Weaving, flowing, soaking and seeping thickly through the room. So present reaching out and touching it is a real possibility. So thick you feel you can cut it with a knife. But it’s not atmosphere. Well, it’s not just atmosphere. Atmosphere is a factor of it but it’s not it. It emanates and radiates around so thinly it seeps into your soul, it soaks into your pores and settles upon you. Yes, atmosphere is a part of it, but it is far more than just atmosphere, far more and far more potent, far more dangerous, far more satisfying. Far more everything!
Emotional dissonance. Raw emotion, rolling around the room, unable to be filtered, interpreted and shared. Understood correctly. That thickness in the air. That presence, that radiating emanating sense is emotional dissonance. Emotions that are flowing and rolling around the room, expressed by people through their words, body language and facial expressions. It’s think like this because there are autistic people in the room that are struggling to work out what they mean, how they are intended and who they are expressed towards.
A tricky business this emotional stuff is for autistic people. Already is the heightened sensory world and the oftentimes deeply felt empathy in bodily experiences. On top of this is the sense that emotional expression needs to be interpreted. Is easily mistaken. Is it anger or disgust. Is it frustration or fury. Sadness or something else. What’s that look on that face, what does that bodily stance mean?
At times that presence of the emotion is really quite difficult to deal with. As an autistic it is often difficult to ascertain what that emotion being expressed is, especially when expressed in facial expression and tone. It’s really difficult. There is that trying to nut it out as to what that face means. That sense of who is that directed at.
Worries about if I have done something wrong to provoke the expressed emotion that I am struggling to understand. I think it’s anger, I’m not sure and I don’t know if this is directed to me or directed at someone else in the room. I’m not sure, and I feel very intensely impacted by this emotion and I need to process is and it is really hard because not only is there it is growing and especially if I process it wrong and express that wrong interpretation in the wrong way.
The fierceness and the intensity grows. The disconnect increases, the resultant sensory overwhelm comes into play. What comes next is critical. It is really critical in fact. It’s a question of meltdown or shutdown on one had or circumventing and supporting and explaining on the other. Which way will it go is the vital question.
For me in this situation if the “temperature” of the swirling pot of emotion keeps rising it will be incredibly difficult for me to deal with it in any kind of positive, logical way and I do need my allies to recognise the signs that I am out of my depth. To realise that I need assistance, that I need to be helped to understand, to redirect to move through it without further being triggered further in the situation and lead to an emotional explosion.
That emotional explosion might look like child’s tantrum. I assure you it isn’t. It might look like the child in the shopping centre throwing themselves on the floor because their mum didn’t buy them the chocolate but I assure you that child is in a state of control that I am not. Or it could be an implosion.
An implosion where I shutdown. I curl up and sob, take into my self, my soul my being and just can’t deal. Can’t talk, can’t get the words out. Rock. Sob. Inconsolable and shut down.
Neither of these are options clearly, are good. The only good outcome here is that those around me are able to tune in with the emotions exuding from me and be able to intervene and redirect me, explain to me what is going on and help me to process it and if it’s me, discuss it and move through it, if it isn’t me allow me to cast it aside knowing I have not missed something and let someone down, upset someone.
This is a personal exploration of the emotional dissonance that I experience and is not meant to be something that is universal to autistics. The most important thing that anyone can understand about us autistics is the fundamental truth that we are all different, just as everyone is different. The way we experience the world can be as different as that of an allistic person and an autistic person. What I do think here is a universal thing though, is the need for those that love and care for us to be tuned in to the emotional and sensory load we are bearing and keep it in mind and try to recognise when they need to intervene and help us and when to leave us deal ourselves. Yes sometimes you will get it wrong, the important thing is, well to me anyway, is that you try.
This emotional stuff is really hard and sometimes I need help.