During and After

When do you feel the emotions associated with key moments in your life? Are you conscious of them in the moment, or only once you have time afterwards to process what has gone on?

I find in my life, I tend to have stronger emotions reflecting on what previously happened, than in the moment (though there are exceptions).

When I was an undergraduate, my friend Kate gave me an unexpected kiss when I made her tea at a black tie dinner – she didn’t like coffee. In the course of the next 48 hours it dawned on me that a beautiful woman of my own age had given me a kiss (for the first time ever in my life) – and I woke up to the fact I was living among a community of touching, feeling, human beings and not really taking part (a bittersweet awakening).

Much more recently, celebrating a significant anniversary of my priesthood, a friend I hadn’t seen for nearly 20 years (and who hadn’t RSVP’d to say she was coming) surprised me by turning up, and leaning in close when someone took a photo for us. This is all the more precious because that friend had left me a note, rather then saying goodbye in person, when our work situations took us in different directions. Although I didn’t feel powerful emotions at the party, my long-term memory of that event is marked by very positive feelings.

Throughout the two decades when I’ve woken up to interpersonal emotions, I’ve had more experiences of this kind (“I’m really glad that happened”) than times I have felt something positive in the moment (“I never want this moment to end”). Awkwardly, I think the latter sort have only ever happened when I’ve been touched by a person I have “fallen in love with” at some point in my life. 

Is it the interpersonal chemistry itself which is enabling the feelings in my otherwise unfeeling psyche? Is it the rare fulfilment of a desire to be close to that particular person? Or is it simply that in these cases the emotional volume is loud enough for me to hear what is always there but which I am otherwise deaf to?

To look at it another way, how might I feel when someone touches me or hugs me?

Warm and fuzzy – but this solely applies when it’s a person I not only trust but also experience some chemistry with.

Intellectually satisfied – when someone I trust but don’t have chemistry with, because I recognise the sign of affection

Annoyed – when it’s someone I have given verbal or body-language signals to, that I do not wish to be touched.

I wonder how much of this is peculiar to my Aspergers’ way of experiencing the world, and to what extent it is true for typical human beings?

4 thoughts on “During and After”

  1. Dear Father,

    I have really appreciated reading your blog and learning more about Asperger’s through your eyes. May God bless you and your ministry!

    I was wondering whether you might know any resources to suggest for Catholics who are married to someone with Asperger’s. Most of the resources I’ve found online suggest to the neurotypical spouse that ending a marriage is sometimes the best outcome, as the spouse with Asperger’s is not capable of the kind of emotional intimacy that a neurotypical person might be. But obviously that sort of advice is not compatible at all with the truth of the sacrament of marriage! Do you know of any resources that might help a neurotypical spouse better understand an Asperger’s spouse, with the goal of preserving a sacramental marriage?


  2. I definitely can relate to this post. I like the ending where you explain the different feelings for the different types of folks within your “circle” or without. As an “Aspie” myself, I can say that if I KNOW the person, have a mutual trust, history whether family or friend, I can handle hugs, touches of the appropriate kind, etc.. I can appreciate and “accept” their love in this way. IF it is someone that I have clearly given signs to that I DONT want to be touched, then yes annoying is a good way to put it.. or just the idea of feeling “off put” by it. Unwanted touches can be stressful for me. But I often don’t want to come off as cold or go into why it bothers me so I “fake it”.
    Conversely, if I am touched even in the slightest way by someone I have felt a true, close intimacy with and am attracted to, it can create a rush of senses even just to be hugged or “pressed into” by the other person, say when talking closely together and our legs touch, or they touch my hand, etc…

    Liked by 1 person

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