This post was supposed to be a written follow up to my previous (wordless) post about Perception.
But a revelation a few days ago changed that.
Revelation of the obvious?
I have recently been going through a particularly difficult period.
- I won’t bore you with the details as to why :-)
But this difficult period has had a negative impact on my feelings.
I had a particularly challenging day this past week, on pretty much every level, which had me working until the early hours of the next day.
- Although it was an exhausting day, I felt surprisingly energized throughout the day
- With a real sense of accomplishment when I finally got to bed
The next day I awoke feeling very tired and that’s when it hit me!
I was acutely aware that despite feeling very tired, I was also feeling quite optimistic and happy.
- In stark contrast to my recent experience of feeling very tired and also quite sad
Apparently tired is not the same as sad!
- Why didn’t I realize this before?
- But perhaps more importantly, how could I possibly have confused tiredness with sadness?
Back in 1995 I was referred to a local counselling service.
- To explore my ‘disappointment and dissatisfaction’
My initial meeting at the Counselling Service was with the Team supervisor.
- His job was to assess me and select the most suitable Counselor
He opened with a few pleasantries and then asked me about my background with a very open question.
He finally interrupted my diatribe with;
‘That’s amazing, you’ve just spoken for 15 minutes without mentioning a single feeling.’
‘You live entirely in your head’
This shocked me for several reasons because and in no particular order;
- Although I couldn’t confirm his assertion intellectually, I knew intuitively that he was correct
- I then realized, again intuitively, that this had been a lifelong pattern
- His interruption seemed quite rude, made almost mocking in tone
- Certainly aloof, if nothing else
- He offered no elaboration
I spent a year or so meeting with my Counselor, once a week.
I always felt comfortable with her.
- even during the uncomfortable moments of my storytelling
One day she asked me a very direct question about my feelings.
After answering her, she responded with the statement:
‘That’s not a feeling, that’s a thought’
Her answer confused me but also aroused my curiosity.
- She was clearly challenging my thinking
- But I didn’t feel threatened
- So I asked her to explain the difference
She gave an explanation, but it didn’t really register.
- A decade later I discovered and experienced the difference first hand
- During an advanced communications training course
We never really explored my difficulty in distinguishing feelings from thoughts.
- This still puzzles me as this clearly affects the way in which I perceive the World
Autism was never mentioned in any of our meetings, Asperger’s being still in it’s diagnostic infancy.
- But I am sure she was acutely aware of my Autistic traits
- Even if she didn’t have a box to put them in
She cried at the end of our final counselling session!
- Apologizing for breaching protocol
- Before giving me a copy of ‘The Little Prince’
Autism and feelings
So how could I have confused sadness with tiredness?
Strictly speaking I wasn’t really confusing these feelings.
- Despite my Autism, I do understand the difference between sadness and tiredness
- Both emotionally and of course intellectually
What I was doing and generally seem to do, is to group and generalize my feelings.
So if I am experiencing a negative feeling, I tend to be more receptive to other negative feelings.
- and not very receptive to positive feelings
- perhaps even projecting into other negative feelings!
Equally, if I am experiencing a positive feeling, I tend to be more receptive to other positive feelings.
- and less receptive to negative feelings
This probably explains why I don’t often experience ‘mixed feelings’, although it does happen.
- Confusion and curiosity, as mentioned above
- Although these feelings have greater analytic components than happy and sad
For some reason, this week I was able to experience happiness and optimism, despite being very tired.
- I recognized this as being somewhat of an exception and
- Conducted a mental dialogue, concluding that mixed feelings need not be a rarity for me
Despite my naturally impaired way of experiencing feelings, I am acutely aware of and amused by the way in which the words feel/feelings/felt etc are widely misused and abused.
The term ‘mixed feelings’ typically has nothing to do with feelings.
- It usually means that the person has mixed thoughts
- Unable to decide, uncertain
The other flagrant misuse is in statements such as ‘I feel that’ (fill in the blank)
- ‘I feel that’ is really just another way of saying ‘I strongly believe’
- It has nothing to do with feelings
- But adding the word ‘feel’ can have the effect of ‘raising the stakes’
- It’s a bit like making a statement and underlining it, or writing it in capitals
I seem to have discovered the source of the impaired way in which I experience emotions.
I am optimistic that this will lead me to richer and deeper emotional experiences and perception of the World.
Ironically, people with a clear innate understanding of the difference between feelings and thoughts continue to mislabel thoughts as feelings.
- Saying one thing, while meaning another thing
- The very essence of: – The Social minefield :-)