Saturday, April 20, 2013

Autistic Empathy

There was a time in my life when I really didn't understand autism.  While trying to describe what autism was to a friend, I said that people on the autism spectrum do not feel emotions.  I now know just how wrong I was.

An article titled "A Radical 'New Autism Theory" explains about a new theory that I do not feel is radical at all.  It puts into words a feeling I have been examining within myself.  I have come to the conclusion that my autism makes me sensitive to the emotions of the people around me.  I can't always say what is causing someone to feel distressed but I suspect that I can sense other people's emotions as though they are my own.  Not in any situation but only when the emotions are strong.  One time, I had to give someone bad news and I  knew they were getting distressed because I started to get distressed too.  It was clear to me that the emotion I was feeling wasn't mine.  So you could say that I am a little bit of an epath.  It was strange to discover that I possess some empathetic qualities which I'm sure many other people on the spectrum also have.

In "A Radical New Autism Theory," an individual on the autism spectrum was interviewed, speaking about how they can "feel all the emotions of someone in a room" faster than they are able to process.  I'm sure that the degree of emotional sensitivity varies from person to person, but I now know that I can feel what others around me are feeling, to a certain extent.

It was very difficult for me to recognize this tendency for the longest time, since I used to assume, as many people on the spectrum do, that everyone knows what I know and feels what I feel.  It has taken me a long time to recognize that the reason I have difficulty handling conflict is because the emotions of those around me affect me.

I'm certain that I will speak about this topic more in the future.  To read the article that inspired this blog post, click here.

Thoughts?  Leave a comment below.

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