11/01/2012

Snapshots May Distort Perception

It's easy to forget when we read a blog post online that it is nothing more than a snapshot of the writer's beliefs and feelings at the moment it is written. We often allow ourselves the right to feel whatever emotion we are having but are quick to invalidate other people's emotions as inappropriate, horrible, and wrong. Sometimes it seems that this happens every day in the online autism community, and many of us experience people invalidating our own current emotional realities in the real world.

There's a series of children's books and DVDs called ToddWorld that reinforce to children that it's okay to be them, it's okay to be different. My girls loved them when they were little, and they were wonderful for teaching them about different kinds of people, different kinds of emotions, and that it is all okay.

We define who we are based on the feedback people give us, by how they react to us, by whether they show us we are truly okay or whether they reject us, require us to be other than who we are. Our children need to hear, need to feel, need to believe that we truly believe they are more than okay. They need to know that emotions are fleeting, and that they are merely snapshots in time and not indicators of a person's totality.

And just as importantly, we need to take that to heart, especially when we are reading another person's words online: those words are a snapshot of a particular moment in time. Perhaps those words reflect a deep, wounding pain; a desperate cry for help; a lament or a wish. When we decide to dogpile on a person because of those words, we are emphatically telling them not only are their words not okay, they aren't either. We like to leap right into the mix, get our outrage on, and sometimes that's entirely appropriate. We should, though, be careful and remember that one essay, one conversation, is simply a snapshot in time, and may be a distortion. The more we in the community dogpile, the more likely our perceptions of a piece will be distorted and we will miss any underlying message the person was trying to convey and we may, with our outrage and rejection, make another person's life much harder than it already was. Is that really what we want to put out there, especially when we are trying to create a world that accepts differences in our children, in ourselves, in our friends as okay?

It shouldn't mean free passes and no consequences, but failing to consider the context that a person was writing in, failing to first look with compassion helps no one. How often have we written something and had some one jump down our throats and make our lives harder? Why would we want to put that back into the world?


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