Expectations are hard.
One thing about living life is there will always be expectations. In every interaction, altercation we have there will be expectations. We have them of and for ourselves and we have them of and for those we are interacting with and of course of and for those around the interaction.
We can pretend we don’t have them, that we go into a situation without them, but, I contend, that is a lie we tell ourselves. To pretend we don’t have them is of course nothing but fiction.
Absolutely we may be flexible in them, we may be able to change them on the hop, we may be able live with them being quite fluid in the moment and as the moment moves on.
Knowing our own expectations is a challenge in itself. It requires some level of self-reflection and self-knowledge. It requires we have some insight into ourselves.
When it comes to working out, reading, interpreting and understanding what the expectations of others are can be really difficult. As an autistic person, this is particularly hard. It’s already a huge challenge to read and interpret social cues and hints as well as non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language.
As an autistic person, going into any interaction with other humans, autistic or not, is a challenge of reading expectations, and this is the case regardless of how much insight into myself I have, and how well I have a handle on my own expectations.
One of the most hurtful stereotypes I as an autistic person am often confronted by is the so-called lack of empathy. I have been on the receiving end of this particular stereotype from many angles and perspectives, professional ones, and personal ones.
Personally, I have found this a really difficult thing to deal with. I find it really painful to confront. And that’s the kind of thing, I feel pain of myself and others with quite a lot of intensity, often an intensity that I fail to find expression for.
As has been said by some in more recent times, the so called lack of empathy of autistics is a furphy and in reality many autistic people are incredibly empathic and feel empathy deeply.
The issue I think becomes confused and conflated with a difficulty with expressing empathy and a difficulty in some situations with ‘Theory of Mind’.
It’s not that we can’t or won’t put ourselves into other peoples places, or try to see it from an alternative viewpoint, but that in fact it is just too painful to do so. So much so that we can at times be seen to be aloof, uncaring and unempathetic.
All of this has me wondering weather, a big part of this is expectations, and trying to work out what they are. As I said it is a challenge to just know your own expectations in a given situation, let alone those of the others in an interaction.
I suspect the difficulty and complexity of this exponentially increases as more and more people are added to an interaction.
Perhaps what’s actually going on with us looking like we lack empathy at times is a combination of the difficulty with expressing empathy we feel, and at the same time being unsure of what the expectation of us is in that moment, and so, instead of getting it wrong, stuffing it up as they say, a sort of abdication occurs instead.
It all ends up a bit like, well I can’t work out how I am supposed to respond here, I don’t know the expectations of this person, I have all these feels going on, and it’s hurting and it’s hard to deal with, and these people are expecting some response, I am not sure what they are expecting, what that correct response is. Whenever I try I fuck it up, so fuck it, I am just not going to try.
And so it ends up looking like we don’t really care about the other people involved, when in fact we do. It all ends up looking like, at times, we are these robotic, repetitive, routine controlled machines that have no theory of mind and no empathy.
That’s just not it at all, for me, anyway, I have been confounded time and time again, in efforts to get it right, but get it wrong so much, that in a way I have bailed out of trying, sure, it might look like I lack empathy but it’s not that at all.
I think what it really is, is, that I can’t work out the expectations, and therefore can’t make an informed choice in responding, and therefore look like an uncaring asshole.
Expectations, mine, theirs, and ours, they’re just bloody hard.