When a Swedish, 16 year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome becomes a high profile environmental activist, you can bet she is pushing many people’s buttons.
Therefore how come, as Joseph de Maistre says in August 1811 about Russia’s new parliament, (English translation thanks to Wikipedia) “every country has the government it deserves?”
Is it that we cannot recognise the traits of great leaders if we have not received the same gifts as they did from an early age by their caregivers?
As Leon F Seltzer Ph.D says: “The positive regard we received from our parents may have depended almost totally on how we acted, and unfortunately we learned that many of our behaviors weren’t acceptable to them. So, by identifying ourselves with these objectionable behaviors, we inevitably came to see ourselves as inadequate.”
What if Greta Thunberg received unconditional acceptance for who she is by her parents – and perhaps grandparents – and therefore is not ashamed of behaviours linked to Asperger’s Syndrome? Therefore, she does not try to hide these traits or aspects of herself and she accepts them instead of being ashamed of them as many people are.
Another Swede, journalist Gretchen Carlson says about her Swedish grandmother: “…She’d listen to my woes, and she’d even defend me to my mom. She once said to her, “You can’t stop Gretchen from being Gretchen.”
The illustration here is that acceptance of who the child is, as a complete person rather than on condition of behaviour, allows them to become more confident than their conditioned counterparts. Perhaps all parents, who can provide unconditional love naturally, but don’t always get the acceptance part right, need some guidance from their own parents. Many people, who struggle with confidence in adult life are those who did not have grandparents around in their childhood. Therefore they would naturally project this lack of security onto other children, such as Greta Thunberg.
Unconditional love can naturally lead to conditional acceptance as a means of controlling the child or directing the behaviour. This serves a real purpose such as keeping the child away from danger. However, it may be for selfish reasons, or because the parent doesn’t want distraction from their own thoughts. Controlling the child’s behaviour, by giving or withholding acceptance of the child’s very existence, may make the child safer in the short term but they will find it harder to trust human behaviour later in life.
This is where communication before the event makes a huge difference. Think back to what your parents taught you. Do you remember where you were when you first heard about “stranger danger” or using the Green Cross Code? These were valuable lessons we learned from our parents before something had gone wrong. They may even have prevented the child getting into danger.
There are plenty of times in all our lives when we do not know what is the best thing to do. Sometimes we even ask other people who also might not know. However, in our childhood we are more likely to remember our parents’ advice when we’ve asked for help rather than being scolded after we have got it wrong. Scolding tends to be stashed away in the trauma section of the brain, only to be triggered by later similar traumas. Storing these harsh lessons away from our conscious could cause an adult to be scared to take risks because the response is so unpredictable, until they realise it isn’t their problem if someone gets angry when they don’t get it right first time.
Relationships with ourselves
As parenting in the western world is considered “low-level emotional abuse” by the World Health Organisation, it is not surprising we continue to interact in a dysfunctional way as adults. Our relationships with ourselves are far from what they could be.
We can learn in a nanosecond how to completely accept ourselves. However, first we have to put our fingers on what we don’t like about ourselves. Then we need to know why. Then we need to distinguish between who we are and who we are being in any given moment, which is not who we are overall.
According to Dr. Leon Seltzer, “if deep within us we’re ever to feel — as our normal state of being — happy and fulfilled, we must first rise to the challenge of complete, unqualified self-acceptance.”
When we reflect, if we remember helpful guidance when we asked for it, before we have displeased a parent, this guidance comes without personal judgement. Many people have a picture in their mind when remembering their guardian’s wisest words or most memorable sayings. On the other hand, painful moments, stressful times and feelings of rejection after being scolded are suppressed from conscious memory.
The lessons learned after something bad has happened are often forgotten too, as the memory is painful and our minds suppress it for better survival. All that remains is what we started doing to fix the particular situation. We carry on using this new strategy to prevent a recurrence of the event that caused us a painful reaction.
Separate sense of identity
As children, particularly before the age of eight, when we begin to have our own separate sense of identity from our parents, we take everything personally. If a parent is sad, depressed, lonely, angry or stressed, we will feel it as if it a response to our behaviour and could become wary adults as we grow up.
What does carry on, however, like a never-ending record, is a vicious circle, before we have completely dissected what is going on and what is our part and what is coming from someone else. Something bad happens and we try and fix it afterwards as we did when our parents seemed unhappy with us all those years ago. It may be that we tripped in public and were shamed for being clumsy. It could be that we started singing and were told to shut up. It may be that our parents wanted some peace and quiet and we didn’t know that and just felt invalidated for existing.
What we do not ever seem to learn, until we recognise how this is directly connected to getting good advice that prevents something going wrong, is how to say something in the moment. This is natural and we all project. Projection is our natural way of trying to see ourselves. Only, today people have framed projection as wrong and muddied the playing field. Projection is just our way of seeing ourselves.
The actual problem is believing our reflection is actually other people and not recongising ourselves. We know ourselves better than anyone else, so if someone is talking to you as something you know you are not, they are not aware that they are projecting. Making projection wrong has caused this confusion.
Therefore, back to Greta Thunberg.
Those of us with traits that are considered autistic, or coping mechanisms we have learned to deal with reactions to autistic traits displayed in childhood may recognise these traits in other people. If we have been penalised or held back in some way due to these traits, they will trigger some pain or stress in us. Then when we see a confident 16 year old becoming known worldwide for speaking out for the environment, we might just see the traits of her Asperger’s Syndrome, which we were punished for as children, and not the whole person. This is because we were not accepted for ourselves in childhood. Perhaps, being brought up in Sweden, Greta Thunberg was accepted for herself.
Greta Thunberg has the self-assurance and confidence of someone who has not been held back by her Asperger’s, not been treated as unacceptable, criticized or punished for autistic traits. It is this that makes her all the more triggering for many people who have learned to deny their autistic traits.
The opportunity now is to focus on yourself for a minute or two. You can burst every bubble that is weighing your ego down until it floats away. You can shed every unhelpful or detrimental comment or action you don’t’ want to keep. Make a note of everything about Greta that triggers you. Then ask yourself why? What does it remind you of? A painful memory? Something bad happening? Rejection? Being shamed in public? A massive scolding from a parent, sibling or teacher?
Complete self acceptance has to come from a core part of you. Most probably, it will be from something about you from the first 8 years of your life. It may be a state you go into sometimes. It may be something that often gets you into trouble. It may be something you say or do when you want to control an outcome. It may be a recurring situation you want to avoid. It may be how you behave when you are stressed. It may be what you do when you face rejection or the fear of rejection.
Too bad people try to block others from making excuses. Hindsight doesn’t get a good press either. Both of these can lead us to parts of ourselves that we keep resisting and fighting. They can lead us to our major injustices.
When you find something challenging, what excuses do you make for yourself? What do you do when you lack confidence or feel insecure. What makes you feel insecure?
The ultimate aim is just to be at peace. Acceptance is the source of peace as it allows difference to exist as valid. Acceptance is the source of love too. They say you cannot love anyone else unless you love yourself. Like other things this is not accurately worded, which is a waste and a pity. Complete self acceptance will make your life a lot more enjoyable, free and peaceful as well as being much easier to navigate and let love from other people in.