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Empathy and Autism vs. Aspergers

Discussion in 'Autism Science Discussions' started by Varzar, Dec 16, 2019.

  1. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    I am diagnosed with Asperger's and I have empathy. If I didn't, then it wouldn't pain me to see animals hurt or people bullied or treated badly. I just don't always make a public social display of it in the way many people do. It's a myth that we have no empathy. When people accuse us of having no empathy, what they really mean is that we don't show it in the normal social manner, and then interpret that as meaning that we don't have it, but that is just not true.
     
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  2. BlueSky Aozora

    BlueSky Aozora Well-Known Member

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    @Varzar : i like your honesty. Thanks for bringing back this important topic.

    For your first example about the death of princess diana, from my observation, i think you're right that you lack empathy in that situation. @xudo too, the point is, it's NOT about whether YOU yourself care about princess diana or not. The event was somehow impactful to your family; means it's something important for your family. But, you dissed their feeling; you dissed the importance of the event to them. Means, you didn't respect their feelings (or opinion). I do understand what you said to them is very logical, that you don't understand why they need to feel sad; but in the same time, you implied to them that they are stupid for being sad. If the same thing being said about what we respect or feel important about, we would feel angry or uncomfortable too.

    And for your second example, yes i think you might lack empathy (although better than the first one) because of the lack ability to console the said person. I think i do understand what you said about that laughing or about dont know how to console that person.

    This relates too with what @Kalinychta posted about empathy. From the example given in that post too, it could also be said that the lack of empathy is true, because of the lack of action to support the people in regards of whatever 'empathy' you might be feeling.

    I think it can be said that "lack of empathy" means "lack of the ability to be reliable to the people who need your (emotional?) support when he/she needs it." The lack of ability to support other people when they need you. If you support the person with your actions rather than word (like fixing something for him/her), it's better than ignoring the person.

    Another term is "the lack to be genuinely gentleman from the heart". (For women, please find similar word to gentleman.) A usual example is, a man saw his wife fell, but he didnt help her get up at all. The man said it's because he confirms that she didnt get hurt and she can get up by herself without his help. That's true. But at least a gentleman will help his lady to get up. Aspies can do this while masking. If during non-masking, maybe depends on person and situation (every aspie is different, maybe).

    And it's maybe due to alexythimia, like @Autistamatic said. Or maybe it's due to an aspie/autie can only manage to think about him/herself, always in the mindset of getting support, instead of thinking/trying to support other people.

    Maybe this post is not welcomed, but i think it's important to be aware of it or discuss it. I might be wrong too.
     
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  3. Aspychata

    Aspychata My Art Work

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    Yes, excellent post. It's true that we don't always see the social cue of we should support the family members because they were sadden by Princess Diana's death. But specifically dealing with that incident, it was rather a gruesome death and people were surprised at the morbid way she left the world. She was also considered charismatic, which people on the spectrum may not understand. Not sure if we have the capability to understand that particular nuance, another lacking social cue perhaps of us?

    Finally, your post is dead on because l think depending on how over stimulated from our daily demands of sensory overload, social inability, daily cognitive issues, then we don't have the empathy to give up to those around us because our immediate concern is powering thru our day with little damage as possible. So to wrap this up neatly, yes, l come across as insensitive and uncaring on days that my mind is centered on me because of my challenges l face and l expect nobody to understand, bascially, l don't bother trying to mask that area anymore, (sounds of chains falling to the floor). Now l am working on being less judgemental of people who also don't display the "empathy correct social response".
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2019
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  4. Fridgemagnetman

    Fridgemagnetman I only have one V.I.P Member

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    Not long after she died,I found myself on the bridge over where the accident was.

    (A pre planned trip)

    A pillar half way across the bridge had messages of sorrow,love etc drawn and carved on it.

    One message had an arrow and some text.

    'It was the other side.'
     
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  5. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Hmm.. Thanks @Autistamatic for sharing your experiences with Alexythimia. I have occasionally googled that, but the description of symptoms I couldn't put in context with a real life example.. Your real life examples sound VERY familiar and allowed me to map them to myself much better than just the clinical descriptions did. I usually take 1-2 weeks to get upset outwardly about something that happened weeks before. Happy emotions seem to take hours to process..

    Also thanks @BlueSky Aozora! That was a very thoughtful and helpful post!
    On honesty, I have a near inability to be dishonest. I've had to learn to do so because sometimes being honest with NTs gets you into more trouble than not. But I hate it whenever the situation comes up.. And anyone who knows me can probably see the discomfort on my face.
    And ya, I realize I was being disrespectful of my family's feelings with regard to Diana.. I was a teenager, and still hadn't learned much about how to handle situations like that diplomatically. With the horse situation, what I actually did was just nodded, looked somber, and agreed with her it was terrible. What was going on in my head was funny, but I've learned what's going on in my head isn't appropriate a lot of the time. ;)
    In short, I've learned a lot over many years about what the "correct responses" are to get by with people. But it's a lot of trial and error, and it doesn't change what's actually going on in my head.
     
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  6. Fridgemagnetman

    Fridgemagnetman I only have one V.I.P Member

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    Once you get everyone in the funeral car laughing,then you're golden.

    That's what I found out :)
     
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  7. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I guess to answer that question.. I guess I definitely lack that nuance of social cue.. The overriding thing for me is the lack of logic caused by hypocrisy. Sure, she was a very generous and seemingly kind person. She was charismatic and it was a horrible death.. But people die horribly all the time, and are virtually unknown people. For all we know, person X was even more generous and kind, but because they are not a royal, they don't get more than a 10 second note on the local news.
     
  8. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Here's a lighter fictional example of something that I didn't (still don't) get.. Hopefully I can get the situation clear.
    This is from the TV Show, "Blind Spot", so if you've watched it you might remember it.

    Tasha and Edgar work together for the FBI. They consider each other best friends.
    At one point, Edgar kisses Tasha, and she responds with, "What are you doing? We're just friends. I only want to be friends". She totally shut him down. It is awkward between them for a bit, but they move on and continue being best friends.
    Fast forward 2 YEARS.. Edgar is now engaged to be married to another girl, Megan.
    Edgar asks Tasha to be his "best man". She has just recently decided she has feelings for Edgar after all. So she tells him how she feels, and tells him she can't be at the wedding.
    He stews over this a few weeks, but when his soon to be wife returns from a trip, Tasha informs her she won't be attending the wedding. This leads to Edgar having a row with Megan because he "didn't immediately tell her about Tasha". Megan proceeds to cancel the wedding.

    To me, Megan's decision makes no sense at all. But when I asked my wife about it, she told me it makes perfect sense. I described the scenario to a couple close (NT) friends, and they both immediately agreed that it makes sense. But I still don't really get it despite multiple attempts of my wife to explain it to me.

    I gather it is inferred (but was never outright stated) that Edgar still has feelings for Tasha.. But to me, that is his problem. He needs to sort through his feelings and decide if he's going to break his commitment to Megan (which, if he did, would seem kind of dishonorable to me, but whatever). Megan making the decision for him to me seems completely disrespectful of his ability to deal with his own feelings and make his decision on his own.

    So to me, Megan was totally in the wrong. But I gather this is not the viewpoint of at least NT-based empathy. Apparently (according to NTs), Edgar should have told Megan IMMEDIATELY about Tasha's reveal and reassured Megan he still wanted to get married if he actually did. But by dealing with it himself, this indicated he still had feelings for Tasha.. Or something like that..
     
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  9. Aspychata

    Aspychata My Art Work

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    True, but generous person X didn't have hoards of paparazzi broadcasting their every move on the telly eveyday. This was also a rags to riches story, Princess Diana was british working class , so she captured a lot of people's interest. There are a lot more dynamics that were present with her.

    I totally agree with you, Megan was totally childish to cancel her wedding or got cold feet and used that excuse to exit her vows.
     
  10. Autistamatic

    Autistamatic He's just this guy, you know? V.I.P Member

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    That example isn't one of sensing someone's feelings though, is it? They are characters in a TV show. It's not "empathy". It's an example of you having not picked up on an unspoken rule and applying logic to a situation that relies on emotional convention.
    That's all cognitive empathy is - a set of rules. Alexithymic people often don't pick up on such rules easily and autistic people over think and apply logic where it doesn't necessarily apply.
    There's this myth that empathy is somehow being able to feel the same as someone else, or perfectly visualise their state of mind. It's not. It's learned convention, assumption and guesswork for the most part.
    Affective empathy is picking up on a mood, but is imprecise. Cognitive empathy/ToM is no more than an educated guess with a variable success rate.
     
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  11. Autistamatic

    Autistamatic He's just this guy, you know? V.I.P Member

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    She was already middle ranking royalty. Her father was a hereditary Earl with a sizeable estate and she held the title "Lady" before marriage ;)
    More a riches to even bigger riches story.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2019
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  12. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    You're basically saying it's a cognitive empathy situation, not an affective empathy situation, right?

    So, empathy is increased with fame?
     
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  13. Autistamatic

    Autistamatic He's just this guy, you know? V.I.P Member

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    Yes, and if you're autistic, alexithymic or BOTH then your sense of cognitive empathy aka ToM works differently to that of the neurotypical majority. Difference doesn't mean absence. If you have emotions of your own and you care about the feelings of others, when you understand them, you have functioning cognitive empathy.
     
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  14. the_tortoise

    the_tortoise Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    No.

    My diagnosis was Autistic Disorder under the DSM-IV.

    I have no idea. I don’t know what the arbitrary numbers are supposed to refer to and I am not skilled at comparing my own skill at invisible things like empathy to that of others.

    But I do know:

    I do not have alexythemia.

    I care a lot about others.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2019
  15. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Agree.
    What I think I've learned in this thread so far is:
    1) I've learned about Alexithymia, and different kinds of empathy.
    2) I've determined I am both Aspergers AND Alexithymic.
    3) I either have little/no affective empathy or it is time delayed due to the Alexithymia (although I am unaware of feeling empathetic feelings that way later.. I don't know if that's possible.. Further self-observation required here.)
    4) I have functioning cognitive and compassionate empathies, but I struggle with understanding (with cognitive) and knowing what to do to help (with compassionate).
    5) My #3 seems fairly common with the people here, but my #2 seems more unusual perhaps..
    6) Hans Asperger's original suggestions that the children he was studying had no empathy was probably based on his perception, not on whether they actually did or not.
    7) Lack of empathy is not something that differentiates Aspergers and Autism.

    All in all, I feel I've at least learned a lot in here already. About myself, others' experiences and about Autism, Aspergers and Alexithymia.. So.. That's cool! Thanks to everyone who's shared and helped already! :D
     
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  16. Canismajoris

    Canismajoris Hypergiant

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    1) Aspie
    2) Depends. Sometimes 9, and sometimes 3. I can cry seeing someone suffering or from pure joy, but I can also rationalise events so that I am not disturbed by emotions. On average I would say I am solid 5.

    I also recommend to read this Best Practice Autism: Affective and Cognitive Empathy in Autism
     
  17. Autistamatic

    Autistamatic He's just this guy, you know? V.I.P Member

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    You already know I'm alexithymic, but that doesn't mean I/we don't feel affective empathy or that it doesn't have a powerful effect on us. Affective empathy is the act of picking up on moods. Some people can identify those moods with fine precision, but others who are neither alexithymic nor autistic can be oblivious to them.

    I'll give another real world example. When my wife and I were dating we were at a Wetherspoons pub in the city we met. It was a Saturday night and it was a World Cup year. The England team had just suffered a humiliating defeat and the pub was full of young men wearing football shirts. I was uneasy from the moment we walked in but I bought our drinks and we went to sit outside since it was summer and we were both smokers back then.
    After a few minutes my wife said: "We need to leave - there's going to be a fight."
    "Who's going to be fighting?" I asked.
    "I don't know, but it's going to happen in about 15 or 20 minutes." she replied.
    We left our half finished drinks and went to another pub waaaay up the road. Whilst we were enjoying our drinks in the beer garden of the next pub we saw some people who had been in the last pub with us come in. They were talking about the brawl that had broken out which prompted them to leave. My wife went over to ask them what had happened and, sure enough, a huge fight had erupted in the beer garden there about 20 minutes after we left.
    Similar things have happened throughout our years together. My wife can pinpoint with remarkable accuracy what is likely to happen but I cannot, yet I am aware of an "atmosphere". All I can say is it is positive or negative, but she is far more perceptive than me. On the other hand I have been in similar situations with countless NT exes who have been completely oblivious to even what I have sensed.
    I have affective empathy which is more sensitive than many people I know, but I cannot identify it's exact nature in the way my wife can. That may be alexithymia, but I still feel "something" when many NT associates don't.
     
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  18. Varzar

    Varzar Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Interesting. So I guess the conclusion there might be that whether or not someone has affective empathy is not AS/NT related.. My wife is also similar to yours in that she is very perceptive about how others in a room are feeling.. She says she can "feel their energy". I have no context for what that means..

    If she and I were in a similar situation though (a bar with unrest). I wouldn't be blind to what was about to happen. I would know EXACTLY what body language was giving it away. As a result of not being very good reading people while younger, I made it a point to basically study peoples' subtle body language cues, facial expressions, gestures, etc. I've built myself an internal "map" of what each cue can mean, and might mean in combination with other cues. Basically, I sucked at cognitive empathy, so I doubled down on studying it to the point I'm generally better at it than most NTs (which lead to problems where I could tell what NTs were thinking even if they were trying to hide it.. Their face didn't hide it well enough)..

    So in the bar situation, my wife would "feel the negative energy". And I would be more like, "yes, you're right. That guy over there furrowed his eyebrows, keeps looking at that other table, and put his drink down too hard. That other guy over there is being too loud, and the people he's with are showing signs of contempt on their face. There's definitely a high risk here." Something like that.. Just as an example.. But the idea being, I won't "feel" anything, but I'll have a million cues I've memorized/categorized.. Often times my wife agrees with the body language I'm noticing, but she never seems to notice it consciously. I think for NTs, this is an automatic/instinctive process. For me it is manual/rote learned.

    Did I mention it's also exhausting being in larger groups of people like that? So much detail to be conscious of and analyzing all the time.. I have troubles relaxing when out and about.
     
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  19. Chrysanthemum

    Chrysanthemum Active Member

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    Well by definition I don’t meet the criteria for Asperger’s (so I don’t identify with it) because at 4 years of age I was assessed to have a severe expressive language delay and a moderate receptive language delay, during middle or older childhood the diagnoses I had received were with autism/Autistic Disorder and PDD-NOS.

    Anyway, I believe I have normal empathy (ability to put myself in other’s shoes), I’d give myself a rating of maybe 7. Then again, I can’t know how others are feeling because none of us really can know exactly what another person is feeling or thinking and I don’t ever want to make the mistake of what other people are feeling or thinking because I wouldn’t want others to do the same thing to me which I do feel some have done (assuming what I am thinking or feeling based on what they (e.g. teachers) say (so someone might say or imply this is what I think); I have actually tried to masked my feelings at times and I’d imagined others have also done so and so that is another reason I wouldn’t want to assume what others are feeling or thinking). However if a person tells me what they are thinking or feeling I think I could quite easily empathize (empathy not necessarily meaning agreement with their thoughts).

    However personally I believe empathy and the knowing how to act appropriately in a given social situation may not necessarily be equivalent.
     
  20. Aspychata

    Aspychata My Art Work

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    Thanks, apparently l know zero about those Brits. lol When l went to London, it was when the Irish militant movement was bombing the subway stations sporadically. Way before Ms. Diana.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2019
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