Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Self-Respect Is Not Denial

After reading a blog entry that dealt with a subject other than autism, but that contained a gratuitous discussion of the stereotype that autistics lack theory of mind, I wrote a comment politely explaining to the blog owner why his post could be considered offensive.

Another reader posted a comment immediately after mine, addressed to the blog owner, in which she characterized his post as follows:

As someone who has been within the disability "field of discourse" for ten years, I find it raises red flags and could cause unnecessary emotional distress to people who may already be in pain...

...broadcasting it across the blogosphere, to those who may come across it in varying stages of grief and/or acceptance, is likely to be hurtful to someone.

I was left wondering whether she intended anything in her comment to refer to mine. It's possible she meant to suggest that parents of recently diagnosed children might be upset, or something along those lines. I really don't know, and I wouldn't want to make an assumption one way or the other.

But I've noticed—in general—that there seems to be a certain patronizing attitude among some people in disability-related professions, to the effect that a challenge to a stereotype (especially one created by psychologists or other professionals) reflects a denial of one's limitations and a need to grieve and accept the reality of one's unfortunate situation.

This is what I have to say to anyone who has that attitude: You're the one in denial. You are denying that stereotypes of disability are cultural constructs. You are denying that certain kinds of people are capable of rationally evaluating their own strengths and limitations. You are denying that there are many healthy and productive responses to human differences, other than grieving. You are denying that much of what we call reality consists of our subjective, culturally conditioned perceptions. You are denying that there are as many ways of looking upon one's existence, or one's way of being, as there are stars in the sky.

And I think it's about time for you to grieve and accept the reality of human diversity and the fact that you're not divinely entitled to occupy a superior position in the universe by virtue of not having a disability label.

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  • Closedmindedness is one of the most common mental disabilities. It is characterized by an irrational and excessive clinging to a single idea and a limited capacity for imagination when presented with alternative perspectives.

    The most severe episodes of Closedmindedness may be accompanied by sociopathic and criminal behavior, e.g. genocide and attempted genocide.

    It's estimated that nearly 100% of the population will suffer at least one episode of Closedmindedness within their lifetimes. Frequency and severity of episodes varies widely among affected individuals. Severe, sociopathic Closedmindedness is not as prevalent, but its sufferers can cause great damage to a community. It affects men and women equally, and is found to also be evenly distributed among people of different races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and neurotypes. Many people suffer frequent, severe, repeated, debilitating episodes. Preliminary research suggests that the most severe recurring cases of Closedmindedness are found among the powerful classes, although active leaders of disempowered classes may also develop severe recurring Closedmindedness in reaction to violence and lack of empathy on the part of powerful people in the grips of the mental disorder.

    By Blogger reform_normal, at 12:28 PM  

  • The "denial" concept, in general, is one of those pseudoscientific things about psychology. I'm not saying all of psychology is pseudoscience, but some of it is, and most of it was during the Freudian days.

    Even Karl Popper (who first proposed the falsifiability criteria of the scientific method) recognized the pseudoscience in it. The "denial" concept is a good example of a closed circle.

    That's not to say that people are never in denial. The point is that it's impossible to falsify such claims.

    By Blogger Joseph, at 7:07 PM  

  • I've had that comment quite a lot myself. My grandparents want me to "beat Asperger's" and don't understand I think I'm fine the way I am. My mom insists I'm "not disabled", as though disabled were some horrible monster. My doctors seem to think that if I'm capable of mimicking NT behavior (which I am, to some extent), I must be out of touch with reality if I don't do so. On top of that, many people don't believe that my senses work differently from theirs--my grandma won't believe that my menstrual periods put me in bed for a day; my doctors wouldn't believe that self-injury that caused wounds which needed stitches caused very little pain and no distress. Thank God my boss is willing to let me sit down--most bosses in the past have been unwilling to realize that foot pain caused by standing for a long time causes overload for me. Not to mention all the little things that bug me that don't bug others... they immediately think I must be exaggerating.

    Oh, yes, and then there's yet another "in denial" comment they made when I mentioned that I thought autism gave me strengths I wouldn't have otherwise, as well as the constant pushing to go on disability instead of trying to navigate the world of work and school.

    In my opinion, it's the NTs who need a real theory of mind... they think everyone else's mind works like theirs!

    By Anonymous chaoticidealism, at 11:14 AM  

  • I made the comment you quote, and I was not referring to anyone else's comment. I was referring to Joe's post. I was not referring to people with disabilities. I have a child with major challenges, and I've had quite a few conversations with parents of children with various levels of disability. I'm comfortable with my comment.

    I'm sorry if I offended you.

    By Blogger Julana, at 9:19 PM  

  • Julana -- thanks for clarifying. As I wrote in my post, I wasn't sure what your intent was, but I have seen similar statements used to describe people with disabilities as being in denial when they challenge stereotypes.

    No offense was taken or intended.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:59 AM  

  • You have a voice that definitely needs to be heard. Typical people are constantly trying to change others to fit into our mode of acceptance, instead of trying to fix ourselves and our mode of acceptance. It's quite comical really.

    By Blogger Nicole, at 4:14 PM  

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