High emotions

Usually, a state of high emotion seems to hurt like nettle rash or pins and needles, at that stage when your foot is trying to recover and you don't know whether to hop about like a mad thing or sit very still until it stops hurting. It's not something I seek out and given the choice between emotional pins and needles or the calm of neutral feelings, then I know which I would choose.

There is something very soothing about keeping high emotions at bay, like you've discovered a secret to the universe as you gaze at other people, scurrying to and fro, as if the being-busy is all there is to human life and an end in itself.

I've been accused in the past of being cold and unfeeling. Not so, I feel things very much, though I couldn't always describe to you how I feel or how I want to react. With aspergers, it always seems to be show rather than tell. If you want to know how I feel about something, pay attention and I'll show you - don't ask me to describe it in words.

I think this comes most to mind when I am bothered about something and don't know why. My emotions then are not calm and I start the helter-skelter of going round and down and having no idea exactly why I react the way I do. Often this sudden downswing and feeling of instability is caused by something minor, totally out of proportion with the reaction I have.

I sometimes ask my friend why I should feel the way I do, knowing she has the objectivity and wisdom to say: this is what bothers you about it, this is why you are upset. It's very important to have someone who can tell you these things, especially if they know you well.

It's a little like having an interpreter who can explain to you what life means when it mixes with what goes on inside you. Aspies are very good at reactions but not so good at unraveling the reasons behind them. And it can be very important to unravel these reactions if you are creating a situation where your emotional response is about to involve more than yourself or have consequences.

I've had a situation lately where someone's kindness really bothered me and I had no idea why. The more I came back to the kindness they had shown to someone else, the more upset I became. I could see, objectively, that perhaps I was jealous of what they had been able to do for the other person, but as I'm not a naturally jealous person, I discounted this as the reason for my escalating emotions.

I couldn't work it out. Whichever way I looked at it, reacting as I was made me seem petty and foolish. There was no proper reason for me to be feeling this way. Why should I care so much if they wanted to show their kindness in such a way? Why did it bother me so much?

I asked my friend for her take on the situation and she explained I was jealous, in a roundabout way. I felt usurped by the giver, as if their kindness made me a lesser person because I hadn't done the same thing and wasn't in a position to do so. They had outdone me in a way that I was afraid showed me in a bad light.

In other words, I had made their act of kindness about myself, as if it reflected on me because I wasn't able to match it, when in reality it was about them and their feelings and the way they wanted to show their appreciation for something.

In short, I had (again) made something entirely unconnected with me all about me, simply because I felt like I should.

The person in question wouldn't have given my reaction a second thought; they only wanted to be kind. The whole act of kindness was separate from me, yet I felt linked to it. I did feel myself reflected in it and though I wasn't jealous in the traditional sense - I didn't want what they had or to be them - I guess I was jealous that I couldn't behave more like them, at that time and in that situation.

And there is the crux of a great deal of aspie angst: we feel we should be doing something or behaving in a certain way when we're not usually capable of doing so. We are what we are, we will never be other people. They don't look at the stars and see the heavens, they see the night and hurry home.

We shouldn't try to be like other people and, by association, we shouldn't expect ourselves to act like them. Our feelings of prickly high emotion, so unwelcome in the aspie-verse, are often caused by unrealistic expectations, brought on by us thinking we should be something other than what we are or can be.

It does no good to castigate yourself or wait for others to do so, just because you aren't like everyone else. It is good to try to be as much as you can at any given time, that is what we can do. We can look at the day and decide where it will take us. We shouldn't look at it and throw ourselves into situations and feelings where we have little control, knowledge or ability.

As I often say, we should be kind to ourselves, even if it sometimes means letting down other people. There is only so much that can be done and too much suffering is brought on by hoping or expecting to suddenly change into a different person who can do all the things we never could before.

High emotions are good, in the right situation and with goodness in them. What we don't want is the feeling of pain coming with them, of the foot being too hot as it wakes so that we need to rub it, hard and all at once, to make it normal again.

There is enough harshness in the world without inviting it in. Coolness of temper and softness of emotion are more preferable than the feeling that you must suffer to make something right.


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