[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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Thinker Temple Soldier Spy (Part 1 of 2)

I’ve been watching talks by Dr. Temple Grandin on YouTube. I have watched her talk “The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum” on the Talks by Google channel twice now and I am fascinated by how much I am learning about myself. She explains everything so, so well.

At around 13 minutes she introduces her most important slide, the ‘different kinds of minds’ slide:
Temple-Grandin-Individual-specialist-brain-autism-spectrum

Temple Grandin said she is the first one:
a Photo Realistic-Visual Thinking-Object Visualiser.

I have been thinking about this a lot, what type of thinker am I?

What type of thinker are you?

And have you read any of Temple Grandin’s books?

Continue reading “Thinker Temple Soldier Spy (Part 1 of 2)”

Great Expectations

I am slowly making my way through the wonderful I Am Aspien Woman collection, created by Tania Marshall (@TaniaAMarshall)

I really admire everyone for taking part in this book, for having the courage to be so open about some really quite personal experiences, so that people like me who are new to this journey of self-discovery can feel safe reflecting on our own experiences within this new framework of neurodiverse understanding.

I say ‘slowly’, because every few pages I come across an experience/story that strikes such a chord with me, to the point that I cannot believe it’s not been written by me or someone who knows me. And this usually brings the waterworks as I feel such relief that there is a ‘thing’ to explain it all. And then – what feels like – every. single. memory from my own experiences related to that story appear in my mind’s eye, and I can’t keep up with them!

Take this story that I’ve highlighted, pictured:

I_am_Aspien_woman

“High expectations for [herself] and others”.
“Very hard on herself”.
“Doesn’t take criticism or feedback well, but the irony is she loves to dish it out to others” (my mum laughed out loud when I read this sentence to her).
“Plagued by negative thinking”.
“Too serious”.
“Described as ‘intense’ in everything she does”.
“Prone to burning out and ‘disappearing’ for a while”.

I have been told countless times that I have high expectations for myself and others. I suppose I have them for myself because I feel as though I am always catching up and learning something that I presume everyone else already knows (note to self: relate this to ‘theory of mind’ one day?) and I do not like to make mistakes, so I create systems and ways of operating in order to avoid errors as much as possible, in all aspects of my life. When I am on top of things it works, I feel good, and I like that. So that’s what I strive for, naturally.

In regards to others, I’ll admit it: I quite simply do not understand (for example) why some people have terrible attention to detail, for example, at work when one cannot spend an extra 10 seconds to re-read an email just written before hitting Send, so it is not sent with any mistakes to a customer (I’m not talking about spelling/grammar errors because I’ve had to come to realise over time that some people just do not remember the rules there or were never even taught in the first place or are dyslexic), or why some people do not want grow by learning more, doing more, being more, and challenging oneself. This has been particularly difficult for me to understand at work. However whilst I’m on that, in regards to work, on the whole I see my autistic traits that separate me there as an incredible gift, and a special ability that no one else has – not a disability at all. There will be plenty more reflection on work I’m sure!

I am aware that I can be very blunt sometimes (especially my parents) particularly if I am feeling frustrated or overwhelmed in some way and I get defensive in heated discussions. It’s because I do not think before I speak. It simply doesn’t occur to me to do so in the moment. And hours sometimes days afterwards, I realise I was way too honest, and that what I said wasn’t necessary at all, and I feel so frustrated for not remembering to remember to just. be. nice. Why is it so hard?! But in the moment I don’t remember, and I can’t think or do anything else until I have fixed my environment to the best of my ability. An example off the top of my head is that I will tell people close to me that their breath smells (and offer mints/gum to others- a bit more socially acceptable), or tell them that they need to go take a shower after their jog because they’re making the room smell. Why does it have to be about me all the time, and on my terms?

 

One of the only things that doesn’t fit for me from all the reading I have done on women with Autism Spectrum Disorder experiences, and it’s this that makes me worry that I might not get my diagnosis – I was not a problem child. I am very lucky to be able to say I had a fantastic childhood with a very lovely, loving family, and some very good friends over the years. And the opportunity for a brilliant education, which I took (with one repeated year however). I was shy, naive and inherently good. I’ve always respected authority and ‘the rules’, perhaps too much… I enjoyed my schools. I wanted friends, sought out new experiences and I make friends with all kinds of people.

But there is a lot that I do not understand. And it was getting to the point where I am thinking “I am almost 30 and I still can’t get this – this is embarrassing” and that I need a PA for my personal life! And though I have adapted fairly well, it is really liberating to know now that I could not have really done any better!

I wish I had known about autism for women and girls. It’s my immediate family that have experienced the brunt of this my whole life, behind closed doors, at home, where I felt emotionally safe to attempt to express myself (terrible as I am at that). I wish my two younger siblings had support from this knowledge growing up too, though. I fear I was not the best older sister I could have been to them 😦

 

I am a 29 year old newly-realised Aspien Woman
& welcome to my blog.

– L.G.