[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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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.