You’ll be thinking of me

Today, a close friend of mine made a post about a comment I made to her that really made an impact, and I thought I’d write a bit more about it at length.

What I had mentioned to her was a concept called forced intimacy. This is a type of manipulation where an acquaintance shares very intimate information with another person in order to create a false sense of closeness, usually soon after meeting. After sharing said information, the acquaintance then proceeds to expect said closeness to be reciprocated, either with personal information shared or with emotional support from the other party.

These situations usually feel uncomfortable for the individual being manipulated, as they feel that they have not established this intimacy through the time and effort that usually is required for that level of sharing/support/etc. and yet they feel guilt because they now feel obligated to respond by the other person’s vulnerability. This is exactly how the person who overshares wants them to feel. What then proceeds from such relationships is often a highly intense relationship that is not based on trust or common bond, but rather on heightened emotions, requiring every interaction to have high intensity in order to be maintained.

I’ll give an example of an experience that I went through recently, where I encountered forced intimacy:

I went to a support group for one of my disabilities, and afterwards, an individual caught up with me afterwards, alone, and started chatting with me about some things I had said in said support group, including the fact that I am autistic and bipolar. They then proceeded to tell me at length about how they had supported a past partner through grad school, who then proceeded to leave them after graduation. They told me about how this partner had bipolar disorder, and told me at length about the partner’s mental health issues. At several points I tried to cut the conversation short, asked no questions, and only gave noncommittal responses.

Eventually this person, after sharing with me for over an hour, switched the conversation over to attempting to extract information from me, about my dating life, about my diagnoses, about my treatment, etc. At this point, I did manage to extract myself, but this person did follow me and continued talking at me until I reached my car, at which point I finally made my escape.

Now, I had done, to my knowledge, nothing to indicate that I had any interest in having a conversation with this person besides perhaps a polite smile and nod, and had not directly spoken to them during the meeting. They had likely chosen me because I was new, and thus likely looking for connections.

Now, let me be clear, I have no idea whether this person did these things understanding what they were doing, or whether they were behaving manipulatively out of habit, as so many of us do. Many people, especially those with mental health issues, behave in manipulative ways in order to get the support they need because they have learned that is the only way that they can acquire it (at least in the form they want, which may be via friends, and not therapists).

I am by no means saying that all manipulators are people who are social puppeteers who know exactly what they are doing when they are doing it and have some big end game in mind; in fact, I would say the majority of manipulators are the exact opposite of this. I would say most manipulators know what they want for the next few steps; they know how to get from Point A to Point B. But this sort of manipulation is still unhealthy at best and abusive at worst.

Becoming aware of manipulative behaviors is an incredibly eye-opening experience, and coming to understand that we all, in fact, behave manipulatively at points has motivated me to become a more genuine person. As much as I may seem to others to be mistrusting or cynical, I believe that learning to see manipulation as it is and to learn not to respond to it, and, in fact, to reject and avoid it, will not only improve my quality of life, but will encourage others to learn to behave in ways that are less manipulative and more genuine in order to get what they want from me.

Mara Passio

Morning is dim with another day’s tears

Hey everyone.

I want to talk to you today, as an autistic person, about Autism Speaks. Specifically, why I would request you give no support to them, and that you do not “light it up blue.” I will provide multiple links, mainly from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which I view as counterpoint in terms of nonprofits. If you take nothing else from this, please look into the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and see what they are doing for and with autistic individuals.

What I would like to start with, is that Autism Speaks is hyper-focused on “preventing” autism. I take issue with this, not only as an autistic person, but as a person who is generally anti-eugenics. Autism Speaks puts the majority of their research funds towards causation and prevention, including, potentially, prenatal testing.(1) In addition, they support “behavioral health treatments” (2) which generally means Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA. This type of treatment has been anecdotally shown to cause trauma in many autistic individuals, as the basic function of ABA is to punish “autistic” behaviors and reward “neurotypical” behaviors. An example of this would be to punish a child for hand-flapping or stimming, which is a natural behavioral response to overstimulation or strong emotion, in autistics most commonly, but it occurs in non-autistics as well.

Autism Speaks, in addition, refused for 10 years, despite intense pressure, to appoint any autistic individuals to their Board of Directors.(3) They have very recently caved to the pressure and appointed two autistic individuals, but this does not by far undo the damage they have done, or continue to do, by presenting autistic individuals as burdens on society.(1,3)

I have received the response before that I am a “high functioning” autistic, and therefore do not speak for “low functioning” autistics. I would like first to assure you that, if functioning levels were a useful conversation to have (which they are not), I would by no means be considered “high functioning.” I get sensory overload; I get meltdowns where I beat myself with my fists; I sometimes go non-verbal. I am all of the things that make someone a “low functioning” autistic. Second, I would like to ask you, is a “high functioning” autistic less appropriate to speak for “low functioning” autistics than someone not autistic? I see a failure in logic here. Caretakers understand what it is like to be a caretaker. Not what it is like to be the one cared for. Please do not be so presumptuous as to think because you know us or because you have studied us that you know what it is like to be us.

Do listen to autistics.
Do not support Autism Speaks
Do not light it up blue.

(1) http://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/AutismSpeaksFlyer_color_2016.pdf
(2) https://www.autismspeaks.org/advocacy/about-us
(3) http://autisticadvocacy.org/2015/12/statement-on-autism-speaks-board-appointments/

Mara Passio