Do you find emotions overwhelming and difficult to experience? I try to avoid certain thoughts so that I won’t become sad but they linger at the back of my mind and I know they’re there. I’m quick to cry these days, for sadness and joy. It’s easy to feel unstable. Unsafe.
It’s an unfortunate fact that the more you have, the more you have to lose. When I was younger, it seemed as if I had nothing to lose. Now I have so much. That’s why it’s easy to cry if I hear about someone else’s loss, or someone else’s gain. Life is fragile and the Aspie mind doesn’t seem to make a good filter.
I recently heard a piece of music that made me think a question I’d asked years ago had been answered. Something about the tune just reminded me of how I used to feel, when I thought the Universe had abandoned me. That memory made me think about how different things are now. I cannot erase that history – that old feeling. But I can now embrace those emotions, just a little, without falling into despair, because I feel saved.
I recently wrote a post about how good people with Asperger’s can be at shutting down emotions. It’s a skill I’ve come to value and appreciate, but there are times when my natural aversion to strong emotional displays and experiences is actually a big problem.
Being able to block emotions is usually helpful for dealing with our own lives, but when our friends or relatives get upset it’s a whole other kettle of fish. Time and again I’ve seen that someone I care about is suffering and I’ve wanted to help. But the help I’m capable of giving is far below the standard that can be offered by someone without Asperger’s.
Our instinct is to walk away
Over the years, I’ve been able to improve. I’m not quite as useless as I used to be when somebody starts crying or looks upset. But I’m still missing something – a natural warmth, I think – when it comes to helping people in distress and giving comfort. My instinct is always to walk away and get somebody else.
At school, this meant fetching a teacher. Now, I rely on a few socially adept friends to help out where I can’t, and to help support me as I try to do my bit. Thank goodness there are people out there with different social skills.
I don’t know if non-Aspies need Aspies the way we need them. I don’t care as long as we can figure out how to work together.
I’m a big fan of logic, and although I like emotions too (when they’re positive), I think that sometimes it takes a dose of cold logic to keep us sane.
Emotions can be logical. I’m afraid to get too close to the lion in case it bites my head off. In this case the emotion, fear, serves a very practical purpose. If I wasn’t afraid I’d probably get my head bitten off. If someone close to me becomes very ill then it’s natural to feel sad. It’s not helpful, but you couldn’t really say it was illogical either. I care, therefore I feel. Aspies aren’t machines!
However, I do think Aspies are good at ‘compartmentalising’. I think we’re good at shutting down negative and unhelpful emotions. One good cry – if we really have to – and that’s enough. Time to shut it down and move on.
Over the years this is something I’ve practiced. It’s a skill I had to learn but I found that I could do it well. It doesn’t mean I don’t get affected by events like everybody else, it just means that my recovery period is often quicker.
Imagine how much time gets wasted by people crying over things they can’t change, hating themselves, or worrying about things that don’t matter. This should make anyone angry. Not angry enough to dwell on it (pointlessly), but angry enough to do something about it.
There’s a saying in the UK, “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.” Sometimes we need to apply this to our inner voice, change our attitude, and stop wasting our time and energy on negativity. You don’t have to ignore all the bad stuff. Just acknowledge it and move on.