To be honest, I am quite fed up with the little irritating poster that has been doing its rounds on Facebook, promoting “Random Acts of Kindness.” It’s good to be kind, isn’t it? I can hear people protesting at my protest. Yes, acts of kindness are most welcome and sorely needed, in a world so full of people suffering and lonely. However, I take umbrage at the word ‘random’ because for autistic people, ‘random’ really literally means ‘random.’ And ‘randomness’ can be very dangerous if it really is ‘random,’ without underlying instinctive self preservation.
Autistic people should be encouraged to perform acts of kindness, yes, an overwhelming YES! The world needs so much more kindness. There are so many people in need of kindness. But for autistic people, their actions should not ever be random. We should be taught from a young age to be kind, and to do kind things for others, but with deliberate consideration and well thought out logical planning – and in consultation with either our kindly neuroytpical peers or older, more experienced autistics or parents or other authority figures. For the latter, they too need to understand the difference between ‘random’ and ‘deliberate’ in the context of autistic brain function.
OK. Let me explain.
Contrary to the nauseating claims of so many neurotypicals that autistic individuals are selfish, lack empathy and hence have no feelings for others, we actually exist on the opposite end of this description. We are often driven to meltdown because of our overwhelming empathy for the suffering of others, without any ‘Theory of Mind wisdom’ to deal with the intricacies of psychological manipulation and other harmful quirks of the socially guileful mind. These people are often neurotypical (neurological function) with comorbids of various mental anomalies (psychological deviation). Yes, there is a difference between neurological function and psychological disorders, that the man in the street fails to realise.
Armed with nothing more than sheer overactive empathy, the autistic person is the proverbial ‘sitting duck’ in social encounters, and when advised to engage in “Random Acts of Kindness,” placed in potentially harmful situations, some even perhaps fatal and irreversible.
I know this for a fact. From my own encounters with socially wily humans juxtaposed against my ridiculous naiveté, over active empathy, and lack of Theory of Mind.
From having too little Theory of Mind, I have allowed people that shouldn’t be within ten feet of me, to enter the inner sanctuary of my mind, emotions and physical abode. This has happened repeatedly throughout my life. People I have grown up with have taken fullest advantage of my gullibilities, to control me, place me inside a gilded little cage and trained me to serve their purposes. The relationship is so complex, with this group of humans, that it would take more than a Ph.D dissertation to study. However, this is not the main subject of the current post. This little post is a rant against the promotion of “Random Acts of Kindness” among autistic circles. Familial relationships are not at all random, they are built upon strong foundations that develop over a long period of time.
The term ‘random act’ indicates a whim, an improvisation, a quick instinctive action. When one’s instinct is vastly different and hence considered weak when pitted against the majority, one is then in a vulnerable situation. In this scenario, even well thought out, planned actions, may easily fall into error, so it doesn’t take a very imaginative person to see how ‘randomness’ could likely lead into very undesirable consequences.
I recently invited four people into my home to stay. Out of the four, only one turned out to be an amazingly ‘right fit.’ The others were, at best, very expensive and painful lessons in what never to do again. Why three times wrong? How could someone with such intellectual capacity be so utterly vapid? Autistic people can. The answer lies in the Aspie’s ability (or terrible inability) to glean and enforce practical information from human encounters. In other words, we forgive and forget so innocently, that it is either unbelievable to the vast neurotypical majority, or plain stupidity. The first encounter was with a whining, complaining little brat, who destroyed my salad bowl, took my plastic storage tubs to his workplace and never brought them back, dropped and damaged my pan and incessantly stamped his feet at me demanding that I change my entire life schedule to suit his own. I got rid of that one, but not without a lot of inner struggle, and yes, even fear. The next one I allowed into my house was an even more cogent social creature. He charmed his way around, such that my other housemate (the good one) fell for his socially endearing ways. Superficial, but likable at that level. I did too, but I quickly brought out the worst in him, so much so that he began to show aggression and more forceful bullying. When bad feelings escalated between us, my good housemate beetled off. I don’t blame him, he just didn’t want to be caught inside the swirling mire. Yup, I called this one the Extreme Neurotypical Bulldozer. He stayed for longer, did more damage to the house, demanded all kinds of things, left dozens of milk crates in the backyard, and killed my plants and grass with his incessant smoking. Then, as if those two bad encounters weren’t enough to teach me never to allow people I don’t know well into my home, the day I got rid of the Extreme Neurotypical Bulldozer, I bumped into a captivating person, the Charmer, with Borderline Personality Disorder. The person was in tears, poured out a sob story (which sounded real to me, and now on hindsight is true to a large extent, but with a lot of history left out) and I crumbled into a tangled heap of empathic kindness. So I invited the person to stay with me. I was told it would only be for two weeks. But the person is still there in that house, weeks after I have vacated, and just today accused me of abandonment in the person’s time of dire need. Oh, and selfishness, not being considerate enough of the person’s feelings, and “doing nothing” to help the person!
Listen to the short description of BPD in the link. One thing that I want to point out, before proceeding with my rant is the description: “long term difficulty relating to others.” This is not the same as the difficulty relating with neurotypicals that is inherent in autism. The autistic person’s struggle with social relations is based on the rigidity of the autistic mind, the straight forward literal thinking, the lack of guile and almost nonexistent improvisatory social skills. The person with BPD, on the other hand, is volatile, mercuric, difficult to pin down, flagrantly mixing truth with untruth (such that people cannot see the wood from the trees until much later down the terrible rabbit hole), full of self-centred-self-induced drama, and yes, paranoia that everyone is not treating them right, nobody cares for them (no matter how much people do care) and blowing up every little negative situation or emotion into tsunami proportions. The better they are at their deceit, the higher their ability to ‘read’ others, i.e. Theory of Mind and manipulative understanding of others (empathic skills to use for their own purposes). Hence, their difficulty in relating is based on an imbalanced relational approach that is deliberately non-reciprocal. It is all about them and nothing about the other people around. Even when they do something ‘nice’ for another person, it is done to gratify their own mission and purpose, not to meet someone else’s real need. And they do a lot of ‘nice’ things, which further confuse their ‘victims.’
This person has caused me so much horror and disturbance (which can fill a thick book and hence I should not detail in this already too long post) that I hope and pray it will be my last “Random Act of Kindness” ever! What I regret the most is not the harm caused to me, but the irredeemable damage that this whole twisted and dangerous liaison has caused to an innocent being. I still have nightmares about that, and I hope and pray fervently for the future wellbeing of this poor innocent creature.
Well, guess what, I learned recently that I am not alone. Even socially-savvy neurotypical people have fallen for the person’s neurotic but arresting drama. I recently chatted with a few people who were introduced to me by the Charmer. They voluntarily expressed their disappointment, shock and distaste to me, without my having to broach the subject. It was as if they were brimming over and bursting for a chance to vocalise their feelings of repugnance. That was when I realised that the Charmer had not only pulled the wool over too gullible Aspie eyes, but that of neurotypical socially functional people too.
So, we all did acts of Random Acts of Kindness which we now regret and feel foolish about. What is the difference then? The neurotypical people who have rushed to the aid of the Charmer (but are now disenchanted) had the good instinct not to commit themselves too deeply in their Random Acts of Kindness. In plain language, their acts of kindness were random, but being properly functioning neurotypical, they had the instinctive ability not to give too big a slice of themselves. In comparison, I foolishly brought the person home, into my innermost sanctuary, without thought to my self and safety. A very serious act of charity with far reaching repercussions. I am fortunate the person didn’t do me any physical harm. I had no way of knowing that when I invited the stranger in. Providence has watched over me time and time again. But it is now long overdue for me to learn some self-preservation wisdom, isn’t it? If not for myself, then for my precious Lucy. For we are a team.
Again, a last piece of hindsight that I truly have to firmly etch into my scatty Aspie brain: I really should learn to read Lucy better. She didn’t dislike any of the three disasters, though she showed the least interest in the first one, but she didn’t like any of them either. The only one out of the four people who have inhabited my home that she showed overt delight in was the one ‘right fit.’ Despite all of the three professing they love dogs and have so much experience with dogs, especially the Charmer, who also has a pet dog, Lucy was not fooled. She remained polite, friendly, but aloof. (Whereas she goes ga-ga with joy when she sees the one who was the ‘right fit’ for me!) Oh dear Aspie Bunny, learn your lessons well!