Your Autistic Loved One Is Not Hurting Your Feelings out of Malice
The dictionary defines ‘malice’ as “the intention or desire to do evil; ill will”.
One of the most confusing questions anyone has ever asked me was, “You mean, you’ve never hurt anyone out of malice?!”
My response was a horrified and resounding, “Of course not!”
That got me thinking about why or how so many people find it nearly impossible to believe that there are individuals in this world who don’t hurt people “just because”.
I honestly can’t even conceive of that! Have I hurt people? Definitely! Was it just because I could? No!
I’ve hurt people because I was unaware of what was expected of me socially, because I couldn’t register the tone of my voice or a facial expression, or I was in a situation where I was concerned about self-preservation, or, even because, in the heat of the moment, I got triggered and became very angry (DBT has been a lifesaver with that).
Meltdowns, forgetfulness, social cluelessness, preferring to be alone…all of those things about me have hurt others, but…they were never purposeful and spiteful acts.
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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.
Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).
Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:
There was one time, when I was 13 years old, that I did something out of jealousy, and I HATED myself for it. I felt like I couldn’t wash the stain of sin off of me (I don’t mean this religiously, “sin” is the only way I can describe the feeling). What I did wasn’t a horrible thing, and it didn’t do any permanent damage, but the incident still makes me uneasy to even think about.
So, that begs the question…why? Maybe this has just been my experience, but I think one of the common reasons for misunderstandings between autistics and non-autistics is not just neurology but intention.
I think this might be why when an autistic person says or does something that offends a neurotypical (non-autistic) person that many NT people will verbally strike out right away instead of attempting to understand the intention of the autistic person because they think the intention is a foregone conclusion.
They think they already know because that’s the only reason THEY would have said or done whatever it was they found offensive to them.
Just to be sure there’s no misunderstanding here, I’m sure they ARE people on the spectrum who do things out of malice, but from what I’ve read, researched, and experienced, this is just not common.
Autistic people are not perfect angels, but we are often incredibly misunderstood and treated in a way that we don’t understand, which can cause PTSD and a whole host of other mental health issues as we move through life.
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