We might never admit it to anyone else, but we sometimes like to believe that we live in a twisted Otherworld. This Otherworld (also known as ‘Solipsism’) is often seen as an issue just for people who are on the Autistic Spectrum, but the more I talk to people the more I think it’s there for most of us unless we have consciously made a different choice.
In this Otherworld, the world revolves around me: people exist to make me happy and their negative responses are deliberate and malicious attacks against me. And while most people don’t take it all the way to it’s logical conclusions, it does seem to show up more often than would be strictly speaking helpful.
Why is that? Because on the plus side, this view makes it incredibly simple to interpret the events happening around us. And our brains are always looking for ways to simplify the complexity we deal with on a daily basis.
So why not simply embrace it? Because on the flip side, this view makes it incredibly easy to misinterpret the events happening around us.
We say, ‘put your clothes away and then start on your homework’ and in this Otherworld since they didn’t do it that means that they’re being disobedient, so they need punishment.
But what if instead the reason they didn’t do it was because they weren’t actually sure how to fold the clothes, or they were overwhelmed by the pile of things, or they were still worrying about what Jimmy told Steph in math class, or they were hungry so they were having a hard time concentrating, or they were lonely and being in their room by themselves left them feeling utterly desolate, or …
We come home to a mountain of dishes and say, ‘can I get a little help in here’ and in this Otherworld when nobody comes to help us they are acting completely disrespectfully and completely fail to appreciate the hard work we’ve done all day.
But what if instead the reason they didn’t show up was because one was upstairs with their headphones on listening to a lecture that had been assigned for homework, another was out taking the dog for a walk (without even having to be asked!) and the third was helping the fourth with a project for school?
We show up to our intimate partner at the end of a long day and say, ‘wanna curl up and watch something’ and in this Otherworld when they seemingly ignore us we decide that they must hate us and wish that we’d go sleep on the couch for the night.
But what if instead the reason was that they were worried that you were still mad at them because this morning you said something in a clipped tone of voice (because you were in a rush) and they’ve been worried about it all day trying to work out what they did wrong?
In other words, our Otherworld or ‘Solipsistic’ mentality often leaves us missing out on crucial information that we need if we want to accurately understand the world around us.
And as I said before, I guess it’s possible that it’s just those of us on the Autistic Spectrum who struggle with this – in which case you already know the solutions to this problem, which is great – but at our house we have had to learn that there is an alternative to ‘Otherworld Syndrome’. And not only that there is an alternative, but that it’s our job to find that alternative. To assume that there’s probably an explanation for the behaviour, and that in all probably it has nothing to do with me!
How do we get there? Stay tuned for our next post …