Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Neurodiversity As a Defense Mechanism?

When I first thought to write to the issue of "Defense Mechanisms in Autistic Culture" as a Psychology class assignment, my mind was focused on the typical stereotypic behaviors that so often mark our labeling. But Mom came across an obscure blog that claimed the entire neurodiversity autism movement is a product of Freudian defense mechanisms(Mitchel, 2009). Specifically, he discussed denial, displacement and reaction formation . The denial is seen as our refusal to acknowledge our defectiveness or brokeness. The displacement is our lashing out at our tormentors, the curebies as they are called. And the reaction formation is our embracing ourselves as being valuable human beings. I can not speak for others on their motivation for promoting neurodiversity, but I can speak to my own motivations and defensive mechanisms play no part in it. I have long described myself as a whole soul imprisoned in a broken body. If I am guilty of denial, it is in not accepting that as a death knell to my personhood. To say we are differently wired - we are,with cross wirings and burnt out connections and alternate pathways just to name a few. If it is reaction formation to love and accept oneself with one's limitations then I wish it for all the world, and most especially for Mr.Mitchel. I don't need to justify the heartache of autism, God does. It serves a higher purpose and that is enough for me. All life is valuable in God's eyes, just as he created it.


  1. Hi Mike.

    It was interesting to read your point of view about neurodiversity as a defence mechanism.

    There are some of the mature ones there too: like humour.

  2. Adelaide,

    Actually, the maturity is in recognizing and accepting your right to view it differently. I wonder how old your child is if autistic. Mom says seeing the vaulie in autism is often an evolutionary process that comes from growing with/because of it. I would far prefer to live an integrative existence than assimilation that requires I deny who and what I am. If I were to say "autism is great." then I might agree with your perception of my motivation. But I fully acknowledge autism sucks as an experience. It is my spiritual belief in God as a source and in God as having his own reasons for its creation that grounds my argument; and that belief extends to all suffering. Now I know some don't attribute suffering to God, but if he didn't create it, heat least permits it. I have seen the love that arises out of it, not just autism but many sufferings. Your response demonstarated another truth, that what is glib is often devoid of insight, but as an autist I'm not supposed to see glib.

  3. Mike,

    So refreshing to see this perspective coming from someone with ASD. It is something that I have considered, but frankly, don't write about as I worry that it will come across as condescending and insulting to adults with autism who identify themselves as ND. But as it is a condition that results in impaired perception, might not the opinion that the dangers of autism are overblown and that is is an alternate cognition also be a result of impaired perception of the true realities?

    I spent some time arguing with ND's on the Huffington Post this week, trying to get across the point that functioning level has absolutely ZERO to do with the value of a human being. One ASD/ND woman argued that she was her autism and hating autism was hating her. I argued that autism was a result of an organ dysfunction, that she was a soul whose brain was not serving her as well as it could, and that she was not her cognition any more than she was her sense of smell.


    She just wasn't seeing it. Or chose not to.

    This quote:

    "I have long described myself as a whole soul imprisoned in a broken body."

    ...much more succinctly encapsulates the verbose argument I was trying to make. Thank you.

    And it is truly a statement that is true of all of us. Our bodies are all broken in different ways, and all of us have brains that distort the truth in life in some way.

    You are wise to see that an embrace it in the midst of this discussion about the value of people with autism.

    As today is Easter, I will direct you to a series I wrote called Autism in God's Economy that speaks to the value of those with autism, and the fact that it has nothing to do with their functioning level. It is in the second installment. This is the link to the first:


    I think that the causation issue is also something that should be completely dissociated with the value of those with autism. It doesn't matter if it is caused by genes or vaccines or medications or mercury or sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads. People with autism are valuable. Period.

    I have a sense that if these principles were embraced by those with autism, then defense mechanisms would fall away because they would realize that there is absolute nothing to defend!

    People with autism have value because they are people, and people have value. And people are valuable regardless of what they can do. So what is there to defend? There is no need to justify ones self or talk people into seeing them as valuable for what they can do that is special.

    I feel like those in the ND movement have fallen into a big trap of self-justification where none is needed.