Psychologists and journalists have it all wrong.
Why is it that even the professionals think that focusing on what is wrong in the world, or in our personal lives, will make things better? David Brooks, a New York Times columnist questions this concept in his May 16, 2019 column, “The Big Story You Don’t Read About.”
He says, “Too many journalists refuse to consider local social repair and community-building as news. It seems too goody-goody, too “worthy,” too sincere. It won’t attract eyeballs. That’s dead wrong.”
Psychologists make the same mistake with our clients. We spend a lot of time going over everything that makes people unhappy, in the misguided illusion that this preoccupation with grief will lead to answers. Don’t get me wrong, we need to grieve, to release the tensions and the sadnesses and the anger associated with life’s losses. But we also need to “repair,” as David says. We need to rebuild our lives with the strengths we have gained from our grief.
If all we do is focus on what’s wrong, it can leave us feeling hopeless, helpless, and depressed. As Brooks puts it, “People who consume a lot of media of this sort sink into this toxic vortex — alienated from people they don’t know, fearful about the future. They are less mobilized to take action, not more.” This is never truer in our personal lives too.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Sure, take a look at what’s weighing you down. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to grieve. Mull over the problem you are having, talk about it, write in your journal. But then take a pause from all of that negativity to review what you can do about the problem. Start living a purposeful life.
It’s about community.
When I popped open my messages from my Meetup group, “Asperger Syndrome:” Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. I was rewarded by yet another deeply moving string of messages on my website. The website is a private place for members to discuss their worries and fears. They ask others for opinions and support. They share their losses and their successes.
Our group is a unique forum for Neuro-Typicals (NTs) who feel alone with the stresses and strains of life with autistics. They feel embarrassed and guilty for even complaining about their problems, as if complaining about someone with autism is somehow wrong or unkind or a terrible sin.
So, I decided to set that straight ten years ago, when I founded the group on Meetup. I thought it was time to bring this problem into the open and shine new light on the painful interactions that occur behind closed doors, within homes where an NT lives with an “Aspie.” (“Aspie” is a brief form of “Asperger Syndrome,” and was coined by autistics).
Since that first time I hosted a small group for lunch in Portland, our group has grown to over 3500 members world-wide. We are represented on every continent, wherever NTs can access the Internet and reach out to their international community, a community that is there for them when they need to know they are not alone.
Rise above the chaos
In fact, our Meetup group is proof that community building leads to personal and social repair, the kind that can change the world by healing hearts.
Below are a few excerpts from the heartfelt email string on our website that caught my attention (without names or identifying information to protect the members). I am blessed to have these powerful people, who each day are facing their problems with grace. There may be no immediate solution to autism or to the heartache it brings to the people who love autistics, but there are answers to taking back your life by rising above the chaos.
A Meetup Member describes her grief over her ASD/NT marriage:
“First I grieved what I thought we had. Next I grieved what we really had. After that I grieved what should never have been. Then I grieved that I would never know what was real. This was followed by grieving all of the people I thought were friends, but were not. I then had to grieve that I had lost myself.
“I am building a new person. I still have tough days, though things are better. I am grateful for this group.”
After a few members commented, Dr. Kathy’s responded:
“Going through the grief helps you to know the truth of who you really are. And you are loved. Taking back your life requires grieving and letting go of false beliefs. Freedom is just around the corner.”
A few more comments and then a member responded:
“Thank u Dr Kathy. U have helped me enormously thru this most difficult journey.”
After several more supportive members commented, another mention from Dr. Kathy to the group:
“Yes, you are an amazing group of powerful Souls. You understand and are brave and kind enough to be there for others. A day does not go by that I don’t grieve for the destruction of my family, but somehow my authentic self is stronger than grief. I no longer just make it through the day. I actually feel free as I soar above the chaos. The chaos isn’t me. The grief isn’t me either. I am so much more. And so are all of you.”
One final member comment:
“Thank you Dr. Kathy. It’s refreshing to know that the ‘chaos isn’t me.’ I have also lost my entire family. I was holding on to escape more Grief. The truth is I prolonged it. This next chapter I get to choose, and thanks to you and all those who go before me, I know it’s true.”
Know the truth of who you are.
If you have a life with an adult on the autism spectrum, . . . if are ready to know the truth of who you are, . . . if you are ready to be part of a community that focuses on what works instead of the problem, . . . if you enjoy helping others do the same, . . . then I hope you join us at “Asperger Syndrome:” Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.
4 Replies to “The Community Method Creates Change and Healing”
Thank you so much for this website. It is just what I need to deal with my Aspie family.
I discovered that not only my husband…now ex…fits the ASD profile, but my mother, and my daughter and now my grandson. I never have known a life outside of close relationships with those mentally wired so vastly different than me. I have been told my whole life that conflict within these relationships has been about me. Not one of these people acknowledge that they may have ASD tendencies and that this it so painfully difficult for me. I have had to fit into their world with little to no understanding from them of who I really am. I feel invisible…unloved…like I don’t belong. The Aspies in my family all get along very well with each other, amplifying my difference. I try with all I am to fit in…tolerating the multitude of idiosyncrasies…land mines…coldness…judgements. I think they all are wonderful as they are created and I know they mean no harm…they simply cannot ever know what their minds cannot perceive. My thoughts and behaviors actually are perceived as opposite to the truth of what is. I love to joke and tease and be teased…as a form of love…but that is trouble with my Aspies. Fundamentally, I am not able to be myself in so very many ways to keep my Aspies from getting upset with me. I try so hard to present to them what I know they like, but even one slip up sets them off and they never forget.
I believe there are many others such as myself that have been raised by an Aspie, then fall in love with an Aspie because they are used to “love” being Aspie-like and then they produce Aspie offspring… we are caught in a web of sorts with what feels like the only way out is to suffer within the web, getting physically out of these relationships completely, or…ending one’s life.
I see a huge need for mental health providers to be knowledgeable of ASD as to effect on a NT psyche. I have yet to find even one in Vermont. To be treated by a psychologist without this knowledge is absolutely worse than not being treated at all. I have been hurt by psychologists not recognizing the core of my mental pain.
The work you are doing Kathy is more than ever critical. I see more ASD and it makes sense as procreation puts more parents together with ASD DNA. I have heard evolution is moving towards ASD. So NT NEED help more than ever before. I do believe, knowing my head and knowing suicide seems more practical than expecting I can ever find love in my family or feeling more like I belong if I cut myself off from family…
thanks for all you give to this community
Sharon, even if you cannot find a psychologist in New England you can certainly join our online support group, http://www.asd-ntrelationships.com to get the support you deserve. Trust me there are many of us in this group that have lived with Aspies all of our lives. My mother, my former spouse and my daughter are all on the Spectrum. I suppose it was my destiny to do this work. Take care of yourself please.
Sharon, can you take a training course in something you are interested in? It sounds as though you are in a culture which doesn’t offer you a purpose in life or seem to need you. They do need you of course, to keep them acceptable in society with regards to their introverted presentation.
I advise you to find a part time job with like minded people. Anyone can take the suicide route but keep trying. Life is very difficult but even if it’s grim, keep on trying.