Monkey Bars- Gut Instincts

Let’s talk about instincts. All too often we as autistic people get bullied or taken advantage of by the wrong people. Why? Because many of us let it happen and do not even realize that we are.


In general, I have a tendency that I have worked very hard to fight of being attracted to toxic friendships and relationships. Why do I unconsciously seek them out? Because I crave social cues from those I am spending time with. Somewhere along the way I confused controlling, bossy, and bullying type of behavior as social cuing.


I think many of us may attract to bossier people because let’s be honest, it is exhausting to remember social cues and deal with all the sensory. So when we find someone who appears to be helpful in that way we don’t mind being bossed around a little bit because the trade off is we get a break from reading all the cues. I also often find that I am taken advantage of because of the struggle I have with nonverbal cues. Because for me personally I was never able to read them and memorized every single one, I often doubt myself.


“They seem to be treating me poorly or taking advantage of me…but I don’t know all the cues so maybe I’m just misreading them.”


This is what I always used to say to myself. But here’s the truth. No matter what part of the spectrum you are on instinct is inherently different from nonverbal cues or empathy ability.


I think that as people on the spectrum, especially those of us like me that were diagnosed in very early childhood (and certainly people who go undiagnosed as well),  have spent so much time mirroring other people to master the social skills and nonverbal cues that eventually it becomes second nature to compare ourselves and our behavior to everyone around us. While mirroring is a skill I am grateful for because it allowed me to learn the nonverbal language of neurotypicals to some degree, it also over time slowly lowered my self-esteem. Because if you are constantly mirroring and your way of processing is in the minority or sometimes “wrong” then of course you begin to doubt yourself.


This feeling eventually leads to and attracts people that will take advantage of you because they can easily write off bad behavior with the excuse “you don’t understand what I actually mean.” On some level, I think some of us fear that response and so we write ourselves off too early.


But I am here to tell you not to write yourself off so easily. We DO have the ability to have a gut feeling. Instincts and gut feelings are different because it goes deeper than just being able to generally read how a person is feeling or picking up in a vibe in a room. It is the oldest primal response our bodies have to situations. That is why it is separate and we should not assume that simply because we cannot pick up on other things we do not have the ability to have instinct.


Jennifer Lsi, another adult on the spectrum puts it perfectly:


“Before diagnosis I never questioned my gut instinct about people. After diagnosis I still don’t. Communication and interpretation is where I fall short. I may not get what they are saying but my gut feeling is still good. Super empathy power meets a tendency to be suspicious.”


We may not always be able to communicate or interpret nonverbal behaviors or feelings, but our gut feelings are still accurate. Give yourself credit. If something feels off, it likely is.


Lastly, I leave you with this: even if for argument’s sake you feel you may be misreading a situation and are ready to excuse behavior because you cannot pick up on the cues…your feelings are still valid. If you feel that a behavior is wrong towards you, that in itself is enough. Neurotypicals often offend each other without meaning to because of words or actions they did not realize would be offensive or down putting. And they address it. We must do the same for ourselves. Anytime someone puts you down or hurts you whether intentionally or unintentionally, you have valid feelings and reasons to address it. Autism does not change that.


I encourage everyone to give themselves more credit. I work on this every day. Ever since I started trusting my intuition and ending toxic relationships my life has drastically changed and taken off in positive directions. I know this is true no matter what neurology you are. Never let your neurology or others make you doubt your feelings. Believe in yourself.


8 thoughts on “Monkey Bars- Gut Instincts

  1. Mary Lynn Willis May 27, 2018 — 4:43 am

    So true! Trust your inner self.
    It is there for a reason. If you are unsure, autistic or neurotypical, seek out support from someone you trust.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. I believe the instinctual response on whether someone is “clean” / safe is much deeper – and probably much more ancient in an evolutionary sense … don’t animals often do it correctly? – than reading conventional cues.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! Some other reasons I’ve been drawn to … “challenging” relationships over the years are:

    1. Alexithymia – I can’t tell how I feel about a situation. I literally can’t tell how I feel about a person and how they’re treating me.

    2. Slow processing speed – I’m too busy parsing the environmental cues to realize someone’s yelling at me all the time. This is a real thing with me.

    3. Auditory processing issues – I can’t tell right away that someone is being mean to me, because I can’t actually hear everything they’re saying to me.

    4. Memory issues – The slow processing speed makes things register later, the auditory processing issues only allows some stuff to get through. And then I forget the details of what was said or done, and life goes on as it has been.

    5. Being yelled at and treated badly wakes me up – I often feel sluggish and brain-foggy, and that makes me feel terrible about myself. But when someone is being mean to me, it makes me more alert. Even if the circumstances are hurtful, at least I feel like I’m awake and I feel like “myself”. So, it doesn’t seem so awful. It actually feels engaging.

    6. Logic, logic, logic – I tend to click into logical mode, in challenging situations, so I don’t really feel emotionally impacted, every single time. Sometimes I am, but not always. Sometimes it’s just an objective thing that happens, and I don’t get emotional about it. Of course, other times I do.

    On the whole, I think the mental health / relationship standards that apply to the general population don’t necessarily apply to me. Yeah, absolutely, it would be great to not be abused by the people I consider friends, but people are people, and frankly, I often can’t tell if people are actually being mean to me, or not. If I can’t detect it, it doesn’t affect me, so it’s far less of a tragedy for me than it is for others who are deeply impacted.

    Maybe I’m sounding all denial-y, but that’s how I see it. That’s my experience. I’m still here, I have a really positive self-image, I’m able to care for and protect myself, and I’m living a far better life (for myself) than I ever dreamed possible.


    1. This is fantastic. I agree especially with the processing and the sensory. We are so overloaded and overstimulated it is extremely difficult to tell in the moment exactly how we are being treated because we are spending all of our energy just to process the conversation itself. I always realize later as well what has happened and rarely am able to address it in the moment because I need that reflection time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Just Under Your Radar and commented:
    Great post – very thought-provoking. This is the kind of stuff we need to think about. A lot. Would be great if we could find some alternatives to one crappy relationship after another. I know it was a challenge with me for years… decades… most of my life.


  5. I find NT’s address boundary violations in a myriad of subtle ways, which is why I never learned how to respond to them; I never saw it. That, and my direct approach of flat out telling them it was offensive didn’t work, so I didn’t know what to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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