The most dangerous myths of all are the ones you believe about yourself.
There’s been a lot of talk about empathy lately. Rachel Cohen Rottenberg has been doing a series of posts on the subject, my friends are circulating quotes by Jim Sinclair and Dustin Hoffman* on the subject of interacting with other people… It’s contagious.
And it’s long overdue. I know first-hand how destructive the myth that we have no empathy truly is, because as a teenager, I swallowed it without question. I hadn’t at that point developed the skills and knowledge to question authority on subjects related to autism, so I just accepted it, even if I knew it didn’t apply to me.
So I spent a good chunk of my adolescence staring on at my age-mates with more than a hint of hurt and envy. I thought I would never be able to connect with other people the way they did. I felt eternally cut off from humanity, like there was a thread twining around and connecting everyone but me.
It took years to shake off those myths. It took a lot of pain and confusion, and falsely labelling feelings like love as something else, because I thought I couldn’t love. I’ve transitioned out of that dangerous myth though, and I now have a firm grip on every emotion I feel, which encompasses a whole spectrum.
It would seem to me that the idea we can’t feel love and empathy is more a comforting myth for neurotypicals than anything rooted in truth. If we can’t feel it, then there’s no real compelling need to explore how we feel and what drives us to feel this way. It’s easier to pretend we lack, rather than to admit that we do it differently. Different, to them, is dangerous and unacceptable. Lacking, however, fits the narrative of our lives they’ve been building since the word “autism” was coined. Defunct, broken, damaged.
It’s a true tragedy they don’t understand, not only because they use it as a means of dismissing us, but also, because it means they’re missing out on that side of us. They’ll never know what they are missing.
* Yes, if you are curious, that is my personal tumblr, which I started using a lot more actively when I found out that Tumblr bloggers were reblogging a lot of my posts.