When you should doubt yourself...not trusting your emotions



Sometimes life can seem like it's full of slamming doors - and you're the one slamming them shut. You have a clear idea of what you want to do and how you want to do it, then something happens and BANG! you just slammed another door shut in your haste to deal with one of life's hiccups.

This one may be a little mysterious to non-aspies, as it is one of those aspie traits that is very hard to describe. Not the slamming of doors part - we're all too familiar with the aspie who marches off, door crashing shut behind them. We're also familiar with the metaphorical door slamming as the aspie goes off on a tirade of high feeling and you wish they would march out of the real door and shut up already.

What I'm talking about is when those emotions aren't in the middle of a meltdown, or a torrent of passion, good or bad. I'm talking about times when I've felt calm, Zen-like, able to see for miles and make rational decisions based on solid emotional reactions. I'm describing those times when something happens that changes the way you feel and you know you need to change along with it.

As aspies, we're very used to watching our feelings, as those emotions are what get us into so much trouble in the first place. We know if we let them have full control that life becomes very exciting, very fast and not usually in a good way. Like other aspies, I try to keep a check on my emotions as I've been let down by them in the past and I know how underhanded they can be.

Emotions, after all, are what happen when you let your judgement slip and react to life like other people do. Emotions take over when logic falls of a cliff.

We're not emotionless drones the rest of the time, don't get me wrong. But it pays to keep a lid on the bigger feelings, the ones that hop about all over the place, dragging other people into your life and tangling up your routines.

So, it's surely a good thing, in the aspie universe, to know when your emotions are telling you to do something, to be able to follow your heart and not just logic and routines? Isn't it good to listen to your feelings?

Hmm, yes and no. I'm all for doing what you think is right based on how you feel. This is a major survival tactic when dealing with stress, for instance. In stressful situations, it's essential to listen to your feelings and know when it's time to back off - the time has to be right for you, not for other people.

Your emotions are very important when it comes to working out how other people feel, because you can have more insight into how they think. This helps with empathy, being able to give yourself examples of how your best beloved might feel about something, based on how you would feel. This is always a tricky one because non-aspies often react differently to life, but it's a starting point for aspies to try to put themselves in another's place.

Right, so that's the touchy-feely emotions out of the way, the ones you should listen to. Now I'm going to cross the confusing bridge of emotions which seem to lie, or exist simply to trip us up and make life's wagon veer off into the stink-dump again.

You have a situation where you're relatively happy with how things are going (fill in the details to suit yourself, they're not so important as the aspie reaction to them). You know what's happening, you know where things are headed, you know, more or less, how you feel about it all. Good.

Then something happens. Not a big thing, not a world-shaking event. Not even a super-upsetting, poke in the eye incident. Nothing to fret over, really. It should be a blip, a tiny stumble at most. Sometimes that's all it is; but sometimes the emotions take over and away we go. Doors slam and life is awry again. Let me give you an example.

You've made a friend, quite a new one. You get along really well and have lots in common. This is great! How often do you find someone you can talk to like this and have good times with?

It meanders along and you foresee telling them everything about your life and being interested in theirs, too. You like the time you spend together and don't mind fitting your day around them, as it's all been a good and positive experience.

You overlook the little places where your views diverge, as you know everyone is different. It doesn't matter that they behave a little differently from you - they are their own person and you like them as they are.

Then, as the friendship progresses, your friend becomes more confident and does something they never did before (don't get excited, this isn't a Barbara Cartland romance). They turn up at the house without calling first.

Dong!!!

That sound was you coming up against the giant, solid, invisible barrier that your emotions just threw up in your face. Your feelings wanted to be absolutely sure this event was flagged up as unacceptable.

You have the visit, you speak and laugh and all is at it was. You brush off your silly obsession with knowing when people are going to visit. You know that other people, normal people, are always glad to see a friend. Your friend is glad to see you and they wouldn't mind if you just rolled up to their house and came in without asking.

Your friend leaves, none the wiser for having caused any difficulty. You carry on as you were, trying to forget the sound your face made as it slammed up against the invisible barrier of your feelings. It doesn't matter, for heaven's sake! Let it go!

It plays on your mind. You'd already told them you didn't like people turning up unannounced and they seemed to understand, but then they came anyway. You realise they probably don't see themselves as 'people', you're friends now.

A seed of panic settles in your breast as you envisage them always doing this. Every time they want to see you, they might just turn up! Anytime and every time! The panic grows.

You push it to one side. It's not going to be like that! You're friends, you can just tell them you were pleased to see them but could they call first next time?

No, that wouldn't work, either, as it's too subtle. They'll still come, they won't understand. They'll think they're just calling to make sure you'll be in, not to check it's okay to come. If they know you're going to be in, they'll never bother to call.

You need to save the friendship, so you'll have to tell them you don't want them to come without calling first. There's nothing subtle about that.

Except, this smells of confrontation, doesn't it? And also, they are your friend, you don't want to hurt their feelings. Maybe, the next time they come, you could pretend to be out, then tell them they should have called first to make sure you were in?

Worries pile on worries, until it feels like you're going round in circles. All of this caused by one random event that didn't really matter. Or, more accurately, shouldn't really matter, but does anyway.

Once this train of thought, blended with panic and mixed with just a little bit of fear, has travelled around in your mind for long enough, your emotions have complete sway over you and your decisions are then based on a faulty premise. Instead of basing them on solid emotions, caused by real distress for instance, you're now operating on wobbly emotions, caused by a knee-jerk reaction to something you dislike.

If you can recognise it as this, then you may still be saved from bad decisions. However, all too often, it passes beyond and you see only that the person, or event, in question has upset you. They upset you, so you need to protect yourself. Protecting yourself doesn't mean telling them how you feel, as that is difficult and might upset you more. What you end up doing is avoiding the situation so that you can resolve your emotional upheaval and, like a good aspie, pretend like it never happened.

In our scenario, the friend is quietly dropped, with the over-riding emotion being one of regret that it came to this, but pushed on and fuelled by the fear caused by them doing something which triggered a deep-seated reaction.

The door has been slammed on another part of your life and all because of a small event that shocked you at the time.

It's hard to see it like this when you're in the middle of it all. You only know how you feel and you react accordingly. Afterwards, sometimes looong afterwards, you may be able to look back and pick over what happened with a little more clarity. At this stage you may see the connection between X and Y, without just going straight to Z.

Does that mean you won't react the same way again? You never know, it's a strange universe full of marvels. Does it mean you've learned a valuable life lesson? Possibly. You may have learned to look at your feelings more closely, to examine what makes them what they are, to look harder and see if it is dislike, or anger, or whether it's really fear wearing a different hat.

Or you may have learned that you really, really don't like it when people turn up at your door without letting you know first.

Perhaps the best life lesson I can offer at this point is that telling people how you feel is not confrontation. That too dresses up in different hats. Readers, confrontation is the ugly dude in a bad suit waiting for you behind the door. He does sometimes disguise himself as a discussion, or a family meeting or an explanation, but he's always just in it for his own gain.

Telling people how you feel is not confrontation, it is the meek little woman waiting for you to finsih talking so she can lay a gentle hand on your arm. She has a kind face and wants everything to be all right. She sometimes gets lost in the crowd, though and doesn't like to push herself forward, so you may have to do your part and make a way for her so she can reach you.

Don't let the doors slam, if you have a choice. Do listen to your emotions, but don't run from them or try to trip them up, thinking that's the best way to deal with things.

And above all, explore why you feel the way you do. Look back and see what lies behind it. Retrace your steps, before taking any more. After all, the more steps you take, the further you have to go back to find out where you started from.

Amanda




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