Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Wanting to Be Understood

I said to my friend who was giving me a ride home from the meetup something along the lines of "I can hardly remember a time in my life where I wasn't feeling intense emotion every waking moment" during a discussion we were having about how some people don't feel emotion very much or all of the time. I said I was having trouble imagining it.

His involuntarily, mostly nonverbal-but-still-verbal response was "God," in a tone of voice... in an under your breath but not quite emotion-intensity filled tone of voice and as he said it.... My mind, my body, my emotions all relaxed. I knew with that utterance that he totally understood what I had been getting at it and it made me feel at peace. All the stuff he said after it were just words and didn't really stick with me. But that one utterance... If only people would realize that A) I don't need them to FIX my problems .... and B) I really want them just to listen and hear me and C) Listening and hearing me means giving some explicit sign that you understand the content of what I am saying, such as repeating it back to me or rephrasing or even an explicit nonverbal sign (subtle nonverbal signs I don't do so well with).

All of the people who have been frustrated with me over the years when I end up getting unintentionally aggressive or overly intense or demanding with them in conversations about emotional matters... would probably be amazed to know that all I wanted from them was a sign they understood, not for them to solve the problem. ..... But is the problem that people simply don't know how to give this? It may be. I can't count the number of times I said to them that was what I was looking for and they got defensive and usually said something along the lines of "You know I understand" (not true) or nothing at all, despite clear entreaties for understanding. Hell, people are willing to call me "manipulative" before they'd give in to give me a one sentence statement that showed they understand. WHY? Why is it so hard for us as a human race (or at least in the Northern US culture I live in) for people to show that they understand one another? Why is that so threatening or difficult? And how much of this is just culturally specific to the northeast US? I have learned just since yesterday that there are cultures that are so much more open and for whom expressing this understanding, as far as I can tell, is just a way of life. Even in the southern US, I am told, it is more like that (probably depending on where you go.) I learned this through the stories my roommate told me last night and through the amazing appearance of a woman who had moved here from Bolivia three years ago tonight at the meetup (first non-white person we've ever had there, very refreshing).

and the reply from a woman named K who I just recently met online.... MCS and AS and from Alberta... A woman after my own heart but so sad so far away.... She gets it like I don't think anyone in my life has ever gotten it... THIS is why I'm so open on Facebook and everywhere else in my life... it might take a LONG TIME, but sooner or later you'll run into someone who can relate. In fact, as a result of my being so open about who I am, about Asperger's and so on no less than three people who I met as part of other communities have discovered their Asperger's diagnosis because of me or as inspired by me... which makes me feel REALLY good. They are so happy to know why they are the way they are. 

She said...

I think I get ya but I have no idea why it's so hard to get this need met. I think my husband (&some ex friendes and ex boyfriends over the years) gets very tired of me "ranting" or going on and on about something. I think they view it as a sign that I am too worked up about the topic and they try to calm me down with comments diminishing the experience... but that is ironically exactly what MAKES me go on and on! I feel like if they're minimizing the experience then they obviously aren't absorbing what I have said, so I try another way of explaining it, or use more superlatives or more swearing to try to convince them how intense my experience was... and they again see me "making a mountain out of a molehill" so try to convince me "Don't take it so seriously"... so I, feeling so much need for them to understand what I have been through, will try MORE to express myself.. so they try more to shut me down... and I try more to explain. They end up seeing me as a freak who can't ever calm down but that's not the truth of it. Really, if they showed understanding in the first couple minutes of my story, I would be so gratified and satisfied... and then it would be done. By fighting to avoid this simple bond of being " on the same page", they are the ones getting me upset and pushing me to keep desperately attempting to get through.

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