Unlearning to Accept

Something is happening deep inside me, something unexpected and strange and fantastic. I’m not sure if I can describe in any sort of way that will make sense, but here goes.


Last night I had a dream. I was in a railway station, crossing the platform to the exit, when I came upon a woman and her pet goose. As I accidentally stepped between the woman and the goose, the goose nipped at my pants. Surprised, I yelped and flapped my hands.



Here’s the strange part: I haven’t flapped my hands since I was very young. From watching old home movies, I know that I flapped as a toddler and preschooler. I’m not sure when I lost my flap but my best guess is very early in elementary school.

Here’s the unexpected part: I’ve never consciously stimmed in a dream. I didn’t realize the lack of stimming in my dreams until I woke up this morning and was overpowered by the memory of my dream flapping.

Which brings me to the fantastic part: In the dream, in that moment when I flapped, I was flooded with the sensation of being connected to my original self.



I know.

I don’t think there are words to describe that last part properly. It felt like a wormhole to the past opened up and for the briefest moment I was able to experience my self as a very young child. Not imagine or remember, but actually experience it.

It was unlike anything I have ever felt, imagined, or experienced as an adult. I can’t even say that I clearly remembering feeling that way as a child.

Perhaps it has nothing to do with childhood. Perhaps the concept of original self transcends age and hinges instead on access.

I don’t know and I don’t really care. I have to give it a name so I can tell you about it, but in my mind, it doesn’t need a name. It is a state of being, as clear as any I’ve ever experienced.

It felt like untainted joy and freedom. It felt infinite. It felt like I was connected to the absolute most original version of my existence.

I can’t explain how I know that, but I do.

And it was so strongly tied to that flap–that startled, instinctive response provoked by the angry little dream goose.


But it was a dream, right? Dreams trick us into thinking all sorts of strange things.


But dreams also tap into our subconscious in ways that we can’t access when our waking defenses are active.


All morning I’ve been thinking about why this happened. Why now?

What I’d like to think is this: I’m slowly rediscovering my original self.

Part of that rediscovery is tuning in to my urge to stim and setting it free. Too many years of reflexively quieting my body, of squeezing my stims down to their least noticeable versions, has disconnected me from myself in an essential way.

Slowly, slowly, the stims of my childhood are coming back. Last night as I was waiting for the pasta to cook, I found myself twirling in the kitchen and instead of stopping, I let myself enjoy it. I kicked out my foot and make a full spin to the right, then kicked out my other foot and twirled to the left. I did it again and again and soon I found myself laughing out loud.

Twirling around in the kitchen feels good. It feels right.


As I unlearn my habit of minimizing my stims, I feel like I’m reintegrating parts of myself that have been disconnected for a very long time.

And I find myself wondering if acceptance comes not from learning to accept but from unlearning a lifetime of rejecting.

26 thoughts on “Unlearning to Accept”

  1. “And I find myself wondering if acceptance comes not from learning to accept but from unlearning a lifetime of rejecting.” So true! I,too, have had to unlearn behaviors to allow myself to be free. I feel so much better for it. I have become so much more relaxed with myself and the people around me.

    1. This unlearning is hard work but incredibly fulfilling. It sounds like you’re a little further down the road than I am and it’s encouraging to hear how well your unlearning has gone. πŸ™‚

  2. Oh yippee! You make me want to flap my hands and twirl. It’s the button I used to wear on my jean jacket in college, like 1000 years ago, “Why be normal?” Why deprive yourself of the natural you, the fun you, the relaxed you, to please who? People you don’t know? Pooh! So, I had the instinct, the deviate from the norm instinct, yet the desire to please and fit in was strong in me as well so that was the road I took. Then along came Ted, my dear little boy, who could care less about fitting in. Since he was a toddler he cared about what he cared about. If you liked what he cared about, then come along. If you didn’t, then good riddance. Oh, what he has taught me. And that free feeling you described, I know it. I get it when I run. It’s like when my heart rate gets to some point in the 130’s I leave behind the worries of the day and my brain clears out and I see and I feel light, and free, and like I am touching that part inside of me that is always there, but I close off, I make unreachable much of the time. Oh your post made me very happy and very glad I am about to go running! And I loved the line, “And I find myself wondering if acceptance comes not from learning to accept but from unlearning a lifetime of rejecting.”

    p.s. I love dancing while I cook. A little music, a little red wine and I do the rhumba or the west coast swing! It’s great fun! Thanks for inspiring that happy feeling! πŸ™‚

    1. You know, you’ve had a hand in this shift that’s happening. You keep nudging me along in this direction with your comments and your wholehearted embrace of Ted’s view of the world around him and with each comment, that becomes a little more contagious.

      I hope your run was enjoyable! πŸ™‚

  3. I always adored the feeling of swinging on a swing and leaning back as far as my arms would allow me and letting gravity and motion and air wash over me. I still swing any time I’m near a park with a swingset. I flap with my kids. I even have video of them all three flapping together and giggling. It’s the best thing ever. I don’t quiet their stims if I can help it. Sometimes my own needs overtake me and I can’t handle some of their verbal stims because of the noise level and my intolerance of so much sound but I digress. Welcome your own stims because they truly are freeing. πŸ™‚

    1. I love swinging on a swing! That’s why I chose the avatar that I have now.

      I’m writing a post about childhood autism signs and as I was looking over old home movies for signs in my preschool self, I realized that every other reel is of me swinging on a swing or rocking in a rocking chair. πŸ™‚

      1. Ahhh swinging. I still do it and I don’t care what ppl think. If it wasn’t minus 15 celsius outside, I’d take my kids to the park and swing! My thing when I was a kid was twisting my shirt like I was doing the twist – or as if I was drying my back with a towel. I did that all the time, esp if I was tired. My youngest is a big hand flapper – to the point where I call her Ms. Flappy Hands.

  4. Same comes with people relationships. As an adult, I find myself consciously having to “unreject” people whom I would have run from earlier. I wouldn’t call it acceptance (after all, they don’t accept me!). But it’s an un-rejection — a sort of acceptance of the self that allows them not to accept me, and I don’t need them to.

  5. What a beautiful, wonderful dream. I am very happy that you had it and that you were able to share it with us. You write: “I’m slowly rediscovering my original self.” and yet again you voice an experience I am also experiencing. Sometimes I find myself bit shocked that I am autistic, but mostly, knowing that I am is a beautiful precious joy that I keep close to my heart. I too am slowly rediscovering my [autistic] self and she is wonderful.

  6. Before I called it stimming, I loved to hum, make animal sounds (the crow’s was my favorite!) and tended to talk to myself a lot when I was younger. I eventually grew out of it. Or so I thought. It was hard to retain the information I learned in school. Part of it was how the course was taught, but I later realized that a lot of it had to do with how I studied. The best way to study for me? Stimming! Talking to myself, out loud, about the material was not just a way for me to teach myself the material, it calmed me down and helped me focus! Plus when I did a problem, I would understand it quickly if I talked to myself, but if I did the same question and kept mum, I would have a very tough time solving it! I think stimming definitely helps and isn’t something to get rid of.

    1. It is so freeing to be aware of yourself and to realize that stimming is just a way you deal with the world.

    2. I’ve heard that making animal sounds is an ASD trait but you’re the first person I’ve “met” who does/did it. I think it’s probably a mix of stimming and echolalia?

      I talk to myself a lot when I study or am working out a problem. In my last semester of college I took a really challenging graduate level International Trade class. My poor husband suffered the whole semester because every time I had an exam, I’d spend days in advance repeating all of the information for the exam out loud, often while we were driving or walking the dog. It was the only way I could be sure I was retaining the information.

      1. Maybe! While I’ve grown out of the animal sounds, I still catch myself mimicking different sounds, including phrases from what other people tell me. I think it’s a way for me to learn how to communicate better. The movements involved in talking might be a form of stimming for me that’s masked by the appearance of an actual conversation. I tend to talk to myself in new situations so I can sort out all the details of what I plan to do to solve it, and I’ve found it helps me calm down.

        1. I mimic sounds a lot too. I also tend to repeat what people say, sometimes transforming the words into different sounds or rhythms. Fortunately, I have a dog, so I can say all sorts of funny things to the dog and it doesn’t seem nearly as odd. She’s good cover for my echolalia, which has gotten much more frequent now that I’m censoring myself less.

          1. My mom calls me her sound effect kid! I do animal sounds, machine sounds, and I echo stuff people say to me all the time!

            One of my twins does animal noises & other sounds, too. His brother hums or echoes or does a stim with his mouth. We are quite a unique bunch! LOL

            I love every minute of it!

            1. Your house sounds entertaining! πŸ™‚ I spent a few days staying with family on my recent trip and one of my nephews is very echolalic. We had great fun together.

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