Monday, April 5, 2010

Motivations of An Autist

In Psych class we are studying motivation and needs. Maslow's hierarchy is presented as a neurotypical model. It got me thinking about my autistic hierarchy of needs. Initially, I was wholly internally motivated because the outside world made no sense to me. Primary needs I understood first. My needs were seen through a primitive and often inaccurate schema of understanding. Kitchen meant food. Car meant drink (because a ride often produced a drink in process). Motivation had nothing to do with planned interactions with the world. Everything was a matter of random gifting from God. In that sense my hierarchy differed from Maslow. Maslow's hierarchy seems premised on the concept of people having some understanding of control over their needs. In the absence of control, needs take on a different meaning and importance. My first need was companionship. Odd you may think for an autist? And I would argue that Maslow's attachment is an entirely different need, one based in physical not emotional. As a sensory sensitive child attachment as physical was an aversive to me. A hug did not translate to safety and security, isolation did. Attachment was not a need, disattachment was. Esteem was likewise an impossibility because I experienced no sense of a physical personhood. Cognitive preceded esteem and esthetic preceded cognitive as a need. The act of being took all precedence in the active sense of experiencing the moment and intrinsic beauty of God's creation, whether it be the sound of raindrops or the deep colors of the world's tapestry.
When forced to intereact with the world, escape became my primary motivation; escape back to the higher valued goals of esthetic being and the warmth of companionship I found with God. You may question my goal of companionship with God, but I assure you God was there with me in my autistic home. He does not abandon us at birth. Rather, we abandon him for the distractions of the physical world. I find it interesting that Maslow puts transcendence at the top of his chart as being the last and hardest for us to achieve. My experience is it is a gift we ignore not a goal/need to be sought.
My life focus is therefore different from the start. God is my motivation; living out his purpose in life for me. His purpose is sometimes clear, sometimes elusive. A cognitive understanding of life is a prerequisite to living it with intent. But I also believe we live out our purpose regardless. The process is for our benefit/advantage not God's; the being is his benefit, in all its aspects. My motivation is God's experience through me; it is an act of love to live it.
The only true rejection of God is suicide as a rejection of God's living through you. Suicide stems from a lack of emotion,not depression, but an apathy for life sustaining. That may be counter to prevailing theory, but it is mine. Often suicide is misunderstood as an escape, but it is not. To self end is to circumvent the purpose of a life that requires a redo for individual soul advancement. I just know it,is my best explanation to you.
But to finish the question, in practical every day, Mom is the motivation and director of life's plan. I now cooperate, but I still have a way to go in self seeking motor action. Cognitive I see as offered in opportunity; to learn I love as an extension of being. Self-determination I seek in all its meaning of personhood. I work at it on my own, tiny steps at a time I make that need to climb a mountain. But it goes back to a love of God's gift of being. I hope that makes sense to you.


  1. I can see what you mean about suicide and apathy to life sustaining.

  2. I'm trying hard to understand this. Thank you for trying to explain. I hope through discussion, your experiences of the world make more senses. Because my NT mind may be limited in a way that yours may not be, I can only hope to understand your experiences as they relate to experiences that I have had. Understanding God, the Divine or Love as motivation happens to me most clearly when I meditate. What you write is so beautiful, I feel it in my heart as transcendence-- "The act of being took all precedence in the active sense of experiencing the moment and intrinsic beauty of God's creation, whether it be the sound of raindrops or the deep colors of the world's tapestry."

    There is another blog that I read, written by a spiritual healer and teacher, Scott Marmorstein and it just so happens that in my mind, this quote feels like it relate to what you are talking about (at least in my mind, but PLEASE, correct me if I am off base.) --"I see your problem clearly, and raise you another…

    You think you have to define yourself by what you do in this world, or that what your talent is, is who you are. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, that is not how it is. You have to find out who you are from within, before you can enjoy doing anything outside. In fact, you are not anything you “do” in this outer world.

    If you are having a problem “finding yourself” it is because you are looking for it in the things you “do” outside, in the world, to earn an income, or to fulfill yourself. These things are all temporary and unfulfilling in the long run. Even rock stars, famous actors, and so on are not very happy after they have fulfilled their initial thrills of their chosen profession. Happiness and peace does not come from your vocation, your talents, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, or the people you hang out with (try to be around good people when possible, of course) nor does it come from the praise of others.

    To really know who you are, to understand what your dharma in this world is, you have to turn within. You have to meditate. When you behold your authentic Self, you gain tremendous inner clarity about what you should be doing in this world. It may be as simple as working at an outlet store, preparing other people’s taxes, making jewelry, or anything, but you will do it with a profound sense of Love. All is seen clearly as it is. You can do or not do any particular thing, and remain free and happy within your own being. You stop seeing the suffering even of your own mind as ‘imperfect’ because as it is, the suffering is perfectly natural to the mind. Still, there is an Awareness of watching the mind and its suffering, which are perfectly what they are and need to be when they need to be that way . . ." Could it be that meditation helps us to experience, what you were experiencing so early in your life? Thank you for sharing your profound insights!

  3. Tina,

    This is very wise. I will ask my Mom to read me more of him. Thank you. Mike

  4. I've always been interested in science, especially in the way that people think and go about doing things.

    Although I'm not autistic, I was born with dyslexia, so I suppose I can say I understand how a boundary or wall between the connection of brain and body feels. As a child people would say a word like "bed", I'd think it, and my hand would write "deb".

    I don't know anyone who is autistic (well, other than you now) and haven't learned much about it. From what you write, it really seems like the task of learning should be done by the world before those who are autistic. I've seen and read some articles on autism, but I find I can't get much understanding from simple words from someone who isn't autistic themselves. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I find it very refreshing to actually hear it straight from the very person who is autistic. I find there's much more value in hearing it from the one who knows from experience instead of perception.

    As for this whole "retarded" label, I cannot agree with it. Your vocabulary, use of the English language and how you express yourself could very well put most of North Americans your age to shame. Some kids choose not to learn just because they "don't want to". To read your writing impresses me, to say the least. What I see is proof of a great effort.

    I barely have an understanding of autism, but I hope to gain a better understanding by reading more of your writing. I have so many questions. There's something intriguing about perspective and learning how to see things through someone else's eyes.

    Thank you for opening up and writing.