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Imagine dragons

I doubt if he might be on the schizophrenia spectrum! confessed the colleague. Then, why? asked the other. His narrative is very fanciful. It's almost as if he doesn't live in this world! he continued. And have you managed to observe any other associated symptoms? asked the other. Strangely enough, no, he answered. Although he also has a strange speech and other characteristics, but he doesn't seem the same as others that we see within schizophrenia, he finished. Maybe we need more time with him, replied the other with a more thoughtful tone.

This brief dialogue seeks to draw attention to what we sometimes observe within the autism spectrum. A unique, intense and infinite predilection for imaginary worlds. Be it those present in books, series and films, but also those that they themselves create throughout their lives.

How many of us have not found ourselves "trapped" inside a Harry Potter series, or the Marvel Universe, One Piece, Naruto, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, among many others? And no, I'm not just asking the children! Because young people, and adults too, fantasise. And the latter perhaps need to fantasise a little more, given the apparent hyper-reality experienced nowadays.

But why bring up this question of imaginary worlds in autism? And how can we relate the ability to imagine worlds and complex social relationships between different characters, when it is said that autistic people have themselves a deficit in social interactions and imaginative capacity?

When they tell me that I am in another world, I just want to laugh! says John (fictitious name). If only they knew where I am! he exclaims. But they are right, I am really in another world, or worlds to be precise! he adds.

A preference for 'world-dominant' fiction, which focuses mainly on the details of the setting rather than the characters or narrative, is in fact generally considered to be a trait associated with autism. Fictional imaginary worlds provide a perfect closed system to investigate and systematise. Unlike the real world, it is possible to gain a complete knowledge and understanding of all facets of an imaginary world.

What many people think that the fantasy world makes no sense, is subjective, difficult to understand, among other things, is not, says Ester (fictional name). It can be for many people who don't make the slightest effort to stay and let themselves be involved, she adds. What I feel in the real world, seems to be what non-autistic people feel in relation to the fantasy world, she continues. Especially adults, he concludes.

People in general associate fantasy with children, says Julio (fictitious name). And so they think that it makes sense for autistic people to like fantasy, because they consider them as if they were children, he says. And they don't even make the slightest effort to understand the complexity of the relationships present in these fantasy worlds. They find them simply childish. They don't want to know, just as I don't think they want to know about autism either! he concludes.

At the beginning I think I started to create these imaginary worlds of mine to escape from this real other, says Carla (fictitious name). The challenges were so many and all day long that I only felt safe when I was there inside these worlds, she continues. Why is that so strange? she asks rhetorically.

Yes, I feel that those characters are not just that, says Carlos (fictitious name). They are my friends. They are the ones who listen to me. They are the ones I talk to, he says. I create these worlds in the likeness of what I think I would like to live in. And yes, I get very attached to them. In the real world I'm not allowed to live them, he concludes.

No, my characters are not only autistic people, says Amélia (fictitious name). And they are not only good people, like fairies either, she says. The people in my fantasy worlds are just as real, if not more so, than in the real world, she adds. They have feelings, a life of their own, everything, he concludes.

We are social beings, says Raúl (fictitious name). And as such we try to relate to people. With which ones? he asks rhetorically. With those who want to. And so we try to find a character through the medium of fantasy and treat it as if it were another human being, he concludes.

This division is possible. We can think between the external intersubjective imagination and the internal intrasubjective imagination. While the former supports the prediction of interaction in the external world. The second relates to internal fantasies, parasocial relations, and prossibly to what we regard as belonging to artistic creativity. The first is subject to what are the features of the autism spectrum, but not the second. It is as if the latter were exempt or regulated by other rules, just as dreams are.

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