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(Mis)perceptions of reality: Autism, psychosis, and my quest for objective truth

For as long as I can remember, I have been preoccupied with the difference between truth, and mistruth. Long before my psychosis began, I wanted to know how the things we held to be true could be proven as objectively true; it seemed to me that truth was in the eye of the beholder.

Six months after my 18th birthday, I discovered that my reality was a shifting and changing experience.

The problem with psychosis is that you don’t know it is happening. You literally experience an alternative reality. What this taught me was that things I held to be true were entirely subjective, which brought me to the realisation that everyone’s interpretation of truth was subjective.

Consider the boundary between truth and mistruth. It is abstract, a non-entity. Said boundary is entirely built from the collective experience of humanity, an experience which is in itself subjective.

Where those experiences intersect and agree, we label it objective truth. How then can we construct truth from a mind such as mine? One in which reality is a malleable and fluid thing. My Autistic Self has been preoccupied with this for many years, and truthfully I am still searching for answers.

Perhaps, then, it is reasonable to argue objective truth in terms of Descartes? “I think, therefore I am”. Of course this is made more complicated by the after-the-fact functioning of consciousness; and yet, I have often found myself drawn to a sort of solipsism during times of crisis.

Thus, we are left with the only thing I can hold to be objectively true from moment to moment. That my sense of identity, my experience of Self, at any given moment, is the only thing I can hold to be true. An identity that itself is constructed from interactions with my (mis)perceived reality.

So, when I argue the importance of community-connectedness, I am going beyond minority stress models, and beyond social reciprocity. For me, the communities I interact with, and the individuals that I speak with, are directly constructing my truth.

That is why the Autistic community is so vital to me. They have built the only thing that I know to be true.

Double empathy, solipsism, and neurotypicality

Why do interventions such as Applied Behavioural Analysis and Positive Behavioural Support exist? Why is it that our world uses neurotypicality as the standard from which neuronormativity is drawn?

Fundamentally, I believe that it comes down to the double empathy problem. Autistic people have a different style of communications to those with a predominant neurocognitive style in their culture. This creates a breakdown in communication, and due to the power imbalance in neuronormative culture, neurotypicality is considered superior, we are so often labelled as “disordered” or as having “deficits”.

But why is this happening? Where does this neuronormativity arise from?

I believe that to understand neuronormativity, we must first understand Solipsism. Solipsism is the belief that only the self and its experiences exist. A solipsist would believe that their experiences are the only experiences, essentially reducing others and their experiences to sub-human automations.

This is where I believe that neuronormativity arises from. A kind of strange solipsism.

In my opinion, while neurotypicals have been using ideas such as theory of mind to accuse Autistics of lacking the ability to know another’s mind, neurotypicals have been so unaware of the existence of neurodivergent experience that they will inflict pain on us to “help” us conform to their standards.

To put it another way, do most neurotypicals believe not only that their experience of the world is the “right” experience, but also the only experience of the world?

This means that when neurotypicals witness Autistic communication, they experience a kind of cognitive dissonance that results in their lashing out in the form of behavioural interventions, because they fully believe that the only way to exist is by the weird neuronormative standards that are enforced upon society.

What even is neurotypical?

That changes depending on the cultural environments, but in this sense it can be considered the predominant neurocognitive style in a given culture (Walker, 2021).

Neurotypicalilty is essentially a performance. It is a style of existing.

This effect has created a power imbalance wherein regardless of the number of neurotypicals in the room, they are still considered the gold-standard.

To me, it doesn’t seem like Autistic people are the ones needing an intervention.

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