It’s NueroDiversity Week! This is “The Week” is to help the world understand how humans might:
One whole week.
NeuroDiversity includes all Earthlings. But within this massive umbrella, it can help us recognise those who are NeuroDivergent from what is Normal. Who genuinely aren’t trying to ‘diverge’. Who might not want to be different, because exclusion doesn’t just feel sad, it can gate-keep us from work. Some might experience being marginalised by society for not being wired to understand how to operate within the assumed and nuanced framework. Awareness helps. But diagnosis isn’t always available and/or might complicate matters due to outdated or under researched elements.
While this may seem like the latest strategy for a quick-fix in self-victimisation, replacing imposter syndrome as the new hail, there are a few key points I think it’s important to recognise.
- We are all unique. A notable difference between those who classify as NeuroDivergent from NeuroTypical is the ability to innately function within society instead of performing a great deal of meta-conscious work to communicate, navigate or attempt tasks outside of one’s skills set or hard-wiring.
- We all work hard. Knowledge of differences in experience or communication can make everything less complicated. It’s a matter of graciousness not competition.
- Understanding neurological differences doesn’t mean I can do what I want regardless of how it impacts others. It isn’t a virtue signalling mechanism that enhances status. It doesn’t include bad manners or being inconsiderate once afforded understanding / knowledge to create aesthetic rather than ruin.
Seeking to understand should be a basic form of kindness, a type of reasoning toward becoming empathetic. A desire to troubleshoot miscommunication should be one of most generous expressions of reasoning with. For me, it’s a navigation tool and can be the difference between being lost in the abyss or finding ground. It’s underrated, recognising the difference between Boundaries and Abuse. Kindness and Cruelty. A difficulty relating with another vs using Empathy to manipulate.
I used to genuinely believe revolt was in order due to experiencing an assault on my senses daily. Crushing decibel levels, harsh flickering lights. If smoking cigarettes is banned why are chemically scented products off-gassing in public spaces legal. You can argue petroleum by-products are microfiber-ing the ocean but why not start with: Taring someone used to be a form of torture but change the name to Polyester and it’s OK for Yoga? How are companies getting away with making mattresses you’re going to sweat in and then blaming the consumer. The skin cannot breathe in this stuff and it seems everyone is swimming in it.
It turns out, I’m HYPER SENSORY. The word appears to imply a baseline for what’s normal, but what’s normal is actually a sort of desensitisation through a complex concept called Oedipalisation, where a NeuroNormative ‘wiring’ might be more Asymmetrical, some one like myself will pick up complex details and be better suited for systems-thinking rather than being overly concerned with tribal inclusion. We need both of these types of neuro-wiring, if not a diverse assortment!
Currently, some of the levels of chemicals we breathe and consume, the unnatural lights, deafening sounds… they’re actually not human-friendly. But if it’s not bothering you, you won’t feel compelled toward change or check your senses against hard-wired instruments. It’s not just Me against Capitalism haha, but when one in 70 are on the Autistic Spectrum, it’s easier to just assume we’re the ones with a Hyper Sensory Processing Disorder. Meanwhile, subjecting prisoners to harsh lights is frowned on. Thankfully, campaigns like Lightaware.org are starting to make a difference.
Had I known this years ago I might have had a better way of communicating to flatmates, but because these things impact me so intensely, add a lack of knowledge compounding frustration, that kind of intensity arrests my ability to speak or even use language. So without weeks of therapy to work out how to communicate and not sound reactionary (never mind that I could even afford that), I just sort of bottled it up until it bottled me.
The problem is, we need our senses! They are Tools for Calculation. For precision, engineers, and highly skilled crafters. It also turns out it’s not just me. I’m actually not out of order. These human Tools were once needed in the wild for ancient human civilisations. For averting danger like identifying the poisonous berries from the healthy ones. But current modern life is not always healthy. Am I un-evolved, connected to a more ancient form? I can feel the buzzing from Fluorescence. High speed flickering LEDs give me low-grade anxiety. But these also don’t provide a natural spectrum which the Retina needs to see with clarity (if you’re vision is blurry, it could be a lack of Infrared). Scented products cause immediate indigestion – they can release formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals. At least now I know to call a technician at the subtle whiff of a mould or hunt down a plug if I smell an electrical fire from the other side of the house.
These things should be recognised, enhanced and sharpened in youth. But more often than not, someone too sensitive is told to deal with it. This forcefulness and isolation creates an ongoing feeling of being unprotected. I became incredibly withdrawn until my mid 20’s and then it would be another 10 years of unravelling… dealing with something described as Alexithymia, or a ‘systems’ difficulty with internal recognition of emotion (another type of Sense or Tool for Calculation). Maybe not being immediately aware of emotion aids a sort of allowance toward objectivity. Which doesn’t imply a lack of compassion, as many times one is intensely arrested by this, too.
But, if we’re lucky, some of us HSP (Highly Sensitive Persons) stumble in to a studio with someone just like us who teaches us how to engineer and mix and affirms our pairings of coffee and chocolate or the ability to notice that frequency someone’s dog is also wincing at. (Speaking of the late Bryan Carlstrom). I’m so grateful to my mentors.
To top it off, for HSP, EVERYTHING IS INTENSE: physical to emotional, we can be wrecked by it. I mean, sonic warfare exists, but it shouldn’t be everyday life. From discussions with others, it seems psilocybin can actually help you experience a novelty version of my daily sensory overload. Or maybe all you need is this clip of a young Clark Kent dealing with HSPD. Only we don’t actually possess super powers to control these senses we cannot dull.
There are a few theories on this. From different brain wave oscillations to deep, psychoanalytical buzzwords around how NeuroNormative wiring works. For humans wired like us, assuming we can desensitise is like approving foot binding to make feet smaller.
Hyper Sensory Awareness is not the only innate structure I’ve come to find out I can sharpen. But talking about this with others is difficult, as noted in this article on NeuroDiversity because “as Judy Springer pointed out, there’s the dominance of the medical model that seeks to pathologise deviations from some standard.”
When I try to express Dyslexia, Language Difficulties and Hyperphantasia, I’m not looking for consoling or a cheerleader. Usually I need practical help or I am asking for empathy. Ideally, I’m just trying to produce a map so we can get from A to Infinity without unnecessary complications. I want things to function rather than misfire. I want to be useful. This is extraordinarily different than circumnavigating ‘blame’. Having awareness and appreciating how I’m designed, I don’t feel sad or excluded. I have been in several situations where I’m fighting my surroundings to the point of it affecting my work-flow. A lack of knowledge impacts livelihood and relationships -or perhaps just the ones I didn’t need!
If you’re interested in further discoveries, this is a good discussion on the benefits of Autism Spectrum within Cultural Evolution.
Stay tuned. x