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Strong emotions?

I remember when I was completing my training to be a coach and I worked with another student. On this occassion she was the coach and I was the client.

For this particular exercise, I was asked to remember a time when I felt euphoric. A word of her choosing. I can honestly say I looked at her like she had two heads. Firstly, it wasnt a word I would normally use and secondly, my understanding of the word didn’t exactly match me as an individual.

I think at that point I answered ”never”. It was her turn to look at me as if I had two heads. She then started to describe, in her terms, what euphoria was and as she described it, she became more and animated. What she was describing was alien to me. And we struggled because no matter how hard she tried to describe it and what it felt like, I kept telling her no. And she found it difficult to comprehend that I had gone through life and never felt this.

On reflection, I think what put me off identifying with what she described as euphoria, was that she was so animated. I do feel strong emotions but it is rare for me to show them.

It‘s like birthdays and christmas. I may get presents that I really love and I may well feel really happy about them inside, but outside I don’t really show any animation, there may be a smile but it’s not the reaction the giver had hoped to see. In fact, for a recent birthday my sister bought me a Le Crueset piece for my ever growing kitchen collection. I lit up, absolutely delighted that I had another bit for the collection and she commented that it was one of the very few times she had witnessed me showing an actual reaction and it was over a piece of crockery!

I’ve also noticed it in others who like me are autistic or have ADHD. For some there can be extreme visible reactions, yet for others they may look perfectly calm and but in reality theres an emotional storm going on inside.

One example is anxiety. Many of us are anxious and have been conditioned not to show it, be it because it isn’t the norm in society or for the fear of ridicule, punishment or misunderstanding. It feels like your insides are shaking yet there are no visible signs and some of us have become so good at masking that no one would know. Yet it’s there. Certain therapies can help but it’s there.

It can make things kinda difficult in today’s society, especially when there’s an expectation from society as a whole, to have some element of emotion on display in one instance and hide it completely in another. It’s another one of those social skills that we struggle with.

You may give a present and see someone jump around the room and think “OK thats a bit much” , but you may also give a present and get a simple thank you and a smile. This is tough, especially when you’ve taken the time and effort to find this gift.

You may see someone extremely angry and think they are being a drama queen as you feel they are overreactioning, yet you may also see someone who you thought would be angry but doesn't seem to be bothered at all.

Sometimes we can be over or underwhelmed by sensory stimuli, sometimes we have difficulties with executive function. Something may be happening that makes expressing ourselves or showing emotion difficult. Social cues also play a part as we fail to recognise cues that indicate emotion and don’t always pick up on them.

One thing I have learnt is that none of us are emotionless, even if it may sometimes seem that way.

All I ask is that the next time you feel underwhelmed or disappointed in someone’s reaction, please remember that they may feel exactly as you had hoped, it just isn’t as visible as you would like.

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