Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pain, Empathy and Emotion: Scientific Version

I want to go ahead today and add a response I posted on an Asperger website after another poster quoted from "The Simpsons." The idea in the quote relates to the Asperger / Social Majority conflict over emotion and a possible explanation for the misunderstanding.  

Homer to Marge: "You don't appear to be in any kind of physical pain, the only type of pain a man understands".

I am female, but I am unable to tell the difference between physical and emotional pain. There are times I've gone to a medical doctor, because I really can't figure out if I'm sick or upset. This led me to read about how the brain processes pain and "feels" emotions. Guess what? There is only one circuit for both - emotional pain is physical. How could it be otherwise unless you believe that emotions are supernatural, which I'm sure many social people believe.  

Only three or four emotions exist: the flight or fight response of aggression and fear; disgust, and pleasure. From my own experience, I suspect that Asberger individuals experience a default "neutral" state. Social children learn to diffuse and differentiate their basic pain responses and to give those new states names - it's a fundamental task of social training. This is especially true for females. Inflating and dispersing pain via hundreds of descriptive words serves to keep females confused, distracted from anger and fear, and obsessed with subtle differences and changes in social emotions. This socialization of pain keeps women powerless. Society teaches females to imagine that real physical responses are thousands of subtle and entangled emotions that don't really exist!

What I am suggesting is that Aspies experience basic physiological pain, not the "emotions" social children learn. Also that we have a neutral setting, which is our default setting. This benign state produces our familiar "blank reaction" when people say something unimportant or baffling. We just don't feel emotion/pain unless something in the environment triggers the fight or flight response or pleasure or disgust. Social people interpret our neutral setting as offensive; after all, to them, everything they say or do, and the reaction they get from people, is vital to the continuing existence of the universe. Social people assume that we don't care about human beings because we're not in their frantic (to us) emotional mode 24/7. Emotion for us isn't this fantastical overwhelming supernatural state that colors and controls the fate of mankind. For us it is pain or the absence of pain - and our response is most often flight.

I think this also may explain why Asperger individuals commonly suffer from anxiety. From the time we are young, social situations are fight or flight for us because we are rejected and treated badly. We are different, and social people react very negatively to that fact. Diversity is not really a social value.

If you whack a dog on the nose every time it gets up on the couch, and then force it to get up on the couch and whack it again for doing so, and repeat this cycle again and again, will that dog not soon be in a state of perpetual fear?

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