I received a comment recently that made me think about the way that I handle and process emotions. This will be an interesting discussion, as I have not handled my emotions consistently throughout my life. Rather, as I got older I went from one tactic of handling my emotions to another.
Either way, I could never profess to understanding my emotions, but when I was little I was more free with my emotional expression. If I felt a certain way I was able to allow myself to express it. I don’t know how much I let my emotions govern my decision making, but when I was little there was not much that I understood, making it difficult to judge.
When I was happy, it was pretty clear, but what I remember most easily is anger and sadness. I remember a drama class when I was in elementary school where we did an exercise that I did not like. I allowed myself to express that anger, much to the annoyance of the teacher.
I also easily allowed myself to express when I was sad or otherwise upset. The problem was that when I got hurt, I was easily moved to tears. As I got older it became less acceptable for me to behave in this fashion, but it was a slow lesson for me. I was told by my parents that people would call me a crybaby if I kept acting the way I did, but I always figured that since no one was calling me a crybaby to my face that no one was calling me a crybaby at all.
I learned the lesson when I learned that a particular high school colleague that I considered a friend was talking behind my back. I considered it to be the most heinous act of betrayal, and to this day I am still unsure if I am willing to forgive him or not. Over time I learned that others treated my contemptibly behind my back, but this guy was the catalyst, and as such all of my hatred was placed upon him.
It wasn’t the things that he said about me that offended me so greatly. I was old enough then that I could consider what was said and even agree to a certain extent. It was the fact that to my face he acted one way, but behind my back he acted another. He pretended to be my friend, but he was not my friend. He wouldn’t even do me the courtesy of levying his criticisms to my face. The only reason I knew he was doing this was because I was told by my brother and cousin.
I will stop talking about him because it is reaching the point where I am running out of remotely nice things to say.
The point is that after this I resolved to harden myself.
Perhaps this would have occurred naturally, as it was around that time (during my middle school days) where I started to excel in school and become greatly interested in science. I also think that my difficulty with understanding other peoples emotions due to my autistic nature also meant that I couldn’t depend on using my emotions to govern my actions forever.
At first, I went hard against emotions and shifted towards cold hard logic. I allowed myself to consider emotions to be something for the weak, and I would not allow myself to be weak again. As such, I grew to process my emotions in a distant manner. Even today it is difficult for me to feel any emotion to an extreme degree. I am capable of a wide range of emotions, but I express them in a reserved manner.
It is possible however that this attitude of shunning emotions might have given me difficulties when I was in engineering. I can only speculate, but I wonder if perhaps better awareness of my emotions might have helped me to take helpful measures to my mental health and help me keep on track? Learning about my autistic condition was difficult, but the way I handled it for my two engineering years was by dissociating myself from its emotional impact and keeping a level head.
With some thought, I say that while I would have never been comfortable with a huge emotional outburst, perhaps by allowing myself to feel the emotions I shoved aside (even if I just allowed myself to feel them in private), I would have realized that I was in a difficult position and needed help.
Today I still allow my thoughts and rationality to guide my actions. Like I said, I believe this was inevitable. However, I recognize the importance of understanding my emotions. Admittedly, I still don’t always understand my emotions, but I believe that it is a good first step that I recognize this. One step at a time and I will work towards the healthiest and most beneficial balance I am capable of.