A close friend of mine made the following claim to me.
“I know you think you’ve got Asperger’s, but I don’t think you do. Most people with Asperger’s just don’t understand emotions. They don’t notice them, they don’t understand them, and they don’t respond to them. But you, you notice them and you understand them, you just don’t respond to them. It’s more like not responding to them has always been a winning strategy for you, so you haven’t ever changed it.”
I’m not really sure what to make of that comment. I mean, I don’t really notice emotions. I don’t really read them. When I was younger, I acted as an echo chamber for other people’s emotions. If they were hurt or upset or giddy or in love or whatever I would feel the emotion, particularly the strength of the emotion, as well. But I wouldn’t understand it, and I didn’t know how to shut it out. Other people’s emotions could feel very overwhelming to me, and I strongly preferred being around nigh-emotionless individuals.
I don’t know about me now. I am better at noticing emotions and emotional states. But I have to actively look. I won’t just notice without thinking about it. I’ve become too good at blocking other people’s emotional states completely. And even if I notice I won’t intuitively understand. My understanding is based on years of thinking hard about my own emotions and those of others. And responding…well…when it comes to human behavior I tend to approach things scientifically. I’ll try stuff, and over time I’ll find that some things are right and others wrong. But it really, really doesn’t make sense to me in any coherent fashion. At least that’s my take…
I’ve never thought about my reactions to other people’s emotional states in this framework before. And I don’t really know what characteristics are typical vs. atypical for aspies. So I have no idea how to evaluate this friend’s claim. It seems that she thinks I’m not an aspie, but rather just socially awkward and very unskilled/uninterested in responding to people’s states in a suitable manner.