The Mask of Equanimity – Hidden Agendas
I’ve recently got back from a family visit. I’ve realized that my needs have historically been consistently ignored. As a general rule, I choose not to show my emotions, so people choose to assume that I don’t have any.
My mother chooses to treat me like a small child. This is nothing to do with my autism however, as I was only diagnosed a year ago. Here are some examples:
- She makes a huge scene when we cross the road, as if she’s worried that I am going to hurt myself
- She pretends that she needs to wrap me up in a warm coat/gloves/hat etc. if it is the slightest bit cold, even though I‘ve brought my own.
- She pretends that she is worried when I go out on my own
- She won’t let me out of her sight for more than ten seconds
Understandably, this means that I avoid visiting my mother alone. I now have a policy of only visiting when my sister and her children are there, so she can be distracted by real ones, instead of having to indulge in her fantasies. I’m not imagining this, the rest of the family can see it too.
It’s hard to know she would want to treat me like this, as she is in many ways a loving, caring person. She knows me well enough to understand that being treated like this must make me extremely unhappy, yet she still chooses to do it. I am a very capable adult who has lived on my own since I was seventeen, so there is absolutely no rationale behind it.
After spending two nights with her, my brain feels like it has been systematically shredded.
It would have been nice to think that I would be shown some more consideration since my diagnosis, but that hasn’t happened. Perhaps she would be able to understand that I need a certain amount of time on my own or I become increasingly fragmented.
Perhaps the problem is that I have never formally told her that I don’t like being treated like this. Unfortunately, knowing my mother as I do, I’m reasonably certain that if I did tell her, her response would be to treat the whole thing like a massive joke. She would giggle, tell me she loves me and tell me that “she’ll always think of me as her baby”.
Maybe people simply don’t know how I’m feeling. I have been told that my face often shows a neutral expression and perhaps that’s part of the problem. In my diagnostic report, it was stated that I “had a limited range of facial expressions”, the implication being that this is an autistic trait.
I often find that it’s easier to go along with what everybody else wants. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, it’s just that sometimes, its easier to sacrifice my own happiness for a peaceful life. After all, there is nothing dignified or pleasant about arguing with friends or family over inconsequential things.
I’ve been studying human behaviour for as long as I can remember and one of the things that particularly fascinated me is the concept of the ‘hidden agenda’. Sometimes these agendas are so well hidden that their owners themselves are not even aware of their existence.
When people communicate, their words often have more than one meaning – the standard meaning and the implied meaning. When you interact with people, you can only truly understand their conversation if you are familiar with their hidden agendas, because only then do you fully understand the implied meaning of their words.
For example, many years ago, a male friend of mine was sexually harassed by his woman boss and it has obviously had a profound and traumatic effect on him. When he comments on sexual harassment of women, he is always quick to point out that ‘men get harassed too’. Anyone taking his comments in isolation might be forgiven for thinking them to be politically dubious, but because I know him so well and am aware of his past experience, I take this into account when I interpret his words.
These hidden agendas can include past traumatic experiences, hopes and dreams, religion, betrayal, family problems etc. I’m certainly not claiming to be immune to this, as I’m well aware that I have plenty of my own.
As for my mother, she was happiest as a new parent, she adores children and enjoys the feeling of importance she gets from being in charge. She has made a unilateral decision that it is appropriate to treat me in this way because it makes her happy and she can pretend to be back in some kind of Golden Age.
I appreciate that these agendas are inevitable. We would not be human if we were not influenced by our past and damaged by our negative experiences. I do not blame people for having these agendas, all I ask is that they are aware of them and understand exactly how they colour their social interactions.
There have been many times when someone has upset me (either in real life or on social media) and when I have politely responded by expressing my own opinion, have shrieked
“How dare you!”
The possibility that they might have upset me in the first place doesn’t even seem to have entered their head. Their own personal agendas seem to have influenced the interaction to such an extent that they are no longer capable of seeing anything from anybody else’s point of view.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m some kind of ‘psychic sponge’ that exists only to absorb other people’s emotions, smooth things over for them and make their lives easier at the expense of my own happiness.
I’ve been hearing a lot about ‘self-care’ recently and perhaps 2018 will be the year that I start practising this. I have a chronic pain condition that is made worse by stress and interactions like this don’t just upset me, they also make me physically ill.
My feelings are just as valid as anybody else’s and I refuse to associate with anyone that implies otherwise. If the only way that I can survive intact is to avoid people like this, then that’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m tired of being collateral damage in other people’s wars.
“Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey” – The Beatles, 1968