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Trauma, Stigma and Autism

By Raggamuffin · Apr 21, 2021 · ·
  1. My therapist recommended the aforementioned book in our last session and said we could discuss it in our next appointment today.

    I've got a lot of books on the go, and I've only got quarter of the way through. I'm not worried about it though - I work at my own pace, and needlessly imposing shame at the fact I haven't completed the book in 3 weeks wouldn't make much sense.

    I read eBooks, and as I go along I copy and paste quotes and sections that I feel are most important and I save them on my computer for future reference.

    Here are the quotes I have found so far, I think others might find them insightful:

    "Repeated experiences of stigma result in trauma, and trauma can make people armored and defensive. We may become hyper-vigilant to whatever reminds us of the source of our trauma and easily triggered by events remotely resembling what traumatized us." (p.28-29)

    "Detached, unsupportive, and emotionally unavailable parenting is often part of a longstanding cycle that, like addiction, takes persistent effort to heal over generations. Blame is not helpful here. Acknowledging the importance of secure attachment, safety, and emotional validation in childhood need not be taken defensively." (p. 24).

    "We learn best from the past when we do so without shaming." (p. 24).

    "...concealable stigma related to conditions that can be hidden. The pain of concealable stigma is often related to the anticipation of stigma that would be experienced if the condition was discovered. There is also pain related to devaluing one’s own person by having to hide parts of the self, as well as the oppressive social injustice that creates pressure to hide." (p. 27).

    "Sometimes intimate others take it upon themselves to identify their loved one as autistic, not because they are medical experts, but because it gives them a way to understand the ways we frustrate them, make them feel lonely in relationship, seem uninterested or unable to provide emotional validation, meet their needs, or engage in what a relationship is conventionally supposed to be." (p. 30)

    "This kind of standing down from impulse and logic is an all too familiar challenge for many of us and is often at the threshold where things either continue to run smoothly or start falling apart. What do we defer to at such times? It is a quiet, easily ignored knowing within that can be easily trampled by impulse, logic, and self-gratification. This inner intuition often becomes stronger but remains delicate as we grow in age and experience. I think characterizing it as an ethical conflict that demands ongoing mindful resolution better captures the spirit of effort it calls for rather than “self-control.” (pp. 43-44).

    "...years of stigma have sensitized me to the feeling of being disliked, regarded negatively, or disregarded entirely." (p. 44).

    "ASHFA (high functioning) can tell they’ve made some comment, not responded when they should have, interrupted the flow of interaction, made a gesture that didn’t go over well, or somehow breached social expectations and caused a disturbance. Sometimes they haven’t said anything, sometimes they just came in, and sometimes they’re just standing there. Their very presence may have triggered a disruption of some kind with socioconventional others. They feel “threatened” and sometimes “overwhelmed” with a feeling of being “put in the spotlight” for their difference. Their inability to fit in, or the incomprehensible barrier to fitting in before them, is accentuated and dramatized. They may feel like “disappearing into the floor.” It is not necessarily any overt violation of social conduct that is distressing; it is the feeling of being exposed for not fitting in and “not getting it.” In this case ignorance would be bliss. Hapless violations are much less painful." (p. 45).

    They described their condition as “part of myself I have to work with and around.” (p. 48).

    "They are often told “nothing’s wrong with you,” the familiar slogan of reverse stigma reported by ASHFA in my study. This may be done as a form of reassurance or a strategy to dismiss a potentially difficult client, but the person’s perceived lack of ability or unworthiness to be heard is reinforced." (p. 58).

    "Many subtle differences related to autisticy lead to stigma, not just the four core challenges (executive functioning, emotional regulation, self-absorbed local focus, and difficulty accounting for the perspective of others). Other personal qualities can be experienced, for example difficulty with change, an overly literal use of language, inattention to details others think important, unusual sensory issues, and clumsiness." (p. 61).

    "In everyday social interaction a lack of expected facial cues through expression, eye movement, looks, and even slight muscle movements can trigger safety distress and defensive escalation/withdrawal.... All this does not refer to the face as a “mosaic of coloured spots” but as an outpouring of humanity, for example as a shining forth of “friendliness” (p. 61).

    "People can unconsciously learn to read the vulnerability of others based on facial cues connected with their deepest selves, which may explain the mysterious radar that leads some people into relationship after relationship with abusive others despite their best intentions. In alignment with polyvagal theory, this may not be a sign of weakness but a combination of the effectiveness of this biological messaging system, deeply etched scars of trauma and invalidation, and our tendency to misread familiarity for safety." (p. 62-63).


    About Author

    Ed, 34, UK

    I'm an underachiever with numerous talents. Exhausted by people and being stuck in the rat race. Unable to shake depression for nearly 2 decades.

    Approaching a year and a half sober. I've undertaken numerous lifestyle changes in recent years. I'd hoped they'd provide some solace from mental health issues. In reality, I know work is my main stressor. 16 years spent in jobs I've never considered careers, or worthy of my time.


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  1. Rahere
    You might find TiddlyWiki a useful tool for cross-indexing the scrapbook. It's a complete wiki in a barebones stand-alone HTML file, which can take add-ins, and has been around for nearly 30 years.
    1. Raggamuffin
      Ahh, I keep it simple with Notepad to be honest.
  2. Rahere
    With recent developments in understanding the mechanisms of trauma, healing's becoming possible: it's essentially a question of switching our cognitive know-it-all out in some form of meditation, grounding if you like, and giving our internal healing mechanism something to work with, a reason to drop the pain. The old idea of embedded trauma's not quite right, we can drain the drive from it so all that's left is the memory.
      Raggamuffin likes this.