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.
I’m generally confused by the empathy, sympathy, compassion.
I can’t even decide how empathetic I am. I scored low.
I admit I can be cold. When my grandparents died and my mum cried I was more annoyed at the situation than sad. I just wanted her to stop crying so everything could go “back to normal”. Yes, it was sad that he died but he had rather long life and yes, I understand she was sad but no, I didn’t really “feel her pain”. The same thing happened when my husband’s farther died.
And I’m not sad when I hear random stories about some people being murdered. And I don’t really care about my coworkers’ stories - about their problems with boyfriends or some other personal issues.
But then, sometimes I start thinking about them. Those people who died. Who were abused or murdered. And I think - what did they think? Were they in pain? Where they scared? How someone could do something bad to them? How can someone abuse small child who is scared and cries and begs them to stop?
And then all I want to do is to help those suffering vulnerable people but I can’t. I can’t even think about what happened to them because it is too much for me and I cry and I just can’t stop this uncontrollable crying.
It hurts and I really don’t like that feeling.
You're projecting your feelings onto those people who's stories touch you. But the reality of the situation, for them, is different.
For example, anybody who harms a baby is completely out of their minds. They wouldn't, at the time, be considering the baby's feeling at all.
Also, babies live in the moment, so as soon as something is over, it's over, so they're restored to their natural loving mindset or nature (in fact it never left them) and even while it's happening, they haven't yet developed the faculty to think about and consider what's happening to them and be able to judge it as a good or bad experience. To them, it's simply an experience.
So maybe you think about those things some times as a way of bringing to the surface the feelings of compassion and empathy within you as a way of showing yourself that just because you don't ordinarily express them that way, like most other people do, you have still got them.
You simply experience those qualities in a different way from most people. Which of course is different from the masses which means it is viewed as almost inferior, and because they think that because we don't express ourselves in the same way, we must therefore be without these qualities and the absence of them, they think, is somebody who is cold and heartless.
But that's just what it looks like to them, from their experience of empathy and compassion. They just have a different way of expressing it.
Neither way is right or wrong. It's simply that we autistics seem to experience our emotions etc in a rather more unique and varied way than what the masses do, who seem to follow a prescribed formula that doesn't touch us in the same way.
Hi, to your original message, is it possible that that disinterest be is more a form of focus? In the first instances you describe it seems as though hour are perhaps focused on another goal, living life generally doing work, and just don't start down that thought train, but when it does you feel the empathy and shovel on some guilt because you feel like you "should" have felt it at the time. Just a thought