#StartAConversation / Mental health / Relationships

Neurotypical People Need Therapy

“Someone’s therapist knows all about you.”
~Dominic Riccitello

Neurotypical should have therapy so that they are better able to navigate their inter-personal relationships more effectively – especially with us non-neurotypicals who’ve had to go through it already.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot lately, and actually feel quite strongly frustrated about now.

See I, rather naively, started off on this journey, or process, or whatever you’d call all this dealing with and working through shit that I’ve been doing since I got diagnosed, assuming neurotypicals didn’t need any of it. I figured that either the tools and strategies that the rest of us learn in treatment were either innate to them or something that they learned within their functional families.

I can no longer quite remember how I came up with such a ridiculous idea, because they, or at least the vast majority of them, really, really don’t.

And it would help if they told us non-neurotypicals that in therapy.

Because otherwise you go out into the neurotypical world feeling a little more confident and better equipped to manage healthy boundaries in your relationships, how to have constructive disagreements that don’t descend into off topic shouting matches, and how to take a step back to analyse a situation and what’s really going on.

But then when you come to try to put this into practice with a neurotypical person they have no idea what’s going on.

They have no conception of what you’re doing because they’ve never heard of or seen it before, and it doesn’t occur to them to analyse their own behaviour, and why they’re reacting this way and whether it’s either reasonable or constructive, either.

And this is really, quite epically, unhelpful.

Probably for all concerned.

And the thing is, because they’re the ones who are ‘normal’ and you aren’t there’s a tendency for both of you to assume that you must be the one who’s doing this wrong. You’re not applying the stuff you talked about in sessions properly, you’re the one misinterpreting the situation, and they’re the ones who are being reasonable.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

And yet, you’re used to doubting your own brain, and it’s likely never going to occur to the neurotypical in this scenario to question theirs, so you give in to keep the peace, and carry on perpetuating the whole unhealthy whatever it was trying to deal with in the first place.

All of which could be avoided if neurotypical people all just had therapy and learned to address their own behavioural issues in the same way that we do.

Normal people would be so much less fucking exhausting if they could learn that, for example, the correct way to deal with someone stating that they don’t like the way you are speaking to them is neither to express your anger or hurt at that statement, nor to launch a character assassination based on a whole bunch of other stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the present conversation.

Or that messages breaking down exactly how unpredictable, unstable, weak, lazy, pathetic, and ridiculous they think you are, and how by the way you’re letting your boyfriend abuse you and I can’t take it anymore, are not an appropriate or constructive way to respond to someone telling you that they aren’t going to listen to you shouting at and insulting them; and that you’re stepping out of the conversation until everyone has had time to calm down.

Also, if you end that bizarre, invective fuelled rant with some patronising rubbish about how you’d never be the one to close the door on the friendship, regardless of whether or not you have a mental health diagnosis you are being entirely delusional.

Because what you just did there is the metaphorical equivalent to slamming said door in my face and then kicking it really, really, really hard for good measure. And if the person that you sent them to has so much as a modicum of self-respect you have no reason to expect to ever hear from them again.

Ahem… Not that this post has been in any way inspired by any real life events that I’ve been fuming about for the past month or anything…

Anyway.

Once I realised that the glitch in these therapy strategies, and techniques, and what have you was that people who identify as neurotypical – or, as most of them put it, not mentally ill, or ‘normal’ – didn’t appear to recognise them, I asked how neurotypical people learn to deal with the situations that I would think to use them in.

The responses I got were:

“Trial and error?

and,

“Bitter experience, surely, if at all.”

The first one feels very unsatisfying. How do neurotypical people know what to trial? And if none of them are responding consistently how can they be sure of whether they’ve achieved success or made an error.

And the second one is just, well, terribly sad.

And I mean, I only worked out that I wasn’t necessarily the one doing it wrong, and that neurotypical might benefit from having therapy to work through their own ideas, motivations, and reactions by chance.

Not even a therapeutically related chance.

I’m writing a book.

If they’re letting me write a book I must be at least competent with words, and sentence structure, and all that stuff.

So now I finally feel confident that if someone is repeatedly taking my words in ways that I’m sure there is no way they could be reasonably construed I am not the one at fault in that situation.

I can do the words. I got the words right. You’re parsing them wrong. Whether that be accidentally or deliberately.

Or if in the unlikely event that I didn’t, it’s resulted in me saying something out of character, and we’ve known each other for fifteen years, and you’re immediately jumping down my throat for fifteen minutes; rather than assuming that I misspoke and taking, eh, I’ll say fifteen seconds, to clarify what I meant, that’s about a thing that’s coming from you rather than from what I said.

This is why therapy and analysis is helpful and I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone should go through it and do the work. And one of the reasons why some of my borderline traits are kind of becoming coming positive things that I actually quite like about myself.

So, before I got my treatment and my lifestyle right my moods were pretty unstable, and I still have a tendency to more extreme emotions, especially in situations in which I feel attacked or triggered in any way.

As a result of this, if I find myself experiencing a particularly strong feeling about something, especially in cases where that feeling is either anger, or that I really need to just get out of that situation, I have to try to take a minute to examine that before reacting to it.

I have to run through a whole host of questions in my own head about it.

Am I being borderline here or is this a legitimate feeling? If I’m being borderline, once I calm this down to a reasonable level would I be at a healthy, reasonable reaction? If it’s not a reasonable reaction why am I having it? Has this triggered, or brought up something that’s about something/someone else entirely that I need to take away and deal with separately to this? If this is a healthy, or just a more extreme version of a healthy, reaction what do I do now to make sure I handle it reasonably? And how do I make sure it doesn’t end up setting me off on a massive mood cycle?

Then I have to look at their part in the situation.

They’re not going to hate me if I disagree with them, people disagree with each other all the time. Or are they going to get mad at me if I disagree with them? Are they being reasonable? Is this an issue they have with me? Is this an issue they have with the situation? Is it both? Is there something else going on with them, or about the situation that they’re just deflecting on to me? Could I have inadvertently hit on something in them that they’re lashing out about and is really nothing to do with the words that are actually being spoken here?

Then think about what I need to do next.

Do I need to take some space to either calm down of finish processing how I feel? I can have trouble accessing my genuine feelings, so that can take quite a long time if it is necessary. Do they need some space to calm down? What do I want the outcome of this to be? What do I think they want? Can we have a calm, safe discussion at this time? Is this going to take up spoons that I need for other health things and commitments so I need to come back to it for that? Will I feel differently about this tomorrow, the next day, in a week, in a month maybe? Or does this ‘ I want to tap out and walk away’ feeling really mean that I need to forget about it and walk away? Be it from the conversation, the situation, or the relationship? And if I do think that might be the case how much time do I need to take to be sure that’s really how I feel/what I want and this isn’t just my borderline impulsiveness and/or splitting sneaking into play? 

I don’t *think* I do this in words. So it feels like it probably doesn’t take as long to do this in my head as it does to read the written words back, but I don’t know, I have problems with my memory and time perception, so I can’t be sure. But if I can do it at least moderately successfully, with my over active amygdala and under active hypothalamus, then anybody with a regularly functioning brain can learn to do.

Yet, in the mean time the other, neurotypical, person is either completely oblivious, calming down and moving on, or getting more mad as they want to deal with this right away. What they’re not doing is also reflecting and coming to conclusion that could defuse the situation or making plans to keep any resultant conversation constructive and healthy.

Which, if they weren’t oblivious, they would possibly have been doing had they learnt how in therapy. And, I mean, maybe this wouldn’t be as helpful to people with more stable emotions in every situation, but I’m struggling to envisage a situation where it might be unhelpful. I can’t imagine anyone gaining too much insight through taking five minutes to analyse a situation and that getting in the way.

And knowing what you’re boundaries are – what you are and are not willing to tolerate in any given situation or relationship – is important for everyone.

And it’s not just chronically mentally and physically ill people with attention deficit and memory problems who would benefit from conversations about disagreements or disagreeable things remaining on topic.

There is nobody who doesn’t have better things to do with their time and energy than expend it on hurtful, harmful, irrelevant exchanges.

Exchanges that so often come from a place of hurt, anger, or misunderstanding, that could be avoided if everyone went to therapy and learned how to take a beat to think things through before saying anything.

So, yeah, I think that neurotypical people should have therapy as routinely as the rest of us. What do you think, would this be helpful, or would it cause more issues that I haven’t thought about here?

 

 

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