Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Smile when I'm not Happy

I wanted to expand on a topic I mentioned in my last blog post.  I feel like I need to pay closer attention to this in greater detail.  I mentioned yesterday that the facial expressions of people with autism may contradict what we are actually feeling.  I mean this in a literal sense, I may smile when I receive shocking news and I may frown when I am pleased.   Based on socially accepted norms, this can make relating with people difficult.

I am aware that some people may take offense if they tell me tragic news and I smile in response.  So, I find myself fighting to hide that smile to try to be sensitive to other people's feelings.  It is not natural for me, but it is better than trying to explain to someone who does not understand.

For example, there was a tragic accident this past weekend that affected people that attend Oakland University.  Two students were killed and another injured in a deadly car accident in Metro Detroit.   I raised the subject with another classmate earlier today, because I knew that he had known one of the victims killed in the car accident. As we talked, I felt myself start to smile, and I tried to keep it hidden.  I had brought up the subject and I did not want to appear like I was making fun of the situation.  It is way too much to explain in casual small talk.  I think that he noticed that I was trying to keep from smiling, but thankfully he didn't say anything, which I am grateful for.  I am really sad about the tragedy, regardless of whether I may smile about it.

To the contrary, I could be blissfully happy and not show it at all on my face.  It happens in many different situations when people ask me if I am feeling alright when I really am.  I don't intend to turn the world upside down by saying this, I am trying to say that facial expressions that are natural to an autistic person in a given situation may be seen as socially offensive by others.  I hope that my words raise awareness of this issue.

This is not something that is intuitive, even to me.  I was not even aware that I did this until recently.  I used to think of myself as a bad person because I smiled at other people's trouble when it was not the case at all.

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