Pagans, Autism, Community,
Being Safe, & the Magic of Courtesy
June 9, 2022
Before getting to this post’s topic, I want to share that, as a Pagan, I honor everyone having their own path. Your right to choose the terms that describe you helps fosters that path. Deciding whether to use autistic, autism, on the spectrum, Asperger’s, neurodiverse, or other words is your choice. Words go in and out of vogue. I extend to you the courtesy of respecting your decisions. This is a safe space where you won’t be criticized for how you see you. Courtesy is magic, and I choose to live in an enchanted, mystic community. And with that, on to my post.
Autism and Being Afraid of Community
Fellow travelers on the spectrum,
Do relate to any part of this story?
You join a group—Pagan or not—on social media or IRL.
Previously, perhaps you would’ve entered with the socially acceptable—and socially enforced—“Hi, I’m new here. I hope you like me. Please don’t hurt me. Is everything I’m doing okay with you? If not, I’m sorry. I also apologize for breathing.”
There are many reasons anyone might be that nervous about entering a community. If you’re on the spectrum (or even if you’re not, and there might be a lot in this article that someone who’s neuro-typical might relate to), perhaps you’ve repeatedly been attacked and exiled from a tribe just for being you. Or you find interactions with people baffling and so become afraid you’ll do something embarrassing or offensive when you approach a group.
Whatever the case, let’s say you’ve learned to trust yourself and not bow down when you introduce yourself, so you refrain from a fearful hello. Perhaps you’re still afraid, but you don’t act like it.
Or maybe you’ve always embodied a trait I associate with my autism: I speak what I have to say. I don’t mean I’m rude (although many neuro-typical people misrepresent it as rude) or am calling people out, I just talk. So at this point in the story, whether you’ve been afraid in the past or not, you choose to participate right away in the best way possible: by being yourself.
Important aside: I don’t expect everyone in my tribe to necessarily identify with every detail of this story. I do hope that some of my tribe will experience and find relevant the overall emotional sense of the tale.
Autism and Jumping into Community
Instead of acting fearful, you enter the new group with Hi, I’m new. Here’s who I am. Here’s what I do.
That can be scary for those of us who are autistic and who have been attacked for making simple statements that are not self-abasing.
An alternative entry might happen, since you’re not going to let fear stop you: you come into a community, wanting to contribute right away, and noticing someone asks a question to which you have an answer, you chime in with it.
Ooh, feels dangerous because some petty person might be territorial about who gets to contribute know-how.
Another scenario: you say, “Hi, I’m new. Here’s a photo of what I made. It seems to fit in with this group. If you want information about it, DM me.” Simple, courteous, not self-effacing.
Attacked to Crush Your Spirit
and Make You Feel Alone
Whatever you do in this story, then a passive-aggressive person, with whom you’ve never had any contact, responds with a nasty, sideways barb.
They didn’t mean anything by it, wink wink. If confronted, they’d deny ill intent instead of being accountable for their behavior.
Their remark was meant to crush your spirit, put you in your place, make you fear, cause you to feel alone.
Perhaps they … don’t … like … your … traits.
Some individuals attack honesty, confidence, genius, or major accomplishments, all of which might be part of being on the spectrum. I try to remember that an ambush might be a sign of how fabulous I am.
Perhaps the attacker is suffering emotionally and spiritually. That thought helps me feel compassion for them. But I don’t have to let them walk on me.
Perhaps the attacker is not passive-aggressive but overtly cruel. For the sake of a few remarks I want to make further on this post, we’ll leave it at passive-aggressive.
Courtesy as Protection Magic
My response to nasty individuals varies according to the situation. When I was attacked in a version of the above-described scenario today, I recalled what my mother taught me at a young age. She said that, when met with unkindness, “Be a lady. If nothing else, it’ll drive ‘em crazy.”
I thank Gods that Mom often knew how to deal with my autism when I was a child. At age seven or eight, I read etiquette books to figure out how people are “supposed to interact,” so that I could follow suit. I’m not saying Mom had me do that or even knew I was doing it. I’m saying her advice was spot on, suiting me in more ways than one.
You can go too far with politeness. I don’t want to use it to suppress my anger. If I do that, I will be angry for a long time, mentally trapped by resentment as it constantly, painfully recycles in my mind.
And I don’t want to meet passive aggression with “polite” nastiness in return.
But Mom’s advice is perfect sometimes. I can sincerely, warmly, kill someone with honest kindness. Simple, non self-effacing, pleasant courtesy. I did that today.
It’s untrue that no autistic person can be polite, though I know etiquette and autism don’t always go hand-in-hand. And if the etiquette in question is the haughty sort meant to make people feel inferior because they don’t know what fork to use, that’s not etiquette. It’s high-handed abuse.
Real etiquette is simple, kind, non self-effacing remarks and behavior. And, as a shaman, I know that is powerful magic.
Being courteous shifts my energy as much as any incantation or formal spell could. I center into my inner power, magnificence, and confidence in those traits. Then I can deal with whatever is on the table.
A Community of Individuals with Autism
Protecting Each Other
Sometimes community is invisible. In every group, there’s a person other than me who is on the spectrum. And they might’ve seen me enter the group with my head held high. They might’ve recognized the covertly mean response, know I saw it too, know they’re not traveling on the spectrum alone, and know I just helped make the world a little safer for them. What more could I want?
… Well, there is more. To remember I’m never alone because my fellow travelers with autism and our allies are making the world safer for me too. Yes! Sometimes community is invisible.
P.S. I made up the phrases traveling on the spectrum and travelers on the spectrum, I love it, I am fabulous!