Masking, some thoughts

Been thinking today about masking. All humans mask, autistic and non autistic alike. The key is how well we inhabit our mask, how comfortable we are in the mask. Non autistics, extroverts in particular, seamlessly inhabit the mask without much effort, and own their role on the social stage of life. Autistics are more aware of the mask and are less comfortable within it. But there is no question that we can't mask at all. Every social interaction involves masking. To not mask would entail relinquishing one's social duty. Therefore, we have to ask: what bits of the private me are compatible with the public, performing me? On stage, we are as much ourselves as off stage, because what we choose to reveal is a version of ourselves. Choosing to make eye contact, even if it's hard, is a version of yourself. Choosing not to make eye contact can help you to better own the mask and be comfortable on the stage of life, but you will still be masking in other ways. If I were to not mask at all, I would not be interacting, I would be in the social space but not engaging. I would be permanently in the dressing room of life, off stage and alone. Autistics who are not self aware don't mask at all, but self awareness means we have to mask if we want the fruits of human interaction and to fit in. So we have to find a mask we are comfortable inhabiting. We must allow some of our quirks to safely enter the mask, such as stimming, to ensure that we can be included while still being true to ourselves. Autism means cognitive asynchronicity, we are not quite connected to the wi-fi tendrils of the organismic mind. For some autistics, they are completely cut off, others are connected but there is a lot of static and noise, so the signals don't quite get through. We are missing a rhythmic beat, we are not quite in step with the social dance of life. The missing beat might be a fraction of a second, but that delay is critical, and can send out mixed messages to others. We experience it as a loss of connection, as alienation from others. We are not sure what mask to wear on stage, we feel alienated from our mask, not joined to it, because we have not intuitively inhabited the mask from infancy. So we have to intellectually craft a mask for each encounter, dropping massive chunks of who we are in the process. But the mask is still part of who we are, it's just that this public self feels incomplete. So we have to own the mask, to create a public self we are happy with. But, to fit in, we will always need to mask.

Any ideas you might add?

  • I am appalling at masking.  Especially now i spend all my time online.  Agreeabilty is a big part of it.  Vocalising that you see the other person point of view. Rather than just saying what you see like Roy Walker.  No man is an island except autistic man.

  • Masking is hard work. Although many people work, if someone works hard 24/7 they will get sick. There is an appropriate limit for masking, and many autistic people, plus some other neurotypes, exceed it and get sick. To stay within the workload limit, we need space to be ourselves.

    Unfortunately I have reached middle age and burned myself out because I didn't realise it was OK to have this need. People see withdrawal from society as rejection, rudeness, weakness, not showing up. I thought so too. Nearly at the cost of my life, because I became suicidal.