I have a theory. I admit, it’s a blatant supposition. But I got to thinking…
(By the way, the phrase “I got to thinking” probably should incite two inner responses at this point: the strong desire to run for cover, and the need to grab some tea, use the loo, and then settle in for a road trip through my head.) 🙂
So anyway, where was I? Oh yes–about to share my theory about why neurotypical people say “everybody’s like that”. To understand the context of this theory, I’ll give a quick background…
In a recent post, I wrote about the Recoil of Knee-Jerk Reactions that I, along with many other people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, experience when we’re explaining ourselves, our unique and spectrum-shared experience, and the way we operate with neurotypical people, only to be met with the deflating and irritating stock response: “but everybody’s like that”.
My staunch opinion is, No. You aren’t. Don’t even go there. That’s not even a knee-slapping joke.
Today, in my endless quest to decode the world and make some kind of sense of it, I resorted to my age-old question: why?
Why do the neurotypicals who say this, say this? What makes them so insistent upon trying to minimize our experience? What drives them to want to equalize the world? What’s behind their desire to convert humanity into a sea of dingy averages? What makes them uncomfortable in the presence of a foundational difference? Just–why?
Natch, I came up with a few reasons.
First, I must make my usual disclaimers:
- This is just my own perspective based on my own personal experience–there’s that word again–sorry for being so redundant).
- This post certainly does not apply to all NTs (not by a long shot) – just the ones who utter this irritating phrase, either by saying it out loud or by allowing it to ricochet through their insides.
OK, on with the theories already…
First, I’ve noticed that the NTs who tend to say this lean toward the side of insecurity. Perhaps they feel a certain amount of discomfort and/or dissatisfaction with themselves. Maybe they never quite felt like they fit in. Maybe they never felt like they really staked their own territory in the world.
Maybe, upon finding out that someone they know is on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, they do pick up on the liberation and relief that many of us feel upon making our discovery as adults.
And maybe they want a piece of that. (That idea may sound a little strange, but stay with me. )
Perhaps they, too, have felt fairly outcast and somehow “wrong”. Maybe they, too, have spent years beating themselves up for one reason or another. Maybe they, too, are searching for answers, and feeling frustrated by their “failure” to find them.
The people I speak of may or may not be on the spectrum themselves (let’s assume, for the purpose of this post, that they’re not). And upon finding out that we’ve found our answer, and witnessing our joy (for those of us who feel it) that there is indeed a Code-Key to Life that explains everything for us, and that it’s actually a valid and legitimate phenomenon, shared by many people across the world, and that there are awesome advantages to being neurologically oriented this way…
…they might, just maybe, feel at least a slight pang of envy.
Yep, you heard that right: envy. As in, they may feel slightly jealous of our newfound self-confidence, self-compassion, self-assurance, and even self-comfort. A bunch of “self”s (in a positive sense) that weren’t there before.
We (in this case) finally feel (or at least have hope of feeling) like we belong. And if they’ve been looking for answers and longing to feel like they belong, too, our news and discussion might be a tough pill to swallow if they’re still looking and longing.
To take this a step further, maybe they subconsciously believe that a significant dynamic of the relationship has been built on a shared mutual self-criticism and lack of self-confidence, and a tiny voice from a deep recessed corner of their mind screams a warning that the connection could be in jeopardy. The dynamic has changed; the ground has been shaken; new and scary, unknown waters lie ahead. They fear that a division may form.
What I’ve described so far is the Introvert Version of Insecurity/Longing; there’s an Extrovert Version, too.
The Extrovert Version is built on the same foundation, but with a twist: they’re still minimizing you to feel better about themselves, but the motive is slightly different: they have a crowd of friends to impress, and they feel “weird” having to “deal with” this “autism business”.
Another theory is that pride and/or reputation (theirs) may be at stake. This is kind of a spinoff of the Extroverted Version of Insecurity, but slightly different.
In this case, they may be embarrassed, because they don’t know better (they’re still under the impression that autism is some kind of disorder or defect). They may not want to be associated with someone on the spectrum, but they don’t exactly want to end the relationship, so they try to downplay what they perceive as a mental pathology, for they’re own sake.
The third theory also involves their assumption that autism is a bad thing.
In this version, they might be feeling sorry for you, and wanting to help in some way, not realizing that you (for whom this holds true) don’t need any sympathy or consolation. You’re fine with it (for those who are); they’re confused.
They’re not sure what to do, so to alleviate their own awkwardness and resolve the dissonant vibration in their minds into something more harmonious, they try to respond in the only way they know how: by saying something to the equivalent of, “there, there. It’s OK. It sucks. But it’s not the end of the world.”
Of course, for many of us, it’s not the end of the world anyway, but our neurotypical friends may not know that. Adhering to social norms and assuaging their awkwardness and guilt at the same time (Multitasking Bonus!), they reassuringly “remind” you that you’re “not so ‘weird’ after all.”
The motive behind the words definitely depends on the person; that’s a given. Sometimes the intentions are genuine and pure (even if ignorant); sometimes they’re not; sometimes they’re a little in between, or drifting lazily through placid waters wherever they may roam.
Either way, it’s annoying, and if we’ve heard it more than once, it’s repetitive (another example of how uniform some neurotypicals’ thinking can get). Don’t be That Person.
The truth is, we may never know for sure why the NTs who say this, say this. I’m only guessing here. I’m making risky suppositions. I’m banking on the assumption that the NT world actually thinks and operates the way I think it does, biased and distorted through a different lens that admittedly does not have a neurotypical setting. So, I could be way off base. (It wouldn’t be the first time; it’s happened.)
But hey–it sounds plausible, though, right? 🙂