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Monotropism, Neurodiversity & Collective Flow




In Milan Kundera’s novel, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ (1981), he described the heaviness of life, the restrictive oppression and boundaries that can tie us all down, yet there is freedom in the possibilities the mind can bring and in the choices we can make. We can subvert the restrictions of neuronormative society; we can, to some extent, choose our line of flight and see the potential in the folds of our thoughts. This potential may be expressed through art, literature, music, movement, conversations, connections, and joining in collective flow states as a community such as happened with the Monotropism Questionnaire.



Monotropism Questionnaire

The Monotropism Questionnaire (Garau et al., 2023) research article has been shared millions of times across various social media platforms over the past few weeks. There are likely to be many reasons why the Monotropism Questionnaire has been taken so many times and has been so popular. However, one of them is the feeling of validation it brings to autistic/ADHD people. It is helping to create a sense of connection and understanding, a sense of safety and reassurance from other people that 'get it’.


Neurodiversity Affirming Flow

There is currently a new energy and strong flow behind neurodiversity-affirming work, especially within education and mental health organisations. It is slowly moving forward and making some positive changes in education, work environments and mental health, but there is still a long way to go. There is a variable weight to flow states and momentum created behind all research, it is interesting to consider how and why this particular piece of research has moved so fast, especially across social media platforms. For example, Dr.' Joey's post on TikTok about the Monotropism Questionnaire now has over 3.5 million views, which is a staggeringly high statistic showing great interest in this theory.


Validation

There is a deep yearning for people to feel understood, for their strengths to be celebrated and for their difficulties to be acknowledged. A growing number of neurodiversity-affirming neurodivergent-led charities, organisations, and interest groups and clubs are emerging. There is a growing online presence of neurodivergent people seeking support and an increasing number of advocates proudly campaigning for a better understanding, acceptance, and more inclusive future for autistic and other neurodivergent people.


These organisations, projects and online spaces are a wonderful coming together of different minds, a collective response to the unmet needs of neurodivergent people. They are an example of the internal experiences of neurodivergent people being acknowledged and represented in the community, people uniting, validating their inner experiences, and gaining power and strength within a collective flow of shared experiences and interests.


Collective Flow

Deleuze and Guattari explore aspects of a broader interpretation of flow, a collective flow state in society. In A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze and Guattari specifically talk about society’s economic and social flows; this is a broader interpretation of flow compared to the internal channelling of attention resources described by Monotropism Theory (Murray et al., 2005) or the flow states described by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) but it is still a flow, and a moving process and a becoming. Deleuze describes the bigger picture, the flowing river of a community and society. However, the flow in society could not happen without the diversity of all different minds sharing their passions and knowledge and all working together. The world is in a constant state of flux, and society is in a constant state of movement. The world and its collective flow states are multidimensional; we live in a world of differences, and neurodiversity is that difference and where the creative potential lies. The potential for Autistic/ADHD people to embrace their identity and understand the benefits of monotropism is huge. An understanding of monotropism theory as a cognitive way of processing and a way of being monotropic in all areas of life is also a step away from the deficit based autism literature and research. Monotropism is a way of moving away from deficit based traits and towards a more affirming way of understanding yourself, it's a way of celebrating differences.


Double Empathy

The Monotropism Questionnaire may be popular with Autistic /ADHD people as it reflects their experiences beyond a cognitive understanding and resonates with people's inner states of being. Many people are taking the questionnaire and only then asking, ‘What is monotropism?’ A lightbulb moment is often felt, a moment of clarity and relief of being heard and feeling understood, this is reflected in all the likes and excited reshares across social media.


If you have constantly felt on the outside of spaces, there is often a deep yearning to be understood and to feel a part of ‘something’. By taking the Monotropism Questionnaire, there is a feeling of connection with others; there is no double empathy problem (Milton, 2012). Instead, there is a wonderful mutual understanding which reflects so many aspects of life, the positives, and the challenges and there is a value in sharing these experiences. Todd May suggests the question Deleuze & Guatarri are  asking is how might we live, rather than how should we live?

Monotropism is not a new theory (published 2005), but perhaps it's needed the collective flow of the online community for the current to gather enough momentum for people to reconsider their inner authentic self and ways of being. It quickly moved out of purely academic spaces into spaces where people could share their positive stories and also struggles of trying to live up to the expectations of how they "should be" against the norms of the neuromajority.



Monotropism and Inner Experiences

Monotropism could be considered the most accurate reflection of autistic/ADHD experiences. It reflects a state of being that impacts every aspect of life, from cognition, attention, communication and socialising to sensory experiences and mental well-being. Having this internal experience validated has created a stronger flow state within the community. The shares and likes on social media have created a rhizomatic network that branches out to other places, smaller charities, school settings, mental health organisations and most importantly, families and individuals.


For individuals, diving into their own monotropic flow state can create a feeling of stability and provide a sense of security. Immersing yourself in familiar topics and interests in an overwhelming and chaotic world is reassuring and can provide comfort. It is helping some people understand and develop strategies to manage their energy and attention resources to support them in their day to day lives. Realising that other people also relate to this experience and are also struggling with the more challenging aspects of monotropism is drawing people together across social media. New connections and relationships are forming as a result of people sharing stories about their monotropic experiences.


The neurodivergent community has grown and flourished in building connections and embracing differences. We are creating communities and evolving through collective flow, shared interests, and the new knowledge and potential gained by a wide range of diverse minds coming together.

Deleuze draws on the idea that philosophy is a process of creation, a process of possibilities and the art of concept creation. As a concept, monotropism works for me, I can apply it to every aspect of my life and it helps my understanding of my own identity and brings some sense into what can feel like quite a chaotic world.



Rhizomatic Flow


Our collective flow from within the neurodivergent community is rhizomatically evolving and starting to branch outside the autistic community. Interest is growing that was not here even six months ago; webinars and training sessions are popping up over the internet, and new writing is being shared all the time.


We need to embrace this flow and channel it into productive research, build bridges, and remove barriers so our community can get stronger. We need the inner experiences of neurodivergent people to drive the research so it is more meaningful for everyone. Every person is unique and has strengths within their differences. Neurodiversity is where potential and possibilities lie. Everyone has an integral and equally important role in creating and contributing to our community flow. Celebrating Differences


The massive popularity of the Monotropism Questionnaire has gained significant momentum because there is a collective need for validation and understanding from within the neurodivergent community. Everyone deserves to be able to flourish, feel validated and live their best life; having your inner experiences validated through research in this area is a step forward. If we accept and celebrate differences, we can work together to shape the course of our collective flow to make a positive difference.


Deleuze and Guattari suggest:


Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialisation, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of land at all times.’

(A Thousand Plateaus (2013), Chapter 6, How do you make yourself a Body Without Organs?, pg. 187)

Neurodiversity is where potential and possibilities lie. We need to embrace our collective flow and differences.


Article inspired by @philosophizethispodcast Episode 126 Deleuze Stephen West, Philosophize This! Episodes 125-129

More information about monotropism can be found here on Fergus Murray’s website:

and also


Further articles I have written about monotropism can be found here: -
















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