by j-a

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September 2009

Bullies and Other Lesser Lifeforms

different from you

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Gal. 6:2
For every man must bear his own burden.
Gal. 6:5
I hate the way my sister-in-law Joyce "manages" me: she calls me (waking me up after only an hour's sleep) and asks me to do her a "favor" by driving over to her house and picking up the keys to Jay's car, which are sitting in the bowl on the living room coffee table with all the chess pieces in it, and bring them out to the baseball field at Boyce Community College where she, Danny, and Jay are, because Jay left his car out on Old Frankstown Road when they were on the way to the hospital to meet the ambulance after my brother had a seizure [I guess I buried the lede here] at a ballgame on the previous day and Jay was afraid he was going to run out of gas, so she stopped and picked him up and the two of them went on to the hospital.

But [I didn't realize this when she called me the next day, being groggy from being awoken, when I wouldn't have answered the phone at all if I didn't know that my brother was in the hospital and she might be calling me with news of his condition] the distance from my house to hers, then to the ball field, then back home is four miles further than the distance from the ball field to her house and back, so that she could have gone home and gotten the keys, or she could have sent Jay in her car, but—and this is the critical point here—she was using my apparent "concern" that I expressed on the phone the day before re her exhaustion from stress over this incident as an excuse to get me to do something for her that she really should have done herself. (I'm familiar with this behavior pattern of hers because she used to do it to me all the time before I caught on and began stonewalling her.)

Then, early the following morning, she calls me three times. I'm sleeping again, trying to catch up on the sleep I lost the day before and having resolved not to answer the phone if she calls again until I am naturally awake and rested. Each time she calls, she leaves a message about checking with me to see if I want to go with her to the hospital at eleven to visit my brother, each call awakening me and deteriorating the quality of my sleep and strengthening my resolve not to answer the phone...until I almost answer it that afternoon when she calls again and I am awake but still lying in bed. She leaves a message to call her back, with a sort of urgency in her voice that makes me think that maybe she has some important info about my brother's condition to relate to me, so I wait an hour and return her call, whereupon, when she answers and determines that it's me, she says, "Wait a minute" and she gives the phone to my brother, who was released from the hospital that afternoon. Managed:

After the phone call where I question my brother about his condition and convince him that I am concerned (not at all intentionally, but genuinely enough), I think about what it was that she did: She called and left a message with the intent that I call her back whereupon she would pretend that the call was meant for my brother, whom I would appear to be concerned enough about to call and check on him, probably because he said something to her (or else she perceived my apparent disconcern, which she mistook my lack of sleep and desperate attempts to catch up on for) to the effect that I do not care enough about him to check on him; so she was engineering my response to make him feel less "paranoid" about no one caring anything about him, etc. (It's an old, well-worn predilection that he has.) But I unintentionally deconstructed her little ploy by expressing surprise that he was at home already, which in effect, subtextually, let him know that I was not calling him at all, but was calling Joyce.

Now, in post-analysis, this is the way I see this situation: First of all, prior to any other concern is my idea that he caused his medical problems himself and must deal with them himself, and whatever attention he gets via concern and sympathy only detracts from the obligation he has to heal himself (because even doctors ultimately do not heal you; everyone heals themselves—or not). I know that this attitude of mine seems cold, and even cruel; but that doesn't mean it's not realistic, or rational. It's an age-old argument: You made your bed, now sleep in it; and the more you are coddled, the less effective the lesson. If I don't call him, and he, "consequently" [the consequence here doesn't proceed from my actions, but from his own childhood-established neurosis] thinks I don't care about him, that's his problem, not mine. [I have my own problems in this regard to be concerned with, but they are unrelated to this particular sequence of events.] Whether or not someone is concerned about you is independent of whether or not that someone informs you of their concern.

Maybe this attitude of mine is, after all, disconcern; but I don't think so. I feel concern for him; but I also feel concern for myself, which all of my life until recently I have felt had to be set aside until after I took care of everyone else's expectations for me. But, no more; except when they manage to dupe me into it, like Joyce happens to be quite adept at (although I know that it is my own responsibility to stand up to her and draw the lines of that up with which I will not put [thank you, Winston]; but this points out my congenital weakness: in the moment, I often miss the bigger picture—especially when I am groggy from lack of sleep or distracted, confused, and/or lacking focus from ongoing stress, or whatever—and I unwittingly allow others to do to me what I have previously resolved I would not).

In short, I am not disconcerned or lacking in concern, I merely have certain (autistic) needs that I am better learning how to attend to. Unfortunately, attending to them properly often means shutting people out for periods of time. No one questions, for example, the need of a person with a deformed leg for a crutch, wheelchair, ramp, etc. A cripple1 is not criticized because he disconcerns himself (if only momentarily) with others while he negotiates terrain that is particularly difficult for him, or even if he begs off attending concern-expressing social functions because they would be too much of an ordeal; but let someone who is autistic take the same tack and he is criticized as "anti-social" (which is the inaccurate label that "they" in their ignorance use when they really mean non-sociable, which is also a somewhat inaccurate label for what autistic people experience when others see them as withdrawn, shy, standoffish, non-communicative, or whatever).

The other day when my brother had his seizure, I began focusing on how my family (especially my brother himself) sees me as "non-caring" when I do not contact them for long periods of time, or during "critical" episodes, but always wait for them to contact me; but I could argue that they are equally as "uncaring" in their blind prejudice against me, assuming without ever giving it a single thought that everyone should be (genetically) like they are and express their "concern" (or, more generally, their "feelings") whenever the occasion calls for it. In their expectation, they disregard my feelings. Just because I don't call you doesn't mean that I don't care. Most likely, it means that I am locked up, locked into my extant state and feeling that, if I act, I will compromise myself in some way that I do not wish to in the particular situation.

I have a genetic condition that inhibits me from expressing the care and concern that I feel; and, as a defense, I exist on a (work and sleep) schedule that often interferes with my ability to interface with society (which is probably a convenient excuse that attempts to hide my condition and "pass"; but never mind that, for now). If you feel, under these circumstances, that I am acting inappropriately (according to your "social" standards), then who is the uncaring one, I ask? Which of us is the person who disregards the other's feelings and condition? Me? Or you? And "managing" me (even if you do it un- or semi-consciously2) is just another way that people have of trying to "convince" me to act according to their own expectations. It's the height of egocentricism, the exact same fault for which I am criticized. It's just another example of "sociable" people's projection of their ignorance onto me, the scapegoat, the sacrificial lamb. They're not really all that sociable if they exclude certain classes of people from their social circles.

I know there is no hope of correcting this fault of the propensity of society to be exclusive. I know that the only remedy I have (if it is one) is to pay close attention to how "they" use (manage) me and thwart it at every appropriate opportunity so as to think of myself first (because, in fact and despite their denial and projection, that is exactly what they're doing). And, as far as Joyce herself is concerned, there is no hope of my ever changing her behavior; she will always try to take advantage of me whenever she sees a weakness on my part. So the only real hope (or "protection") I have is to stay as far away from her as possible. There is no possibility, given my genetic tendency to allow people to manipulate me, of negotiating (socially) her antics. This is also true of many other people. And you wonder why autistic people hide themselves away? You're all just too goddam demanding (or expecting). Cut it out. Have a little bit of care and concern for those of us who are "different" from you.

One of the biggest frauds that society perpetrates against its individual citizens is the ruse it maintains as to who its most sociable citizens are. It is not, of course, society itself that perpetrates this fraud (because society, as an organic mechanism, acts without an individual will); it is the sociopathic individuals who pretend to sociability and are easily mistaken for "ordinary" people. The phenomenon is so pervasive as to call into question the validity of the term 'sociable'.

I maintain that people who place undue burdens upon others (and aren't all burdens placed upon others undue?) are not as sociable as we might at first believe. People who "share" their burdens freely, who entice people into the arena of their problems, seem to be among the most sociable of all people, just one rung below those gregarious souls who congenially coexist with their fellow citizens without making any demands or any kind of wave at all in the ocean of society, but simply go along, making their own way and living their responsible lives as peacefully as possible. I say that the closet sociopaths seem to be up on this high level; but they are not.

The "sharers" are the wave-makers: They run around causing grief wherever and whenever anyone will allow it (though people must be tacitly complicit in order to suffer their burdens). They broadcast their neuroses far and wide, drawing their unsuspecting victims into their little games, victims who are led to believe (by the society at large, social standards being what they are) that they are "helping" out by acting receptively. But they are not helping, they are "enabling." A fraud requires a victim; a sociopath requires a society.

These borderline sociopaths comprise the bulk of society, bringing into question the legitimacy of society itself, which seems at times to exist as a huge mass of interacting vampires feeding off each other's neuroses. Where are the truly sociable people among this mess? Where are those mature and harmless people who do not use their society as a sounding board for their egocentric little games that they like so much to pretend are productive interaction? You never see them because they get lost among all of the dramatic Sturm und Drang that the sociopaths stir up. I want to exist apart from this drama. I want to avoid getting caught up in it. But the only way I seem to be able to do this is to stay out of it altogether; because society itself is the drama. The very definition of society, it seems to me, is the neurotic interaction of borderline sociopaths.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. I've been over and over this in my mind and I can't see how calling someone a cripple is derogatory. Someone please inform me of the standard argument for this; otherwise, I'm going to continue on in my "folly".

2. Even though people may be or act unconsciously doesn't mean that isn't who they are. Knowing that a person is acting unconsciously or unintentionally, I usually tend to feel less hostile toward their bad behavior; but this may be less correct than I want to think it is. People are who they are, whatever the reason, and whether they know it or not.