One of the things that I’ve grown accustomed to over the years is being accused of lacking any emotion. This actually seems to be a fairly standard charge for NTs to level against aspies and it is one that I find particularly frustrating. I’ve been called Data and Spock before, but I always took it to mean that I was cool under pressure and had a logical thought process.
I have emotions and feelings and as I have stated before here, I feel them pretty well. My problem is not in feeling, is it in identifying. I can tell you if it’s a 1 or a 10, but I couldn’t necessarily distinguish between happy and excited or sad and… well I’m really not sure how this sentence finishes because those words don’t really mean much to me. I deal in good and bad and 1 to 10. (There are exceptions, frustrated is a good one, I can identify that one perfectly).
Anything approaching a 10 and I am going to get overwhelmed, good or bad. It’s just too much and I don’t know what to do with it. I tend to stim to try and stay calm, some of my stims are more destructive than others. Shutting down is my last line of defence before I hit meltdown territory. I can’t talk when I feel like this. My brain is whirring away trying to process everything, the feelings, the thing that has made them happen, it can be exhausting. I just don’t have the capacity to talk too. I hate not talking, I am very good at avoiding situations where it happens around people, in fact I am like a bloody ninja at avoiding or escaping such situations. Same thing for meltdowns, I am very good at keeping a lid on things until I am back in the safety of solitude.
I think that the idea that aspies are unfeeling is a classic example of the miscommunication and misunderstanding that occurs between NTs and people with ASDs. There are times when I’ve been told that I don’t give anything away and I’ve thought to myself that my feelings are being broadcast loud and clear, people are just not listening on the right channels. I guess facial expressions are a grey area, I know some aspies make the “wrong” faces to match their emotion. I know that sometimes if my brain is whirring away that my face maybe goes vacant, but again, this isn’t an indicator of a lack of feeling – it is in fact the complete opposite.
I am used to my emotions being misinterpreted, just as my words are, so yes sometimes I will attempt to swallow them. Part of the reasoning for this is that I am terrible at predicting how somebody else will respond. Sometimes people get upset or angry and I have no idea why. (Aside: This is what lack of empathy means, it doesn’t mean that we do things because we don’t give a shit, or because we want to be cruel. Doing or saying things that are designed to be cruel and upset people is not caused by Aspergers, it is caused by being a douchebag). I’ve lost track of the number of times when my Mum has said to me “Well didn’t you think that would make x angry?” and the answer is almost always “No, I really didn’t expect it to”.
There is only one thing worse than a 10 and that is when I realise that I have made other people feel things. That in itself is overwhelming, it is like an amplifying feedback loop. I have to say sorry and fix the situation right away. I hate thinking I have made someone sad. Of course, if the feeling I invoked was a positive one then I’m likely feeling pretty pleased with myself and on top of the world.
So, plenty of stuff is being felt and nobody should ever doubt that. Maybe I’m totally alone in how I handle feelings? How do you guys feel? What coping strategies do you employ? Let me know in the comments.