Asperger’s Syndrome and “Emotional Vision”

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The source of the term “emotional vision” is the same as the source of the image above: this New York Times article. This blog-post is my response, so I recommend reading the NYT article before you continue.

The story was written by, and about, a man on the autistic spectrum, and, if you’re on the autistic spectrum and get published in that newspaper, you’re high-functioning. High-fuctioning autism (HFA) and Asperger’s syndrome were “merged” in the United States in 2013, shortly before I started figuring out that I am, myself, an Aspie. By the time I discussed the idea with my doctor, it was too late to get an “official” diagnosis. (Yes, that does mean no diagnosis for me, but that’s simply the way things happened, and I’m fine with that.)

Many in the Asperger’s community have a form of emotional blindness — an inability to “read” the emotions of others — and that described me accurately until, well, this week, when I awakened my own emotions, and also gained the ability to understand emotions of some other people. Which people? Only the ones I know well, generally by having contact with them for at least a year. Shortening this time is high on my mental “to-do” list.

In the article linked above, the author voluntarily had his emotional light-switch “turned on” in an experimental treatment designed by other people. That, I believe, is the key difference between his case and mine, for I made the decision to turn mine on myself, wrote the “mental software” behind it myself, and am testing it at every opportunity, in accordance with the way I think. This ability to reprogram my own brain’s software isn’t magic, nor a super-human ability power, but simply a project I have been working on, for, well, over thirty years.

The author of the article above has many regrets about accepting the experimental medical treatment he had to turn his emotions “on.” This treatment involved letting doctors mess around with his brain. My own doctor knows me well, and therefore does not try to force any sort of treatment on me, for he knows that my biggest compulsion involves an intense need to be free from control by other people. Not all Aspies have compulsions, but some of us do, and I am one of them.

Something most Aspies do have are “special interests,” as they are called, but they vary widely. My special interest is mathematics. I learned to speak, read, and write so that I could express my own mathematical ideas. My parents provided me with books about mathematics, one they realized the intensity of my need, driven by curiosity, to absorb mathematical ideas which were new, at the time, to me. I have never stopped wanting more.

My interest in science came later, but not much later, due to that same curiosity. Once I learned how linked the physical sciences and mathematics are, this was inevitable. The more mathematical a given subject was, the faster I could learn it. Without mathematics involved, however, learning was a chore, and deciphering the mysteries of human behavior has been, for this reason, very difficult. Why did people do such bizarre and confusing things? For a long time, I had no idea, and wasn’t willing to do the hard work of figuring it out, either. I puzzled other people, and they puzzled me right back. I made little progress, on this front, for many years.

Why did understanding anything about emotions come so much later in life, for me? That’s an easy question to answer: emotions are more complicated than anything else I have learned, in the sense that emotions are extremely difficult to understand, or express, mathematically. To do this in a way that would work well, I had to rewrite my “software” myself, and that took a lot of hard work, time, and thought. This is entirely unlike the case of the man who told his story in the New York Times, who was thrown into an emotional nightmare by an experimental treatment he willingly received, but did not design. He has my sympathy, and I hope his life gets better in the future. 

About RobertLovesPi

I go by RobertLovesPi on-line, and am interested in many things. Welcome to my little slice of the Internet. The viewpoints and opinions expressed on this website are my own. They should not be confused with the views of my employer, nor any other organization, nor institution, of any kind.
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5 Responses to Asperger’s Syndrome and “Emotional Vision”

  1. I was thinking recently about “emotional blindness” of Aspies. And I have 2 comments:
    1. Agree with you about principal difficulty to express emotions in mathematically rigorous terms. There is no, an probably will never be, a computer software that recognizes or mimics human emotions.
    2. The essence of Aspies “emotional blindness” is not the fact they lack emotions (as many non-Aspies like to think), but rather “orthogonality” in expressing emotions by Aspies and non-Aspies. The very same cause why an Aspy fails to see non-Aspy’s emotions prevents also a non-Aspy to see Aspy’s emotions (and Aspy’s emotional life is very rich in this regard). At the other hand, a non-Aspy can easily discern emotions of another non-Aspy as well as Aspy can easily “read” emotions of other Aspy. The only difference is that non-Aspies happen to see other’s non-Aspies’ emotions every day, while Aspies see them very seldom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That may be true for some people, but my own “emotional blindness” applied equally well to Aspies and non-Aspies alike. I seem to be getting this ability now, much later than others, and I’m not getting it any faster for Aspies’ emotions than for non-Aspies’ emotions. All experimental data thus far indicates that, in my case, the only variable that counts is how well I know the person.

      Like

  2. kategladstone says:

    I’m an Aspie. How may I obtain the “mental software” you described above?

    Liked by 1 person

    • All people are different, and this took me about 35 years to figure out. We each have to find our own way, and I hope your search takes less time. In my case, it was part of a bigger project to learn to adapt to change.

      Like

  3. Pingback: The Inverted Popularity of This Aspie’s Phobias and Philias, Part I: An Explanation | RobertLovesPi's Blog

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