High levels of empathy

Hi, I am looking for information on what people may understand of empathy in people on the spectrum, from what I can gather it maybe more people with Asperger's (as it was), who experience high levels of empathy. What is known about this? What are people's experiences? 

Unnecessary ramble you don't have to read haha

What I can gather so far: though the information I have found is sparse and I am unsure if it is reliable. The bit that makes the most sense to me seems to suggest that people with what was classically called autism can often ( though not all) struggle with emotional empathy but can still develop very high levels of cognitive empathy. They can understand emotions but not feel them, meaning, as I interpret it that it needs to be more of a conscious process to realise what someone is feeling whereas NT people may grasp this more easily and intuitively. 

Whereas some things I have read seem to suggest that Asperger's can go the other way, sometimes excessively high levels of emotional empathy. 

Alexithymia also seems to be a factor, (the inability to recognise one's own emotions) my reading seems to suggest that this can largely occur independently of autism but that this can be a large factor in seeming lack of empathy, also in causing more problems for people with high emotional empathy but low cognitive empathy. How I would interpret that being that when you can feel the distress, joy any other intense emotion of another but do not understand it it can easily become highly confusing and overwhelming which seems to tie into some of the intense world theories that people have for autism in general. 

My personal experience ; I am undiagnosed, a non qualified (for autism diagnosis) councellor told me I had asperger's but at school I spent a long time in the special needs department (due to dislexia) and was never diagnosed I suspect she would have caught this then as she was qualified to diagnose it and should have been clearer as a child (though I maybe mistaken in that). I still do not know for sure, though I suspect that yes I show many of these traits, I am aware that this is a simplification but I suspect I am very close to Asperger's but not quite enough traits to count for a full diagnosis.

I had a chat a while ago now with someone with a recent autism diagnosis. When I was struggling with my own potential diagnosis who said that he experiences very high levels of empathy. What he describes sounds very much similar to what I experience. For personal reasons discussing this further with him is difficult. I am trying to understand.

I was until recently very unaware of my own feelings, though I suspect that is far more to do with upbringing. I think I have high levels of empathy, described by my councellor as I grew up in an environment where is was necessary to care for another in order to survice so I feel the emotions of others before my own, I find it far easier to tell what I am feeling with time away to process. I also have a dangerous tendency to excuse bad behaviour towards myself as I am able to understand their perspective why they act that way and so do not enforce boundaries as I should. The first councellor describing this as I would likely, as I was autistic, always be more vulnerable to abuse and being exploited than most people. A terrifying concept. Being a large part of why I changed could councellor, this one is much better for me, but has little to no understanding of autism, she does not think that I am. But I would like more knowledge on this is anyone has anything relevant to any of this. 

 

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  • I was diagnosed with autism (Aspergers) in October 2019. I would say I have emotional empathy, but as I don’t recognise my emotions (Alexithymia), I’m not always aware of what I’m feeling and for me to feel empathy for another person, I would have to be in therapist mode, where I would be listening to them in order to feel anything although I can still feel emotions sometimes even if I can’t recognise what they are. I don’t think I have cognitive empathy as such, and this is what makes me good at my job (metaphysician, social worker and mental health practitioner), because I am able to see beyond the client’s  perceived idea of what’s causing their pain (whereas some therapists get stuck on this). I can’t put myself in their shoes but I can see the root cause of the problem and I feel empathy for them for that, but it’s not a sad thing because I have the solution. And it’s not even so much that I have empathy for them, it’s more that they’re bringing a hidden problem in me, to light. So in truth, I’m healing myself but in doing so, they get healed as well. So I’m not sure that I have empathy for anyone at all really but I do see everyone as being ultimately connected to me, so I do have a deeper sense of what might be called empathy. 

    I also sometimes have to kind of tell myself a story in order for me to feel sad in situations where I feel nothing but think I should feel something. That was pre diagnosis mind, I won’t be doing that anymore. And now, with my new found awareness, I can see exactly why many people think I’m heartless because I barely seem to sway at some news. For example, if I wanted to go for a coffee with you and you told me your dad had just died. I would just say ‘are we going for a coffee then’, being oblivious to the fact you may have been upset and wanting to talk about it. And if I did click on, I would probably think ‘whoa that’s weird, what are they telling me that for’, and ignore it anyway. 

    Yet I am hurt deeply by other things. For example, when somebody says they’re a Christian ~ I want to curl up and cry. It’s like somebody just put a dagger in me. Or like today, I was walking down the street and I heard a guy on the phone saying to the person on the other end of the conversation ‘don’t call them again, it’s a waste of time’. And when I say Christian, it could be anything like that. Anything that causes separation. And the waste of time thing, that hurts because in truth, there is no waste of time. It’s only a waste of time if you say it is and that’s a sin, because it’s just not true. 

    I experience life on a whole different level to most people, so the way I experience empathy or how I connect to others or perceive the world, is vastly different to how most people do. I appear to have no empathy, for anybody, most of the time and like Binary said, even if I had it, I would be unable to communicate that, so I would still appear to not have it. But I feel deeply, on a very deep level, to the degree that it’s not just on an emotional feeling, it’s a physical experience. This is why I spend so much time alone and in silence. I like natural sounds of nature but I’m even sensitive to sounds of electricity. Sometimes I can’t even get close to a house where there is somebody in that house who is carrying very low energies. It’s like theres a force field surrounding the house in about a mile radius. I can understand people on a certain level and have empathy for them on a certain level but because most people are unaware of that level, they don’t understand what I’m talking about, even if I’m able to explain it in a way that they understand on a cognitive level. To most people, I speak a different language so it’s not easy to quantify whether I have empathy or not because I experience life very differently than most people. 

    And after all that, I’m not even sure what empathy is, if I’m honest lol! 

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  • I was diagnosed with autism (Aspergers) in October 2019. I would say I have emotional empathy, but as I don’t recognise my emotions (Alexithymia), I’m not always aware of what I’m feeling and for me to feel empathy for another person, I would have to be in therapist mode, where I would be listening to them in order to feel anything although I can still feel emotions sometimes even if I can’t recognise what they are. I don’t think I have cognitive empathy as such, and this is what makes me good at my job (metaphysician, social worker and mental health practitioner), because I am able to see beyond the client’s  perceived idea of what’s causing their pain (whereas some therapists get stuck on this). I can’t put myself in their shoes but I can see the root cause of the problem and I feel empathy for them for that, but it’s not a sad thing because I have the solution. And it’s not even so much that I have empathy for them, it’s more that they’re bringing a hidden problem in me, to light. So in truth, I’m healing myself but in doing so, they get healed as well. So I’m not sure that I have empathy for anyone at all really but I do see everyone as being ultimately connected to me, so I do have a deeper sense of what might be called empathy. 

    I also sometimes have to kind of tell myself a story in order for me to feel sad in situations where I feel nothing but think I should feel something. That was pre diagnosis mind, I won’t be doing that anymore. And now, with my new found awareness, I can see exactly why many people think I’m heartless because I barely seem to sway at some news. For example, if I wanted to go for a coffee with you and you told me your dad had just died. I would just say ‘are we going for a coffee then’, being oblivious to the fact you may have been upset and wanting to talk about it. And if I did click on, I would probably think ‘whoa that’s weird, what are they telling me that for’, and ignore it anyway. 

    Yet I am hurt deeply by other things. For example, when somebody says they’re a Christian ~ I want to curl up and cry. It’s like somebody just put a dagger in me. Or like today, I was walking down the street and I heard a guy on the phone saying to the person on the other end of the conversation ‘don’t call them again, it’s a waste of time’. And when I say Christian, it could be anything like that. Anything that causes separation. And the waste of time thing, that hurts because in truth, there is no waste of time. It’s only a waste of time if you say it is and that’s a sin, because it’s just not true. 

    I experience life on a whole different level to most people, so the way I experience empathy or how I connect to others or perceive the world, is vastly different to how most people do. I appear to have no empathy, for anybody, most of the time and like Binary said, even if I had it, I would be unable to communicate that, so I would still appear to not have it. But I feel deeply, on a very deep level, to the degree that it’s not just on an emotional feeling, it’s a physical experience. This is why I spend so much time alone and in silence. I like natural sounds of nature but I’m even sensitive to sounds of electricity. Sometimes I can’t even get close to a house where there is somebody in that house who is carrying very low energies. It’s like theres a force field surrounding the house in about a mile radius. I can understand people on a certain level and have empathy for them on a certain level but because most people are unaware of that level, they don’t understand what I’m talking about, even if I’m able to explain it in a way that they understand on a cognitive level. To most people, I speak a different language so it’s not easy to quantify whether I have empathy or not because I experience life very differently than most people. 

    And after all that, I’m not even sure what empathy is, if I’m honest lol! 

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