Skip to main content

On an autistic's monstrous rage (26 March 2009)

I'd explained all this. But when I showed up at the group home that morning, he was drinking coffee and pacing and still not dressed. I went into his room, took some clothes from the closet, handed them to him. And hinting at what he was about to do only with a small sigh, as if to say, "I've had enough," my son picked me up and threw me across the room.

I had three broken ribs and a bit of damage to my liver that made my doctor fret. Still, who among us hasn't wanted to toss our mother across the room when she's nattering on and making cheerful sounds in the morning? (Ann Bauer, “Monster Inside My Son,” Salon, March 26, 2009)

Many people have. I certainly have. Nattering on communicates to the kid that his/her primarily role is to take in/adjust to/tend to parents' moods, rather than his/her own. If you get too much of this, you either go inward and remote (autistic), or you attempt to blow away the oppressive "party."

If, as I suspect, autism arises from a form of neglect/bullying, then it's no surprise that within every gentle autistic lies a seething monster. Stanley Greenspan argues, btw, that the way to awaken an autistic is to work with, engage with, ANY felt emotional response the autistic "expresses." That is, while it is a good thing that we're now in the mood to complicate our previous preferred understanding of autistics, maybe the next step is to see the rage as something not just to be treated, but WORKED WITH -- an avenue, as absurd as it might seem, for beginning the kind of back-and-forth conversation that leads to awakening.

Certainly, at the very least, the rage should be validated. I actually like that article writer was impressed by the thoroughness of her son's destruction of his room. Though she likely in part told us this to draw us to validate her instinct toward further self-absorption, THAT sort of destruction suggests to me that she has a son who hasn't been completely cowed -- many have thought of doing something similar, but were afraid of the consequences of such an impressive and thorough expression of their disquiet. I wanted to put a gardening pick-axe through our family portrait when I was the mother-bullied teen, but didn't because this would have felt too EXISTENTIAL -- too deliciously of me at the fore-front, which was the position my mother had claimed for herself -- through intimidation, of course. Evolution for me came with not denying myself the pleasure. Not with pick-axes. But just not denying myself the pleasure.

I expect a good number of us have mothers who've let us know they've considered suicide, and that if they ever do so, we're the cause. It is good to remind yourself that after death there may not be a place you go to savor all the "I was such a bad person for not properly attending to her needs/pains," you're hoping to get. Why not instead much more extensively attend to how your own mother bullied/neglected you, and how this has affected, determined, your instinctual way of relating to your son? Validate your pain: you did not deserve it. And work with those who'll both listen to you and help you undo the damage you did to your son, in your effort to squeeze from him the love and attention you did not sufficiently get from your own mother.

Link: Monster Inside My Son (Salon)


Popular posts from this blog

Full conversation about "Bringing Up Baby" at the NewYorker Movie Facebook Club

Richard Brody shared a link.Moderator · November 20 at 3:38pm I'm obsessed with Bringing Up Baby, which is on TCM at 6 PM (ET). It's the first film by Howard Hawks that I ever saw, and it opened up several universes to me, cinematic and otherwise. Here's the story. I was seventeen or eighteen; I had never heard of Hawks until I read Godard's enthusiastic mention of him in one of the early critical pieces in "Godard on Godard"—he called Hawks "the greatest American artist," and this piqued my curiosity. So, the next time I was in town (I… I was out of town at college for the most part), I went to see the first Hawks film playing in a revival house, which turned out to be "Bringing Up Baby." I certainly laughed a lot (and, at a few bits, uncontrollably), but that's not all there was to it. I had never read Freud, but I had heard of Freud, and when I saw "Bringing Up Baby," its realm of symbolism made instant sense; it was obviou…

"The Zookeeper's Wife" as historical romance

A Polish zoologist and his wife maintain a zoo which is utopia, realized. The people who work there are blissfully satisfied and happy. The caged animals aren't distraught but rather, very satisfied. These animals have been very well attended to, and have developed so healthily for it that they almost seem proud to display what is distinctively excellent about them for viewers to enjoy. But there is a shadow coming--Nazis! The Nazis literally blow apart much of this happy configuration. Many of the animals die. But the zookeeper's wife is a prize any Nazi officer would covet, and the Nazi's chief zoologist is interested in claiming her for his own. So if there can be some pretence that would allow for her and her husband to keep their zoo in piece rather than be destroyed for war supplies, he's willing to concede it.

The zookeeper and his wife want to try and use their zoo to house as many Jews as they can. They approach the stately quarters of Hitler's zoologist …