposition. And so the idea of being visible, but being opaque of being not understood and having the freedom and the right not to be understood not to be made sense of, is also important, right, claiming the rights to experience yourself to know yourself in ways that are not how other people know. And to not have to make sense within any idea that there is this single reality, this one way of knowing that that dominant reality is the only one or the right one, or the objective one, or the best one, or the real one. So claiming the right to self define to trust your own reality, is also part of the solution, right? It's not just being understood, but it's also being understood in ways that allow us not to have to be understood. So So then, when we're doing things, and it doesn't make sense to dominant consensus reality, and it seems like nonsense, like weird, strange, wrong, alien, not enough, too much, inconsistent, erratic, to dependence too slow. And the long list of ablest terms that I'm not going to get into, right, that their freedom to not have to make sense is also important. Other people's ways of thinking that don't fit your body can sometimes infiltrate the garden of your mind, right, one of the siblings and ampro, in the programme shared recently, an article which describes thought work in ways that that helped them, which is this idea of thoughts as the garden, right the garden of your mind that you are, that you can be intentional about what you're growing. So these ideas, these thoughts that are seeded in your garden, and then that you practice that you attend to right, that you give attention to and energy to, it's those that grow that become more and more real, that become the reality that you are standing under, right, the trees that you are standing under, there are your understanding. And so being intentional about which ideas which thoughts, which will perspectives, which ways of thinking, am I trusting as true, am I giving attention to you and my growing,

being important because if we are tending to a version of ourselves, that will be understood, what we're not doing is tending to our own self connected self understanding. So the right to not be understood, isn't realistic in most circumstances, right, but having the internal permission to be stealthy, to not make sense to exist outside of imposed meaning, to let people be wrong about you to not always have to need to correct them to let their misunderstanding be their problem. It's that right? It's like the hearing aid user who turns off the hearing aid on purpose. So I wanted to share this kind of reframe, in a way to show you that yes, acknowledge the experiences that come from these external structures, and the things that the barriers that we're facing. And also, that often part of the shift that helps free us from them, is to also recognise where that thinking isn't helpful, right. So where are you thinking that you constantly have to explain yourself and be understood and make sense to people and change their thinking so that you then have permission to be yourself, when you can sometimes give yourself permission to not have to make sense to not be understood? And that sometimes, the idea that you have to constantly Explain yourself, actually ends up reinforcing the reality that you have to explain yourself, it ends up contributing to the problem rather than to the solution. Now, giving yourself permission to not be understood is so much easier when you have somewhere where you are understood, right when you have a place a person, people with whom you don't have to explain yourself to be understood. Right when you don't have to make sense And in every single place in your life, to people who don't make sense in the ways that you do, it's also helpful to have someone in your life who can be the translator who can accompany you into those situations where you are needing to make yourself understood, for safety for access, or to act as like a buffer. It can also be helpful to have someone in your life to ask the questions that are about creating context, right? So who can you ask the those obvious questions to having someone who can be that role in your life. And then another thing that helps is obviously having a source of financial sustenance, which doesn't require you to constantly Explain yourself or which allows your way of thinking to be centred and to be an advantage. And so if your financial sustenance enables you to not have to make sense to dominant structures, then that that creates so much more possibility to pay attention to the sense making, and ways of knowing and the strengths, the insights that you maybe have, but maybe haven't had so much opportunity to recognise and develop and be acknowledged for. So to recap, yes, it can be overwhelmingly experientially true, that we have to explain ourselves that we have to illuminate what is not obvious what is invisible, what is the incorrect assumptions that come our way. And sometimes to just allow ourselves to be in the reality that we actually have in our bodies in our lived experiences, and to regard people's imposition of meaning on that as their problem, right, as long as we are not unsafe as a result of it. So where is it that you are thinking that you need to make sense to people that you need everyone to understand you? That maybe there's personal relationships where you feel like they don't get you? But actually, is that really a problem? And where is it that you are placing the responsibility of your ability to be who you are in their thoughts, rather than in your own self relationship and your own permission? Sometimes there is the feeling that if we don't make sense to the culture at large, right, if we don't do things, if we don't structure our lives, or live lives that look normal, that there's this danger of somehow losing touch with reality, or like losing ourselves, or that there's, there's a big danger around that when sometimes what we actually need to do is just find one, or two, or three or 10 people that also make similar changes, and for whom that does make sense for in order to have the ways that we want to live and the choices that we want to make and the ways that we want to just get to exist, to have that affirmed as a reality that we do get to live in, right. And then to find ways to make that financially sustainable, to find ways for that to be the way that you live, and you make a living or that you are funded in some way. So that it does get to be a reality that you don't have to explain yourself all the time. And that you don't have to make sense, to the status quo, to the consensus reality, the dominant culture at large. And you can do things your way, and trust it. So, yes, we have to explain ourselves all the time. But also, how can that not be true? And how can questioning that idea, allow you to see different solutions and different options that previously wouldn't have been there if you really live by the belief that you always have to make sense to other people. So I hope this has served you and giving you a sense of permission and where you might be withholding it from yourself, to just go and be like who you are, and let people be wrong about you. Let people not understand and make it their problem. Let it be their problem. Where do you have room to do that? Where are you holding back permission for yourself to make the kinds of choices and decisions that mean that you don't have to make sense to everyone. If you're not on my mailing list and you'd like to be, I would like to invite you to open the show notes. And there's a link at the top for you to join my mailing lists. And I'm inviting you because next month, I have a big announcement. And I want you to hear it first. You'll hear it first if you're on my mailing list, and I'll talk to you soon. Bye. Thank you for listening to this week's unmasking unschool podcast. It means the world to me that you and I are in orbit, you can join my mailing list and receive other resources and insights and stories for your journey of self becoming. And if you're ready to go deeper into this work and you're looking for support, implement it all, and activate your future self. I want to invite you to join my six month online unmasking unschool it's called the Solar System Plus siblings you're going to unlearn the habits of self negating and hiding, create the worthiness, self clarity and self belief to then go and create culture shifts first in your relationship to yourself, and then rippling out into everything you do and beyond. Click the link in the show notes for all the info and I will see you in sight