Updated: Aug 3, 2022
Unmasking This is a very thoughtful/interesting article on a great website. In fact, I added the website to our resources as there are many great articles by Mykola Bilokonsky and other guest writers. As usual, I would love to know what other autistic adults/seniors think of this article. It talks about dropping the mask, both the active and passive masks and being your natural self:
"It turns out it’s easier than you may think to stop a lot of your active masking behaviors; some of them may be harder than you can imagine. It just depends on how deeply ingrained these things are in you and on what your various motivations are for the different masks you wear."
"Behaviors that come from a sense of “when I was a kid I learned that this is just how the world works” are easy enough to stop — you just stop doing them."
While I think dropping your active masking is definitely a worthwhile goal I don't know how to do that without becoming an a$$hole. I mean I'm female so I also like to be polite and get along with people. The difficulty I run into is how to be polite but still stand up for myself and keep misunderstandings from going on too far. Instead some minor misunderstanding blows up into a big thing that I don't know how to solve and I then disappear, withdraw, or otherwise vanish from the situation. And hiding, ghosting or whatever you call it doesn't help any type of relationship.
I also think difficulty in unmasking could be related to age and experience. I masked most of my life without knowing I was masking. I find it extremely difficult to drastically change my behaviour without some sort of assistance or support.
As far as dropping the passive mask:
"This one is trickier because the passive mask is much harder for us to see. How do you stop doing the not doing of a thing? Quite often we have not only suppressed our natural behaviors but forgotten that we’ve suppressed them. This will actually take a bit of research and experimentation to unpack, and is a bit of a journey. "
"Your shame is a map to those parts of yourself you were taught to hate and cover up. That’s how shame works — other people instruct us to change our behavior by making us feel bad about ourselves."
"What you may find is joy and a connection to your inner child that hasn’t been used in a long time."
This one would be much harder for me and I'm not sure I could do it. I certainly have trauma from my childhood that I've buried but I'm not sure how to work through it - I usually just end up in tears. For example, when I was little my mother would sometimes forget me. I remember coming home from school (age 7) and finding the door locked and no one home. We hadn't lived there very long and I attended private school so I didn't know my neighours or other neighbourhood children. I just kept pounding on the door in the rain until a woman who lived behind us, saw me and came and got me. I still remember trying to swallow the peanut butter sandwich she gave me that kept sticking in my throat. Finally after what seemed like hours my mother came and got me. My joy was somewhat flattened because she seemed annoyed with me.
Part of the difficulty I find in working through issues like that is that I now think my mother was autistic too. So I add guilt on top of my shame on top of my other feelings that I made my mother's life harder. I don't doubt she felt shame that she put her child, who barely spoke to anyone except her, in a situation where I had to be rescued by a neighbour.
But certainly when you read through the article, and I recommend you read the entire article, this seems like a very valuable exercise if you can do it. The article concludes:
"Find that person, find your authentic and true self, and you’ll find what’s under your mask. There are a number of paths to take to get there, and I recommend taking all of them at once. Just go slowly and remember that this is serious and heavy work, that there will be setbacks, and that some of what comes up will be scary. It’s okay — you’ve got this, you’re safe and you’re on the road to recovery."
I would love to know what other autistic adults/seniors think of this article or topic. Please share your thoughts if you're comfortable doing so.