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)


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