[reblog] The Empathy Conundrum

I have printed out the end of Musings of an Aspie’s post to put in my Christmas card to my brother. This blog articulates exactly what I feel.

Particularly:

“Empathy has many definitions, but they all have at their core understanding the emotional state of another person.

When I say I lack empathy, what I mean is I have a deficit in understanding the emotional states of others. Hell, I have a deficit in understanding my own emotional state at times.

[It means] that I may need more information than a typical person to understand a social situation. That my reactions to your emotions may be unconventional. That I have to work harder to grasp what comes naturally to most people.”

This post strikes a chord with me because it explains why I am told that I appear ‘cold’ when inside I am feeling too much.

Musings of an Aspie

Let’s get the hard part out there first: I lack empathy.

By lack, I don’t mean a complete absence of empathy; I have an empathy deficiency.  If most adults are “doing empathy” at the calculus level, I’m still in Algebra II and solving for X in ways that would make your head spin.

Before I discovered the online autism community, I assumed that my impaired empathy was typical for someone with Asperger’s. Much of the published literature includes impaired empathy as a common AS trait. “Lack of social or emotional reciprocity” is one of the diagnostic criteria. My own experience didn’t disprove that.

Then I discovered the online ASD community and suddenly felt like I needed to hide my struggles with empathy. Everywhere I looked people were refuting the notion that autistics lack empathy.

Again and again I’ve encountered discussions about empathy online and quietly slunk away, feeling like there…

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[reblog] my best self

I have been giving myself permission to acknowledge my needs and care for myself in ways that met those needs

This is why the ‘label’ is important because it gives everyone a contextual framework for acceptance, understanding and growth.

Today marks the day I went to see my GP and ask for a referral for a diagnosis. She asked me some questions so she can write a ‘case for funding by the NHS’ and if that gets approved, I go on the waiting list to get my diagnosis. It could go straight through or it could take a year. People say “there’s no rush, you may as well wait” but I have spent the summer deciding if this is something I really want to pursue… And it is. I kind of don’t want to wait any longer. I’ve always been into my personal development and this is like the holy grail for that! I don’t really want to wait to know how to be my best self…

Michelle Sutton

It’s about a year since I got comfortable with saying I’m autistic. Shortly after I publicly “came out” I was asked why I would identify as disabled or allow a label like autism to be applied to me. I didn’t quite know what to say at the time, except to tell the person that labels aren’t negative and that I found it helpful in understanding myself. A year later, though, I have a more detailed answer. 

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[reblog] Gaslighting

“I was trained to believe that other people saw the world in the right way, so I could rely on other people to tell me what was real, I couldn’t rely on myself.

I always compare myself to others and people tell me a shouldn’t but this post explains why. So often I’ve also been told that I’m “overcomplicating” something or “being too sensitive” so I have totally come to mistrust myself and my reactions to things because I’ve constantly been told I “should’ve said” this or that.

I like that this author highlights the paradox that in all of these situations the neurotypicals lack the ‘theory of mind’ that us neurodiverse seem to lack too.

Time to start trusting myself and creating or rediscovering Who I Am.

Autism and expectations

Being an undiagnosed autistic has many challenges.

When you compare your reactions to things with other people’s, you feel like you’re getting it wrong. When other people take things in their stride, and your brain feels like it’s expanding inside your skull to the point you can’t think, then you feel like you’re overreacting.

And then there’s the gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a useful term, named after an old film where Ingrid Bergman is psychologically abused. Her abuser tells her that her memories are false, he questions her experience of her environment, he denies that things she remembers happening, have happened.

The result is that she ends up questioning her own perception of reality. She doubts her own memory. She doubts her sanity. She cannot trust that what she thinks is her lived experience is true.

Being an undiagnosed autistic can feel like the whole world is gaslighting you. From being…

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Things that never bore me

Anagrams

Wordplay, puns puns puns and especially anything involving whatever-this-is-called, like:
mythtaken

Coining words

Etymology

Patterns in/with words.
I used to challenge myself to complete tasks like “how many words can I think up that end in ‘ii’?” or “what palindromes can I think of in 2 minutes?” or “how many words can I make out of [insert word here]” or “which words have all 5 vowels in?” or “which words have no vowels in?” – psst… I like euphoria because it has all 5 vowels in it; but I also like rhythm because it has none!

Onomatopoeia (all together now: “euphoria”… “rhythm”…)

Spoonerism

Finding words in car registrations

Acronyms, and making my own acronyms from sentences and sentences from acronyms.

Typography

Logos, especially logos that tell a story or have an optical illusion

Optical illusions (Magic Eye anyone?)

Seeing what’s revealed in ‘negative space

Seeing faces in objects:
box-face

Treading Water

I’ve not been very good at keeping up with this blog already – what a surprise. Not!

Truth be told I forced myself to take a break from aspie research because it was throwing me all over the place in my head.

The great sense of relief wore off and reality, the painful wall of reality hit me.

Whilst it’s been so refreshing to learn that everything I struggle with daily (not flaring up when someone says something I don’t like; not being defensive; not taking things literally; loud, frenetic environments; doing too much; wanting to do too much; realising I am trying to do too much; executive function- being organised, planning, getting started on tasks, following through on tasks; cleaning; tidying; impulsiveness (especially on Amazon); even getting ready for bed and getting to sleep before midnight etc.) is not a character flaw (yay)… Now, I am feeling a sense of hopelessness I suppose, that everything that I have been striving for my whole life… what I need to ‘work on’ about myself in order to be the best version of myself (for me, and for my family, and my friends, and eventually for my [future] partner, children etc.) might be completely out of reach… full stop.

I will never ‘get it’ in the moment, at the time when ‘it’ matters.

There will always be this ‘gap’ where I will always feel one too many steps behind, letting my family down in stupid arguments escalated only because of my defensiveness and reactions, saying things in the heat of the moment that I don’t mean at all, and have never felt that I could control (and now it seems I was right on that, so relief again, right here for that)…

I’ll always be running to catch up to the answers I don’t know, to the questions I don’t know how to articulate – let alone ask.

And I have been ‘watching’ myself more. Now that I have an aspie awareness, I have been more hard on myself in some ways, more ‘in my head’ when I am in a group, observing my thoughts and criticising myself when I should be listening to what people are saying instead of thinking whether they can tell that I am not being very chatty or whether I am smiling at the right parts of their conversation, just enough to make them comfortable but not too much that it’s off-putting for them, or whether they can tell that I am different…

Lorelai Gilmore - Gilmore Girls

It’s just been intense. I had to take a break. And the only why I know how to ‘switch off’ from one obsession is to find another. So I have been watching the whole series of Gilmore Girls on Netflix in my spare time. And my, it’s been good! So many aspie character traits (not intentional, I don’t think) are celebrated on that show 🙂

I will come back soon, promise.

Thinking Outside the Box

I read in Temple Grandin’s book (The Autistic Brain) this weekend that Aspies are good problem solvers because we don’t think ‘inside the box’, so to speak, like neurotypicals tend to do. In fact, it is believed that there is no box for the way that we think, which is why we can make connections between many seemingly unconnected pieces of information, which fuel our creative innovative-ness. This is backed up in neuroscience where fMRI neuroimaging scans of an autistic brain show many areas ‘lighting up’ in response to a particular task, whereas activity in the NT brain tends to be localised to fewer areas.

I shared this with my friend this weekend and it reminded him of a lateral thinking test he did at school when he was a teenager, where he was the only one who got it right. He gave it to me to do and said, “you literally have to think ‘outside the box’ to get it correct”. Naturally, he had me at ‘literally’.

It took me a couple of minutes, but I got it! So I want to share it with you also.

Grab a pen and paper and draw 9 dots as follows:

9dots

The rules are:

  1. You must connect ALL the dots with FOUR lines or less.
  2. You cannot take your pen off the paper.
  3. You cannot retrace the same line, so the next line starts where the last one ended.

Let me know how you get on in the comments but please don’t give it away for anyone 🙂

Does anyone know of any more tests like these?