Inequality and meltdowns (a therapy breakthrough)

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 27, 2021, 7:57 PM | comments: 0

We had an interesting parallel in therapy today, in going from the reasons behind Simon's meltdowns, and my own inability to sit with the fact that the world has a lot of inequality. The average autism meltdown is often caused by a situation that can't be reconciled logically, because of the way that you're wired. For my boy, sometimes that's as simple as him not being able to reconcile that an undesirable behavior results in punitive consequences. As my therapist pointed out, I can't easily reconcile issues of inequality in the world, and it leads to quiet tailspins in my head that make it difficult to move on from. I'm still trying to decide if I want to pursue a formal autism diagnosis for myself, but the parallels here are stunning. Seeing it like this now is a serious breakthrough.

For a long time, I've worked on the assumption that my desire to be right or correct about certain things was rooted in some level of narcissism, ego, or just needing to be right because my step-father always insisted that I was wrong about everything (mommy and daddy issues are often core to psychological challenges, because they are after all your first instructors in human interaction). It certainly can be about those things, but if it was, there should be some kind of dopamine hit or satisfaction when I "win" on a particular issue. I rarely experience that. When I'm right about something, I just move on without celebration. When I can't rationalize the outcome, it just sits with me and grinds my gears.

Inequality, whether it concerns race, gender, sexual identity or any of those things, is inherently irrational. I have a lot of anxiety about "solving" it, which of course is not something any one person can do. This leaves me in the state of impossible reconciliation: I observe a state that should not be, and it leaves me stuck, unable to move off of it. I can apply this to a great many things in my life, professionally, in parenting, in relationships, that get me stuck and unable to act.

To be clear, this is a starting point in a longer conversation. You don't solve things in therapy in 55 minutes, but you can often identify patterns and then work out how you roll with those patterns. These irreconcilable situations are in many ways silent meltdowns. I'm old enough, and have practice controlling my outward emotions, but I think what's going on in these situations plays a huge part in my frequent feelings of mental spentness. Instead of lying on the floor kicking and screaming, I play the situation back in my head on endless repeat and generate anxiety.

I'm going to be on the look out for this now. What do I encounter that I can't just sit with, and why? Am I having the grownup equivalent of a quiet meltdown? Is this autism wiring? There are more questions than answers, but I'll take it.


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