How Do I Become Less Obedient?
Autistic Advice#12: Noncompliance is a liberating social skill — but it must be developed.
Welcome back to Autistic Advice, a semi-regular advice column where I respond to reader questions about neurodiversity, accessibility, disability justice, and self-advocacy from my perspective as an Autistic psychologist. You can submit questions or suggest future entries in the series via my Tumblr ask box, linked here.
Today’s question comes from a rebellious and anarchy-minded Autistic person who wants to get better at breaking unjust rules — but they’re debilitated by guilt, and the fear of getting caught. They write:
Thank you so much for writing in with this question, Anon. So many of the questions I receive from readers involve striving to develop a stronger sense of self with a greater capacity to exercise agency. A complex brew of social exclusion and trauma teaches many Autistic people to prioritize the values of other people over the beliefs and ideals that we hold ourselves.
Masking Autism is all about rendering oneself more compliant to external pressure and authority. Our bodies are rebellious and our minds prone to asking difficult questions, and we are punished for threatening the existing social order in these ways until we learn to stop.
We learn to leap into action the moment someone looks displeased with us, showering them in attention, falling over ourselves with apologies, and sacrificing all of our energy and peace in order to smooth over even the faintest hint of conflict. We pretend to agree with statements we find objectionable, try to find the sense in the actions of the ones who beat and insult us, and if our experiences are contradicted, we always assume that we are wrong.
We all know by now that Autistics who mask their disability suffer from physical health complaints and mental health issues at elevated rates. But perhaps the most terrifying byproduct of masking is how thoroughly it shatters our internal compass. Many masked Autistics report not even knowing what they believe, or what their…