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Weaving the Threads of Knowledge, Understanding and Acceptance with Self-Compassion, Kindness and Curiosity


One of the things I’ve really valued about my work developing my new training and model of neurodivergent wellbeing is that it has allowed me to really reflect on how I work with clients and what has been most valuable to them.

I love my 1:1 work as a therapist and supervisor and over the years of supporting other neurodivergent folks (and through my own journey) I have notice some themes that come up again and again.


Obviously, everyone’s experience is different, but these themes pop up enough for me to take notice, and when I started creating me resources and training to support this work, they provided a helpful structure for me to organise around. The three threads are Knowledge, Understanding and Acceptance and when they are woven together by compassion, kindness and curiosity they have the power to unlock new possibilities.





Knowledge

I’m a big believer in the power of knowledge, I’m always telling my children that I can only help if I know what’s going on.


When I begin working with new clients, we often start by getting curious and surveying the available data. This is loosely grouped into three separate strands:


  • Neurodivergence in general

  • How our own neurodivergence shows up for us

  • Our context (the external systems and structures we exist in e.g. family, work, society, culture, etc and our own internal values and beliefs



We tend to start with what we do know (which if you’ve been a high masker for a long time is easier said than done). In the beginning, we’re just getting a lay of the land, looking for any familiar landmarks to help guide us on our way.


For clients who may be wary of therapy or who need time to feel safe and comfortable, this curiosity without judgement can be a gentle start as they test the waters before jumping in.

Sometimes, the influence of neuro-normative ideals and other oppressive structures can skew the data. When this is uncovered in our survey, there may be an amount of unlearning to do as we re-evaluate and challenge some of these beliefs.


Letting go of old assumptions and internalised beliefs that do not align with our values can help to make space for a greater understanding of ourselves and our context from a place of compassion and kindness. It is the kindness that can help us to know what our needs really are.




Understanding


While I love having knowledge just for the sake of it, to get the most from this data we have to understand what it means for us. To understand what it would mean to truly attend to our own needs.


What use is it to know we have auditory sensitivity if we don’t use it to make things easier for ourselves by wearing earplugs or limiting time in certain environments?

How helpful is it to know that many of societies expectations are based on neuro-normative beliefs that don’t work for my brain, if we still measure our self worth by the ability to meet them?


The understanding is what allows us to start thinking about how things might be different in the future. This thread isn’t necessarily about making changes, but it is about widening the pool of possibilities we allow ourselves to consider.


This is also the thread that has the most the potential for grief.

  • Grief for the life we thought we might have (if we just tried hard enough).

  • Grief for the different life we might have had if we had know about our neurodivergence sooner.

  • Grief for the the difficult and distressing situations we have experienced from living in a world that is not made for us.


Any change is a loss, even the ones we welcome and this new understanding can feel like a time of overwhelming change. But it is also an opportunity to weave in the thread of knowledge and rediscover parts of ourselves that may have been forgotten or left behind. Alongside the grief, there is also hope, and the possibility of joy.




Acceptance

I always think of this as the most magical thread, it reminds me of the below quote from Carl Rogers.

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change. Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person

When we make peace with our own neurodivergence, when we can respond to it with kindness and compassion, then all sorts of things can become possible.

It is in these moments, where we give ourselves permission to attend to our own needs that we find alternative ways of doing things, or even allow ourselves to let go of them completely.

Obviously our context has a huge bearing on what might be practically possible, which is why that is such an important strand in the knowledge thread.

While some things may never be easy, once we accept ourselves as we are, we can give ourselves permission to curate the life that works for us.



When I write about them like this, as discrete steps, it always makes it sound like a nice, straightforward, linear journey.


But it isn’t, it’s lumpy and bumpy and messy.


It is the kindness, compassion and curiosity that allows us to do this work, to move between to move between the different threads at different times. We think we’ve sorted one part, only to discover we have to keep going back and re-learning (and unlearning), reminding ourselves of what is helpful.


Re-iterating the permissions we have already given ourselves.


The ability to be gentle with ourselves, to step away if it becomes too much. To hold it lightly as something new and fragile is uncovered. To meet our frustrations, sadness and anger with compassion even when they feel like they will overwhelm us.

But over time, it gets a little less tangled, and requires a little less maintenance as we start discover what sustainable balance looks like for us. And then we can begin to curate a life that works for us.

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