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Alexithymia

A classic symptom of Asperger's is alexithymia (emotion blindness.) On an analytical level, I don't have this problem: it's basic pattern recognition, and that is something I excel at: I see the facial expression, I compare it to my "database" of emotions, et voila! I know what feeling the person is expressing. I can often also tell whether they are sincere are not.

I can even go one step further: given a set of circumstances, I can often construct a reasonable narrative as to why that person is expressing a given emotion.

But here is where it comes off the rails: at another level, I don't intuitively identify with how those things might be connected. I also often miss them unless I am making an effort to consciously watch for them.

Here's an example: "affirmations". Do I understand how someone might feel sad by not having received validation or acceptance by a loved one and/or authority figure? Sure, I can even identify with that. Do I understand why receipt of external validation might improve someone's self-esteem? OK, that's not too hard. Do I understand how looking in a mirror and giving yourself a compliment might meet that need? Nope, not a clue. I find that utterly incomprehensible.

Let's be clear here: I'm not saying that affirmations are bad, or that real people don't receive real benefits from them. I'm saying that my alexithymia is in play, and I am totally lost as to how that process might provide any benefit; and that people who have suggested I try them don't understand my thought process any better than I understand theirs.

Another area where I am lost is when people's words, actions, and nominal goals don't align. This is a particularly a problem at work when a company policy is to encourage quality and my manager says to enforce quality ...but then I get in trouble for actually focusing on quality instead of cranking out "good enough" results faster.

Southern hospitality, (at least the hypocritical type,) is another instance of this. Please don't offer me a snack and time to chat if you really want me to go instead. Once I figure it out, I will avoid people that do that permanently.

Comments

Hypocrisy is very frustrating. As far as identifying emotions, I'm like you. I can see them but I have no idea where they are coming from. The things that cause the emotion were 5 to 8 seconds prior, leaving me completely lost. I've learned to ask about the look on their faces, if it's a nice person. Otherwise, I'm stymied forever. I spend hours wondering where the conversation broke down. Sometimes I figure out a likely cause but most times I am clueless. It's a real disadvantage when stakes are high, like at work, job interviews, first meeting someone, or dating. I see the strength of emotion & empathize internally, but am totally blind-sided by any origin.
 

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