This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!
A common misconception is that aspies do not exhibit emotions or are much less emotional than NTs. From what I’ve read and from what I’ve experienced I can say that this is, for the most part, categorically false and untrue. We are just as emotional as the next human being. What is lacking, perhaps, is the ability to describe adequately an emotional response or respond appropriately (timing, body language, etc.) when encountering someone else’s emotional moment. Some of this I have learned and conditioned myself to react and behave as people have either directly asked me to or through the power of observation and experimentation.
For example, I learned in middle school that if someone is sad, especially a girl, they appreciate that you might get closer to them, touch their arm, or give them a hug. This can be interpreted as an acceptable behavioral response. Now, the problem with this is that it doesn’t work for everyone and it can depend on how well you know the person to begin with as going up to a person that is sad that you do not know and giving them a hug, even if it’s a “side hug,” is highly inappropriate. I learned this as well when I attempted it once and it was awkward as hell for that person (and then for me much later as I was told that that was weird).
So again, in the small minority we may have trouble and “lack” some emotions but generally-speaking it’s just not true. We are very emotional and we feel it deeply. In fact, we not only feel it deeply but we may experience it and explicitly share it in ways that are not always age-appropriate. And I literally mean just that. For much of my life I feel as if I’ve been intellectually superior to my colleagues and those that have been my own age. But on the flip-side of that coin I have felt emotionally inferior just as much and my emotional capacity and ability to learn and react appropriately has been significantly stunted. I guess that evens out in the end that I’m just average; that’s not a terrible realization because most of us are, statistically, quite average and happy about it.
Many times over I’ve been told, even as a 30-something adult, that my emotions are like that of a child (or perhaps a young adolescent). I can’t seem to control my language or my thoughts or what I say and my emotional behavior is very much like a teenager. In some ways I feel as if I have the mind of a 40 or 50 year old and yet the emotions of a 15 year old. It’s a mix that tirelessly creates chaos within my communication patterns, speech, and overall behavior in social settings that ultimately confuse other people.
Wow, he’s really smart but so immature.
This is the most simple form of what I believe is being communicated or thought about when many people encounter me. I hate it because I can’t seem to change the latter part while I do enjoy the former attribute. And unfortunately the latter part seems to dominate the person’s overall perception of who I am and thus may bar increased engagement or relational development. It’s just tough being an aspie creative.
But even more so, if I could go on (and I will because I can), I am not only not devoid of emotion I seem to have a sheer abundance of it. Things are extreme on all sides of an equation and if I laugh I laugh heartily (almost too much I’m told which makes people think I’m faking but I’m not) or I get upset really easily, even to the point of crying or visibly shaking over some of the smallest things (although they don’t feel “small” to me as everything is big that doesn’t fit in my world well). These emotions are intense and I can quickly get overwhelmed by them and have difficulty “coming down” from them just like a child who’s gone completely berserk when they didn’t get that toy on Aisle #3.
And this has caused incredible embarrassment to myself and to others when I’m in a public environment and I get set off. Nothing will stop me from blabbing my mouth off about whatever comes to mind while getting louder with my voice and more obviously upset that the cashier didn’t give me 5 $1 dollar bills instead of 1 $5 bill ($1′s are typically more crisp and have a higher chance of being more new because of sheer volume of use and I like super-crisp and new bills so I want a higher percent chance of getting a few by asking for smaller valuations when I get change – is that odd?). So I make a mess of myself in public and make everyone in the local vicinity tilting their head and cocking one eye about “that” guy who didn’t get the right change.
But it’s better than it used to be. I used to either not respond well enough with the right physical gestures, eye contact, distance, etc. or I would just start babbling through tears. There was no middle ground. I can still see this coming a long way away when something difficult arises at home or in the office – I just either want to say Fuck this, I’m out. or I’m going to end up crying in front of my partners and colleagues. I hate that.
But perhaps the worst is when I just react with emotions that have no place in the existing context and circumstance. I may smile randomly after someone says something frightfully-awful or upsetting. Ehhhhhhhhhh. Wrong emotion. I end up asking myself why the hell I was smiling after that poor woman just shared that she’s getting a divorce. But the answer is actually quite simple as I was smiling because I was thinking of something somewhat related internally and reacting emotionally and physically – but, of course, it wasn’t the “right” or appropriate reaction in that setting. Another example is where I might actually start laughing for apparently no reason in a quiet area and only until I’ve made a fool of myself do I realize that I am, in fact, in the library and everyone is staring at me like I’m a mad man.
And perhaps that’s really the point – I am mad. Completely and utterly nutso, especially when it comes to emotions. Oh well – there’s very little I can do about it!