The Integrative Approach to Autism part 15: Little Justice Big Justice

Feb 14 2013

This post continues the 3-Step Integrative Approach to Autism series. Today Part 15: BEHAVIORAL requirements for growth: Little Justice Big Justice

Little Justice vs. Big Justice:

Most autistic and sensitive people are born with a keen sense of justice. Sensitive people may be afraid of many things but are certainly not afraid of expressing their sense of justice. In fact, most of them cannot help themselves. They are honest, too honest. They just have to say it as it is, regardless of the consequences. I had a chance to examine the stories of several whistle blowers from the twentieth century and I was able to detect some degree of a left shift on the personality spectrum everywhere I looked. To the average insensitive person they sound like high rollers, gambling with their life by questioning overwhelming powers. Of course, the pseudo scientists consider learning to lie a milestone in the development of a sensitive person. With that comes all the rationalization of why people for example are advised to lie if asked by their partner whether this outfit looks good on them. This is very unfortunate to say the least. I am not suggesting that offending those close to us is a good thing. However, learned behavior regarding the need for honesty or lack thereof should be approached from the perspective of screening for what matters and what does not. This could be a lifelong training process for many sensitive people.

There are five relevant questions to be asked about every injustice we encounter:

A) The first question is not whether something is right or wrong in absolute terms. The question is whether what we deem to be wrong is hurting anyone, or could potentially hurt self or others. If the answer is no, then a sensitive person would be well advised to let go and move on. It takes a lot of training to get there but it is an honorable and beneficial goal.

B) Another relevant question is, “Will ‘calling it as I see it’ now right the wrong or will it cause more suffering to some of those on the receiving end of the wrong?” There is a time and a place for airing grievances and little injustices. Sometimes, this time never comes and we have to let go and move on. Sometimes, we have to displace airing grievances with silent effort aimed at overturning the injustice. As a teenager, reading The Catcher in the Rye I came across an argument, which I failed to understand at the time. The argument was (paraphrasing) that it is better to live humbly for a cause than to die bravely for it. Here is an illustrative example. A man sets out on a trip from Canada to Brazil hoping to walk through the wilderness until he can discover nature’s wisdom in its entirety. However, every time he encounters two feuding dogs he has to stop and fully observe the fight and make sense out of it. He does not realize there are feuds worth getting into and others not worth his time. In fact, he does not realize that sometimes random, senseless violence (physical or emotional) occurs and there is no point in dwelling on it. He does not realize that stopping to engage in every senseless event distracts him from reaching the Amazon and gaining wisdom and enlightenment in a finite lifetime.

C) A third relevant question is whether what we perceive as injustice is actually injustice, or does it reflect states of being we have not experienced yet? Additionally, does it reflect higher goals we cannot comprehend at that particular stage in our lives? This last question is mostly applicable to sensitive teenagers and young adults who may not fully comprehend the harsh requirements or the magnitude of adversity it takes to achieve great goals. I always take a lot of heat when I suggest this last one. Many people like to think that life should be a perpetual series of pleasant and gratifying events. While this is not realistic, it is also very destructive to think this way. Overcoming adversity is a necessary component of achieving any meaningful happiness and gratification. How else would a person take charge of her affairs if she has not experienced being on the losing side personally, socially and professionally, struggling until she can manipulate her environment in her favor? Until someone shows me how this can be done without experiencing adversity, I am sticking to this point. To put it in simpler terms, gaining physical stamina requires walking, stretching and aerobic exercises. Improving the definition of a bicep requires dumbbells, pushups and lifting weights. If anyone knows of a way to sit on a couch and still achieve stamina or defines her abs, please come forward and speak up. I am all-ears. I am sure there are people whose life stories begin with a mansion on a beach on a tropical island, goes through dating all the supermodels and riding on private planes. I am sure these same people are so rich they never have to think about work or a means to achieve anything in their life, and later they become celebrities or senators at a time of their choosing. I am sure there are people who are so over-privileged in this life they do not have to experience any adversity in order to learn to take charge of their affairs. I am also sure everybody else would like this life. It is not realistic to compare the bulk of sensitive people to such a lifestyle or to feel entitled to it by birth or association. The only privilege I know of is that of growing and evolving through overcoming adversity. It saddens me to know many sensitive people never get the chance to do even that since the adversity they face is too overwhelming for them to ever have a chance to learn from it.

D) The fourth question to ask is: Where is this injustice coming from? Is it coming from a stranger, a sworn enemy, or is it coming from a loved one or an ally? If the injustice is coming from a stranger, then one has to consider the possibility this is a misunderstanding or misguided effort and try to clarify the confusion. If the injustice comes from a sworn enemy purposefully aiming to hurt you, then you have the right to defend yourself and teach the offender a lesson. However, if the injustice is coming from a loved one or an acquaintance, then one has to prioritize taking the direct-discussion-and-questioning route first before assuming anything or making any judgments. Talking it over with a loved one as a first step clarifies intentions and motives or absence thereof and often has the effect of self-correcting for errors. More often than not, your sibling, spouse or friend may be hurting you unknowingly because of ignorance or occupation with self.

E) The fifth question to ask is whether the injustice is an expression of hostility towards you or of hostility emanating from the other because of internal turmoil on their end. This is a very important point. Sensitive people, often feeling socially responsible, have to keep perspective of who is being unfair as an expression of their inner conflict. Figuring out this aspect of injustice may allow sensitive people to take on their ultimate role in society; helping others heal and gain peace by embracing their failures, mistakes and shortcomings as a window to their inner being. A common example is an acquaintance at work or at the gym who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and has found out that she was cheating on him. This guy may easily develop a negative attitude towards women and may act out that attitude. Many people will fight this person and react to his hostility tit-for-tat. A sensitive person, however, may choose instead to show this person that the world is still good and generous and that he will meet another woman who will appreciate him and be truthful with him. This is often done best by acting out a transparency in communication which sensitive people are typically very good at. If we don’t take charge and do that, this guy may go out and date someone new and do to her what was done to him. Then the negative energy builds up exponentially. Meditate on that for a moment, please. No one gains anything by reciprocating hostility with hostility. “Getting even” a glorified concept in today’s world, is the single most destructive force and the main reason for misery across the globe. The world already has so much violence and suffering. Our society already has an unfathomable divorce rate and marital discourse and we are going through an all time low of friendships. No one gains anything by fueling further separation and intolerance of others. Think mercy and understanding and have these questions in mind before reacting to injustice. Gandhi liberated India without a single act of violence. The history of pacifism and loving others to heal them runs deep in our society. We just have to dig a little deeper than our initial impulse to react in order to find the happy and graceful healer inside.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
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