our last encounter in the midst of the question, "should we warn
people in advance about a person's difference", and contemplated
the pros and cons from the 'outside' point of view - that of friends,
family members, partners, teachers, or work colleagues. Now we go 'inside'
- from the perspective of the individual.
myself as a subject, I wonder if individual preferences may reflect
one's own comfort with his or her condition. If so, a person's preferences
may fluctuate as a function of where (s)he is at personally. Myself,
I'm more of a 'part the waters before I enter' kind of guy - when I'm
not sure if people 'know' or not, this leads to increased consciousness
of my difference and the ensuing increase of symptoms that this heightened
awareness provokes. I'm also less myself: my guard is up, and this is
detectable to others whether or not they know why. Lastly, I find that
telling people reactively rather than proactively (i.e. telling people
AFTER there is a problem rather than BEFORE) doesn't work as well simply
because people are EXPECTING you to make excuses to get out of whatever
trouble you've gotten yourself into, and so your credibility is shot.
Inform people from the very start, and there is no opportunity for the
irritation and intolerance that behavioural attributions engender to
develop and fester.
flip the coin again now. I'm progressively more indifferent to what
people are noticing and how they're reacting; as a result, I'm more
oblivious as well. So I suppose my preference to warn people is losing
its priority as my self-comfort rises. It occurs to me that embedded
within this stance is more selfishness than I used to possess, but perhaps
that is not such a bad thing if it tempers a previously rampant selfLESSness.
One further disinhibited thought: by not giving people an advance warning,
you are also more likely to challenge preconceptions and shake the status
quo. When typing this, I'm thinking of the client who, only after positively
appraising my professionalism, knowledge and skill, sees my disorder.
Or the chuckling individual in the grocery store line who, after watching
me tic then watches me get into a vehicle with DR DUNC on it. Maybe
this unexpected (and unwarned) turn of events startles him into reconsidering
his initial estimation of me. I like to think it does, anyway.
of the polar opposite positions conceivable for loved ones to hold in
trying to respect the person with a difference, because of the different
places the individual him or herself may be, and because all of this
may evolve over time or change with the situation, perhaps the only
correct position to hold is this: as a loved one you should ASK, and
as the individual with the difference you should TELL. In the end, "those
who assume make an ass of u and me", and all that rot. It has been
my experience that many individuals, when offered a forum for frank
discussion, will indeed ask exactly HOW they should conduct themselves
in the presence of your difference (in my own case, what they should
do when I tic). I typically tell them to pay it no more heed than if
I was scratching a mosquito bite whilst interacting with them, and to
next time, my friends!
B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D., C.Psych.