*shocked gasp* I never knew there were telepaths living among us!
How many times have you heard someone say a variation of, “Oh, c’mon, it’s not that” [or “It’s not at all”] “loud/bright/smelly/painful/bad-tasting/etc!”?
This is a classic case of experience invalidation: Someone saying that because they don’t experience stimuli and perceive the world the same way you do, your way does not actually exist in reality.
I’m a science fiction reader and writer. My first response to that (well, the response I go to once I process what’s been implied, and get past the shock of How DARE they?!) is, “Oh, so you’re a telepath.”
My second response is, “Oh, so despite being neurotypical, you utterly fail at Theory of Mind.”
What’s “Theory of Mind”? I quote from Dictionary.com:
1. Psychology, Philosophy. [T]he ability to interpret one’s own and other people’s mental and emotional states, understanding that each person has unique motives, perspectives, etc.:
People with autism seem to lack theory of mind.
Abbreviation: ToM, TOM.
— “theory of mind”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 26 Jul. 2016. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/theory-of-mind>.
[The bolding of the example sentence is my edit. Beware, oncoming rant/soapbox! – Wikipedia references autism in “deficits of theory of mind” as well.]
“Oh, wait!” that person cries. “But according to the definition, autistics lack theory of mind, not neurotypicals!”
Yeah, I’m kind of pissed off about that. Particularly as there have been studies, a lot more recent than Baron-Cohen’s work (the (in)famous Sally-Anne Test), that say that yes, autistics do have theory of mind – and empathy. There were a lot of potential confounding factors in the Sally-Anne Test, among them the problems of sensory issues, motivations and rewards, and the obvious lack of understanding on the part of the three researchers of the term “delay”. For more info and to read about a much more successful version of that sort of test – the Dot-Midge test – check out Unstrange Mind’s E is for Empathy. (Yes, it’s a post I recommended last year. I still recommend it.) Not to mention that autistics demonstrate a great deal of theory of mind when among other autistics. [/end rant]
Anyway, back to the issue in question, that of experience invalidation, and the matter of is this person a telepath, or do they lack theory of mind?
As far as I can tell, those are the only two possibilities for how they could actually get away with telling you that your experience is invalid. Either they can access your mind in some way and so know that you are lying about how you perceive the situation – or they don’t understand that other people have “unique motives, perspectives,” and perceptions. Therefore they, by definition, lack theory of mind.
No one has the right to tell you that your experience is invalid. People who try are either a science fiction phenomenon (and I want proof! SF has decades of books that tell us ways to prove telepathy!), or They Are Wrong.
[Edit: For anyone who is curious as to what prompted this – check out The Caffeinated Autistic’s Disability representation: Do it right (Or The Case of John Watson’s disappearing PTSD), and then go to Alyssa’s Writing Accidentally Autistic Characters, and check out the links she gives there. Read those this afternoon, and the first paragraph popped into my head. It all followed from there.]