Stimming, for me, is a form of physical, emotional, and intellectual catharsis. When I stim, all of the threads of my thoughts come together to form a grand design. The revelation is so exciting and overwhelming I have to rid myself of the excess energy caused by this epiphany through, you guessed it, more stimming.
Not everybody stims for the same reasons I do, an individual autie may have a million different reasons for doing so. It could be a self-soother, a means of concentrating, a release of pent-up anxieties, a chance to think, or a means of warding off boredom. Maybe all at once, stimming accomplishes this for someone.
Non-stimmers, neurotypicals, they don’t usually see it this way. When I stim, I know what adjectives are assigned to me by people who don’t understand. “Jittery”, “anxious”, ” “unable to keep still”, “overstimulated”, “hyperactive”, “distracted”. They don’t see any meaning to my stimming, and think that it’s a flaw, a system deviation, or a pacifier of sorts.
We’re asked to keep still, to keep quiet, to keep it to ourselves, to not be so distracting and upfront about our stimming habits. Movement, in their minds, should be deliberate and meaningful, with a minimal allowance for deviations from the task, doodle with a pen, scratch your head, or drum your fingers, and do it quietly, so that you don’t display your stimming.
But who says that stimming has to be full of meaning, or that the only movements we should do should have some ultimate purpose? That seems like a reductive and sedentary way of observing movement to me. I stim for many reasons, but I don’t intellectually sort it out in my head before, during, or after, thinking, “Okay, now I’m going to stim to get rid of this pent-up anxiety I’m feeling owing to that buzzing light, the painful noise of squeaking cellophane I heard, and the smell of the cafeteria food, and then when I’m done, I’ll go about my business.” I just do it. I shouldn’t have to justify its existence because it’s productive or helpful.
Not all movement or actions needs to serve towards completing an action or a task. It isn’t necessary to compartmentalize every action someone takes, and try to reduce them to what’s helpful and productive and which is a time waster. Sometimes, it’s better to step back, let someone manage themselves independently, and not demand elaborate justifications for their behaviour. We need not fret nor pontificate over the deeper significance of it all. Sometimes we can just, in the words of the Beatles, let it be.