What Are Emotional Deficiencies?
There are two traits that the autism has given me that define me more than anything else. The first is The Rule System, and the second is my lack of emotion. I’m addressing the latter here.
Most likely due to my autism and also because of my eughh past, I have an extremely difficult time being able to feel most emotional experiences. If I see someone else who is happy, I will not feel happy for them, nor could I even if I wanted to (and I usually want to). I cannot feel sad about bad things happening nor get angry when something that is ‘supposed’ to anger me happens. A little visual:
A Normal person can normally feel emotion at this intensity:
For me, I cannot. In general, I will only feel about
This much. The emotion may exist, but it is in such a small quantity that I cannot actually react to it in any meaningful way. By pure memorization, I know when I’m “supposed” to feel something and through lots of forced conditioning I now react in the ‘expected’ way.
This lack might seem pretty sweet at first, especially for Normals who sometimes feel like emotions are a burden. But unfortunately, this comes with three caveats attached to it.
1st - Triggers
There are a few triggers that can have me feel emotion more than I am usually am able to. There are only two of these I know of: anything that relates to the autism, and crushes.
The autism one is really hard to work with and is more of a burden than anything. Issues that deal with the autism are almost always saddening or nervewracking. It is because of this caveat that autistic breakdowns are so terrible; the amount of emotion I feel from them is unlike anything I have ever felt before. It’s terrible. Absolutely terrible.
The ‘crush’ trigger is my only respite. For some biological reason, crushes accelerate the normal amount of emotion people can feel. So a Normal around their crush will be
And for me:
Right up to the level of a Normal; the only times I can feel more emotions for a good period of time that won’t end after just 10 seconds, like the autistic one does.
The important consequence of this is that a crush is literally the only thing able to allow me to feel happiness. Issues with the autism pass by too quickly to be of any practical positive use and it hurts me more than anything.
On the bright side, the pain I have endured from autistic issues lets me have the personal emotional experience I need to understand other people’s suffering and help them out. I’ve lived through a lot of different emotions because of how broad those issues are, and I’ve used that knowledge to get people out of some of the toughest pickles.
An important side effect: happiness is not the only emotion a crush accelerates. So long as the thought of them is around, every emotion will be stronger, including anxiety, nervousness, anger, and sadness.
2nd - Emotions are Practical
Emotions aren’t just there for the lulz. They serve a very specific evolutionary purpose, and that purpose is to make sure we all don’t go off and kill each other. Not just through guilt and remorse, but also through more subtle means. Allow me to explain:
If you give a gift to a friend, and they smile and take the gift, you can tell this is a good thing. Why?
Is it because they smiled? People can smile for other reasons than being happy. Is that a good thing then?
Well of course right? They’re happy. How do we know they’re happy? Because of their face, the way they act, the way they thank, and all of this makes us happy.
If you give to a charity, you won’t see their reaction, but you still know it was a good thing. How? Is it perhaps because you felt good about doing it?
If a doctor gives someone a shot, they have to hurt them a bit, and yet they might be happy at the end anyway. Is it because they feel they have done good?
In all 3 examples, we have a situation where something ‘good’ was done. But the only way they know it was a ‘good’ thing to do is because they felt happy about doing it.
In general, people feel good about doing good.
The corallary of this applies: in general, people feel bad about doing bad.
These two rules govern the bulk of almost all person-to-person interaction. We give gifts because it is good. we talk to friends because they make us feel good. We do good things because it makes us feel good.
Well, ‘us’ is not the correct word. For me, it does nothing. No matter what gifts I give, no matter how many hours I volunteer, I will feel no joy from doing it unless it is working with those two previous triggers. This creates a dilemma: if you don’t feel good about doing good, how do you know what’s good to do?
Without that emotional reaction, life quickly devolves into chaos. How do you know it’s good to give a gift? To walk over to that table? To sit down with those people? To talk to that stranger? To pick up that person’s bag? You don’t, not unless you memorize a general set of ideals about what’s good and what isn’t.
These set of ideals are the basis of The Rule System. The System exists because it must; without that ability to ‘do what comes naturally’, it is the only way out of a world filled with complicated social norms and questionable morals. I’ll be elaborating on that more later, but this is just so important to know to understand why the System is needed.
3rd - I Cannot Interpret Emotions
Every emotion I have felt has been categorized into the System in a miniature profile. These profiles detail where an emotion is felt when it first appears, what it feels like, how long it lasts, side effects, ‘gateway emotions’, and situations that trigger it.
All of this was not figured out naturally. For a good portion of Junior year, I was freaking out because I had a crush, and that crush allowed me to feel a huge number of emotions I had never experienced before. Each of these needed to be categorized, NEEDED. The System demanded it.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of them I just couldn’t. Emotions are tricky things to define when you don’t naturally feel them. I had to work with Normals who were just as, if not more, confused than I was.
This is an unfortunate caveat; if I don’t find the name of an emotion or I can’t properly profile it, an autistic breakdown becomes almost imminent. The System is merciless in its execution; you either listen to what it demands, or you suffer from a breakdown.
I want to make this very very clear: my experience as an autistic here is not characteristic of how others across the spectrum have it. The good majority of autistics are fully capable of feeling most emotions and are able to understand pain and sadness. The problem lies mostly in interpreting these emotions, which is a much more difficult task than it is for a Normal.
Emotional deficiency is not fun in the slightest. Combined with the System’s eternal mandate against lying, I can’t even tell my Mom I miss her because I would be lying. I can’t tell friends I care about their situations because I really honestly truly can’t. When my dog died, my dog of 13 years, I couldn’t even shed a tear.
You begin to feel like an absolute monster. If it weren’t for the System holding me back, I feel like I actually would have become one. It’s a scary thing to think about.