For the first time, a therapist has mentioned, before I did, the possibility that I could be somewhere “on the spectrum.” We were discussing my apparent lack of empathy. Of course it’s more complicated than that, because in fact I’m obsessed with trying to figure out what people are thinking and feeling. Here’s what I’m actually guilty of (though K would object to the word “guilty” and then would chastise me for thinking that I know what she’s thinking and then would object to the word “chastise”):
- Sometimes I’m in such a hurry to set the record straight on whatever topic is being discussed that I speak or write without thinking about how what I say or write will be received.
- Sometimes I consciously want to make people feel bad.
In both cases I end up feeling bad myself, even if I don’t really know how someone else feels.
I would think that all this feeling—and thinking about feeling—would disqualify me from membership in the Aspie club. Maybe it just means that I don’t have a clue about how people really think and feel, so I have to make stuff up.
Or maybe people on the autism spectrum do have empathy. The Intense World Theory suggests that they withdraw into their own safe worlds precisely because they are getting way too much input and stimulation. “Autistic people may, therefore, neither at all be mind-blind nor lack empathy for others, but be hyper-aware of selected fragments of the mind, which may be so intense that they avoid eye contact, withdraw from social interactions and stop communicating.” Bad writing, but a pretty good theory.