Whenever I lie on the roller bed (which is glorious, by the way) in my chiropractor’s office, my eyes skim the many book titles on the shelf above my head. Each visit, I notice different titles, and it always feels like the title that jumps out on any particular day carries messages that are synchronistic with a concept I am currently thinking about and integrating. Today, the title that jumped out was “How To Make Friends and Influence People.”* This is a book many of us have probably heard of, and I began to think about the human who may read this book, someone who struggles to connect with others and feels that this struggle is in some way indicative of their own “negative” traits. As I felt into that space and empathized with the self-judgment and self-rejection an individual compelled to read this book might experience, my thoughts shifted into free-floating images of the unique gifts we each possess, and how those humans who may not easily fit into a socially desirable “box” might struggle in this world to feel Seen, Loved, and Accepted.
I imagined, then, that someone who reads this book may be looking to access connection and feelings of acceptance. This human may believe that if they could just change the “right” things about themselves, their environment will change too, and they will overflow with “friends,” empowerment, external validation, and the world’s definition of “success.”
I felt this deeply because I know that this same person is already overflowing with beautiful gifts and unique traits. I know deeply that these gifts, while perhaps not valued by the mainstream world as much as other traits, carry abilities within that can help shift the world, bring needed change, and shine the light of truth on spaces that are illusionary and artificial. These are humans who carry keys in their souls that might unlock the spaces our world desperately needs to access.
If you are still reading this, I’m willing to bet that you carry them, too.
Many children and adults who have received diagnoses or who have been labeled or perceived as “neuroatypical” become trapped in an onslaught of identifications that carry the potential for abuse, loneliness, and self-judgment— a mirror for the judgments they feel from the world. If a “neurotypical” human can be defined as “an individual who thinks, perceives, and behaves in ways that are considered to be ‘normal’ by the general population” (Rudy, 2018), we can access the compassion and empathy necessary to imagine how this might play out emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially— even physically— for the human who is labeled as “neuroatypical.” “Modern researchers have developed complex charts and libraries of books describing ‘normal’ human development. Expectations for behavior, learning, social interaction, and physical development are all built around those norms. In addition, institutions such as schools, sports leagues, places of employment, and even religious organizations are designed to accommodate people who fit into developmental norms” (Rudy, 2018).
Diagnoses and labels, whether pronounced or “felt,” are challenges in and of themselves, as they connote something to be fixed, and therefore experiences will vary widely for those who have been undiagnosed vs. those who have, and of course vary widely within each of those groups as well. I imagine one of the most significant variants will play out as a spectrum of identifications. For example, a child with a particular diagnosis or label may come to “identify” with this is a primary trait, with connotations that are less than positive and promote a sense of lack. As a result, those identifications may then result in a self-concept of shame. Social anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, depression, ADHD— If you google any of these terms, you will find a plethora of information on how to “fix” or manage these “problems.” But what I am suggesting here is that these children are exhibiting completely appropriate responses to a world that is disconnected, artificial and needs healing. They are barometers for where we can make change, and must be embraced, listened to, and honored.
Maybe some of these children are the ones who grow up to read books like “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” Maybe the self-rejection, as mirrored by the rejection of the world, results in a desperate belief that THEY must change to fit the World. Highly sensitive, empathic humans, “neuroatypicals” and those who are highly intuitive are the adults of today whose deep seeing and feeling may have been reflected by the world as inadequacies throughout their lives, rather than gifts to be accepted, nurtured and grown.
It is an incredibly challenging pursuit, to separate from the identifications created by the positive and negative mirroring we receive from the World throughout our lifetimes, but there are limitless opportunities for expansion when we engage in that work. Many of these identifications work to define us in illusionary ways, ways that divide us internally (inside ourSelves), and externally (our connection with Others). They result in our deep affiliations with political parties and nationalism, as examples, which keep us boxed and disconnected from each other and from our different experiences. When we identify with labels or boxes, we lose the truth, which is that we are all human, navigating this human experience and that while we are all individuals walking deeply personal paths, we are connected via our humanity and the life all around us. When we identify, we carve ourselves up into little labeled boxes and feel resonance with those who are carved the same, and dissonance with those who aren’t. We then blame those who aren’t, judge those who aren’t, and most importantly, diminish ourselves in such a way that it becomes impossible to see ourselves as limitless, love-filled and connected to all others. Loneliness, addiction, depression, the suffering which occurs inside the illusion of separation, and myriad other results are possible and understandable and are foreseen inside the realm of the divide and conquer agendas that are completely purposed.
We can each contemplate the spaces within ourSelves in which we are plugged into identifications, belief systems, social programs, and constructs that may keep us from connecting to our authentic selves, our gifts, and to others. For those of us who have felt unseen, misunderstood, been labeled, or abused, we can consider embarking on the healing path to shift those fragments of self-rejection into loving embraces.
For parents and caregivers, we might consider how we are supporting our children. Our “neurotypical” children, our “neuroatypical” children, our deeply feeling and sensitive children, our children who have challenges making friends, and/or who have challenges in learning environments. How can we create authentic, soul-feeding environments for them? How can we rescue them from the artificial spaces, the robotic standards, the hours of screen time, the toxic “food”? How deeply can we listen, and positively mirror back to them their experiences and emotions? How can we reintroduce them to nature? And can we imagine how much we, as adults, would benefit as well? In this context, I recommend Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child In The Woods.” As described on the book’s website: “In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.” I would also add anxiety to that list, and all of these outcomes are symptoms of internal and external disconnection.
If we are going to tackle the violence, sadness, addictions, and suffering that are rampant in our world, we need to get real. We need to ABANDON our desire to “make friends and influence people.” We must sit in those uncomfortable spaces, speak truth with love and seeing, and as more of us do so, more will find their own courage to do the same. Let’s commit to scrutinizing our perceptual realities, and consider how we sleepwalk through the world. Let’s deconstruct our world views, belief systems, and identifications. From a bird’s eye view, Who Are We beneath those layers? We can connect with everyone and anyone at any time, no matter where we fall in the strata of identifications this world assigns humans. Let’s become comfortable with our own uncomfortable spaces so we might sit with others in their pain. This cancels out fear and shifts it into Love. This is the modeling of vulnerability; an essential ingredient to self-connection and connection to others.
And let’s consider deeper awareness around the results of the labels we blindly embrace. A child who grows up in the ghetto will become angry and violent if that is what we tell him he is. A child of divorce will feel divorced from herself if that is where we tell her she comes from. A sensitive child will have a life of sadness if we teach her she is sad and difficult. Identifications slam the doors on our gifts, and while there is always the possibility for reclamation at a later time, how wonderful would it be to cut out the middle man, the saboteur. Imagine how high our children could fly, and how much sooner, without those spaces to heal.
We, as human beings, exist outside of social constructs and belief systems, outside of the limitations of divisive identifications. And ironically, our biggest gifts can often be accessed in the spaces that may have been labeled by the world, and subsequently rejected by ourselves, as “bad” or undesirable. Cheers to our individual gifts, and growing them in supportive connection.
I am here, should you benefit from a guide.
With Love and Seeing,
*As I have not read this book, my interpretation of the content based on the title may be off base. Either way, the connections stand, based on my interpretation.
Rudy, Lisa Jo; Reviewed by Joel Forman, MD. (June 22,2018). What Does It Mean to Be Neurotypical? From https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-neurotypical-260047