This continues my earlier investigations into Alexithymia – See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
Question 31: I like it when someone describes the feelings they experience under circumstances similar to my own, because this helps me see what my own feelings might be.
Fact: Yes. I do.
Truth: I can’t say I really care much about what other people think — sorry… not sorry… their emotional state is none of my business. But it does really come in handy, when I’m trying to improve my understanding of others — and figure out how to imitate them. See, the reason I study these things is NOT because I want to be able to do them, myself. I don’t really care about that, to be honest. I DO want to figure out how to simulate those emotions, so people will stop pestering me about how I feel about things. I don’t know. I don’t care. Feels are not my thing. But if people keep digging deeper into my feels, to see how I’m really feeling (ugh), it’s incredibly distracting. And it diverts attention and energy from the things I really want to be thinking about — objective facts and big-picture applications of minute details.
Question 32: My imagination is often spontaneous, unpredictable and involuntary.
Fact: Yes. It is.
Truth: But not in ways that make sense to most neurotypicals. I can “riff” on an idea and roam far and wide, conceptually… leaving them behind. I’ve actually been told I made people feel like their heads were going to explode. So, I mostly keep it to myself around neurotypicals. It’s safer for everyone that way.
Question 33: When helping others I prefer to assist with physical tasks rather than offering counsel about their feelings.
Truth: OMG, can we please stop obsessing about feels? It’s distracting and it keeps us from actually solving the Real Problems Of The World. I sometimes think that neurotypical life is centered around relieving the pain they’ve caused themselves, and all they really care about is making themselves comfortable, while their lives go to hell. Rearranging the chairs on the deck of a ship that’s not being steered… as it drifts right into an iceberg field. But hey, at least they have a good angle towards the sun, so they can work on that tan that will get them laid. Right?
Question 34: I have puzzling physical sensations that even friends/acquaintances/others don’t understand.
Truth: And it is hugely annoying/confounding, trying to explain this to my doctors, other (NT) people, or whoever makes the mistake of asking how I’m feeling. I’m much more connected to the world around me, than your average person on the street, and everything can come and go so quickly, I lose track of what I’m feeling, from one minute to the next. So, it’s better to not even try to put it into words.
Question 35: I get in a muddle when I try to describe how I feel about an important event.
Truth: Because there is no one simple answer. I feel every conceivable way — literally — about everything important (and unimportant) in the world. I can discuss this all in great depth and detail, if given the chance. But of course, I don’t get that chance much, because it confuses and disorients people who deal with 1-dimensional experiences of emotion. So, when discussing my feels, I generally pick one emotion that’s familiar and would make sense to the person I’m talking to, and I talk about that. But it’s just a tiny, tiny tip of my Asperger’s. There’s a shit-ton of more stuff under the surface, but who has the time for that?
Question 36: My imagination is usually not spontaneous and surprising, but rather used/employed in a more controlled fashion.
Fact: Not. Well, kind of.
Truth: I have a wild imagination. I dunno why this is on the list. If Alexithymia is actually the product of hyper-active emotional experiencing, as I believe it is, rather than limitations in understanding, then one would expect one’s imagination to absolutely, positively run wild. Except for those circumstances where stuff needs to get done — and in that case, extreme management and proper channeling of thought energy is called for — which is where the “employed in a more controlled fashion” comes in, I would imagine.
Question 37: I make decisions based on principles rather than gut feelings.
Fact: Yes. Yes, I do.
Truth: Gut feelings come and go. They can be myriad in the course of a few minutes. Why would you make decisions based on your gut, when it can’t make up its own mind? Then again, gut feelings — when given the time — can yield pretty detailed and well-supported decisions, based on a multiplicity of factors. I think we need to differentiate between fast-made decisions and long-considered ones. I do use my gut in many situations — but only if I have really ample time to sort through all the data. In the end, though, I use my head to make the decisions. My gut is more a receiver and transmitter of information from my overall system. My brain is command central, in terms of figuring out what to do with the information deluge.
But the rare times when I “go with my gut”, it’s generally right on. Intuition rocks — if it’s based on actual fact and verified experience.
Note: This is part of a 4-part series about Alexithymia criteria, as well as related thoughts about the “subcondition” in general. You can find additional content at the links below:
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
What if #autistic Alexithymia isn’t anything like what we think it is?
- Other posts related to Alexithymia
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9 thoughts on “Alexithymia? Let’s take another look at the facts AND the truth – Part 4”
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Yes! I too think that ” Alexithymia” is a product of
“hyper-active emotional experiencing” an overwhelming experience that can stun the ability to equate the feeling/experience with a word, any word. Words can limit the communicability of experience. I am often in the situation where an array of words that could be associated as an descriptive of part of the experience flood my mind but none are adequate, not even the whole gamut strung together will suffice.
This presents a huge problem when a less intense emotional involvement is considered the norm. Dampened emotional involvement may be communicated with the choice of a few words. What happens when this is the goal of diagnostic tools designed to ” test” autistics?
My gut says that these goals only serve to miss the point in that they throw no light on the lived experience but rather promote acceptance of autistics lacking feeling and empathy.
Quite the opposite.
Over years the vocabulary may increase and selecting a word to limply approximate part of the felt emotional experience may be given but again I, as an autistic, know that the word/s do not and cannot convey anything near my intensely felt experience.
I’m sure that a non-autistic may say something similar but the difference is found in the resultant affect of the autistic ” hyper- active emotional experience.”.. usually considered extreme/ overreactions but in fact are honest responses. Intensity is the unrecognised nub.
When there is a distance in time between the event/experience and I am thus removed from the immediacy of intense emotional involvement I am able to select a word that approximates my recollection of the experience but NOT the the existential experience itself. Intensity is the experience. The word is the bland impotent descriptive flavour but not the experience. Is non-autistic experience related to ego, the mind, and therefore lacking sensory intensity?
An autistic child may not have the vocabulary, the bank of lived experiences that forms maturity to reflect to upon, identify and communicate feelings successfully in words. This is where visual representation… drawing , painting, sculpting or gesture through mime and/or acting are better suited to facilitate communication of emotions by the young autistic child.
This could lead me down another country lane of the mind and autistic existential reality as I see it… but I’m long overdue for breakfast and medications .
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I agree wholeheartedly. It’s unrealistic (and unfair) to judge us, because the standard approach to emotions is oversimplified. Our experiences cannot be put into words.
That’s why, when some people as me how I am or how I’m feeling, I answer… “Yes.”
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Thanks for the post and valuable recommended reading.
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You’re welcome – and thank you.
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I really love this series, and I agree with the idea that alexithymia more likely comes from a hyper-intense emotional capacity. I mean, just reading these posts has stirred up more feelings than I can follow and put words to…
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Thanks – yeah, funny how that happens 🙂
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