Series 2, Ep5: Distinction Depth: an autistic / AuDHD affordance


There are some skills that will *always* involve over-adapting
other skills that will CREATE energy.


The difference is in your STRENGTHS.

Building skills where you *already* have an innate strength.

Centring those strengths as a way to protect your energy for what works, and reclaim it from what doesn't.


As an autistic/audhd/adhd person 

knowing what your strengths even are

is made harder by structures designed to cater to the majority, the masses, the industrialised workplace,

and by a habitual response of over-compensating for what it lacks.


In this week's episode, I offer 'Distinction Depth' as a way to think about some of your strengths, and what environments or activities afford you ease and increased energy.





[00:00:00] Hey, sibling, you are listening to the Unmasking Unschooled podcast. This is for visionaries, creatives, and change makers who happen to be autistic, who are done with pathology paradigms, the masks and misinterpretations of the past, and the burnout cycles that come from trying to fit in with what doesn't work.

You are here to create new aligned life structures, to innovate industries, to design liberatory solutions, and create new culture by becoming yourself. My name is Louisa Shaeri. I'm an artist, coach, and founder of Sola Systems. This is all about you getting unstuck, reinventing and elevating your sense of space.

Having the social context and frameworks to make a life that makes sense for how you make sense so you can finally experience who you're here to be in your fullness. Let's deep dive into it.

Hey siblings. So today I'm going to talk about one of the planets inside the solar system, which is called center. in your strengths. And this is part of what I offer creates more energy. Energy is something that we have to manage, right? That we are often, um, if we're following the way that we're supposed to do things, we're often finding that we are depleting a lot of energy, trying to compensate for weaknesses and trying to do things.

That maybe other people find is basic or simple or easy and aren't working for us. And those become. Yeah, energy drains. And so I want to talk about strength in terms of how, you know, I've lived this, right? I know what it's like to be living in a groundhog day loop of energy deficit, burnout, recover, burnout, recover, and the cumulative effect of that, of starting to have a relationship with A different quality of life or a future dream or something that you're wanting to do that would require energy and focus and time and resources, you start to have a relationship with those things where you defer them or they start to feel really far away, really unattainable.

Impossible, because if this is how hard I have to work just to get this, just to do the basic life, then that must be harder, right? And if we have lived according to the idea that the only option that we have is to over adapt, is to work harder, is to compensate for what's difficult, and then use all our spare time crashing and recovering.

If that's my experience, then I'm going to have a lot of evidence for that being the best way that I know, right? And thinking that, you know, working 10 times as hard socially, uh, trying to fit in with what doesn't work, that that is just your normal, that that's how it has to be. And therefore, how can we possibly have more energy for what we actually want?

And I want to speak to what I now experience having centered. My strengths is that I have surplus energy. I'm living a life that fits me, that centers me, that. Supports areas of weakness most of the time, and that has me being in my strengths as much as possible for the, for the highest percentage of the time.

And because I'm mostly in my strengths, I'm doing things that are effective for me, where I'm rewarded because I'm having influence. I'm experiencing a level of agency, then I'm not using up all of that energy in things that. on replenishing it. Instead, I'm doing things that give me meaning, that give me satisfaction, that re energize.

And this is, Still so surprising to me that I can be doing what I'm doing and essentially working a type of working hard, but it doesn't feel the same way that what I used to think working hard meant. It doesn't feel like I'm, draining myself into something and I'm never going to get that back. It feels nourishing to work hard to work at something I believe in and that has me in my strengths.

So, you know, when we're considering what we might build competency in, this is really about building where we already have a natural competence, where we already have ease and an innate tendency to, A strength, right? And this is an area of focus in this journey of self becoming because those strengths, those abilities that emerge naturally can be really hard to pinpoint and see about yourself.

Sometimes maybe your strengths have been overlooked or people have used other Things about you as reasons to underestimate you or not give you that credit, right? Or to think that to interpret you as, you know, taking part in some kind of hierarchical status play. Or undervaluing your contributions or saying that you're doing it in the wrong way, or you're deviating from what you're supposed, you know, how we're supposed to do it.

And therefore that doesn't count. Or maybe you have been rewarded for some of your strengths, but not all of them are not in a way that is a true reflection of everything that you could be about if you are fully taking up all the space in your body and your life. The point is you want to be living most of your time in those strengths.

You want the least amount of your time to be in your weaknesses, because otherwise what you're living is burnout is confusion is exhausting. It. It's trying to catch up with things that are just not meant for you and therefore there's a level of mediocrity that comes out of focusing on those things because you're not experiencing the momentum and the impact of what Your life could be if you are always in your strengths.

Now, obviously this isn't always in our control. We have to start somewhere, right? You can't just overnight decide, yay, from today, I'm going to just be in my strengths and fuck all the things because, you know, we don't, Live in a societal structure that is accounting for the type of interdependence and the type of dependencies that come with our strengths, right?

That would enable us to be in our strengths. We have to co create that. We have to ask and invite others into that. We have to advocate for that. So this is always a working towards a work in progress. And yeah, I also think that. If we look at where we are now, the opportunities available through the internet or through technology, or, you know, the fact that we're exposed to so many other ways of living and ways of earning.

I think that we've never been, you know, depending on where you live, obviously, and what your environment is. is offering. We've also never been in, in such a, a time of possibility and a time of solutions being somewhere in the world, somewhere available. And it, it just being a case of finding the right model, finding the right example, finding some role models, some finding something that you can transfer or, um, adopt that is going to work for you.

So just to give that as a, a context, so as you, so that you're not judging yourself when this is hard to create, right? It's something that we have to create and that many other people don't have to create. And so there is an element of this where you're on the back foot and yet every time that you are setting up something in your life or tweaking the way you do things that gives you energy back, that.

Energy back put towards what is a strength is going to multiply that energy. And so having more energy is the result of centering yourself, putting you at the center of your life, centering your strengths, centering what is meaningful to you as well. So that those strengths are being poured into something that is a source of meaning that is something that you believe in or feel called to.

Towards or pulled to explore as a way of contributing and bringing out what is in you to meet a need in the world, right? And so this is not because a career advisor says it's a good idea. It's not because Louisa on the podcast says it's a good idea or, you know, looking for, you know, what. How does the world work?

Well, maybe this is just the way it is, or looking at what's [00:10:00] acceptable already to other people. This is really about, yeah, connecting to what do you care about, centering that, finding where your strengths can be put towards that. And often that might be about you being able to see something that other people can't, that you know, would have a positive impact, right?

Often it's about you've lived something or you have a deep knowledge about or interest in something or an insight or an inkling and it's strong enough to Scratch that itch in a way and explore it. And yes, so this is my encouragement to center yourself, center your strengths, center in your strengths, center in what is meaningful to you.

At first, this can feel selfish. Selfish to, to center ourselves. If you've been taught to appease the system, to please other people, to only think of yourself in terms of what you represent to others, then this feels new, right? If you might feel. Some strange guilt considering it or taking action towards that you might feel guilt or shame at asking for help that would actually help you to be in your strengths.

You might feel like someone is going to come and tell you off like, no, who do you think you are? You don't get to do that or that there's going to be some negative consequences to you shining basically. You being super good at something, you having a pronounced skill, or even if you don't necessarily have, you know, these marked strengths, uh, even the idea that you, that you can have both strengths and weaknesses, um, or that there are specific ways that you need to do something that work for you, that give you energy, that, Mit, mitigate and, uh, minimize the amount of energy depletion that's going on for you.

You know, there, there's going to be a sense if you're someone who is masked that there will be negative consequences to doing this. But I think when you begin to experience in your body, how much energy you get back from making simple tweaks from restructuring from being willing to have those difficult conversations from being willing to stick out, stand out.

Um, do things differently, take the leap, restructure. Once you experience how much energy you start to get back, it's, it increases that motivation and it increases, you start to have more evidence for like, Oh, this is worth it. This is worth it to have surplus energy. This is worth it to be able to experience myself and stay in connection with myself instead of disconnect and, uh, negate and squash and suppress and contort myself to fit in with other people.

Who I think I'm supposed to be. The Unmasking Unschool I've mentioned is undergoing a process of revisioning into its final evolved form. I love calling it that. Um, and part of the reason also is to center my strengths even more in my own work and also to center your strengths even more. And so I want to talk about you know, a way to think about some of those strengths in a way that I haven't talked about before.

And I want to call it distinction depth, distinction depth. Think of this as an affordance. So distinction depth speaks to affordances that might arise when this particular strength is Being supported and reflected by your environment. So distinction depth, what am I talking about? So this is about the depth of detail in your perceptual abilities.

I've talked before about sensory congruence in another episode. This is talking about the same things essentially, but in just in another way. And this is really about When you are able to discern and distinguish between a greater level of differences than most people. All right. So if you think about, we might define intelligence as the number of distinctions that you're able to make about a given subject or within a certain experience.

You know, if you take someone who really knows about cave art, right? Cave paintings, cave art, uh, prehistoric art. They might have developed such a depth of distinctions between different forms of cave art, different caves, the different paints used, different styles, right? I've no idea, but let's imagine that means that they're able to look at And just in a glance at a new discovered cave painting and be able to say a lot about it to maybe date it to maybe describe, um, how the ink was made or the paint was made the properties about it to infer.

you know, histories from just looking at it to maybe work out where in the world it is. Again, I'm just guessing, but to illustrate this point, right? So someone who's, who's done a lot of thinking and has a lot of experience to be able to have that depth of distinctions has a different level of intelligence around cave art than, um, than me, then I might, right?

So, And I don't mean intelligence like it's some sort of innate IQ. Measure or anything like that, right? This is not, uh, a comparison or like, um, a hierarchy of intelligence, but rather a way of thinking about Intel, about interpreting data, interpreting the data of lived experience, interpreting and, and sense making the, um, afford someone the ability to make.

Much more nuanced distinctions between different forms of the same thing or different experiences that might to someone else seem really similar, right? If you took someone who's a design expert in furniture and you showed them two chairs that to you look really very similar, they might be able to tell you why and discern and make distinctions between them that are very specialist and nuanced.

I like this word specialist as a replacement of special interest and thinking about special interests as zones of specialism, recognizing the depth of, you know, distinctions in different arenas of perception and interest, different subject matters. And, That this also shows us where there are subject matters or environments or ways of working and learning that afford us a greater level of satisfaction, immersion, depth, and specialism that is rewarding because it meets and matches the Amount of detail that we are perceiving and processing, which is higher than the general population.

Not better, just different, right? And so distinction depth might be something that therefore feels good, that is a strength. It keeps us interested, it's rewarding, and that we can take that depth of distinctions within an area of complexity, and that we can stay with the depth, we can be with the nuances for much longer, and that affords us certain insights, certain ways of thinking and certain strengths.

So there's so much to this, but I think what distinction depth is naming is a need for and a compatibility with working at deeper levels of distinctions between experiences and sensations. We need to create more data points on the map to adequately make sense of something. So when a subject matter or experience offers more of those data points, there's a greater depth, a greater distinction depth available.

Then we gain more from that experience. We're more able to work with it. We aren't struggling with the oversimplicity of it. I think it also speaks to what supports the strength, what affords it to be a strength, which is things like longer processing time. So if there's more details, then there's more processing time needed.

There might also be a different, way of processing, right? Can't scan something and summarize it unless we've processed the entire thing and are therefore able to create a system for making sense of all of those details. So, longer processing time, a different way of processing. I think it also affords strengths in, in having subject matter expertise whereby We're able to systemize and simplify things that are, have a level of complexity or a level of immersion or speak on to a more energetic level or a more aesthetic level [00:20:00] and be able to work with that.

Right. So systems thinking, creative thinking, making connections between things in unexpected ways. I think this also. Gives rise to a need for slower transitions between deep dive immersions. I also wonder if this also gives rise to Asymmetrical pace of processing. So some things where we're super fast at processing because we're, we have enough familiarity with it, that we're making mental connections really fast.

We're able to come to conclusions that other people can't see how you got there or how you got there so fast and other arenas where that processing is. Is slow or it's not, it's something that's not offering up that level of distinction depth and we need help with it. So that being confusing to folks who are generalists, who don't have that, don't need that level of distinction depth, who work best with linear thinking or with a more surface level prioritizing.

It can give rise for some people to a need to deal in the world in a more embodied physicality, materiality way of engaging. When you're using your whole body, you're using your whole self. And I also think it gives rise to a more direct, Way of communicating a more matter of fact way of dealing with things, uh, a lack of game playing.

You aren't looking for what is important to pull out or zone in on or give more importance to. It's like, let me absorb everything so that I can then make sense of it. And in that absorbing of everything that is just there, you're dealing with what is, you're not. Um, trying to suss out or you're not oriented to quickly scanning and pulling out what's important and then zoning in on that.

You're, you're processing the entirety of what is in a very, like, this is just what it is. You're absorbing it in order to then make sense of it. I also think that when things start simple or they're linear, it's harder to understand, right? Why is it so hard to come up with the steps, the linear steps of putting a new meal together, cooking a new meal?

Maybe there's a more experiential, more sensory based way of, of systemizing what cooking is as the whole of it that we need to Be with first before we find that, that distinction, depth, expertise, uh, and specialism that we're able to then embody and, and be good at, and other things, it's just not going to ever be possible.

Right. I think this is also connected to having really good long term memory for some folks, right? Because your, your recall has that depth of detail. Whereas working memory, which is about holding things in your head at the same time in order to kind of come to a conclusion, maybe not so good. I also think about synesthesia, making connections.

I don't know if it's whether there actually aren't any there or whether they are there and it's a pattern that others just don't perceive. I experienced a degree of synesthesia between sound and, and vision. I see sound as like a 3D shifting shape. Um, is that because I'm making more connections than is actually there or is it because I'm perceiving patterns in a relationship between those two sensory realms?

or channels that are, I'm able to make those connections between them and perceive additional patterns. So I'll let you work out how it maybe applies to you, where you notice details and make connections that others don't. Maybe where you struggle with things that are surface level and cover a lot of different.

Separate arenas of subject matter. Um, like small talk and consider also like, I'm not the expert here. I'm not the person who understands your brain, your body, your body, mind, the best, your nervous system, the best, uh, you do, you are. Able to be the internal witness that is observing how you best work, right?

What feels energizing? What is the most depleting? What feels difficult? Versus what contains ease or just seems to come naturally to you? I really do believe that we, we already know what works. You already have the experience of what doesn't work. You already have those distinctions. You maybe just have had to orient to other things in your environment that were more to do with survival, more to do with, um, fitting in or trying to get by then tuning in with and paying attention to the signals of your body to say, Hey, this does work or this doesn't work.

And to trust that and to trust that you can act. In that direction and move towards it so distinction depth. This is a factor. This is an affordance that you know, when you, when your environment caters to it, it becomes a strength. When your environment doesn't, it becomes a weakness or dependency zone of doing that will always take advantage of it.

Too much energy that you'll never be competent in it. And so it's not something to try and be competent at. You want to start where you already have thing that is energizing and rewarding. And for me, when I'm revisioning the solar system materials and allowing myself to be in that process of, of hearing all of the.

Depth of distinctions that I'm now able to make that I wasn't able to make two years ago, that's already offering up some things that I want to tweak, like less solo video consumption, maybe a private podcast version of everything for folks who like to listen and walk or listen and do things to be in their bodies while also processing audio.

Right. More. immersion, more support in the live application of the ideas and the concepts, less talking head videos to get through more systems that can be applied as a living practice and more exquisite sensorial attuned aesthetics to experience your perceptual sensory strengths and have them be considered, catered to, cared for.

That's what I'm working towards. And then in terms of my own strengths, this also looks like less talking head straight to camera video recordings, uh, which is, isn't so much of a strength. I'm much more of a I really like direct communication, which is responsive where I'm getting feedback in real time, more emphasis on the live coaching and more creativity in the way that I'm putting those teaching video materials together.

And then also more of me modeling the teachings by example, because I do think that one of the most effective. Transfers of data information that is helpful is energetic and not conceptual like I learn so much from people's energy. There's something that is available in other people's nervous systems that I can.

Tune in with an experience and borrow and learn from that means that when I'm trying to learn something, there's a, there's a, there's a lot to be gained from that proximity to their energy, right? That the energetic signals that go through the body that go through the energy field, that is, is, I think, for some of us, a very potent.

Available source of information that isn't of the mind. So, yeah, I'm working on the solar verse in this way behind the scenes and just offering up some of this as I go along and really thinking about this in terms of it being almost like a technology of selfhood. Like an asset, a support system in your life for this process of knowing, becoming and living this sensorially distinction deep way of being and for having who you are, be the reason why your life unfolds as it does, because It's designed for you.

It's how you would design it and creating this set of tools as something that can model and be an example of the concepts that I'm also offering that I'm sharing. Something that is an immersive way of learning that isn't linear, that is sensorially exquisite. And that is instructional by example. So that's my goal that I'm sort of slightly vulnerably making public.

Um, because it feels real enough, available enough, possible enough. I feel close enough to kind of claim it, that it already exists in the near future. And. The, the real gap for me is about more and more embodying [00:30:00] the, the kind of alter ego, alter energy of solar flare in order to do it. The solar flare is for me, the permissive conjuring invocation of a role.

That I'm choosing that when I embody it, I'm connecting to an energy that is a source of intelligence, a source of distinctions for the decisions that I'm wanting to make. And I'm also able to exist beyond and put aside some of the limitations I learned for who I'm need to be legible to and make sense for and instead channel.

a stronger expression of an example of what happens when we have the resourcing and support and are centering and trusting and acting on the insights that arise within us. And for me, the distinction depths over lots and lots of years of thinking about what does it mean to be myself? Who even is this self?

What does it mean to be autistic? And critically examining, trying, sifting, you know, this is a product of all of that, right? When it's coming to you and what you're wanting to build competence in, I want to also say it didn't need to take 10 years, more than 10 years for me to synthesize all of that journey.

All of the critical thinking, all of my decades of, of lived experience, right? Didn't need to take me 10 years of sensing that this was a possibility, that this is something that I might create. What took me the 10 years was the gap between who I was being And the version of me that had the confidence, had the self trust, had the tools to act on that.

That's what took me years and years. And that is the part of this that I'm synthesizing for you. So this is why You know, the focus for the solar system is less about information about what does it mean to be autistic? It's much more about, you already know the answers. You have them inside and wanting to make the journey so much easier, so much faster, so much clearer and to attune what I'm offering to Specifically, what actually helps you move forward, what expedites that journey, providing the social context that normalizes that for your nervous system and that can validate that, that means that there is at least somewhere in your life that you're not having to explain or doubt it.

Solar flare is like existing for you, specifically you, the listener, you, those I work with. the energy of activating that possibility that's in you that you maybe feel, even if it's a tiny, tiny hunch, and inviting it to shine. And so on that, I want to just thank you for listening, like every single one of you that is in whatever way, Connected to anything I'm doing, you're the whole reason this exists and you're the whole reason it's even possible.

The degree to which this is mutually life affirming, you have no idea. And I'm just so grateful that you are here, that you listen, that you are, um, exploring this with me and you becoming yourself is what is meaningful to me. There is something new for me that's coming about. More and more being able to trust that I can just stay connected to that.

I'm more and more experiencing more and more evidence to the more and more believe in, yeah, this is just the beginning. We're alive at such a, an amazing. time to be who we are. That doesn't mean it's not hard at a lot of times. That doesn't mean that everything is equal. Um, but it means that collectively there is something that is increasing in what quality of life, what our experience of our life can be.

I'm just so grateful that I get to be a part of that in some small way. And when I. Witness those I work with have that courage to Explore what is really pioneering in their own life in their own sense of self right in your own um level of comfort, uh to pioneer Being yourself becoming yourself like every what might seem like small steps to you what you might be judging as small progress because it's progress and small steps in directions that you, you have less models for.

You have less examples. You don't have the path laid out in the world, nor in your nervous system, nor in your neural pathways, the knowledge that's around. So every small step is actually enormous. It's, what's that moon landing quote? Oh no. Sibling, thank you for listening. I appreciate you so much and I'll talk to you soon.








is for #autistic-status visionaries, creatives and change-makers, who are seeking a more empowering way to see, know and be yourself.