Trying hard NOT to be someone

Am I spending all my time trying not to be someone?

Leading autism expert Dr. Tony Atwood has observed that autistic people tend to describe friends by what they don’t do instead of what they do. This, he says, comes from their many negative experiences with people.

By the time you get to be middle-aged, you have had many confusing and frustrating interactions with people. Therefore, if you want to limit friends to people without any qualities that could hurt, you aren’t left with many choices, if any.

Since I have been in burnout mode for at least a year and a half, I’m even more susceptible to approaching everything in a negative-avoidance manner. Pain, of any type, is exacerbated. My brain is already injured, and what I possibly could have handled in the past, I presently cannot.

There is risk of pain associated with interpersonal relationships. People will disappoint you. And, there is risk of pain with your relationship to yourself. Just as others disappoint you, you will disappoint yourself.

Today, I’ve considered how much I would rather not be like certain other people. This starts with close family and expands to quite a few so-called friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and just about everyone, if I’m being honest.

So, I’m defining myself in the negative. Who do I NOT want to be is driving my thinking more than whom I want to be. Is this more common for autistic people? I suspect it can be because our brains can easily get fixated on what has gone wrong with people and in our personal activities. It becomes too overwhelming to free our minds from it. We also may lack enough positive experiences to counteract the negative. This could especially happen once you are older and seemingly assimilated into society. Getting along decades ago with your now-deceased grandmother doesn’t count as a positive relationship at this point.

I’m fortunate to have a few people I can trust to want the best for me. Even then, they have a vested interest or an obligation to do this. This is more neutral than positive, in my opinion. Perhaps, that’s how my grandmother looked at me: not positively but neutrally. The same could be said for those in the so-called helping professions. Their kindness comes from their neutrality more than a lack of negativity. They “like you” in the sense that they are happy to take care of you, but it does not mean they really want to be around you. For all you know, they roll their eyes as soon as you leave, but they are so quickly on to the next person that it never manifests into true negativity.

Last night, I wrote out specific positive activities to focus on. I also made a big sign that says: “No more negative thinking.” That’s all good, but can I do it? I’m not convinced, and, if I don’t succeed, it will be one more negative to add to the growing list of things I cannot do.

Yesterday was a good day, and I’m a bit inspired by some very positive and friendly interactions with people I’ve not seen in many years. They wanted to see me! But, who exactly were they seeing? Am I the person they knew as far back as fifteen years ago? In their minds, I am. But, that person may be gone, replaced by a lost soul looking for his identity.

Will I ever figure out who I’m supposed to be? The one thing I do know about myself is that, despite my best efforts, I’ve failed at completely giving up. It would be nice to find some peace before I’m out of time or energy, but I need to see myself as more than just avoiding being like people who have hurt me. That should be a low bar, but low bars can still trip me.

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