Emotions

EMOTIONAL IMMATURITY

Aspies often have a mind that matures faster than average, but emotions that mature slower – sometimes a lot slower. I guess that may come from a natural tendency to use one’s mind a lot more than one’s feelings? I don’t know if emotional development can or should be speeded-up. Some things just need to grow at their own pace. Slow emotional maturation may be perfectly normal for a specific neurological type rather than a ‘developmental disorder’?

“I would say that my emotional age is somewhere between 10-15 yoa – I seem to want things from relationships that are more characteristic of a child – i.e. protection, safety, etc . . . not anything like a partner and certainly not sex . . . Intellectually, however, I have always felt older than I am – maybe 40 to 50 yoa – my general concepts of morality – such as being nice to people and respecting all living things – developed when I was about 10-15 years old.”

Fleur, Aspie from USA

“The most painful thing for me was being told by several different sources that I was very immature for my age. I would cry and cry at night because I couldn’t figure out how to act ‘older.’ I took great offence when people commented that I looked ‘so young.’ Now I’m beginning to realize that being socially less aware would look like immaturity to people.”

Linda, Aspie from USA

“Getting control of lower emotions seems to be a big issue for many aspies. Examples: meltdowns, temper tantrums, crying in public. Non aspies seem to have mastered more emotional self control at an earlier age. (Of course being an aspie is more stressful so that may be a factor as well.)”

Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

“As far as overall maturity, I’m well ahead of my calendar age and always have been. But when it comes to dealing with people I too think I am around 10 to 14 or so. That makes conducting business a little difficult since I tend to see myself as that young of a person dealing with adults. It is also strange when they are relying on me to make the big decisions and chart the course for projects. I can do it, it just feels odd.”

William, Aspie from USA

“I was born with anxiety. I’ve never been able to be fully a child, always had a gnawing worry where I didn’t trust that my parents would be able to be as responsible as needed, e.g. if I got lost outside our home. (There was nothing wrong with my parents, I’m just weird.) So I tend to regress. I want to move home to mom and dad. Want to be 4 again. Want to not have to take responsibility. I know it doesn’t work that way, the anxiety is constantly present. But I want to be taken care of as much as possible. A 30+ person in a gigantic crib, that’s me. I’ll never be grown up. I think people who are grown up are boring, dry as tinder. So it is not something I aspire to, to be honest.”

‘sugrövmanövern’, female Aspie from Sweden

“I’m grown up sometimes and like a child sometimes. And I’m pretty happy with that. Though I do wish I was a little more mature mentally and even emotionally.”

‘Truly’, 39-yo Aspie from Sweden

I did not reach emotional maturity until after 35-40 years of age, and can’t see how anyone could have made this happen sooner. If I had not been allowed to develop at my own pace, I’m sure I would not have so harmoniously grown into the reasonably mature and responsible person I am today.

Ing, site-author

“I think of being an adult as a little boring, ‘frumpy’ if you’re a woman. Cleaning and taking care of the family (if you have one) and not being childish or having too much fun. I guess I look up to those who can and would like to be more like that, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.

“I’m not especially adult in my own eyes. ‘Forget’ to clean, wash and do the dishes. Some periods I don’t even have the energy to cook. I’d rather just do things that are fun. I love being out with my horses and ride and play computer games. Singing and listening to music is another favorite hobby. In the evenings I want to watch film and stuff myself with candy (yup, back to bad habits).

“I have no problem doing heavy chores in the stables, like mocking and carrying buckets of water. But home chores is very difficult to get started with. Maybe because there is no clear reward. No one dies from a little grit at home (my children are actually more healthy than my ‘cleanly’ siblings’ children) but the horses get ill if no one takes care of them properly.

“I’ve been told that I seem much younger than I am, so it seems like others view me as immature as well. Had no problem associating with teens when I worked. I was more comfortable with them than with the adults.”

‘svartamolnet’, female Aspie from Sweden

“Temple Grandin said in the Fresh Air interview that was mentioned a few days ago, that she didn’t feel ‘grown up’ until she was forty five. So there’s hope for me! Maybe it’ll happen sooner for me?”

– Rachel, Aspie

EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITY

Some Highly Sensitive People seem to be born extra emotionally vulnerable; as if designed for nothing but harmony, peace, love and approval. Perhaps this is to some degree true of all humans, but some are clearly extra sensitive and get totally shattered by even the slightest hint of unfriendliness, conflict, criticism or problem. Some cry, shake, blush, get very upset (sometimes for a very long time..) or have a complete meltdown from things most people would consider negligible everyday events. Some are extremely easily moved.

“Re. emotion: My nickname in elementary school was ‘crybaby’ because anything would set me off, good or bad. Sensory overload was the name of my game…until I went to high school, when I became the queen of control. I do not believe that it was any coincedence that I developed epilepsy at this same time, or that this was also the time period when my regular exercise ceased (daily walking/biking to school, swim team). All that stress had to come out somewhere…”

Jill, Aspie from England

“I also am absolutely terrified of conflict situations. Even reading threads where there is conflict can be upsetting (at one time when there was quite a bit of conflict on this board it gave me nightmares).”

“I shake when I try to explain an idea that I am passionate about, I shake when I’m confronted by other peoples emotions, when I’m faced with conflict, when I THINK I might be faced with conflict, I shake when I feel strong emotions in myself and I shake when I talk about shaking. I kind of feel it inside, thankfully it doesn’t go to my hands unless it is very bad. I blush a lot, and I get really anxious about it and am constantly vigilant for any sign that I might be about to blush or someone might say something that will make me blush (all of which makes me more likely to blush).”

‘Nightshade’, female Aspie from New Zeeland

Aspies often have a mind that matures faster than average, but emotions that mature slower – sometimes a lot slower. I guess that may come from a natural tendency to use one’s mind a lot more than one’s feelings? I don’t know if emotional development can or should be speeded-up. Some things just need to grow at their own pace. Slow emotional maturation may be perfectly normal for a specific neurological type rather than a ‘developmental disorder’?

“I would say that my emotional age is somewhere between 10-15 yoa – I seem to want things from relationships that are more characteristic of a child – i.e. protection, safety, etc . . . not anything like a partner and certainly not sex . . . Intellectually, however, I have always felt older than I am – maybe 40 to 50 yoa – my general concepts of morality – such as being nice to people and respecting all living things – developed when I was about 10-15 years old.”

Fleur, Aspie from USA

“The most painful thing for me was being told by several different sources that I was very immature for my age. I would cry and cry at night because I couldn’t figure out how to act ‘older.’ I took great offence when people commented that I looked ‘so young.’ Now I’m beginning to realize that being socially less aware would look like immaturity to people.”

Linda, Aspie from USA

“Getting control of lower emotions seems to be a big issue for many aspies. Examples: meltdowns, temper tantrums, crying in public. Non aspies seem to have mastered more emotional self control at an earlier age. (Of course being an aspie is more stressful so that may be a factor as well.)”

Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

“As far as overall maturity, I’m well ahead of my calendar age and always have been. But when it comes to dealing with people I too think I am around 10 to 14 or so. That makes conducting business a little difficult since I tend to see myself as that young of a person dealing with adults. It is also strange when they are relying on me to make the big decisions and chart the course for projects. I can do it, it just feels odd.”

William, Aspie from USA

“I was born with anxiety. I’ve never been able to be fully a child, always had a gnawing worry where I didn’t trust that my parents would be able to be as responsible as needed, e.g. if I got lost outside our home. (There was nothing wrong with my parents, I’m just weird.) So I tend to regress. I want to move home to mom and dad. Want to be 4 again. Want to not have to take responsibility. I know it doesn’t work that way, the anxiety is constantly present. But I want to be taken care of as much as possible. A 30+ person in a gigantic crib, that’s me. I’ll never be grown up. I think people who are grown up are boring, dry as tinder. So it is not something I aspire to, to be honest.”

‘sugrövmanövern’, female Aspie from Sweden

“I’m grown up sometimes and like a child sometimes. And I’m pretty happy with that. Though I do wish I was a little more mature mentally and even emotionally.”

‘Truly’, 39-yo Aspie from Sweden

I did not reach emotional maturity until after 35-40 years of age, and can’t see how anyone could have made this happen sooner. If I had not been allowed to develop at my own pace, I’m sure I would not have so harmoniously grown into the reasonably mature and responsible person I am today.

Ing, site-author

“I think of being an adult as a little boring, ‘frumpy’ if you’re a woman. Cleaning and taking care of the family (if you have one) and not being childish or having too much fun. I guess I look up to those who can and would like to be more like that, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.

“I’m not especially adult in my own eyes. ‘Forget’ to clean, wash and do the dishes. Some periods I don’t even have the energy to cook. I’d rather just do things that are fun. I love being out with my horses and ride and play computer games. Singing and listening to music is another favorite hobby. In the evenings I want to watch film and stuff myself with candy (yup, back to bad habits).

“I have no problem doing heavy chores in the stables, like mocking and carrying buckets of water. But home chores is very difficult to get started with. Maybe because there is no clear reward. No one dies from a little grit at home (my children are actually more healthy than my ‘cleanly’ siblings’ children) but the horses get ill if no one takes care of them properly.

“I’ve been told that I seem much younger than I am, so it seems like others view me as immature as well. Had no problem associating with teens when I worked. I was more comfortable with them than with the adults.”

‘svartamolnet’, female Aspie from Sweden

“Temple Grandin said in the Fresh Air interview that was mentioned a few days ago, that she didn’t feel ‘grown up’ until she was forty five. So there’s hope for me! Maybe it’ll happen sooner for me?”

– Rachel, Aspie

APPARENT ‘LACK OF EMOTION’

People with Asperger Syndrome are sometimes considered as lacking emotions. This is simply not true, except perhaps for a very small minority. Most Aspies I’ve encountered have emotions just like everyone else.

In some cases, what seems like ‘lack of emotion’ is simply a lack of describing emotion, or showing emotion through appropriate body language (which in turn can be an innate disability, natural temperament difference or a conditioned response).

“People with AS aren’t without either emotions, empathy or fantasy. I believe this is a myth and if you read Hans Asperger’s old paper he couldn’t figure it all out. He was quite puzzled but was at least certain of that we were capable of strong emotions…..I think we just show them differently and sometimes don’t even come to think of that we should show them.”

Lotta Abrahamsson, ADHD/Aspie author and teacher of autistic children from Sweden

“Yes emotions always have been a problem – I keep them kind of private, I learned from a young age if I cried in public people would try to physically comfort me and I have tactile issues – so very quickly learnt to keep my emotions to myself in private.”

Julie, Aspie from England

“Sometimes my expression seems to fit what I am feeling inside and sometimes it is just completely neutral (serious).  I cannot control when it is on and off, but I think it is more likely to be on when I am in the presence of those I feel are completely accepting of me.  It is more likely to shut down in public, in crowds or with those that are critical of me.  Perhaps it is a self defense mechanism.”

Ilah, probable Aspie from USA

Difficulty describing physical or emotional pain with accompanying appropriate body language, can lead to extreme physical or emotional pain not getting taken seriously by family, friends and professionals.

“If I go to a doctor, I find it hard to describe the pain and where it is located… sometimes I get sent home with sprayed ankles and feet that hurt like hell because I cannot describe it… has happened many times…

Natasja, Aspie from Sweden

Just as in the regular population there are many different temperaments, of which some may be more passionate than others. Some people are more mentally focused and ruled by logic rather than emotions, even if they have emotions. This is a natural variation, even if rare.

“RATIONAL NTs [Intuitive/Thinking], being ABSTRACT in communicating and UTILITARIAN in implementing goals, can become highly skilled in STRATEGIC ANALYSIS. Thus their most practiced and developed intelligent operations tend to be marshalling and planning (NTJ organizing), or inventing and configuring (NTP engineering).”

“Ever in search of knowledge, this is the “Knowledge Seeking Personality” – trusting in reason and hungering for achievement.”

“Educationally they go for the sciences, avocationally for technology, and vocationally for systems work. Rationals tend to be individualizing as parents, mindmates as spouses, and learning oriented as children.”

“Rationals are very infrequent, comprising as few as 5% and no more than 7% of the population.”

The Personality Type Portraits

Another, probably even smaller, minority on the autistic spectrum seem to be naturally low-emotional. Being born a non-passionate personality type does not necessarily mean that one is totally devoid of emotions. Only that one may not have as many, as often, feel them as intensely or for as long, as more emotionally oriented temperaments tend to do.

“My emotions are limited both in quantity and intensity.”

Jypsy, autistic from Canada

I’m about 80% non-emotional. Even when under severe stress, it is mainly my nervous system that reacts while my emotions may still be completely unperturbed. I am not suppressing my emotions. Since I am very much in touch with my inner self, I register any feeling as soon as one awakens. Most of the time mine are just dormant, except during certain times of the month. On the rare occasions that feelings do stir – usually from some intense or intimate social interaction, or from something particularly moving on TV – they are not very strong and usually pass very quickly. This creates a very peaceful state of mind as my normal way of existing, which I’m sure many people would have to medicate or meditate for years to achieve. How can that be a bad thing?

Ing, site-author

“My emotions are simpler than those of most people. I don’t know what complex emotion in a human relationship is. I only understand simple emotions such as fear, anger, happiness and sadness. I cry during sad movies, and sometimes I cry when I see something that really moves me. But complex emotional relationships are beyond my comprehension. I don’t understand how a person can love someone one minute and then want to kill him in a jealous rage the next. I don’t understand being happy and sad at the same time.”

Temple Grandin, HFA author from USA

Some low-emotional individuals may be more tuned in to the world of sensations or the world of ideas instead of the world of emotions, deriving as much pleasure from sensory sensations or intellectual/creative achievements as social-emotional individuals may do from social interaction.

“The peaceful feeling of peacefulness and bliss does not dissipate quickly like my other emotions. It is like floating on clouds. I get a similar but milder feeling from the squeeze machine. I get great satisfaction out of doing clever things with my mind, but I don’t know what it is like to feel rapturous joy.”

“The closest thing I have to joy is the excited pleasure I feel when I have solved a design problem. When I get this feeling, I just want to kick up my heels. I’m like a calf gamboling about on a spring day.”

Temple Grandin, HFA author from USA

An even smaller minority of autistics, like Swedish author & consultant Iris Johansson, claim to not have any emotions at all.

EMOTIONAL INTENSITY

Many with ASD, ADHD etc. have very intense emotions. Some get so overwhelmed by their feelings that they have difficulties regulating them to a degree that is considered appropriate by the majority, especially if one isn’t used to having them all the time.

“Even though I rarely feel emotions, often when they do come they are intense. In my studies about AS, that seemed to be a rather common trait.”

– William, Aspie from USA

“I hate how I have a difficult time regulating my emotions.  Either I won’t respond strongly enough (in the eyes of others) or else I’ll just start crying and that’s it.  I cry at sad or happy things, it’s no different. I’ve always wanted to swim with dolphins but the minute I see a dolphin I bust out crying and can’t stop until I leave.  I still retain my logic while I’m emotional, at least, and often make logical statements through my tears which surprises people.”

maYa, female Aspie

“As long as I can remember I have been accused of BOTH, that I ALWAYS either under react or over react, that I NEVER react NORMALLY! Never react as expected! Never on PURPOSE on my part. I’ve NEVER been able to figure this out. Never been able to figure out AHEAD OF TIME how to react ‘normally’! I am always in ‘trouble’ after the fact.”

‘Rainbow’, adult Aspie from USA

“One day I sat and cried on the side of the playground at recess when I was perhaps six or so, the teacher seemed very unsettled by this and it was only then that I realized you should not show strong emotions in public.”

Claire, Aspie from USA

“It seems that part of NT-ness is using social codes of behavior & acceptance to modulate what one feels, and how to express it. Without that, it’s easy to express something in a way that seems to others to be altogether too intense.

‘Chiram’, Aspie from USA

Some of us find emotions very annoying and exhausting.

“Emotions and feelings are wrenches thrown into the works of our logical and methodical machines. Thus they tend to be a nuisance and an annoyance, just like anything else is that interferes with our thought processes, day to day duties, and life experiences.

“Plus, I think that ANY feeling, good or bad, is almost like being touched when we don’t want to be touched.  In other words, it is almost painful in a way.

“I truly believe that NTs [Neuro-Typicals] enjoy these erratic fluctuations in emotions.  It invigorates them and allows them to suck the marrow out of life. But it tends to deflate us and make us tired, confused and lethargic. Because we have AS, feelings and emotions WILL overwhelm our systems and cause them to redline.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

‘INAPPROPRIATE’ DISPLAY OF EMOTIONS

“Display of emotions for no apparent reason” is an expression I’ve seen in descriptions of autistic children. The key word is apparent. Just because the reason is not apparent to an outside observer, it does not follow that there is no reason. There is, of course, always a reason. If someone for example giggles when everyone else is dead serious, how hard can it be to figure out that this is probably because the person is thinking of something funny??

For those who may not know…

1. Emotions can be internally generated:

a) by the body (hormonal fluctuations, imbalances in body chemistry);

b) by the mind (pondering on various memories, fantasies or future possible events).

2. Or they can be externally generated:

a) by sensory impressions (e.g. from music, film, nature, scents);

b) by social interaction (with people or animals).

“I have a tendency to start laughing when I think of funny things that happened before. It can be anything under the sun. Often it turns out to be precisely at the wrong moment, and some wonder what I’m up to………..”

– Oscar, Aspie from Sweden

One ‘inappropriate’ expression in ASD is laughing or smiling in situations that are tragic or painful, sometimes out of sheer stress or embarrassment – or for other reasons that make perfect sense once you know what they are.

“When my mother died last year in July 28 at the age of 40 years (and she looked like 30), I was laughing a few hours after her death. It wasn’t because I was nervous, or because I was happy of her death (God! How could I [be]?). I was laughing because my friends were there with me and they were trying to cheer me up and, more important, because my mother believed dying was a natural process on cosmos that should be cherished and not mourned.

“I was laughing that night because I was proud of her, because she was a good teacher to us all, and because I had the lucky of had being said to her all I needed before she left, and because she wasn’t suffering anymore (her agony was terrible and lasted 2 days). I couldn’t bear hearing her suffering one minute more (in fact, I had to leave the house for a couple hours because it was too much). So, yes, I was laughing that day and some persons, like one of my uncles, thought I was the most heartless person in this world…. and he still thinks that…” *sigh*

Jano, Aspie

“I don’t know why that happens [that I smile at the ‘wrong’ time], but it can be due to thinking it so embarrassing to talk about difficult things when someone is looking at you. I often feel embarrassed just from having someone looking straight at me.”

Maria, Aspie from Sweden

“I’ve always laughed when I was sad. For example if I hurt myself, most children cry in such a situation. But I laughed instead and this made the other children look at me in a funny way. I remember mother saying something about not laughing to myself around others or I could end up in a mental hospital.”

– Tveskägg, male Aspie from Sweden

UNUSUAL LEVELHEADEDNESS

Many Aspies have a tendency to get upset over ‘small’ things which others might consider insignificant trifles, but on the other hand stay cool and clear-headed in a real crisis where most people instinctively panic.

“I get worked up over small things but in a crisis I’m calm, cool and collected.”

– Carrie, Aspie from USA

“I too usually get quite calm in a crisis situation. After it is over I’m still usually calm, though sometimes worn out.”

William, Aspie from USA

“Almost always manage to keep my head cool in stressful situations and have thus found myself in a leadership position where the real leader has gone and hid from the chaos.”

‘weasley’, female Aspie from Sweden

“For some Aspies, I should think, a crisis situation reveals itself in full and without hiding anything. But little man-made problems are more stressful because there are all these unexpected piddly red tape problems to snarl you up. It’s those little things that cause Aspies to get stressed and trip themselves up.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

“I usually do not panic when others do, but for things that no one else, or at least the majority doesn’t panic I do, for instance, when have to take shots, or worse, sometimes just by being afraid of taking a shot, have some blood taken out for blood sample, or, when I was a child, even by taking sabin vaccine drops I can faint. On the other hand I am not afraid of some stuff some people are, like walking by myself late on evenings, after my ball dance finishes…etc.”

Marilia, Aspie from Brazil

“I turn off all my emotions in a crisis and it has been useful because after one crisis at a place I worked, the District manager complimented me on how I handled the crisis. (A worker got hit by falling scaffolding and I ordered people what to do and called 911 and ordered one of the managers out to the street to hail the ambulance when they arrived and direct them to the man down. The office manager had gone hysterical and the site manager didn’t seem to know what to do.) I was working as a temporary to send out bills and answer phones.

“Sometimes emotions just tangle you up and keep you from accomplishing what is needed.  Of course after the crisis is over and all done then I feel shaky inside.

Kathy J., Aspie from USA

When something unfortunate happens, I don’t see he point in wasting time and energy getting upset over it; instead I immediately set my mind to figuring out how I can fix or alleviate the problem. Though if I get caught in the middle of a stressful social conflict, I may have a mental malfunction instead. I’m better at sorting out practical problems.

Ing, site-author

LINKS

Emotion Wikipedia, including list of emotions

Neurodiversity links to studies on autism & emotions

Tap Dancing in the Night by Martha Kate Downey. includes very illustrative diagram depicting how Aspies may display emotions in unusual ways.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Wikipedia

The Myers & Briggs Foundation Temperaments overview

Autistic personality type or disorder A look at the autistic spectrum from a temperaments perspective.

1 Comment »

  1. Paula said,

    Thank you for this article. I’m a 27 year old Aspie in the US and tonight, as with most nights, I’ve been in tears trying about being so “emotionally stunted” when compared to everyone else. I’m a self-diagnosed Aspie, so I’ve had no real help or acknowledgement of it and its characteristics. I just looked up “Aspergers and emotional immaturity” and have read a lot on the matter. I’m still having trouble coping, but it helps to know that I’m not alone and that my situation is actually pretty typical for an Aspie. My emotional maturity/intelligence is stuck in the 10-15 range or thereabouts. I react the way I do now the same as I did in middle and high school; even elementary school sometimes, to be honest.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: