Just Stimming…

A land we can share (a place I can map)

Theory Of War

with 13 comments

I’ve told this story before.

I didn’t have any theory of mind until I was 13.5. I have a very poor autobiographical memory, but I remember the acquisition vividly. I was in gym, attempting to serve a volleyball, and I turned to Sarah, monologuing in my head about something (a strategy I had developed last year to help me with thinking) and she was thinking. I had a mental stream of consciousness in my head. So did she. I looked around the gym. So did everyone.

I was thinking about them. They could think about me.

I would never feel safe again.

A lot of things changed with that realization. I’d never gained any information from eye contact, but now it terrified me. I’d been abused by my peers, but now I realized that there was a persistent mental component as well. That they wanted to hurt me. They thought about me being confused and scared, and they liked it. I’d been doing very well without any sort of therapy or medications for almost a year—I was back at the doctor’s within a month, got another new therapist, and soon started medication. My panic attacks began to last upwards of 36 hours. I started banging my head. I damaged my eyes. I started gouging out my skin. I got a staph infection, and I almost died, twice. I am covered in scars and discolorations.

I am told that I was not, before this discovery, an anxious child. I generally felt safe.

(Inside, if not out.)

I owe a lot to my discovery of theory of mind. I just can’t think of one positive.

I can’t pass the Sally-Ann tests, even now. The language confuses me. But I do know, now, that other people have minds, and they can think with them. About whatever they want. About me.

Which means I will never, ever be safe. I never was.

After all, it’s not just that other people have minds. It’s that they can think things I don’t. They can be thinking about me without my knowledge. But it gets worse.

They can be wrong.

Maybe because I’m autistic, and people think (there we go again, theory of mind) that this means I am a robot. I would love to be a robot, personally. I am always very concerned with accuracy. The thing that upsets me most about “autism science,” isn’t actually the dehumanization and the consequences—it’s the bad science. The most terrifying and distressing thing in the world to me is something being incorrect.

Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, and thus a robot. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, and therefore a simpler, lesser, smaller brain and in desperate need of order. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, and therefore abused, and I know the consequences of acting on mistaken beliefs about someone, know them in my bones.

It’s terrifying.

My ability to acknowledge other minds means that I can converse more effectively than I could before. It also means I am never, ever safe. It means that I can see people being wrong, and I can see other people accepting and believing and spreading the misinformation, and I have to keep quiet. But to me, danger and anxiety and this is wrong are all the same.

So I am never safe.

I have theory of mind, now. I’d like to call it something more accurate.

Maybe theory of war.

Written by Julia

September 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

13 Responses

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  1. “That they wanted to hurt me. They thought about me being confused and scared, and they liked it.”

    Oh, I so get this. What goes on in NTs heads is scary.

    I’ve posted on something related here:


    September 29, 2011 at 7:53 am

    • This was the passage that really struck a chord with me, too. I’m not autistic (afaik) but major ptsd and other stuff such that I identify with a lot of the same experiences. I don’t have a specific moment in time that I remember realizing that my tormentors at home and in school knew exactly what they were doing and were enjoying the pain they caused me, but I know it changed the way I saw the world and my place in it.

      I’ve been reading through a lot of your posts since I stumbled across your blog earlier tonight, and crying my eyes out. Thank you for your sharing your experiences and insights. You will never know how many lives you touch. I hope the benefit is mutual.


      December 19, 2011 at 2:21 am

  2. I hope the world will be safe for you and everyone one day.


    September 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

  3. […] Theory of War (juststimming.wordpress.com) […]

  4. I understand exactly what you mean. I really wish I didn’t, but I do. That sudden realization that nearly everyone is judging us is very unsettling. So much so that I get stressed at replying to stuff like this because I’m convinced you will pour more hate upon me. It sounds irrational, but how can it be irrational when hate does get poured upon us all the time? It’s like someone saying a black in the south in the mid sixties was paranoid when the thought people were judging him. Just because someone thinks the world hates them doesn’t mean that they are paranoid.

    Stephanie H

    March 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm

  5. Whats the Sally-Anne test?

    Julia Persing

    September 6, 2017 at 8:37 am

  6. […] Источник: Just Stimming… Автор: Джулия Баском […]

  7. […] even understand the hostile intent behind the bullying directed against them.  I’ve also read Julia Bascom’s vivid account of the specific point in time when she began to understand what bully….  This would seem to suggest that there are some autistic kids who will shrug off bullying without […]

  8. […] Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, had no theory of mind whatsoever until age […]

  9. […] theory of mind might be delayed in some autistic people, but that doesn’t mean it never […]

  10. […] don’t deny that some autistic kids have delays in developing theory of mind, or that some autistic kids might not grasp certain concepts. But I do […]

  11. […] Julia. 2011. „Theory of War.“ Just Stimming. Available at: https://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/theory-of-war/. Accessed on: May 14, […]

  12. Reblogged this on Autism Candles.

    Autism Candles

    January 23, 2021 at 12:10 pm

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