I have spoken widely about neurodivergent experiences. I have talked about my unique experience of addiction as an Autistic person, my psychosis as an AuDHD Schizophrenic. I have lamented over how society’s power structures have oppressed myself and people like me. I have spoken at length about how autism is a defining part of my core experience of reality.
One might think that on all of my years of writing, advocating, mentoring, training, and speaking, I have found somewhat of a recipe for communicating neurodivergent experiences. The truth of communicating those experiences, however, is more complex than that.
The Double Empathy Problem in Reverse
The double empathy problem has been effectively used to explain that communication differences between neurodivergent and neurotypical people essentially lay in a difference of cultural experience. We often think of this in terms of neurotypical people being unable to empathise with neurodivergent experience, but that same is true in reverse.
I can’t empathise fully with a neurotypical experience of the world.
How does this impact on the communication of neurodivergent experience
When communicating our neurodivergent experience, we have no point of reference within the neurotypical cultural world. It is a problem of solipsism, where one can only prove their own consciousness. One can only experience the world through our own mind.
Any part of that experience we communicate to others is filtered through their own subjective world. Their interpretation of our attempt to communicate our experiences is entirely dependent on a near infinite number of variables, the sum of which create a reality that may or may not be both identical or entirely different to our own.
Where one might communicate that they have a particular experience; that experience may have an entirely different meaning to another person. We are constructed by the infinite possible combinations of interactions within our environment, and therefore, we can not definitively communicate our experience of neurodivergence in an objective manner.
To put it another way, all objective truths become subjective when interpreted by human cognition.
Therefore, we must always be aware that when we communicate our neurodivergent experiences, no one other than ourselves can truly understand those experiences as felt by our own mind. We also can not explain neurodivergent experience to neurotypicals entirely accurately because we also lack that point of reference within their own reality.
This is why we need to embrace diversity of experience, even within our own neurodivergent communities. Others having a different experience to us actually increases the likelihood of a neurodivergent person successfully communicating our exact experiences.
Concluding with the infinite monkey theorem
The infinite monkey theorem states that if one gave an infinite number of monkeys, a type writer each, and allowed them to randomly hit keys for an infinite amount of time; eventually one of them would randomly type the entire collection of Shakespeare’s works.
With regards to the neurodivergent community at large, the more of us communicating our diverse experiences, the more likely that someone will eventually find a way of fully explaining neurodivergence to a neurotypical person. We need to embrace difference within individual experiences. Rather than ignore and exclude those ideas that don’t necessarily make sense to us, we need to integrate the knowledge they offer, and see if their augmentation can bridge the double empathy divide.