I generally disdain the very idea that ignorance is bliss, but I may have come across an example of where it is most definitely true.
It is one thing to have everyone constantly misunderstand you and misinterpret what you do or say, but it is quite another to understand that everyone is doing that while also knowing there is almost nothing you can do about it. How do you control unconscious behaviors? If someone brings your attention to them, you can practice not doing them, but even that will only get you so far when it’s a natural reaction to you.
It is remarkably easy for someone on the spectrum to get into the flow state. The flow state is one where you are mentally completely committed to what you are doing. The rest of the world drops away when you are in this state. And for me at least, it is a state of happiness.
Pop my bubble, and I can literally feel my brain cringe in annoyance. I may then immediately appreciate your popping my bubble (if, say, the house is on fire), but you’re still going to get a flash of annoyance from me. I cannot help it. And even having it pointed out to me that I flash annoyance at you probably won’t do anything to help me fix it. It’s a gut reaction.
In the past, if you popped my flow state bubble, that was guaranteed to result in me having a meltdown and chewing you out. The fact that I have moved from that reaction to a momentary flash of annoyance means I have in fact improved in my reactions. I am sure my wife appreciates the fact that I had stopped having the strong reaction years before I met her. But I’m equally sure I have annoyed her with my look of annoyance at being brought back to the real world.
The problem is that people don’t understand why I have the reaction I do, and they misinterpret it to mean that I’m annoyed at them. I’m not. I’m momentarily annoyed I was broken out of the flow state. If they did it to help me, I’m grateful and appreciative–and I try to let that be known. But all too often people care only about the nonverbal communication and not the verbal one. I cannot help the former one, and the latter one is always going to be honest. But people take it the opposite way.
Because of this, autism is considered to be a “communication disorder.” However, if I was in a flow state and I was brought out of it by someone on the spectrum, they would understand my look. And they would accept my expression of appreciation as honest. We would communicate to each other quite clearly. It becomes disordered when it takes place between an autistic and a neurotypical person. And the disorder works both ways. To me, neurotypical people have a communication disorder. They do not communicate well, or even honestly, most of the time. You think you’ve smoothed things over with them, and they are still harping on it the next day. I supposed they communicate clearly enough to each other, but to me, they can’t communicate jack squat most of the time.
If I weren’t completely aware of all of this, life would perhaps be less frustrating. I would go through life unaware of all of these things, occasionally confused about why something has fallen apart socially, but mostly being blissfully unaware that there’s anything wrong. I got by in that state for 40 years.
But now I know. I know, and there’s little I can do about it. Unless I manage to educate every single neurotypical about autism and the fact that there are a whole lot of people out there with whom they are constantly miscommunicating. But I supposed that’s the Sysiphian task set for me. The world is less because of this lack of understanding.