Difficulty relating to people=Difficulty taking off the mask

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Butterfly
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11 Jun 2013, 10:42 am

Little bit of background...

Hi I'm a 21 year old Aspie. It's been a messy very year & 1/2; between repeated physical injury, academic meltdown, social complications & more recently some mild depression.

I think my current downward spiral was triggered by a growing issue which I was previously in unaware of (in denial) and am now trying to find a way to amend.

The issue is an inability to voluntarily express my negative emotions (my emotional vulnerability) to other people. The build up of suppressed negative emotions (unbeknownst to me) eventually crippled me and I went through a long period of fruitless self reflection before I discovered this was the issue. Now I could use coping mechanisms such as music, physical activity etc... to relieve the emotional baggage but I feel it's much more important to treat the root issue: My inability to voluntarily express my negative emotions (my emotional vulnerability) to other people.

I've been trying to identify the causes of this block and one of the major ones (which is the topic of this post) is that...

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I find it difficult to take off the mask and express my negative emotions (my emotional vulnerability) to other people because I feel I can't relate to them.

I have some very close friends; people I'm very open with and who are very open with me, but even with them I find that (while I can usually talk about my issues) I can't express the negative emotions themselves.

I think it's because I focus on the differences, the obstacles to forming a connection with a person. I over think and enlarge these differences. I am afraid of loosing or constantly burdening my relationships by going on & on about my problems. I feel I'm far too serious most of the time, and I've always felt I think very differently to other people. Usually I'm fine with this and can deal with it, but when it comes to expressing emotions. In the emotional context I lose faith in the belief that we have enough in common to relate to each other. I am usually very caring and supportive to others who express their emotions to me & I encourage them to do so. I realize I am a hypocrite. I don't practice what I preach even when its just talking about issues I usually can't open up unless my companion makes the first move (talks about their issues first).

The fact that aspies I have met have struggle or failed to form close relationships (particularly romantic ones worries me). Sometimes I entertain the neurotic thought that I’m just too different to other people to really connect with them, to relate to them. Maybe that’s why I can’t take off the mask completely.

Believing this cripples my ability to express myself at the crucial moments when others reveal their emotions or I have an opportunity to reveal mine.

If thought myself to recognize the common ground I have with people & when I focus on our similarities things go really well. The problem is I never feel like my emotions are common ground, i'm feel expressing them will create a distance between us. I know this is illogical and wrong but I feel this way regardless and it inhibits me.

Does anyone else feel similarly? has anyone found a way to overcome this?



Thelibrarian
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11 Jun 2013, 10:47 am

"I find it difficult to take off the mask and express my negative emotions (my emotional vulnerability) to other people because I feel I can't relate to them."

I have a little different take than you do on this. First off, what NT's do is to put masks on, which is critical to being able to function well socially. I'm referring to what psychologists call the persona. NT's are able to put on different personas for different roles (e.g., at work, in love, in friendships). It's part of being successful socially, and is something we aspies have problems with. Unlike us, NT's can shift almost effortlessly between personas.

Second, I don't think we should express our intimate emotions to people we don't know well. I think that should be saved for loved ones and our closest friends. I've found that nothing will scare off acquaintances and friends faster than being inappropriately intimate emotionally. That is something that must develop over time.



Ann2011
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11 Jun 2013, 11:25 am

Thelibrarian wrote:
I have a little different take than you do on this. First off, what NT's do is to put masks on, which is critical to being able to function well socially. I'm referring to what psychologists call the persona. NT's are able to put on different personas for different roles (e.g., at work, in love, in friendships). It's part of being successful socially, and is something we aspies have problems with. Unlike us, NT's can shift almost effortlessly between personas.

I have a lot of trouble switching between personas. Actually, I can't do it at all. It seems dishonest to me anyway. But this has led me to do inappropriate things. I try to keep to myself as much as possible to avoid this.



foxfield
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11 Jun 2013, 1:09 pm

Quote:
Sometimes I entertain the neurotic thought that I’m just too different to other people to really connect with them, to relate to them. Maybe that’s why I can’t take off the mask completely.


I can relate.

I realize that this is perhaps not the advice you are looking for but I say to you: trust your instincts. If you feel subconciously you are not fully connected with a person, or that they will not understand your negative emotions well enough, then that instinct is probably correct. Do not try to open up to people that you do not feel fully in sync with, or you will just end up feeling terribly hurt and angry as a result.

To be perfecty honest, I am not surpised that you feel lonely in your thoughts. Your opening post shows an emotional depth that I think is quite rare, especially among 21 year olds.

I think that you are already doing the right thing. You are enjoying friendships on a level that you feel comfortable with, while having enough self-reflection to realize that you need to open up to someone on a deeper level. As I said above, I think to be able to achieve the latter you need to find someone you really feel you can trust on every level. Thats not something that can be forced or rushed into. Take your time and concentrate on looking after yourself in the best way that you can.



Ann2011
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11 Jun 2013, 1:34 pm

Home wrote:
The problem is I never feel like my emotions are common ground, i'm feel expressing them will create a distance between us. I know this is illogical and wrong but I feel this way regardless and it inhibits me.

I don't generally express my emotions or feelings (unless it is someone I'm close to.) I don't think you are being illogical. I have tried to express my feelings to friends, but my comments are generally followed by something dismissive or complete silence. I deal with this by keeping myself to myself, but the cost is that I don't feel connected with anyone.



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11 Jun 2013, 5:18 pm

Thank you for all your comments. I really appreciate it.

Thelibrarian - I agree with you on both count's. NT's make use of persona and so do I. I also agree that I you must be very careful about who you are open with. I like being open with people but I learnt social savy (the hard way) & know when to keep things to myself.

Ironically I think my problem is the opposite - I got so good at keeping things to myself I can't open up when it is appropriate.

I have a very close friend I felt I could tell him anything and visa versa. He is not an aspie but he is bipolar with a list of serious issues longer than his arm. We've help each other out and we have each others back. I can trust him more than I can trust anyone.

We are very different & he can be irritatingly immature (and in terms of punctuality I am completely unreliable) but he's a sensitive soul and a keen listener when he's in the mood. He's an empath (he can literally feel even the faint emotions of those around him as if they were his own). You'd think with my desire to be open and his ability to sense things there wouldn't be a problem. However ever since I opened this can of worms & realised I can't express emotions I realise I don't feel as close as I thought. I thought I could tell him anything, I used to be the one bugging him about opening up about issues he'd hint about but wouldn't expand on. I guess one good thing from this is that I now get where he's coming from when he can't talk about stuff.

Ann2011 - Switching personas is hard but it doesn't have to be dishonest, think of it as showing different aspects of yourself to different people who click with that aspect of you. In the same way learn to talk about some of your interests you with people who share those interests, and other interests with people who share those other interests.

Then again if you have the confidence to live without personas you may be better off. Some people won't get on with you, that's life. Generally you look your best when your being true to yourself (naturally; that what your best at). People who are attracted to you as you are are likely to stick with you. They are willing to take the good & the bad which make up who you are & which you present upfront. They will admire the fact that you are true to yourself. Though they may not mention it. Plus it removes the risk of ending up at the other end (like me) where you get so used to using persona you don't know how to take the mask off when you want to (you may not even forget your wearing one! :( )

One of my own traits is that I have a very open face, I am naturally a bad liar (my face gives me away) it's a double edged sword because there are situations where honesty just makes things worse, but I see it as a gift in the long run. I won't rely on lies, I won't get into the habit & that will stand to me.

However like you said total honesty can lead you to do inappropriate things. It is worth developing a level of control. Your choices define you at least as much as your nature.

I understand it's painful when people don't relate & they don't try to care. I think (as foxfield recommends) in those cases you should trust your instincts. Still I think you should make an effort to connect to people even if it's exhausting. I've come to believe connections are the most important things in our lives. I mean without them whats the point? Don't give up, life is such that you will suffer whether or are connected or alone, but some of the connections are really worth the pain.

foxfield - Your post was the most interesting and insightful (I like hearing the truth I don't want to hear) :wink:

Maybe my instincts are right & I'm just not close enough to my closest friend to share my current issues.

I tend to over think things & be critical so it never hurts to be reminded that my current instinct driven action isn't all that bad.

That said I don't fully trust my instincts (probably a factor in my difficult with expressing emotion in the first place). They've lead me wrong in the past. with the female friendships I'm developing my instincts constantly mislead & confuse the heck out of me (annoying since I'm pretty sure if there's anyone I'll be able to open up to it will probably be a girl).

I grudgingly agree that I can't rush this. 'Grudgingly' because i don't enjoy being in limbo & the longer I stay the more sever the consequences (as the world must keeps turning without me).

If anyone has further thoughts I'd love to hear them :wink:



Oneiros
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12 Jun 2013, 7:20 am

I went through similar issues a few years back. I was unable to tell anyone about my deepest feelings and concerns. It got to the point where I couldn't see any way out except for suicide, so I tried that a few times. Started seeing a psychiatrist around this time. It took around 6 months of him trying to break through my barrier before I let it go and was able to talk freely about my problems. Since then it has been easy. But as others have said, you should always be very careful and selective of who you tell because a lot of people don't understand and will judge you. You will probably find this out for yourself anyway.

So maybe consider therapy. If you find a good psychologist or psychiatrist, they are trained to get through your defense mechanisms and get you to open up.

How much of a problem is this for you really though? I mean in my case it was crucial to my survival, because keeping things to myself was killing me. Only you can answer this, just make sure you aren't creating a problem where there isn't one by over-analysing your flaws. You are very young and still have plenty of time to work on these things.

Good luck.