So, I have spent a lot of time of late thinking about…thinking, pretty much my favorite past time when I am not engaging in avoidance behaviors so that time will just tick by and leave me alone. Recently went over an older post by #musingsofanaspie and it got my brain going again on the question of empathy which I have addressed and speculated on before. That question being, am I empathetic and is my ability to easily read people natural to me or is it learned?
Well, I think I was asking the question partially wrong, I am naturally cognitively empathetic, that means I can use my intelligence to relate to folks feelings and circumstances. This connects back to my writings on being compassionate writ large, or a good choice of word here would be sympathetic. So, i am a very compassionate and sympathetic human being, but I am not particularly high empathy in regards to affective empathy. I feel sympathy pains for people, but that is synesthesia, I read that someone is in pain and as someone compassionate I want to help, but I do not feel with the depth others do in such regards, my rationality means the depths of my reaction is limited. Which, makes me a decent person to come to with problems if you want a good ear and solutions, I have found a balance there, I may not feel that pain or joy with the same depth, but I am able to cognitively relate to it. This is quite probably tied into my tendency to provide personal experiences which may come across as egocentric as a way of demonstrating my ability to …well empathize. For good or ill, I have had a host of horrible and traumatic experiences in my life, loss, suffering, physical pain, I have drank deeply from the well, and as a result of this, I have the personal experience to bounce my cognitive empathy off and thus, I am able to create a kindly and compassionate demeanor that Neurotypicals don’t find offensive or alien. But…it was not natural, not part of my inherent wiring, so in short, I have issues with empathy, but we need to stop confusing that with folks not having any feelings at all, I am not a psycho or sociopath, I just respond to these things differently, a bit distant, but still able to sympathize, and frankly, I consider that a blessing, a bit of both worlds, since I have had to straddle that for my entire life.
What else about my inherent brain wiring? Well, I am literal, a very literally minded person, but I have been able to intellectually and cognitively get around that. For example, I know when I am tired or stressed, I should avoid posting on facebook, I miss subtext at those points and thus find myself getting into trouble or causing a bit of drama. Now, I still like to tear things apart from the literal perspective, why I dislike so many generalizations and also makes me the natural skeptic I am. But, I also had to move away from that, how does one cover up for a natural tendency to be literal, the literal interpretation of things still comes to me first, my inherent wiring dictates that. But like so many other things in my life, I found a work around, and those who know me personally would be able to see and understand the cornerstone of my sense of humor, not coincidentally very much like Maine humorists in general (where I live most of my childhood and teen years). So I make jokes based on the literal interpretation of things, for example my wife says “I’m taking a shower”, my response is frequently “Oh yeah? Where are you taking it too, seems a bit heavy” or something along those lines. My brain takes it literal, I then filter it and put it out as a form of joke instead, and oddly enough I almost have too, if I don’t speak these things out loud, that bounce around inside my head, it connects back to me mumbling and talking out loud, it is not just conversation for the sake of conversation, it is a powerful tool for me to process data and move on.
What else about my inherent wiring then? From the Meyers-Briggs, it has been well stated before that I am an INTP, and I will re-iterate that I do not see this as some form of biological determinism, just a useful tool that folks can look up and get an approximation of my personality, so I am guilty of using folks as sounding boards, always. As a matter of fact, I fail to thrive when I do not have access to good sounding boards, and so lately I am having some issues between avoiding social pressures and stimuli, which reduces meltdowns, but without my sounding boards my mind feels sluggish, I need that witty bit of conflict to force me to double check my thinking and get new perspectives, new data, and new questions, and I love questions more than anything else in this world, I am after all a creature of extreme curiosity.
So, I have sensory processing issues, a complex relationship with empathy and other people, I am literal but not rigidly black and white, instead I am an extreme grey person, or as I like to think the world is not grey at all, but full of colors and vibrancy. It is hard for me to focus my energies, because my interests are so expansive and my mind wants to learn it all, know it all, so I am scattered and unfocused, and this frustrates me to no end. And I am still failing to do what I wish, I cannot function in too much structure with too many asinine social rituals, but at the same time, left to my own devices I cannot focus and get things done, how strange it is to realize how much I am a product of the environment I am in. But the more I learn about my inherent way of thinking and then the creative workarounds I have developed over the years, the closer I come to being able to cultivate the right environment to maximize my potential productivity. So I am still torn, I have greatly mixed feelings on pursuing a PhD and trying to fight my way into academia, I suppose I could contemplate work for a think tank, but the ideologically driven nature of many of them would likewise not be particularly fulfilling to me. But I still need to be productive, it is an imperative to me, a constant pressure that leads to depression and self loathing when I cannot get things done that I know I am capable of, I just don’t have enough structure for someone with my inherent brain wiring, and that ties back to my last post about feeling like being only half a person. I suppose we shall see what comes in the future, but I cannot continue on my current course, it is eating away at me and that leads to meltdowns, and I loathe having meltdowns.