I can be instense. Very intense at times. Focused on a thing. Focused on a topic. Not obsessed just an intensity of interest.
Intensity though is more than just being hyperfocused, more than a special interest or hobby. Intensity is a thing in itself. I think, it may be one of the things that is common to virtually all autistic people. It is a thing that kind of crosses across issues for us.
Intensity can be something connected with sensory issues, it can be something connected with interests, something connected with our communication and even dare I say it our propensity for addiction, I think we often see it in our emotions too, when angry that anger can have a real intensity that can at times be scary, especially for those around us.
I must say I find the quoted synonyms here to be really positive. They go well with the intensity of feeling and the intensity of action and dedication that often accompany the things I do, think, feel, discuss etc. Yes Passion, Emotion, Energy, Vigor. They fit well I must confess.
There are so many things that have intensity for me in life. I suspect this is true for many autistics. So many things it is hard to select just a few but I will try to talk about a couple, and of course try not to bore you all to tears. I’d like to talk about my emotional intensity, in particular, experiencing instense empathy to others with a limited capacity to express it and also the intensity of anger and meltdown. Then I would like to talk about my intensity in being tenacious with things.
Forgive me if this becomes a bit of a personal navel-gazing type of post, it just seems to me the most effective way of conveying my thoughts on this issue. If you want to just pass on this one I won’t be offended at all, it can be a little intense I know.
It has often been stated that we autistics lack empathy when in fact this is far from the truth. Some of the most empathic people I know are extremely empathetic. I feel empathy with intensity, even though I am not very good at expressing it and conveying that to those who I am feeling that empathy.
The feeling is very intense. I often find myself with tears flowing but being unable to explain to others the source, intensity, passion, sadness etc that I am feeling. As a youngster in school, I was that kid that always cried about stuff, the crybaby. I was the kid that copped lots of teasing and I suspect this was heightened for being a boy. You know, the whole boys don’t cry thing.
An interesting factor I find is that this intensity can be present in both real and fictional situations. I can be as deeply effected by the events in a television show or a movie as in real happening in my actual real life. I often find myself watching a show or listening to a song with unexplained deep feelings that are so intense I struggle to articulate or express them, and yet, I have a bodily response of flowing tears and shaking with the feelings. It is an intensity I don’t understand but I experience as absolutely real.
I experience anger very intensely. It can be an intense anger on behalf of others and it can be an intense anger on behalf of myself. I tend to have a very real experience of requiring this to be heard. If it is dismissed the intensity rises and rises and results in a meltdown. An angry meltdown for me is a scary, scary situation. It is scary for me and it is scary for those around me.
I yell, I scream, I accuse, I throw things. I do not become violent in the sense of hurting others and for that small mercy, I am incredibly thankful. A meltdown is such an experience of intensity that I experience it almost as though I am outside of myself. The emotional strength is so intense I somehow seperate myself from the experience. I suppose this is in some way a protection mechanism.
The scary thing in all this is, of course, the uncontrolled and uncontrollable sense of it. In the midst of it, I experience it as if in a way I am looking down from above myself watching myself yell, scream and rage. I want to intervene yet I am incapable of doing so. I experience seeing myself saying horrible things to those I love yet am unable to stop it. It is so intense, so incredibly powerful that it is impossible to find the words to even get close to explaining the feelings and emotions impacting upon me.
I see myself storming up and down hallways yelling and screaming, wanting to be heard and listened to, wanting my loved ones to understand but being in such a state that they are fearful. Oftentimes as this plays out I end up in a blubbering mess rocking in a corner. The anger subsides and gives way to intense and deep shame and regret.
Regret and shame that are focused on being so incredibly sorry and frustrated at myself. So guilty for bringing that intensity and fear to people I deeply love.
So intense that utter exhaustion ensues and many hours of sleep are required for recovery. This is an intensity I could do without.
If meltdowns like that described above are unwanted intensity, then the tenacious passion for a task or interest are very much wanted. I have many times been called stubborn and pig-headed about things, and I admit there is some truth in that for certain. However, it is more than just that it is an intensity of purpose, focus, and tenacity to completion and understanding that pervades it.
An example I recall from some years ago was when working on a friend of a friends computer system. This person had thrown their computer down the stairs in a fit of anger. I was given the job of attempting to get it working for them. I tried many things, my friend had told me to give it up as a lost cause. But no I was not going to do such a thing. I could not see the reason for why it would not boot up properly. I had inspected the components and all seemed Ok.
You’re a stubborn bastard said, my friend.
I responded with a statement along the lines of just wanting to follow it through and pursue all the possibilities. After many hours of frustration and failed attempts, I identified the problem. The onboard cache system had been fried. I disabled the cache and the system booted up perfectly. All be it without the hardware cache.
This intensity to a task can sometimes come across as obsession with things, I get that, but, it really isn’t it really is just wanting to understand and see things through. It is also something of an academic or learning journey in that as that journey to understanding occurs it opens up side-journeys forks on the road and so it seems as though a passion has become an obsession. But no it’s not an obsession it’s an intencity of focus, an intensity of interest and passion.
We’ve seen this in the great thinkers of history, the great scientists. Imagine if Einstein or Tesla did not have that intensity of focus and passion for understanding. Where would we be in our understanding of the world and everything then?
I is for intensity….