Saturday, 17 March 2012

Autistics and Trust Issues

A lot of aspies, including me, have big, big issues with trust. We generally start out in life very naïve, wide-open and totally trusting, taking people and situations at face value, and willing to believe whatever people say. Lying and deceit don’t come naturally to us, and it never occurs to us that others might do it. In consequence, we have often been used, abused, tricked, deceived, maltreated and betrayed, over and over again. At some point, we realize this blind trust of ours is misplaced, and become extremely wary. Many of us come to view people in general and NTs in particular with a great deal of suspicion, resentment and anger. We can even become so hyper-sensitive that we jump to conclusions and see slights, rejections and betrayals that aren’t in fact there.

The ‘pop psychology’ on such betrayals is that we should ‘forgive and forget’, move on and let it go – after all, it’s in the past, right? But for us, it’s not ‘in the past’. It’s ongoing. Our memories stay uncomfortably vivid. We find it hard to ‘just forget’ things, and don’t do forgiveness well. Moreover, we have extreme difficulty in letting go past betrayals because we usually just can’t process them, can’t understand why they happened, whose ‘fault’ it was, or even, often, what happened, exactly. Reeling, confused, we only know we’ve been kicked in the guts, and it really, really hurts.

And even if we can somehow let go of past incidents, that’s not the end of it. Some of us are still enmeshed in ‘betrayal of trust’ circumstances. But even if we aren’t, every day, we must go out into the world and face again situations we can’t judge accurately, people we can’t read properly if at all, and thus, we know, the potential is always there for more betrayals, more abuse, more dumping of other people’s crap on our heads. We can come to trust pretty much no-one, because we are so bad at figuring out who can and can’t be trusted. The whole thing becomes a bewildering morass, and it never really ends. Each day, consequently, can be a nightmare of trepidation. And the more we have to do with the world, the more likelihood there is that these betrayals will happen, simply because of what and who we are.

Some aspies I’ve encountered claim they’ve always been suspicious, and mistrusting of others. I think it’s possible their betrayals happened so early, they’ve forgotten the times before. Others, like me, remember all too well their earlier naivety, and the pain of the repeated betrayals and loss of trust.

Either way, there really isn’t any ideal solution, for me or for autistics in general. The world is what it is, and we are what we are. No amount of ‘social skills training’, no amount of struggling to learn how to ‘read’ other people, is going to alter the fact that just about all of us will get taken advantage of sooner or later.

Each and every autistic individual has to make their own choice, as to how much and in what way they interact with the world/other people. If we become total recluses, we may be safe (in some ways), but this can mean we become very lonely, and cut off from those who do or might love us, and who could be trusted. On the other hand, being totally ‘open’ to the world means being a target for bullies, abusers, scammers and all manner of undesirables. We all need to find our own midpoint, between total reclusiveness and total openness. That midpoint will be different for every aspie/autie, and no-one has the right to judge another’s decision on this.

17 comments:

  1. Great post. I can identify with the "always been disinclined to trust" viewpoint.

    However, I'm commenting mainly because you misspelled one of the labels ("trust isses").

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    1. Seriously? Out of this beautiful, and moving piece, you all you come out with is a misspelled word? WOW!

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    2. Totally get that, I have been known to stop reading an otherwise enjoyable book because of: spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, factual errors, etc.

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    3. Elizabeth...when I read your comment my first thought was she must not have Aspergers. I see from another comment that you don't, but have a child who does.
      What you need to understand is that the comment that you commented on is a very typical Asperger's view. We notice things like words spelled wrong and it bothers us. The original comment was probably not given as an insult, but to let the writer know so that they could fix the mistake. Quite often our abruptness comes out as being rude, but that is not usually our intent.

      Since you do have a child with Aspergers please be aware that chances are that your comment probably caused much more pain than the original comment. In most cases we can accept direct correction on errors, but using shame to make us feel like what we have done is inappropriate hurts deeply. Please be careful on how you instruct your child on social issues, as chances are they will internalize it much more than you can ever imagine.

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    4. Thank you so much for this comment.

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    5. This article explains me exactly

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  2. Oops, goodness gracious, so i did. Thanks for pointing that out, i don't know how i missed it! Especially given i'm normally such a stickler for detail, lol.

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    1. I want to thank you for your words, I have a child with asperger's, and it pained me horribly when she told me she didn't trust me. Thanks to you, I understand why, and that it wasn't something I did.
      Thank You!

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    2. I am sorry to contradict, but the comment from anonymous that points out the effect NT's moral criticism can have, in the sense that they feel shame, although not understanding the rules according to which they have been judged, and thus not understanding what they did wrong, could be one reason for trust issues between your child and you. Aspies can trust. It is, as the post explains, the way they are born. Honest not wanting nor expecting anything bad. It is experiences with other human beings that makes them distrust. It is also something that varies from relationship to relationship. So if your child doesn't trust you, it could be related to the very specific interaction between the two of you.

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    3. Agreed. I well remember a time before the mistrust, and it was definitely the things my mother did that, in the long term, destroyed any possibility of me opening up to her in any way. Too many invalidating, demeaning, demoralizing "little" slights that added up to a massive "I wish you weren't you" and completely cancelled any "I love you" she otherwise gave.

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    4. Hi Elizabeth. I would recommend you ask your child if they still don't trust you in some respect (your child may mean only about one specific aspect of behaviour / your relationship, and may otherwise trust you). I wanted to reply and ask you to ask your child specifically what the reason is for that comment. I lost some trust in my mother when I was 13 over something very small to her mind (she returned a birthday gift I'd been given by a 'girlfriend' after it fizzled shortly afterwards, and without telling me - I was shocked she'd gone through my things and taken something, I was horrified she'd contacted my friend, but the massive breach for me was the implied personal and public shaming of me that I must have behaved badly in some way to have merited that act. I never spoke of my relationships or introduced her to a girlfriend again until I had to when I got married 15 years later. If she'd apologised and shown she understood how she'd hurt me and convinced me she'd never do anything similar again (by clearly unequivocally saying what she did was a breach of trust and hurtful and apologising) then I would almost certainly have trusted her assurances and maintained my relationship. It is very important you ask and don't argue or try to explain away or trivialise whatever you are perceived to have done. If you can swallow pride out of love for your child and just accept that whatever they felt has genuinely hurt them and the relationship, you can spare both of you a lifetime of silence and distance. I can't explain just how much pain an aspie feels to lose trust in in a close family member or friend. We have very few, we lose them along the way, they are almost impossible to revive (for us) and it can be like as shattering as for an aspie as say a bereavement. For me at least anyway. I really hope you can build a bridge. Good luck.

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  3. So well-said. This article sounds so much like me and my experiences!

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  4. Thank you for this. Over the years, living without a diagnosis, I've become the butt of jokes, the one always "taken for a ride" and derided for being so ridiculously gullible. Eventually, I've grown extremely mistrustful and reclusive, and became the one derided for being bitter or for refusing to "just" let something go. Your post brought it home for me. Thank you.

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  5. thank you for sharing your experience on trust. I raised a son with ASD and my life partner only recently came to know that she has autism and has unknowingly endured the implications for her whole life. i recognize what you have described with trust in her every day of our lives together. it appears to me that trusting others, even those closest to her is one of the most difficult challenges she faces. you are right, she has been taken advantage of and mistreated by some over the course of her life and I can see how that has affected her. I also see how much courage it takes for her to even give me her trust and there are times where it is too hard for her and I have to give her the time and space to work through it. she is a brave one, anyone with this experience must be to face relationships with that deeply rooted caution towards others. as one of the "others" in her life, it seems the best thing I can do to support her is to stand by her, hang in so that the trust she gives me is rewarded with love.

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  6. "...but this can mean we become very lonely, and cut off from those who do or might love us, and who could be trusted."

    This phrase is quite ignorant, presumptuous, and even scaremongering. Not everyone has a single human being they can trust in their lives. Not everyone has a loved one. Not everyone derives benefits nor pleasure from human contact. Not everyone experiences loneliness when they're away from humanity. After all, humans aren't the sole nor superior source of love or companionship.

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    1. True, they're not, in some people's eyes. And I do know that many autistics prefer the company of animals, and are quite happy this way. I was referring to those of us who DO want human companionship, but have trouble achieving that, because of the trust issues I talked about.

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    2. You should have made those points more clear in the first place.

      I would also like to add that there are also people, autistic or not, who prefer and benefit more from the company of inanimate objects and/or imaginary companions over humans.

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