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Did You Even Know You Had Been "Masking" for Decades? Autistic Masking and The Picture of Dorian Gray- Reflections on Similarities


Chances are your answer is no, just like mine was.

In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, the main character, Dorian, lives two very different lives in physical reflection.  One life is his outer body which remains young and attractive, and the other is his portrait which ages and reflects all the external happenings instead of his actual outward appearance.  Dorian remains young and handsome on the outside, while his portrait does not.

I don't compare this in the strictest sense, but rather as a way to convey how I perceive autistic masking and how it manifests in both the physical exterior and the internal worlds of an individual.

I didn't even know what Autistic Masking was even after the first few years of knowing I was autistic.  It is a term that you learn and become familiar with after you get into the autistic community.

The definition of "Social Masking" as it is discussed in the psychology and Autism world is:

Masking is a process in which an individual changes or "masks" their natural personality to conform to social pressures.

As autistics who didn't know we were autistic, we subconsciously used the tool of Social Masking from an early age because it was "safer" than being ridiculed or ostracized for our unique communication style as compared to "other people." 

This tool that has kept us "safe," over time becomes a habit and more importantly to note masking becomes an automated way of being over time when you don't know you are doing it or why.

This is where my Dorian Gray illustration comes into play.  I felt like my outside was the elegant and refined Dorian Gray and my inside world was ageing, decaying, and morphing into something twisted and unrecognizable.  My external and internal worlds were in direct conflict to one another.

I had contorted myself for decades masking for safety and it had become a subconscious automation.  I was even masking when I was alone.  The stress of my disjointed external and internal worlds took its toll and is one of the early, large contributors to my many autistic burnouts.

It took the combination of awareness and a gentle and slow unmasking process to align my external and internal worlds.  It wasn't easy.  It didn't happen overnight.  But it did happen, and it was worth every second of energy, effort, tears, frustration, and excited discovery moments that I experienced along the way.  Getting to the authentic me has been more than I could have conceived possible when I began.  I just knew when I started that there HAD to be something better and that there was a life for me that was joyful and peaceful.

And my dear friend, I want you to know that the small almost whisper quiet voice that is telling you that what I am saying it true for you too, it is speaking the truth to you.

You may be living in the place where your worlds are in great conflict and you know you are not living the life you desire and know is possible.  I have been there and I am now in a very different place where my worlds align and are aligning more and more each day.

I want to encourage you to listen to your inner voice and to know that there is another side that is joyful and peaceful.  I want to help you in any way that I can with guidance and resources and community support as you begin the journey of self discovery.

To join me and hundreds of other late identified autistics around the world, connect with us in the Private Facebook group Mind Your Autistic Brain.  Come to a place of safety and encouragement through kindness, gentleness, patience and understanding for one another and for ourselves as you begin your autism journey.

IF you are currently experiencing Autistic Burnout or have in the past and would like to better understand what that means for you and how to create a prevention and recovery plan sign up for my Autistic Burnout Worksheet and mini-email course to help you get a plan tailored to you.  It is FREE and comes right to your inbox where you can do it at your own pace and when you are able.

Article by Carole Jean Whittington



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