If you are interested in sharing your insight...
Thank you for the link! Things are beginning to make sense to me! I just discovered that empathy involves an actual feeling and not an understanding. I started wondering what I have been missing and then realized if I was to experience the emotions of others by being physically by them, I would NEVER be around people! I suppose it is a nice safety mechanism for me!
I have began this journey of understanding the spectrum with my youngest son's diagnosis, continued with my older son's diagnosis, and finally with my own acceptance that this is most probable my diagnosis. Finding accurate information on Asperger has been quite a challenge! I only know what I know but so many sites I have read and inside I am screaming, 'No, that is wrong!'
Now I have the internal debate: to search and receive an 'official' diagnosis, to share this information with family and friends, and what does Asperger mean, for me, in my life.
@uncommonsense "I just discovered that empathy involves an actual feeling and not an understanding."
One of the biggest difficulties for me in accepting my Dx was that I too had this misunderstanding about what people mean when they say empathy- I had been under the impression that it was about understanding via "walking a mile in another's shoes" mentally/logically! So when people described it as "lacking typical empathy" I backed away a lot, yet when anyone described the actual experience of being on spectrum or avoided that word, it seemed dead on.
Thank you for your comment! I feel a sense of relief that someone else has encountered this! I have seen a dictionary for individuals with Autism but what is needed is a dictionary for the 'professionals'!
My 18 year old son was filling out an questionnaire for a research study on Aspeger and he became very agitated with the wording of the questions. The question was, 'When you choose a partner at school....'. His understanding of the question was they were implying he was a homosexual!
I wonder how many studies have published incorrect data because the language of the questions were misleading?
I agreed to participate with another research project and I explained my willingness was not due to my communication issues but rather to advise the researchers of their communication issues! LOL
JobCorp (A national, federal program for youth ages 16-26.) has been tasked with increasing their population of individuals with Autism BUT this information has not been shared with any organization that provides, albeit limited, assistance to those on the spectrum.
Thanks again Savannah!
I believe this thread may have just the mass appeal that we're looking for......I can't wait for my new pillow!
According to Tony Attwood, empathy is essentially synonymous with Theory of Mind. To paraphrase (correct me if I'm off base), the degree to which one feels it is the degree to which one can appreciate both one's own perspective and the perspectives of other people whose experiences are not one's own. A large part of moving beyond empathy to "mature empathy" is learning to predict with some accuracy not only what another person might be feeling but what that person expects and needs from us at any given time.
Part of this is life experience. As I grow older and have more life experiences, I get better at figuring out what to do in various situations. Part of it is how efficiently one processes in the moment.
Feeling (basic empathy) has never been the problem for me. My greatest difficulty, especially as a child and young woman, has been with figuring out what people need from me (mature empathy), especially as what I need rarely seems to gibe with what NTs appear to need. (Retreat, lick my wounds, surface when I've recovered, etc.) What I need is time to process before re-engaging, and I believe there is a neurological basis for this. NTs might not need this.
Feeling everything that another person feels sounds a bit unhealthy (my therapist says I feel too much and to stop it) and perhaps is antithetical to achieving the distance necessary to access the situation properly. It would be like witnessing a car crash and then plowing in with one's own car to share the experience. I feel like for much of my life, I've been plowing into the wreckage rather than swooping in to provide the calm and rational help that is most needed. Recently not so much. I've had a lot of practice as a mommy with the swooping thing.
And I think a lot of this, for me, comes from the time delay. It takes me time to process. In the moment, I can get so discombobulated, so the emotions are reaching me but the executive part of my brain isn't quite kicking in yet to tell me what to do with those emotions, how to keep them in check, what specifically I should do and in what order.
There was this one incident I'll never forget from when I was a teenager. I was watching my little sister (the same one who died recently) and she accidentally fell and hit her head. Before I could process what to do, and literally a second later, my stepmother swooped in to rescue her. She shouted at me, "Why are you laughing? Do you think this is funny?"
Of course, I didn't think it was funny. My response was a fear response, and I wasn't even conscious I was doing it.
As a kid, I felt I was in this battle against the slower processing of my brain (I have a high IQ but only average processing ability) and the sense that I was juggling six balls at all times. Just functioning in real time, spontaneously, was difficult enough. Given time, I could outperform nearly all of my classmates. And I think that is what confused many people. It was as if they thought I was holding out on them when my brain didn't work quickly enough relative to what they perceived would be more reasonable given my academic ability.
I see this with my son all the time. He is smart and capable, so when he gets overwhelmed or overstimulated and shuts down, his teachers tend to assume he is "making a bad choice."
Temple Grandin, in a lecture I watched recently, asserted that we need to look at the ASD/NT difference less as a failure of empathy and more as the difficulty of processing in real time, given sensory challenges and the physical differences in the brains of people with ASD. This makes sense to me.
I was diagnosed in October 2009 at the age of 50. My diagnosis explained just about everything about my life. It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders in many ways.
While high school was not much fun, I knew it was temporary & that a lot of girls have a difficult time- so it didn't leave too many lasting scars.
For me, it was the workplace that provided the most devastating experiences. My current job is very good (so far- I have been there a little over 2 years). But for a period of several years, I worked in a predominantly female workplace in a large company. Think about the "mean girls" except in a work environment. I believe that it was my desperate & often frantic efforts to fit in that marked me as "different". I was a sitting duck for ostracism, gossip, rumours, innuendo, etc.
Not wanting to sound too negative- I am working on dealing with these issues and moving toward a more positive place- but I believe it was the "not knowing" that caused me the most difficulty. The ignorance of my true condition was like invisible chains wrapped around my feet & holding me back.
I wish I had known about my AS (although the diagnosis didn't actually exist until 1994) when I was in high school, so I could have made more informed choices concerning my education & career path.
As I got older I got better at "pretending to be normal" (if I may steal a phrase:) and since my diagnosis I have been reading everything I can find, following what seems to be the best advice, and forming my own strategies in an attempt to minimize the social difficulties I usually experience.
I have started going to the monthly meetings of our local Autism Self Advocacy Council, and it is nice to meet people who know what this is like. I find that no matter how kind & well meaning another person might be, they do not "get it". Only someone who actually has Asperger's can "get it". I hope some day to help raise awareness of Asperger's Syndrome, the fact that it is so difficult to diagnose in females, and that there are many girls & women out there who are struggling with the effects of having AS who do not know they have it. Workplace bullying is also an issue that needs a higher profile.
I hope this helps. I've tried to keep this short & just touch on the workplace issue for the moment. I will be happy to add to my story- just let me know.
I'm glad you are in a good work situation now. Thanks so much for your post, a lot of which resonates with me. I had a mostly positive 9-year stay with one employer with a few pockets of desperate unhappiness, in which there were toxic people who seized not only on my eccentricity but on that of anyone they could target. At least I wasn't alone. But it was horrible.
I admit I didn't read everyone's suggestions, so forgive me if this is duplicate.
I am interested in family dynamics and the toll the outsiders have on marriage and family life in general. For instance, problematic schools and other ne'er sayers often cause so much trouble in families. I believe that this is why the divorce rate is inflated.
There is an online "Aspie Self Quiz". I don't have the link at hand immediately, but you can search for it on Google. This comprehensive self-evaluation comes with explained results at its conclusion, and can point to whether your traits in character and processing are more typical or more autistic. In order to have an official diagnosis, you will need to undergo professional evaluation.
I, like Amy, also admit I haven't read anyone's comments. (With the exception of the one I posted a direct reply to, of course.) I too apologize if this is a duplicate question.
I would like to hear your thoughts on autism and criminal justice issues - the problems in communication during interview/interrogation, the possibilities of someone on the spectrum being falsely accused, or what to do if someone is being accused of a crime they did actually commit, and how to ensure the autistic person is treated fairly and his/her rights protected. . . etcetera, etcetera.
Liane ~I so get what you said about becoming mute & wanting to handle grief in your own way. I have never had the desire to have input from friends when I am processing strong emotions.
This doesn't mean that I won't appreciate talking it out later, but for Pete's sake... give me a moment, please!
It's not personal, but I find that many NT's take it personally (or some have with me in the past.) No matter how cliche' this sounds, it's true: "When I want my solitude to process something deep & strong, it's not you - it's me."
Ylanne ~ welcome to AWN & I wanted to comment that I have taken the online Aspie Quiz & I thought it was interesting. Many of my NT friends and family are sooo NT! Love them still the same...♥♥♥
Interesting that my best friend since 3rd grade (for 38 yrs now!) took the test. She tested *Aspie* (I told her ahead of time that I thought she was -- it is extremely telling to examine who we have gravitated toward throughout our lives, right?
I find that a lack of empathy is not a problem for me, but rather how I express it can be misinterpreted.
I've had people ask me, "aren't you sad about ..." - and I'm usually caught off guard by their inquiry, because I am thinking, "of course I am sad, can't you tell?"
I should add to this by saying that it was more common for me to receive those kinds of responses when I was much younger. It seems as though the older I get, the less I am questioned about such things.
I am supposing this might be due to my ability to mimic the response which I conclude will fit the situation for the company of people I am with at the time? (no wonder I am typically exhausted after these kinds of social scenes.)
I would like to see something about the balance between feeling compeled to pretend in order to blend in, and finding the confidence to not completely pretend and remain more true to the Asperger state of mind and behaviour set. For me, I work in a profession where I wonder if I will ever be accepted if I choose not to always "pretend" for people, but open up and show them who I really am, and that I can still do the job just as well... [I work as a doctors, so there's a lot of pressure to conform, fit in and meet people's idea of normal].
Something about emotion regulation would be fantastic too!
BTW - I really enjoyed your book pretending to be normal. So many moments where I went "Wow! Someone else does that too!"
I apologise for incorrectly spelling your name Liane!
It's so important to have our experiences recorded because so much writing about AS is about men and children. I don't begrudge them that at all: but it does mean that if you mention Asperger's to anyone who even knows the word, they think about trainspotting and taking expressions like, "pull your socks up" literally. There's this idea that we have no imagination. Yet some AS women, like me, lose themselves in stories - rather read than talk to people. I believe our gender modifies AS radically, and this needs to be more widely known.
What I find is this: on forums with other AS people, there's this constant, "I thought I was the only one!" feeling. For instance: I really hate meeting my own eyes in a mirror, and I found someone else with AS who hates that too - part of the general eye-contact thing, I think. BUT - if you try to explain to NT people, what they usually say is, "well, everyone's like that." But they aren't, or there'd be no mirrors! It's not just, God I look ugly today - it's a feeling like I'm dissolving into my own eyes, like the woman in the mirror starts to drain away my reality, take away my self, so I'm not real any more - horrible! (Actually, an exploration of the whole eye-contact thing might be interesting.)
I get so weary of having to provide evidence for my diagnosis. Luckily I was diagnosed with Asperger's traits by an NHS psychologist - I reckon it's more than just traits, though, because the test was biased towards the male form. So I have that, and it has been a real help. But it's so hard to make other people see, and I want them to see, because this diagnosis has explained my whole life for me.
I suspect this is a common feeling amongst AS women.
I am interested in families that have more than one or two cases of autism. My father, myself, my sons, my sister (who is not my father's daughter, strangely), all of us are on the spectrum. It's definitely hard on married life. My father has been married 5 times...he's undiagnosed and only came to the realization (like me) when my oldest was diagnosed. I struggled for a long time wondering if a diagnosis would be worth it or not for my son and again for me (I'm going in next week to be evaluated...it took me over a year to decide this...I'm still having anxiety that they will tell me it's something else). My second son will be evaluated soon as well, because although I SEE IT, his teachers think he's fine because he is not learning disabled. He has a great mind for dates, math and reading, so they tell me that I should stop comparing him to his brother (which I'm not) and I am baffled by this attitude. My husband explained it to me: "What do they know? You've probably done more research in the last year on the subject then they have in their whole lives! They most likely have this picture in their mind of what autism is and he doesn't fit into it and they probably just assume we're crappy parents. Sad, lazy and unfair to him." I often wonder how other ASD parents raising ASD kids deal with schools and parenting issues. I have such a difficult time communicating with the staff at the school. It is beyond frustrating.
I am definately interested in learning MUCH MORE about how autism/asperger's presents in females vs males.
Like many of you I am interested in empathy and perspectives on empathy from autistic people. I'm not sure if I understand empathy or not. I always took it to mean feeling, instead of experience like some of you said. Where I fail is understanding the meaning behind the feeling. If I'm near someone and they are upset or agitated or irritated, I often find myself soaking up that same feeling like a sponge and pretty soon I am agitated and irritated too, although I don't know why and often don't know what to do to help the other person or if it's my fault. I'm not sure if this works for the 'good' feelings people have. I might outright ignore happiness or whatever. It might be the extremes. I've always chalked this up to my hypersensitivity. I reasoned that if my physical self is super sensitive, then my inner self must be too. I've recently come to the conclusion that I can only feel one real feeling at any one time and the strongest, clearest feeling is anger. For example, I love my husband, and I think I really do feel love in some way or another, but when I am upset with him all I can feel is anger and the love is blocked out. I know that I care about him logically and want him in my life, but at that moment I am consumed by my anger and I have even told him that I hate him. But when I am experiencing love for him it is a strong feeling but it never lasts long...it happens, then recedes to the baseline feeling of 'me'. I'm thankful that he is a patient man.
I have gained such wonderful knowledge from you all and I have even gained some self confidence just knowing that I'm not alone. Anything you write Liane is sure to help at least one more person move forward in their lives and will be a gift.
Thank you :)
Hi Liane -- I'm listening & taking notes as fast as I can type.
Question: what is Ezines? (yup - I'm a technically challenged geek... self taught & continuing to learn the lingo- lol)
Thanks for checking in Liane.
@ CalifMom: Have you been able to find someone to back you up with the teachers at school??
I know that i have struggled with this all my life. My brain moves at it's own speed.
I just hate the idea of your son exposed to this kind of criticism. We have enough problems without all the misunderstanding we have to go through with people in authority.
Feeling very empathetic about this one < grin>
I guess i'm probably saying the obvious but then i'm good at that
A lot of what you write is about Liane wanting to be Liane in a world that seems bent on "bending" Liane into "acceptable" and "normal" standards.
What are your experiences when you truly get to be Liane?
Since my dx I have experimented with being more Aspie and less adaptable/ flexible/ cooperative/ conforming. I always thought of myself as an emotional pretzel, feeling the need to twist myself into what you wanted or needed me to be without thinking too much about the repercussions to my sense of self. Now my self of self is hard to know. I get my habits confused with who i am at times. But in order to rediscover the me under all this i need to experiment to find what parts to keep and which can be left behind. I just don't have a lot of support in this.
No one will ever totally understand another person IMO but when it is enough? These are some of the thoughts that run though my head. ( when i'm not obesssing about the person who seems to always get on my case at my volunteer job that is..) Who did i mispalce for the 50 years i tried to be "good" ??