Aspies, Lack of Empathy and Concrete Thinking

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jbthedelirious
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05 Oct 2011, 2:41 am

I've been diagnosed with Asperger's since I was 8 and from what I understand people with Asperger's tend to lack empathy (as far as NTs are concerned) and have trouble interpreting figurative speech.

But I'm not like that.

I'm actually pretty empathetic (by NT standards), and I'm actually less of a logical thinker. I'm also very good at understanding and using figurative speech. The latter I can attribute to my being an avid reader, but the former gives me pause.

Any advice?



League_Girl
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05 Oct 2011, 3:28 am

What advice were you asking for?

I can understand figures of speech once I learn what they mean. Sometimes I can understand a phrase without it being explained to me because it's obvious to me what it means. I tend to be concrete but I can be abstract too. I'm both.

Aspies do have empathy but they just appear to lack it.



Chronos
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05 Oct 2011, 3:52 am

jbthedelirious wrote:
I've been diagnosed with Asperger's since I was 8 and from what I understand people with Asperger's tend to lack empathy (as far as NTs are concerned) and have trouble interpreting figurative speech.

But I'm not like that.

I'm actually pretty empathetic (by NT standards), and I'm actually less of a logical thinker. I'm also very good at understanding and using figurative speech. The latter I can attribute to my being an avid reader, but the former gives me pause.

Any advice?


The issue is, NT's don't know what they are talking about. They think people with AS lack empathy but it is they who can't empathize with people with AS.



Burnbridge
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05 Oct 2011, 4:16 am

I agree entirely with Chronos here.

'Spergs seak a different body language. I empathise with other 'spergs fairly well. Just not so much with the squares.


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05 Oct 2011, 4:42 am

I am hyper empathetic.
I am not literal when it comes to phrases, but when I am reading a novel, any underlying symbolism is completely lost on me.


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Maje
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05 Oct 2011, 4:45 am

Agreed with chronos.
Misunderstandings happen to me when the speaker is saying something else with his/her body than what he/she intends to articulate in words.
I wouldnt describe myself as an avid reader, and figurative speech has never been difficult for me. I remember learning about it in school, where it was a piece of cake while most of my fellow students had greater difficulties.

I had a conversation with a nervous guy not so long ago, and I misunderstood a thing he said because it came wrong out of his mouth. We were talking about a fellow friend and he said that his nickname means "gone" in the dictionary, with a nervous laugh. Since Im still learning his language I had to ask again, and then he told me that our friend was travelling somewhere. Im sure he wanted to repeat a joke he had heard somewhere, to make himself interesting, and that it therefore wasnt authentic -> which can be confusing to me.



TheWingman
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05 Oct 2011, 8:47 am

I might be sometimes rude and a bit of an as*hole sometime but I can't bear looking at somebody suffering while I notice lots of others simply don't care.



RobotGreenAlien2
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05 Oct 2011, 5:15 pm

Empathy does not mean caring about people as most think. It mean being able to identify and emotional response in others and to have a reciprocal emotional state in your self.
Aspies have a problem with the identifying bit. Sociopaths have a problem with the caring bit. Because of the double definition I generally avoid using the term when explaining.



btbnnyr
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05 Oct 2011, 5:31 pm

I feel that the whole empathy thing is an example of the danger of NT language. The concept is that autistics do not intuitively know what NTs are thinking and feeling and do not automatically share those thoughts and feelings with NTs. Same thing happens in the opposite direction. But NT language has turned this concept of empathy into the word "empathy" which has become equivalated, or more like umbrellated, the word "compassion" and the phrase "caring about people" and the phrase "ability to love", all of which words or phrases describe different concepts, but all the different concepts subsumed under this one word "empathy", such that the simple concept of lacking empathy has come to mean also lacking compassion, caring about people, being able to love people. But in reality, each concept is like a different big giant chemical structure, but all these structures are being given the same verbal label by NTs, who see the world in lower resolution than autistics do and therefore habitually apply low-resolution verbal labels to cover all manner of distinct structures, or concepts.

In autistic language, this conflation would be harder to make, because instead of applying this generalized highly abstract verbal label "empathy", autistics would just say, more explicitly and concretely, "I don't know, automatically and instantly, what you are thinking and feeling, and I don't share your thoughts and feelings, because the same stimuli generate different responses in me vs. you, so you're going to have to explain your perspective for me to have a theoretical understanding of it, and I will explain mine to you afterwards, because guess what, I do want to know your perspective, because I do care about you and therefore want you to feel happy as much of the time as possible, and the first concept I talked about explicitly was what you call 'empathy' and the second concept that I talked about explicitly was 'caring about people'."



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05 Oct 2011, 6:14 pm

Yeah, what Chronos & Mage said.

You have to imagine a ASD child turned away from "Professor Entie." Prof. Entie is thinking, "the child does not engage with me or even look me in the eye. Thus, the child lacks empathy. In fact, I surmise that the child doesn't even know that I am here, or that I exist and have thoughts different from him!"

Meanwhile, the kid is thinking, "What is this alien stranger's heat on the back of my neck? What are these strange, overpowering smells, sounds, vibrations in the floor, movements, colors, shapes...? Not to mention all these confusing, contradictory 'signals'... Ack, I'm drowning in it! Maybe if I stay focused on this toy car wheel and keep rocking all of this horrible, invasive chaos will go away and everything will become normal again. OMG OMG OMG..."

So, someone who knows what that is like is more likely to correctly infer what the ASD person is thinking & feeling, whereas someone without that experience will probably get it wrong. Since NT's will be interacting with NT's 99% of the time, they may not even realize that it's possible for their "empathy" to fail.

(All of this is pretty oversimplified, admittedly.)