Still, despite all this positivity, you can guarantee I’ll continue to get in a quandary with this stuff, and forget what I’ve learnt here today. But not to worry. It’s kind of like learning a foreign language, and there’s nothing more foreign than the strange, alien world of feelings. I now understand why I used to like Mr Spock so much. Now there was a man after my own heart. Or mind.
26 March 2014
E = Motion
I’m really hopeless at feelings - recognising when I’m having them; identifying them; experiencing them; dealing with them; talking about them. And yet, for a very long time, I thought I was really good at most of this stuff (bar the dealing with them bit), having made an extensive study of the whole subject, as part of my AA recovery experience.
What I’m actually really good at, exceptionally so, is avoiding or ignoring them; misidentifying them; obsessing about them; and analysing them. All whilst missing the point completely. It’s a gift. And I think it may be terminal.
Having been surrounded and immersed in the whole subject of emotions, human behaviour, psychology, and the like since first entering the world of AA 12 Step recovery twenty-six years ago, I naturally assumed that I’d acquired more than a modicum of self-awareness, and self-knowledge. I am far from a novice. And yet ironically, despite all of that time spent in the relentless obsession and pursuit of furthering my understanding of the human condition, I’m almost as hopeless now as I was back at the beginning.
Thankfully I now understand why - lack of self-awareness is a character trait of many people with autism. I’m one of them. And it’s okay. I’ve finally accepted that my attempts at self-analysis just leave me tied up in knots, especially as I never know when to stop. So I can give it up. I don’t have to understand everything in the universe (much as I may think I need to, in order to feel safe, and not be caught off guard. As if that ever worked).
But I’m still left with the difficulty of simply recognising when something’s going on with me, despite the fact that I display certain signs via my behaviour, kind of like flashing emergency lights that are trying to get my attention: “WARNING!! WARNING!! YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A FEELING ZONE!!! SLOW DOWN!!!”
But do I notice them? Nope, absolutely not - probably ‘cos I’m too busy speeding along, in an unconscious attempt to escape them. And nor does it matter that I consistently manifest the same signs, at regular and frequent intervals - I still remain totally oblivious. My best friend, however, does not. She recognises them, and what they mean - which is a bloody good thing, otherwise I’d never have acquired even the minuscule amount of self-awareness which I do have, without her input.
It’s as if I operate at such a deep level of unconsciousness, almost tantamount to being in a black hole, that I just never, or rarely, make the connection between my behaviour (which is the outward sign), and the feelings that are instigating it. I fail to get just how powerful emotions are, and how everything in us is linked - there’s a symbiotic dance occurring within each human being, and nothing occurs in isolation, for no reason. We are our own individual little universes, and what goes on within our worlds mirrors the greater universe outside of us.
Unfortunately, it’s like I compartmentalise everything to such a degree that I can’t see the links (as I am wont to do in my misguided attempts at trying to simplify things). Plus, I find the whole concept of feelings to be rather on the abstract side, probably because I’ve spent most of my time attempting to understand them (in an effort to control them), rather than learning to recognise, identify, accept, and deal with them. So, separating them out from my behaviour removes the concrete evidence of their existence, and turns them into an abstract puzzle. And I don’t do abstract either, which leaves me in a bit of bind - floating in that black hole I mentioned earlier.
Asking questions like, “How do you ‘have’ your feelings?”, “What do you ‘do’ with them?”, “How do you ‘own’ them?”, or “Where do you feel them - in your head, your body, your heart?” is, I’ve discovered, rather a fruitless task because there appears to be no definitive answer. This line of questioning simply feeds my preponderance towards obsessive analysis of the minutiae. In short, it keeps me in my head, and doesn’t produce any result, other than a headache and overwhelming feeling of tiredness from thinking too much.
The ‘right’ question to ask (ie the one which would produce a more positive outcome, and which might create a change) would be, “How do I recognise, and deal with, my feelings?” This is an action question. Which is probably why I forget to ask it ‘cos, along with not ‘doing’ feelings very well, I don’t do action - I do thinking. I have spent a large proportion of my life attempting to think myself into action, think myself out of feeling, think myself into being a different person. And I wondered why nothing ever changed.
In the past I’ve dealt with my emotions by basically not dealing with them: instead I’ve used alcohol, food, medication, the internet, television, reading, sleep, self-analysis, and obsessions as the means with which to deal with life in general. And the feelings themselves have become the ‘reasons’ (unconscious or otherwise) for my negative behaviour. I’ve also found it easier to simply read about other peoples’, or watch them on tv, and ‘borrow’ theirs, having made one of my erroneous attempts at identifying myself with someone else. Unfortunately, this is something else at which I am hopeless, so I usually come away with a confused identity which is not my own. I probably resemble an abstract painting.
Since being diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD, and recognising that my wiring affects the level of self-awareness I am able to attain, I have gradually been able to let go more and more of that driving need to understand myself and the rest of the human race. I’ve discovered that it isn’t necessary in order for me to be happy. And it was mostly about control anyway - my misguided belief being that if I understood everything then I could manage it, and that would relieve me of all those negative emotions and behaviours, and my anxiety. See - trying to think myself well.
There is, however, one feeling that I do recognise, but which, ironically, I have failed to identify as being a feeling, until today - restlessness. I experience it a lot, probably as a consequence of having ADHD. And therein lies the problem. I have come to associate it as being intrinsically a part of ADHD, compartmentalising it as being merely an identifying ‘symptom’ of that condition, that I have failed to recognise it as a feeling at all. And yet I describe myself as “feeling restless”. How can a person miss something so bleeding obvious?! Well, they can, and I have. I have a knack for it.
So today I’m attempting to deal with my restlessness, and any other feelings I might be experiencing, in a different, more productive, and positive way by writing about them on here. They have served a purpose. And I feel calmer as a result. It’s kind of like the act of writing grounds and focuses me, which is the opposite to how restlessness makes me feel - flighty, disconnected, up in the air, spacey, lacking focus and direction. And my usual solution, which is to give my mind leave to wander and remain unfocused on the internet, compounds the problem ‘cos it seems I’m using like with like, as it were. Like pouring more oil on an oil slick.
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."