Tackling jealousy and lateral violence – or why we need to support each other 

I am ashamed to say that I used to really struggle with jealousy, worrying what other people thought of me and thinking I was never going to be as good as others in the autistic community. I found the success of others quite intimidating. It wasn’t that I didn’t like other, more ‘successful’ advocates or that I wanted to be somehow better than them. It was more about doubting my own value. Thankfully I have moved on from there and genuinely want others to succeed and create an audience for themselves but it was a long journey. What finally put those unpleasant thoughts to rest was actually my coming out as non-binary gender. I finally got to be the person I had always been deep down. I was my own true identity. The jealousy and self doubt just seemed to evaporate when I came out. It was wonderful.

These days I recognise that I myself am highly accomplished. I know that many people actually find me intimidating! Who knew? While I am thankfully free form jealousy I do have a pretty impressive case of imposter syndrome. I always think that I know nothing about anything before realising that I have ten published books which people tell me are quite helpful. Presumably I know something to have written a bunch of books but it still seems unlikely. It is just one of those things where I have to take others’ word for it I guess. 

A lot of these issues are bound up with intersectional disadvantage. One thing which can be a big issue for people from intersectional groups is lateral violence. How I understand lateral violence is this: Someone is oppressed by society. They may for example by Autistic. Autistic and neurodivergent people face discrimination in society. The more logical thing to do if you face disadvantage would seem to be to fight the power – address the structural barriers in society, that kind of thing. However with lateral violence, instead of fighting the power, the person fights other disadvantaged people. This happens in pretty much every intersectional group and is really not OK and not helpful. Attacking each other will not remove or address discrimination and barriers, it just upsets people.

I have been on the receiving end of lateral violence a few times and it is very hurtful. It can be tied up with jealously and feelings of being inadequate but it is not OK. It is also very hurtful when directed at me. It is understandable though. Being discriminated against and disadvantaged makes people powerless. Powerless people often want to reclaim personal power in any way they can, even if that means being horrible to people in a similar situation to themselves. When I felt jealous of others I knew it was wrong and unhelpful so I tried as hard as I could not to let it show and to support other advocates Not everyone approaches it like that though. I am lucky too have been blessed with a large amount of insight and self-awareness. Within the context of jealousy and lateral violence this meant I could (mostly) suppress the problem thinking but many people lack self awareness so just act really mean without understanding that it isn’t OK. 

I know that we achieve much more united than divided.  Also the cause of the powerlessness and disadvantage we face does not come from other people facing similar disadvantage. This means it is completely ineffectual to attack our fellows. We are much better off fighting the power so to speak and addressing injustice and discrimination than turning our anger inwards to our own community.

Also, speaking as a person who is now a bit of a ‘tall poppy’, I really struggle with a range of things. I have a major mental illness which makes living almost impossible a lot of the time. I have a history of violence, abuse and trauma and I often struggle to think of anything positive about me. Yes I wrote a bunch of books and gave a TED talk but I am fairly certain very few people would actually like to have my life. In the past had I met a person with all my current accomplishments  I would have been very jealous but I now know that for many people with accomplishments there is also trauma and sadness. Those people need support and encouragement, not hostility and jealousy. 

I think lateral violence is not at all helpful. I do understand it from both ‘ends’ but I firmly believe we are better off fighting the barriers and discrimination we all face together rather than attacking one another. 

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