Inner dialogues are powerful. Very powerful. They inform so much about how we go about life. They determine much about how we see ourselves, how we present ourselves, how we talk about ourselves and of course how we feel about ourselves. It can be powerfully positive or devastatingly negative. Much of these dialogues are laid down early in our lives and by those that have had significant impact into our early psychological development and socialisation to the world we inhabit.
It’s a sad fact that many people, and in particular many who have been deeply hurt and have what are described as mental illness and psychological difficulties, carry a dialogue that persistently tells them they are broken. It is pervasive, destructive, debilitating and persistent. It plays a role in convincing it’s carriers that they are in fact broken, or if they aren’t broken they are wrong, they are less, they are missing, or they are unworthy and incapable of living full and complete lives.
In a sense it can be like looking through a shattered glass. Everything is filtered through that dialogue, every thought, feeling, emotion, motivation is impacted by it. Walking through life like this can be all encompassing, self defeating and just plain bloody hard, and feel plainly impossible.
Far too many people face walks through life like this. And mostly it is for no fault of their own, it is because of who they are or because of how they have been hurt and sometimes a combination of the two.
- you’ll never be any good
- you always get it wrong
- you’re hopeless
- why are you so useless
- you’ll never make it
- you can’t do that
- you’re too dumb
- you’re too weird
- pull yourself together
- boys don’t cry
- you’ve only yourself to blame
- you should know better
- it’s not an accident it’s sheer carelessness
And so the list goes on, and on, and on. Too many people have heard and continue to hear these horrible audio tracks running through their mind and sub conscience on a constant repeat. Far too many. It’s absolutely horrifying.
I heard everyone of these on my list. I’m an Âûtistic and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The audio tracks were well laid down in my inner world and very often and very loudly confirmed by my experience of the outer world. Experiencing school life as a constant looking over your shoulder wondering who would be the next person to hit, trip, push or shove you. What would be the next cutting remark made to or about you just in earshot. Which would be the next person you thought you had managed a friendship with to discover that alas no your quirkiness, weirdness or whatever it is that you can’t work out has struck again and that friend you thought you had has now lined up with all the others that are against you.
I never knew I was autistic growing up, never heard of it really before Rainman in 1988. Don’t think I had even heard the word before then. But I knew somehow I was different. I knew something was not right. A constant sense of being broken, scared and feeling like it was all very much unfair. It was unfair that i couldn’t make friends like everyone else. It was unfair that, as far as I could tell, I was incredibly ugly. It was unfair that everyone picked on me. It was all very much unfair. And the all encompassing feeling of brokenness was very pervasive.
Broken yet somewhere, somehow there was some sense of hope, some feeling within that, actually no I was not stupid. If I wasn’t stupid then maybe, just maybe I am not broken. I believe that glimmer was what enabled me to keep going, to continue to seek friendships, relationships, success. Some tiny spark of a sense of I’m ok, frankly was what kept me still walking the earth.
The wonder of diagnosis, the enlightening knowledge and realisation of being autistic changed everything. I’ve written before about my diagnosis journey, so I won’t expand on that journey here except to say that acceptance of the reality of who I am has been a process and the resultant acceptance has been the paradigm shift that helps me to make sense of the world and my place in it. Over the years I went through different counselling processes looking to make sense of myself and my experience and within that context the idea of changing the audio tracks has been canvassed but never quite able to be fully grasped and put into practice.
Clarity was only able to come with realisation, acceptance and embracement of my autistic identity. And clarity it really is. The clarity is like a removal of that foggy cracked, broken window that filters everything and gives amplification to those audio files, that in a sense has always proved them true. That was the thing, I could never change them because my experience of the world was always just like what those messages seemed to be saying. Learning that I am autistic and I do, in fact, experience the world in an utterly different way to neurotypical people. Almost like shutters blown open and a wonderful fresh wind blowing through my soul, my spirit, my very being.
Of course it’s no bed of roses. It just makes sense now. I still, of course have communication issues, sensory difficulties and social shortcomings. Of course none of these things have suddenly gone away. Yet, the ability to know and understand that this is not because I am broken but because I am different. As Temple Grandin famously says Different Not Less. I get overwhelmed in loud places with lots of simultaneous conversations not because of being less but because that’s my neurological being.
This revolutionary insight is almost like a pass, or a permission slip, to say no I won’t go into that situation, or, I think this is going to be really hard but I’ll give it a go and it’s no big deal if I have to bail out half way through. The pressure of conforming, of pretending to be normal is suddenly not there. Suddenly I am in a position of powerful knowledge and insight that can choose when are the times it is worth passing myself off as a neurotypical and when are the times I won’t do that and will actually choose to protect myself and keep myself safe.
I’m not broken actually! I’m actually autistic! I am different not less!