thoughts on neuro-diverse love
April 24, 2013
So something Riley said has me thinking…
We can all operate with a notion that people have different cognitive abilities. That we live in a neuro-diverse world where people are wired in a bunch of different ways. And this wiring has obvious impacts on people’s behaviour, lives, ability to learn, etc.
With this understanding….
How should we understand emotions like ‘love’?
I mean. I know that at least one (erroneous) assumption that people make about people with Asperger’s is that they can be emotionless automatons, or whatever. Just as it is the expectation that people with bipolar disorder will have wild, uncontrollable emotions.
So while these assumptions and misconceptions are patently untrue.
I also just sort of realized that we see far less discussion about what, exactly, healthy love looks like in a neuro-diverse society.
From a personal example… I used to have a really big problem with not being able to functionally distinguish between types of love. This led to some… rather confusing situations with friends. It also meant that, after a friendship with someone I loved dearly fell apart, I found myself unable to engage in any kind of relationship (not romantic, platonic, mixtures, etc.). It took me 2-3 years to get over an 8 month friendship with someone I didn’t even live in the same city as. I actually moved to a different city to be near her.
I can understand the certain elements about that relationship which weren’t great for me, but this has nothing to do with the emotions I actually had. Nor do I feel any regret over what I did over the course of the relationship.
What is also clear to me, at least, is that most of the people I’ve met in my life have found this strange. That I would love a friend so deeply and be so heavily impacted by the loss. That it would inhibit my ability to have romantic relationships. That I could spend years mourning the loss.
And, yeah, some people have called it unhealthy. Fuck, I’ve called it unhealthy.
I mean. I love the way I love. It certainly is possible that I love this way as a result of being neuro-atypical. It could be that I love this way because of my history of neglect and emotional abuse. It could be because of my anxiety. Or it could just be… my personality.
The realm of emotions is heavily filled with normative notions of what is healthy. But because emotions are such a strong element for why we are motivated to have relationships (of any kind) it also enforces a normative understanding of what ‘good’ relationships are.
I guess I just would fucking love to see more discussions that truly explore the contours, shapes, topography of love (and other emotions) in a neuro-diverse and non-normative way. Discussions that don’t result in pathologizing certain expressions of emotion.
(the one big caveat: expressions of emotion that are abusive or self-harming in life threatening ways shouldn’t necessarily be pathologized… but nor am I trying to assert that a discussion is needed that renders these behaviours as ‘acceptable’, particularly as it concerns abusive expressions of emotion towards other people.
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