How Can I Accept Something I don't understand?
Thinking about difference and diversity and the misconception that if you don’t understand something, you cannot accept it. This thought came after a conversation this weekend because a family member became frustrated at my inability to watch new movies if there is a chance there could be any blood/aggression or violence in them.
It sounds so simple but for many neurodivergent people movies come with elevated stress and anxiety levels especially if these are not movies we know well. Many autistic people will rewatch the same movies repeatedly because those movies are safe; they know what's happening and nothing will jump out and cause unexpected distress.
For many NDs (neurodivergent people), particularly autistic individuals, life is very unpredictable and due to society's expectations of how “we should be” we are expected to just deal with it like a neurotypical person would be able to deal with it.
Before establishing my own neurodivergence I may have attempted to please and watch the movie and attempt to mask my own difficulties because don’t forget there is also the expectation that we ‘should give it a try’. This unfortunately is a very ableist view and does not take into consideration the hidden challenges that come with ‘giving it a try.’ It also doesn’t factor in the energy it takes to ‘give it a try.’
I ended up standing by what was right for me at that moment. This doesn’t mean this way doesn’t cause issues because I then have to try and explain something that sometimes just isn’t explainable or I don’t have the words or the energy to try and figure out why I am like this, or the other person is just so judgmental and cannot understand it which causes distress in its own way as I am often left feeling stupid, less than, incompetent and generally sad at my own inability to perform how others are so easily able to perform. As you can probably tell, it consumes a hell of a lot of energy.
This then triggers old childhood stuff and so the familiar self-hatred comes back up because I felt so incompetent at school too so the old negative self-talk comes back up “why can't you just do this, you are so stupid, everyone else can do it stop being ridiculous.” Yes, I do now know that schools are not set up for difference either but when you are triggered sometimes the old stuff does seep back in, even as a therapist.
So, I ended up with all the feelings I stated above as well as frustrated and fed up that I constantly have to explain myself in this world that just isn’t an accepting one. I couldn’t be bothered to have to try and sit and justify why I am unable to do something because I don’t care if I'm not understood. I don’t need to be understood, I just want to be accepted and not have to fight for that acceptance.
This then really got me thinking about everyone who struggles with any form of difference which society cannot understand. I am thinking about the LGBTQ+ community, the children/adults who daren't express that they are in the wrong body and they want to be a different gender, the people who identify in any way that differs from my own or that of a neurotypical, straight, white man.
Am I educated in every possible difference, diversity and disability? No of course I am not.
Do I understand every possible difference, diversity and disability and people's struggles that come with them? No of course I do not.
Do I accept other people’s differences, diversities, disabilities and the challenges that come with them? Absolutely! I accept you for who you are and who you wish to be.
May I need to ask questions full of empathy like “I don’t understand that but I’d really like to, can you tell me more about what that is like for you?”
Or sentences like “That sounds incredibly difficult, I don’t have any experience in this area but I would love to understand you more if you will allow me.”
May I need to apologise for using the wrong language, Yes, I probably will but I have no issue apologising or being corrected in this way? It doesn't cost me anything to ask what pronouns someone would like me to use and do my very best to use them, even if I slip up sometimes, I am learning too. I can acknowledge if I have used the wrong label because after all, I am human and this world is forever changing, but it's changing for the better.
If we never moved forward, women still wouldn’t have a voice in their own lives. If we didn’t have people making noise and standing up for their rights over their bodies and their choices, people would still be arrested for being anything other than heterosexual. Men would still be allowed to rape women if they are married to them. Disabled people wouldn’t be seen or heard and we would remain a pretty rigid, narrowminded, abusive and neglectful society.
No, we haven’t eradicated abuse against difference and diversity and unfortunately, there are still many people unwilling to take a look at themselves and remove the critical judgement of other people but thankfully we have advocates, and we have more and more people standing up, speaking out and making noise to create this shift for acceptance without judgement.
That’s all people are asking for, acceptance without judgment. I wonder what this blog brings up for you and perhaps there is some judgement and frustration for you and if so, I challenge you to be curious as to where that comes from, question your narrative and see if you can alter your perspective to be more inclusive.
I imagine as you have read this blog you have tried to make meaning of the pictures I have inserted. My sense is you haven't been able to make sense of the pictures but you continued reading anyway?
Next time someone asks you to use their or them instead of his or him see if you can just accept it without judging. Ask yourself, What distress does it cause me to accommodate someone else's request? What distress does it cause me to accept that an autistic adult doesn’t always work or think the way I do? What distress does it cause me to accept that the guy down the road whom I have always called David now wishes to be called Julie?
You don’t have to understand it to accept it. If you are curious then educate yourself, learn more and gain understanding; I can guarantee if you do some research into an area you are unsure about and watch some videos of people who are in these minority groups you will unlock some deep empathy and with that will come the acceptance and maybe even some understanding.
When you truly learn how difficult someone's life is just trying to belong in such a judgmental and harsh world then it becomes almost impossible to reject, dismiss or exclude.
We change for a reason and what better reason than just acceptance of others' life choices?
Neurodivergence/gent = a person's brain that diverges from a neurotypical brain. This is not just autism/ADHD but includes all ways in which a brain may diverge for example; PTSD, epilepsy, dyslexia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders and many more.
Neurotypical = a person's brain that is considered typical in society. A brain that can process in a typical/standard way.
Neurodiversity = all brain types, neurotypical and neurodivergent.