Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people say things to me like:
“sometimes, we just need to keep things in our head.”
“why do you care about what others think about you so so much.”
“why do you complain so much.”
Et cetera. Whatever.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this because I self-analyze my behaviors fairly often just to see what’s going on with me. It’s valuable to me to check in with myself about if the person I present is the person I am, and if I present differently than I am, why?
Very often, I find these assessments others make about me incorrect. Especially the synopsis that I care deeply about what others think of me in a way that affects my personhood. If this were actually true, I would be a very different person.
I am a person who exists in this world full of others. Being mindful of that is not the same as being concerned about what others think. (Note, anxiety disorders can definitely make it seem like your views are centered on how others feel about you. For some forms of anxiety, that is true, but not in the way most people assume. Anxiety is part of our bodies’ natural responses to keep us safe. When we have an anxiety disorder, there is something that makes our defensive responses activate at the wrong times, too long, or too often. And we can learn to manage this, but an anxiety disorder requires a different type of brain retraining than simply having low self-esteem, but this is another more extensive discussion )
I wondered if that’s just a personal failing of mine; that I’m not willing to see flaws in my character just because I disagree with them until a few weeks ago when I made a post about how incredulous I am about how some people view my posts as negative or complaining. Someone said that they see me as processing things. So I’ve sat with that for a minute, and then the fact that people internally and externally process hit me.
Light bulb moment.
I realized that for a large number of my experiences, around the time that I graduated from my undergrad that I couldn’t internally process those things because I didn’t/ don’t have the ability to understand those concepts and experiences from an internal perspective. I need more information, [potential] context, and sometimes support.
It wasn’t even an unconscious choice that I made necessarily. The unconscious choice I made was to accept that “confused kitty is confused” is an accurate statement about myself and not a sure random blurb. For most of my life, I internally processed out of necessity, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized that I do not naturally process internally. I processed information the way I was taught to, but no one taught me how to use this method properly or why that is what was expected. In short, it’s expected because it makes people comfortable, not because it is the right or only way to process information.
Upon reflection, I’ve learned that at a certain point, I became unable to interact outside my default of externally processing for many situations simply because something is missing; if I attempt to process internally, the perspective is skewed, or the misunderstanding increases. We won’t even discuss the conflicting issues with OCD as well. If I don’t understand something or a situation, internally processing just because I was told to do so helps no one. Again, we are cable of both internal and external processing.
I realized that due to how I experience the world (what I now know is me being autistic and experiencing socializing through that lens) that there are just some things I don’t get, but when people hold the expectation that I, or even intentionally put roadblocks in communication by prioritizing that the situation MUST be internally processed, they do a few things whether consciously or unconsciously:
- Block my communication and hinder connection.
- Engage in both direct and indirect isolation.
- Disrupt my ability to discussion make.
- Reestablish the idea that there is only one way of think and expression.
- Engage in able-ism and reinforce stigmas.
- Continue to remove us from communal interactions, further, and learning to have and express boundaries as whole people while seeing another person as a whole person who is not a copy of us.
So, in summary, I both internally and externally process, but for me to interact in social environments, I cannot stay in my head because my head does not understand the world the same way.
Externally processing allows me to understand perspectives that I may not fully comprehend through reading a book or watching a situation occur. As a neurodivergent person, it is common to misinterpret or miscommunicate and need a little extra support to interact in the situation based on the reality instead of just what I think the situation is due to my understanding. But also, for people to be effective in communicating and actually helping people do that, they also have to listen to what the person is saying and not just their perception of why a person may be externally processing.
So my question is, why do we interpret what a person says to be complaining if they are not complaining. Now I have asked this question on my social media before, and it’s been made clear that complaining is often based on an individual’s personal experience and how they use language. That makes a lot of sense to me, but it also seems incomplete. If we are talking about something that bothers us or confounds us, is it automatically a complaining? What is the difference between having a complaint that is an observation and being a complainer?
If you assume that a person externally processing is about them needing to people please or be validated for others, then does that mean that as a whole, humans only ever care about what someone else thinks about them rather than having the ability to say this is how I feel about myself even though I recognize that I am one person out of all of the people that live on this planet.
Also, who has decided what is appropriate and inappropriate to share?
I definitely think that when it comes to privacy, respect, and information sharing that there may be conversations that people have about how information is presented and discussed when you externally process. It is an interesting concept.
Generally, I have these discussions within my intimate relationships, which is why when I externally process about anything related to a person, they generally understand the conversation that I’m having have approved of that conversation that I’m having or have decided that they don’t care about the outcome of that conversation.