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JayShaw
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02 Jan 2005, 6:48 pm

The portion of your paper citing an inability of people with autism/Asperger's Syndrome to reflect on their own mental states reminds me of a leadership development course that I took for work several months ago. We would participate in various activities, generally involving either work in teams or the entire class as a whole.

At the end of each day, we were required to complete a worksheet describing what we learned from each activity and how we felt during the activity. For the vast majority of the activities, I simply replied "neutral," as a response to the "How did you feel?" question. For a few other activities, I replied, "amused" or "curious," but I could never identify any feelings strong enough to be considered noteworthy.

It is indisputable that in most situations I am unable to identify myself as being in a particular emotional state. However, I am not convinced that this is due to an inability to identify my emotional state at a given time.

Rather, I believe that more often than not, I am not experiencing a particular emotional state that is strong enough to be notable. There have been times when I have felt bold, depressed, frightened, elated, worried, and various other feelings. I do not have difficulty recognizing these feelings when they occur, but they seem to occur sporadically at best.

Incidentally, one of the course instructors referred to me as "Spock" throughout the duration of the course. The other members of the class seemed to think that I looked and sounded more like Agent Smith from the Matrix. I even treated them to a lovely impression of him on the last day of the course.



Bec
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03 Jan 2005, 1:57 am

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I believe that more often than not, I am not experiencing a particular emotional state that is strong enough to be notable.


This is me exactly. I usually can identify my mental state, but for the most part it is like I don't have a strong emotional state. I can sometimes analyse antoher person's emotions from a third person perspective. When I'm involved in the situation, then I can't, because I have trouble understanding another person's point of view quickly. Maybe this means I have 'partial Theory of Mind'! :lol:



Astro
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03 Jan 2005, 7:46 am

I find all of this fascinating. What JayShaw wrote in his discussion of emotions, or lack thereof, especially resonnates with me. There are many times when I feel like I should be feeling something, but there's simply nothing. I know intellectually that something should be funny or frightening, but I get no viceral reaction. I went to a friend's father's wake recently and just felt numb. I knew I should be sad, but felt nothing.

OTOH, as I grew older, (40 now), I found myself hypersensitive at times. For example, crying at Disney films or the most cliche moments in a film. I find it all quite perplexing! Why would I feel nothing when a real person is suffering deeply yet cry at a movie?

I remember being on a white water rafting trip with a girlfriend and a group of her family and friends. We came to one portion of big water where we all had to get out and scout the scene. For me, there was a sense of the danger, looking out onto the river. But once we got back in and went through, it was like I was in a movie, my heart didn't speed up or anything - no adrenaline rush. The guide's boat in front of us was going through these 15 foot swells and went totally vertical - you could see the bottom. It just barely stayed afloat and everybody in my boat was screaming. But I felt only the slightest thrill, maybe a 2 on a scale of 1-10, whereas everyone else was feeling 9 or 10.

I've often posited that different people's brains have differing time constants, and mine has a very slow time constant. My girlfriend at the time had a very fast time constant. Let me explain.

Think of your emotions as a pendulum. In my case, I have a very long emotional pendulum with a heavy weight. If you push it, it barely moves at all, but once it moves, it takes a long time to swing back to normal. So once I get in a bad mood, I'll be annoyed for quite a while. As opposed to my ex, who would go totally crazy at the slightest provocation, then two minutes later would be totally normal (which I didn't see as normal either).

She used to pick fights with me so that she could "feel alive". I'd sit there Spock-like, discussing things impassionately while she told me how emotionless and cold I was. But she'd keep pushing buttons until I blew up. Then I'd overload and start screaming and just get totally enraged. I'd then have to force myself to calm down because I feared that I'd hit her (which I never did, though I did smash my head against the dashboard once to avoid lashing out at her). Usually, the only way I could calm myself would entail sitting against a wall with my legs pulled up to my chest while I tried not to say anything for a long time.

Does anyone else feel in this way? Have you noticed that your emotions swing differently? When you do get upset, is it overwhelming?


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Civet
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03 Jan 2005, 10:23 am

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Wow civet, that was a head full, made me think, kewl.


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Civet, that was a great paper. Really made me think tonight!


I'm glad you guys liked it :) .

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It is indisputable that in most situations I am unable to identify myself as being in a particular emotional state. However, I am not convinced that this is due to an inability to identify my emotional state at a given time.

Rather, I believe that more often than not, I am not experiencing a particular emotional state that is strong enough to be notable.


I think the same may be true for me, as well, Jay, but I'm not sure. I am normally in a default "blank" state. Sometimes I can feel a hint of something, like pleasure, or dissatisfaction. But other times, I can become so overwhelmed with emotion that I do not know what to do with myself. This happened to me last year, when my cat passed away. I felt like there was a hole in my chest, and something hard and heavy in my stomach, and I just could not stop crying. But I also kept saying "this is pointless, because there's no reason to cry. He's gone, and that won't bring him back." It also happened to me during my freshman year in college, when I became overwhelmed by living on my own, and having a major roommate conflict.

There have been occurences, however, that make me think I do have trouble identifying my emotions. For example, before I had to have a septoplasty this summer, my stomach was quite upset. My mother asked me if I was nervous about the surgery, and I told her "no" because I didn't think I was. Later, I mentioned that my stomach had been bothering me all day, and she said "You're nervous and you don't even know it!" and she was right. It seems to me that my physiological responses come before any mental recognition occurs, and the mental recognition usually comes from a self-anaylsis.

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Does anyone else feel in this way? Have you noticed that your emotions swing differently? When you do get upset, is it overwhelming?


Yes, definitely. It's as I mentioned about my cat and my roommate problem. I also find that when I am tired, I am much more prone to emotional outbursts.



JayShaw
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03 Jan 2005, 8:13 pm

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But other times, I can become so overwhelmed with emotion that I do not know what to do with myself. This happened to me last year, when my cat passed away. I felt like there was a hole in my chest, and something hard and heavy in my stomach, and I just could not stop crying.


I can relate to this one. My dog had an untimely death during my college years, and that was probably the most emotional experience that I've gone through in my life. She was like my baby.



SineWave
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04 Jan 2005, 1:16 am

I got a question... if you were to name all of the the people you'd feel truly sad for, if they died, how many would you have?

And would that number be lower than average, among people with AS?



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05 Jan 2005, 1:04 am

Wow, SineWave, that's a difficult question. I think there would be a lot of people I would feel sad for, but I don't do very well at expressing emotion. I even think that if people I don't like were to die, I would still feel some sort of grief.

When it comes to being above or below the average, I have no clue. What is the average?



SineWave
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07 Jan 2005, 3:36 am

I have no idea. :P



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26 Feb 2005, 12:42 am

SineWave wrote:
I got a question... if you were to name all of the the people you'd feel truly sad for, if they died, how many would you have?

I'd like to think everyone feels sadness, as a complete lack of emotion is more typical of a psychosis than a developmental disorder. I have problems expressing myself to others, but I still have feelings.

Having said that, the pragmatist in me says that death is inevitable and we should mark the passing of a life with dignity instead of hysterics. The realist in me also knows that the death of a friend or relative is a loss, and that can be quite painful for the person experiencing that loss. The question becomes whether your sadness is over their death or your loss.

I know when my grandmother died at the age of 97 it was probably for the best as she was senile and full of cancer and if "old age" didn't get her then the cancer would have. Of course there will always be accidents and you really can't prepare yourself for those. The only time I think I've ever cried over someone's death was when my co-worker was killed in an auto accident on his way to work. (I discussed my refusal to attend his funeral in another thread.) In hindsight I think it was the shock of the death, and not the death itself, that put me over the edge. He was also the first person I'd ever know who was younger than me when he died. There's nothing quite as personal as recognizing your own mortality. Even a decade of suicidal thoughts didn't prepare me for that fact -- suicide is about escape, not death.

Ack! Sometimes I feel like such an insensitive clod! When my father-in-law died (also discussed in another thread) I was told that the family was a bit stunned that I was the only person in his hospital room who wasn't crying. I didn't give it much weight at the time, since I was also the only one who wasn't a blood relative. Now I *finally* (two years later) get the point -- they expected me to cry for my partner's loss of a father, not my own loss of a father-in-law. I think I'd better go try to make amends.



serine
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26 Feb 2005, 11:05 pm

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On the literal level, the entire conversation was about the evolution of they human eyeball. (we often talk about scientific, social, psychological stuff). If we had that discussion a year ago, I’d see the conversation as nothing but that, I’d only see the literal, surface meaning about the conversation.

But… they (and I) we’re really talking about the evolution of the eyeball, they were talking about me and my AS-ness. It was exhausting to keep track of both the literal conversation, and the second-level meaning of what we were talking about.

Another odd thing… Another friend mentioned to me that I have ALWAYS been able to speak on this “second-level”. He thinks I was just doing it subconsciously. I’m not so sure about that, though… I think it was more likely he was looking for double meanings that didn’t exist.


What i dont know is if this "feeling" (which is more something you "view") is real or wrong. Lets says if it is real or a missfunctionning somewhere in the brain.



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27 Feb 2005, 7:53 pm

SineWave wrote:
I got a question... if you were to name all of the the people you'd feel truly sad for, if they died, how many would you have?

And would that number be lower than average, among people with AS?


For me the number would be much lower than average, definitely.... My lack of any kind of emotional empathy with almost anybody else is definitely one of my biggest problems, and has often lead to my thinking that I might have some kind of psychosis beyong the normal bounds of the spectrum..... I suppose this kind of feeling is normal with AS though?


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27 Feb 2005, 10:12 pm

Astro wrote:
I'd sit there Spock-like, discussing things impassionately while she told me how emotionless and cold I was. But she'd keep pushing buttons until I blew up. Then I'd overload and start screaming and just get totally enraged.

Been there, done that, amazed our relationship survived.
Astro wrote:
Usually, the only way I could calm myself would entail sitting against a wall with my legs pulled up to my chest while I tried not to say anything for a long time.

I have two responses. If the situation wasn't totally out of hand I'd go lie face-down on the bed and cover my ears and try to "turn off". Sometimes that would just be inviting the argument into the bedroom, in which case I'd go outside to put some physical distance between us.
Astro wrote:
Does anyone else feel in this way? Have you noticed that your emotions swing differently? When you do get upset, is it overwhelming?

Yes. Even as a child I was a "powder keg with a very long fuse", according to my mother. I would stay visibly calm under all sorts of stress and then eventually I'd wildly over-react to the littlest thing and it would all pour out.



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04 Jun 2008, 9:56 pm

Bump



Tim_Tex
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04 Jun 2008, 9:58 pm

Depends on the person.


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