Feelings, Emotions, and Uncertainty

At any given time, I cannot tell how I’m feeling emotionally. Sometimes physical sensations can be understood and named in the moment, but actual emotions are slippery and defy categorization.

Even once I’ve managed to grab hold and examine the emotion sometime in the future, it remains largely a mystery to me.

“How are you?” elicits mild panic, which I can clearly see once I’ve gained the distance of time and reflection.

How am I really? “Fine” is safe and scripted and almost never the truth, which creates unexplainable dissonance within. Most other people don’t want to hear more than that anyhow, I’ve heard.

“Pretty good” and “All right” feel less false for some reason. Maybe because they deviate from the script and are slightly more personalized so I don’t feel quite as much like I’m acting and playing a part, even though I am.

“Tired” is one I like to use although I know that’s never what Husband means when he asks me. He wants to know about emotional states and whether I’m happy or sad or frustrated or something else maybe? I can’t usually delve any deeper than that until it’s been at least a day or two since I felt the feeling in question.

Even with time and distance, most emotions remain mysterious and hazy.

If someone else shares their pain with me, I feel it intensely. Sometimes I feel it when they don’t share it with me explicitly, but it helps when they name it for me. Otherwise it’s more difficult for me to understand.

Often a physical sensation will allow me to determine my emotional state; such as when I’m tired and eventually remember that there was a death in the family around the time when I became increasingly fatigued. A friend of mine has suggested a couple of times that perhaps this is a type of synesthesia where the emotions get cross-wired with the physical feelings creating a different way of experiencing them.

Not all Autistics have difficulty determining and naming their emotional state, but I do. The clinical name for this difficulty is Alexithymia and non-Autistics (allistics) can experience it as well.

This is one of my favorite posts about Alexithymia in general written from an Autistic perspective. There are helpful checklists and resources available there.

As for myself, I’m still in the process of working out what this means in my life. I have known about it for several years now, but it’s a difficult topic. I’ve struggled to really look much into it. Emotions weren’t valued in my family of origin so, to compound my natural difficulties, I wasn’t explicitly taught many helpful things about emotions either.

Being a birthworker for many years has helped me see the value in being aware of and working with one’s emotions. I’m pretty good at helping others with theirs after all those years of practice, but applying those things to myself in the moment is impossible.

The best I can do is to frequently reflect on my life, go through checklists, and keep applying new information as I learn more about how this affects me specifically, and that’s pretty good progress 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Feelings, Emotions, and Uncertainty

  1. if’s funny, in english there are “feelings” and “emotions”. in other languages they are the same.
    feelings are sensory sensations (yes, īʻm the idiot who looked them up). and when people do the rhetorical “how are you feeling?” they enquire about emotions, not feelings. a literal aspie answer i sometimes want to throw to that question would be “primarily by audition and touch but also olfactory plays a huge role. and how are you feeling?”
    and the answer to that rhetorical q is always “fine”, and itʻs supposed to sound upbeat and emotional enough for your assigned sex and age. i just so hate the fakeness of that question. in scandinavia, if someone asks it, they actually want to know and care. so giving the rhetorical expected lies would be bad there.

    i wonder what it’s like to not have alexithymia.
    and i guess alexithymia is one more reason why it’s so difficult to try to communicate with other human persons who share the xx-chromosome type. i can’t tell bodily sensations from emotions and hate when people insist i should talk to them about emotions and stuff. pets are nicer. a cat or a dog can understand you easier and knows if you need hugs or a lap buddy or a puppy kiss, and they don’t care if you don’t know how to label all those emotions.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, that’s so interesting that in other languages there’s not that word differentiation between feelings and emotions! I hadn’t known that before. Sometimes people here really want to know how I’m doing – close friends, usually – but I’m not usually sure when they want to know the real answer vs not and even if they want the real answer, I usually haven’t one to give them.

      Yes, interacting with others who are assigned female at birth is often more challenging for me, unless they’re also Autistic 🙂 I don’t mind listening to other people’s feelings because it’s interesting to me, but sharing my own does not often go well.

      I miss having a cat. Someday I’ll get another one ❤ They're so nice!

      Like

  2. Growing up in my family, in this culture, I learned that when people asked “How are you?” they were most often just performing a pleasantry rather than asking a real question.

    “And you?” became my default response, simply omitting any answer to quickly get on to the bit they were really interested in, the opportunity to talk about themselves.

    Over the years a few people have noticed my lack of an answer, but the vast majority simply breeze over it, knowing that they have done their duty.

    Would they really understand my experience at the depth that I experience it? In my experience, they would not. They don’t want to actually be present for anyone outside their assumptions.

    “How are you?”

    “And you?”

    “Well, I have been annoyed by…”

    Simple, even if always erasing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That response makes a lot of sense. It’s frequently easier to just get them talking about themselves anyhow. That cuts out any of the awkward “how do I answer?” uncertainty.

      Thank you for sharing! I will have to give that a try in the future and see how it goes 🙂

      Like

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