Home                                                                                                              Go to Family & Parenting


Q & A with David Patten, Author of “Dummy: A Memoir”, Part 2
by David Patten




A Note from ATH Supervising Editor, Sherri Carter: Here is Part 2 of a Q&A with David Patten, author of Dummy, A Memoir, which goes through David's journey with autism, a loving mother, and transformation. A very inspirational story! See Part 1.

David (15 years old)

When do you feel was the major shift in your life and how did this change the way you saw yourself and the world around you?

At 4 years old, I decided to join the world when I began to speak. It was a conscious choice, but before that I had refused to participate because I could see that when people became fearful, the truth did not seem to matter.  They would stop noticing that they cared about each other. It seemed to me that words were used to obfuscate the truth… communication was incomplete. I could see around me that there was a lot of manipulation, greed and anger and few people remembered who they really were. Truth was something I could rely on but lies or mistruths really confused me. It seemed to me that if people would really listen to each other they would know more about what was true.

So I entered the world because of my mothers urging.  I wanted to respect her and the bond we had.  There was a caveat though. I made the choice to compromise myself, enter the world and give up this empathetic, aware self, only if I could come back to it…only… if it were temporary. It was also important for me to bring empathy into the world so that became my mission. So I gave up beingness, this aware self to join life – gain “worldly knowledge” and change it for the better.

Then at 7 when I was told I might be institutionalized. I felt forced to make another choice….I had to become what I call a “knower.”  From that point on, my life became a quest for knowledge, which included the rules people lived by. I thought there was some kind of truth in the world that I needed to understand and then I would be safe. I thought that if I understood what was going on in the world then I could survive.

This understanding I sought was not about relationship or relating to the world; it was about control.  If I could understand how things worked then I would have control over life. It was then that I stopped living in relationship to the world and started living in relationship to my mind or how I understood things to be.

Then at 18 there was another shift. I initiated what turned out to be a fundamental change in my personality. It became clear that I wasn’t going to conquer the world as a way to live in it…and there was a point of surrender, a giving up of that part of the fight. I was no longer willing to be a dominator. Since I had been involved in crime (not violent crime…but drug selling and all that goes with it) there was an element of my behavior that hurt others. I just flat out decided that I would not hurt anyone anymore.

My life really started to change after I had children at age 22. Around that same time I was able to get an education and a full time job. I had responsibilities and was a participating member of society.

Tell us a bit more about the relationship between you and your mother?

As I mentioned I chose to enter the world because of her urging and the respect I had for our connection. But I have to also say that her efforts to keep me engaged in life were almost heroic.  She carried me with her all day, everyday, for 2 years and got very little sleep.  She would always monitor me to see if I was withdrawing and at times when I would retreat to a place between my mattress she would come and sit with me, trying to engage me…sometimes for hours. I know I am able to engage deeply in the world because of her.

Do you feel like you woke up from autism? Or these cognitive disabilities?

David (18 years old)

Mostly I grew up and was better able to manage the overwhelm. I moved into relatedness through life experience and more comfort with nuance and spontaneity.

I still avoid eye contact when I am around people that I don’t think understand me and I still don’t’ think I process input the way most people can…in a smooth way.

I am also still highly sensitive to the motivations and needs of those around me.  In a way, I am vigilant to the need of the moment, which helps me connect to and be empathic with other people.  The issues did not leave completely, but I have been able in some cases to have them work to my advantage.

What is your sense about what is happening with those people on the Autism Spectrum?

I believe much of what we call Autism Spectrum are symptoms that come from an overwhelm and an inability to process stimulation and input properly. The nervous system either gets over-amped and cannot process or is too sensitive and does not have the capacity to process lots of stimuli. Kids on the Autism Spectrum have hypersensitive nervous systems. This hypersensitivity means they register things from the field  (their surroundings) that others do not, all kinds of nuance and detail others do not pick up, nor have to process. This hyper stimulation is agitating and causes hyperactivity, temper tantrums, and sometimes an overall shut down. When this happens then a certain capacity (the capability to manage nervous system activity) does not expand or develop and the situation worsens.

What do you think we, as a culture should do with other kids who have cognitive problems and or Autism Spectrum disorder?

It seems as though we often want to force these kids to join our world. Live our way. I believe it is important for these kids to be connected to other humans, but the best way, I think, is to go and meet them in their world. The fact that they avoid eye contact means that human connection actually means something to them.  The person who is initiating the connection has to be trusted. From my perspective and experience the priority always has to be to maintain the trust. The intention also really matters. Are you more interested in having them understand the point that you are making or are you interested in them? Your interest in them is more important than what you are trying to teach them.  To bring them closer is always the primary goal, so I suggest making an invitation and being patient.

It seems like you were forced in a way, to surrender to YOUR life. Is that what happened or how would you describe it?

I was forced to face the truth about who I was and what I am because my life was not working. I had to accept all of my liabilities. What went round and round in my mind were these super negative ideas  — the “me” that I thought and felt I was.  This led me to an inspection of myself at the core. I tried to find those aspects that were most “me,” those parts that seemed most solidly to be David Patten.

I followed many questions about who I was to the core of myself and I wrote it all down so I could gain perspective. I felt there was some repetitive pattern that I needed to understand, some theme, and I felt by writing it down I might be able to see the different ways this theme played out in my life. See if there was some continuity that I could understand.

I followed this thread of “me” as deep as I could. There were old stories I had about myself which I could recreate vividly in my mind …like they were yesterday. These stories led me to old feelings, emotions and bodily sensations that recreated (or transported me to) what I had previously experienced. At every turn I found some level of resistance to be just who I was. I would do this over and over again for many issues/events/patterns that I associated with my life and who I was. Then this  “me-ness” started to disappear or dissolve.  I could no longer find it.  And through this process of examination my relationship to my life and who I thought I was shifted. I found that ultimately all the suffering was generated by falsely identifying with one thing or another. I was no longer identified with all the content and experiences of my life.  The drive to look for “me” stopped and I realized I was not the person that I thought I was…and the burden of myself was released. It then appeared that my mind was no longer dragging me around with constant chatter, stories and ideas, I could listen to a current inside. This current is life and I live in it.

How did the encounter with the spiritual teacher impact you?

One thing the teacher taught me is that nothing is personal. We all take everything so personally…. To depersonalize is to find freedom.  One way I used to survive was through merging with another person and thought it was love. Romantic love feels good, but we are still looking to be acknowledged, seen, fed and saved from outside ourselves.  This is the definition of co-dependency. But love is really about freedom.

What are your spiritual beliefs?

Reality is not in the realm of believing or not believing. It just is. It is too big to fit in belief or not belief.

What really matters to you?

Friends & Family Circa 1971

Devotion for the Truth. This is different than the truth, because I do not think that the Truth with a capital “T” can be known by human beings.

What has kept you going in life?

Life. My heart kept beating and life kept going…I did not have much to do with it. If it were up to me I would not have survived.  Life lives me…I do not live it. I just let life be life. All I can do is get in the way.

How do your friends and family feel about being in this book?

They all read it and expressed to me that they really liked the book, but each person will have their own story to tell about it. I found that my relationships with my brothers and Donna have all been deepened and much healed through this process. I am very grateful…for all of them.

My mother did not get to read the book because she passed away several years ago, but before she died we also healed old wounds.

What do you want people to learn from this book?

I would like anyone that is suffering to find ways that my process might apply to their own lives. Use this story somehow as a template about where to look inside, and value themselves instead of hating themselves, or feeling like they don’t belong. If they can listen deeply enough – and see how we are all different and identical.  I would love for people to give themselves to the experience of looking deeply without praise or blame and see where they can go.

What is next in your life?

I am writing another book about the spiritual and psychological evolution of human kind. It is a novel.


Please "Add a Comment" at the bottom of this page or blog in our Forum here
Please do not use apostrophes in your comments.



About the Author

A child in the 1950s, David Patten was labeled retarded, lazy, stupid-a dummy. Isolated by an autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia, David slipped into the dark underbelly of American life, spending time in a mental institution, a violent inner-city school for troubled youth, and an experimental home for schizophrenics. David’s remarkable journey from brokenness to a truly successful, awakened life offers an inspiring vision of our human potential.  His story of gradually transforming disabilities into skills, hopelessness into freedom is a testament to the power of the human spirit. For more information, please visit www.dummyamemoir.com, or purchase Dummy: A Memoir at amazon.com.




Add a Comment   
    We welcome your comments. Thank you for sharing!!


Spiritual & Healing Practices | Healthy Lifestyles | Community | Arts | Find Practitioners & Orgs | Forums
Online Learning Center | Costa Rica Retreat Center | Submissions | Editors | Terms and Conditions | About Us / Contact Us


Disclaimer. Each category is under the supervision of dedicated editors who are passionate about their topic and believe that raising people's awareness is one way to make a difference in the world. You may or may not agree with all that is presented. Since respectful discourse is an excellent way to learn and grow, we welcome comments on articles and your participation on the Forums.

  © 2008-2018 ATH     REGISTER      LOGIN Design by MacDaddi | Developed by AWE