The emotion I see most routinely associated with autism is anger. Again and again–on Facebook, discussion forums, blogs–I see pleas from parents for suggestions about handling anger outbursts in their autistic children. Adult ASD forums are an outlet for more direct expressions of anger–at friends, acquaintances, family, classmates, colleagues, strangers and the world in general.
We autistics are apparently an angry bunch. And it’s no wonder. As children, the world comes at us with an intensity that is confusing, frustrating and, yes, aggravating. Add to that years of miscommunication, bullying, rejection and being misunderstood and it’s not surprising to see the “angry autistic” has become a deeply entrenched stereotype.
Yet when I sat down to make my anger constellation, I only got as far as rage and frustration before I was stumped. While anger has been a familiar companion over the years, it’s one that I’ve relegated to the shadows.
I created my happiness constellation unprompted, a nice little sketch on a small, clean notebook page. My anger constellation required a thesaurus and a good hour of hard thought to produce this:
I’m including that page of notes here not because I expect anyone to read it but because it’s a good visual representation of how I experience anger–a chaotic, fractured and sometimes incoherent mess. I’ve spent days avoiding writing this next part, the part where I have to untangle the mess.
Anger makes me uncomfortable. I avoid it. I suppress it. The last thing I want to do is talk about it. Expressing anger feels wrong. Bad.
So first, a reminder:
And a word about the words I’ve chosen. They feel arbitrary. I’ve done the best I can to put names to the different ways anger manifests for me but even after much thought I’m still not sure they’re the most appropriate choices.
Frustration first, since it’s the first word that came to mind and one of the easiest to describe. Frustration is unmet expectations. It’s waking up to an ice storm on a day I’d planned to run. It’s spending far too long struggling to open a package of cookies and then tearing the package down the middle. It’s not remembering how to switch from the DVD player to cable and getting 500 channels of static. Frustration makes me grit my teeth and growl when what I should be doing is identifying my needs and articulating or acting on them. Serial frustration sometimes leads to a shutdown or a meltdown.
Annoyance. I’ve written and deleted more descriptions of this one than I can count. Which in itself is annoying. Annoyance is a disruption of my process or state of mind. I can’t find the right word to finish a sentence and lose the flow of what I’m writing. The people in the hotel room next to mine are watching TV when I’m trying to fall asleep.
Annoyance is the fly buzzing around my head; frustration is taking twenty whacks at it and missing every time.
Thanks to Asperger’s, I have more than a passing familiarity with irritability, which has roots in sensory overload. I’m overtired. I’m hungry. I’m hot. My shirt is scratchy. I’ve ignored my sensory limits one too many times and it’s turning me into a cranky toddler. Danger, danger, shutdown is imminent.
And thanks to being a mom, I’ve discovered wrath, which is what I’m calling that mama lion feeling that comes charging out its hiding place when someone messes with my kid. Bad idea. Enough said.
For some inexplicable reason, right after wrath, I added fuming to my notes. There’s little relation between the two–wrath is primitive and instinctive. This other thing–the one that makes me seethe with anger and vow to right some perceived bureaucratic wrong like I’ve just been granted membership in the Justice League–is purely intellectual. It doesn’t happen a whole lot, but when it does, I’m a force to be reckoned with. Pass me my cape and stand back.
The Big Three
All of that so far? I’m fine with it. It’s the kind of anger that comes and goes. What follows, the big three of indignation, alienation and rage, those are more firmly entrenched.
Let’s start with the one that’s been with me the longest: indignation. Indignation arises from humiliation, shame, fear of not being good enough, from feeling invisible, stupid or ignored. It’s the way my vision blurs when someone treats me like I’m an idiot for asking the same question too many times. It’s the hot blush I can’t control when I say something that falls on deaf ears. It’s the blood pounding in my ears when someone lectures me like I’m a child.
Indignation is wanting to scream I get it, I know, I understand, I’m here, I have something to say, slow down, I can do this, stop trying to fix-help-correct-educate me. It’s been with me for as long as I can remember. It festers in the broad gap between intellectual ability and social skill.
Alienation arrived later, sometime in early adulthood, but it sits stubbornly beside indignation with no plans to leave any time soon. It may be odd to describe alienation as an expression of anger, but as my husband put it, “you’ll shut someone out for 5 years instead of yelling at them for 5 minutes.” That’s an exaggeration, but not by much.
My capacity for resentment is deep and wide. I lack confrontation skills. Never learned them as a child, didn’t see much use for them as I moved into adulthood. It’s easier to stay mad. In my twenties and thirties, my anger fueled my actions and propelled me through a lot of pain. It’s probably responsible for a good deal of my success. But clinging to that anger also cut me off from people in deep, possibly irreparable ways. Because that was easier, too. Still is. I’m working on it.
Because I avoid dealing with the feelings that swirl around indignation and alienation, they revisit me at night in the form of dreams–nightmares really–filled with rage. When I first started having these dreams about ten years ago, the intensity of them was startling. I would wake up thinking, who is that crazy woman? For a while, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. I was turning into a freakish mutant–mild-mannered woman by day, raging she-Hulk at night.
Recently I’ve discovered a pattern to the anger and violence of my nightmares. Understanding why they happen doesn’t make them any less disturbing, but it’s helped me formulate a strategy for reducing their frequency. Which is (and will be) a post in itself.
The Anger that Goes Straight to My Hands
Finally, another of those feelings that doesn’t have a name. In the same way that I experience pure undistilled happiness, I also experience a very pure form of anger. It starts in my brain and terminates in my hands. It’s reflexive. White hot. Short-lived. Irrational. More chemical or electrical than emotional.
It’s like this: my husband bumps into me in the kitchen and I impulsively, irrationally get the urge to punch him. And here’s the weird thing: I’m not mad at him. I’m not mad at all. I’m experiencing the emotional equivalent of touching my hand to a hot stove. Trigger→physical impulse to react. There’s no cognitive processing involved. I’m not thinking. I’m reacting.
This feeling is almost always triggered by a physical experience and only happens when I’m hovering near my limit for sensory stimulation. I’ve learned to control the physical impulse. The trigger hits, I feel a spike of intense negative energy surge from head down my spine, and I still my hands until it passes.
That last part is key. If I didn’t hold on tight and ride out the physical impulse, I would lash out with hands at whatever was nearby, punching, throwing or breaking something to dissipate the energy in my hands.
When I read stories about children lashing out violently, I wonder if this is what they’re feeling. Maybe it’s not anger in a traditional sense but the need to release a sudden incomprehensible surge of energy.
A Universal Reaction
Most often my reaction to any form of anger is that I want it to stop. I didn’t learn how to express anger constructively as a kid, only that it was undesirable.
While I was doing some research about anger and autism I can across an interesting study (Rieffe et al (2007) ): in a group of ten-year-olds who were surveyed, all of the neurotypical kids reported experiencing anger, but only 77% of the autistic kids said that they ever experienced anger. (All of the kids in both groups reported feeling happiness so we can rule out the myth that autistic kids simply don’t feel emotions as an explanation.)
I wonder if some of the autistic kids in that study were like me at that age–afraid to admit to an emotion that they’d been taught was bad. Because at ten years old, if an adult asked me if I ever got angry, I probably would have said no. I didn’t want to be seen as a bad kid and I thought only bad kids got mad at stuff.
My literal aspie brain didn’t perceive the difference between “expressing anger in destructive ways is bad” and “expressing anger is bad.” What I really needed was for someone to specifically say, “when you’re mad, here are some things you can do about it.”
Anger as a Protective Mechanism
Anger is an expression of a violation of my person. If I deprive myself of the right to express that, then I’m depriving myself of the right to have boundaries and to keep myself safe.
As I read back over that last sentence, I was struck with one of those big “aha” moments that sometimes happen while I’m writing. As I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten better at defining boundaries and structuring my life in a way that supports those boundaries.
So much of my anger as a teen and young adult was related to feeling vulnerable and inadequate. As those feelings have dissipated I’ve released a lot of the deeply entrenched anger that built up during those years. I’m arriving at a place of acceptance. I’m slowly dusting off the layers of my adult self, like an archaeologist at an ancient dig site, careful not to damage what I’m uncovering.
As each new layer reveals some fascinating little detail, I scramble to integrate it into my understanding of myself and marvel at the fact that this much self discovery is possible at my age.
50 thoughts on “The Angry Aspie Explains It All”
I’ve had anger issues since I was a child. I really just gave up hope in my 20’s that I could ever fix what was wrong, despite the desire to do so. I often couldn’t either verbalize why I was angry or I wouldn’t even know why- I’d literally think, “Why am I so angry about this?!” It wasn’t until I viewed myself and life through Aspergers ( now in my 30’s) that I understood some of the why. I’m massively relieved because having grown up being labeled broken, disobedient, and uncontrollable all whilst I was doing my best to be a good girl left me feeling like there was something irreversibly and inexplicably wrong – and there’s not. I still have a lot of anger, some new and some festering from older issues, but I feel like I “get” it now, and am not so helpless to it.
I’m a new reader, and your blog has helped me so much, particularly the Motherhood series – just want to say thanks!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with anger. It’s so terribly frustrating and confusing to have feelings that you can’t articulate. I didn’t realize just how much difficulty I have with verbalizing and processing anger until I started writing this post.
I’m so thrilled to hear that you’re finding the posts here helpful. Some of them are tough to write and knowing that people are taking away something from them makes it worthwhile.
Growing up my mother, who her and I have had many fights, used to say… “Liv, you are the most caring, kind hearted, giving girl… but then you’re the devil… The things you say when you are throwing a fit could bring even coldest man to tears… vicious, where did you get it?” I grew up with Aspurger’s. My dad is an Aspie and his mother and father… and his older brother… though not my mother or brother and sister… Now I have noticed from many accounts with men I have dated that I can be called the sweetest of sweet but a second later rendor them fearful of my temper. It’s not that everything makes me angry, actually it takes a lot to make me angry… but when I am angry there is no middle ground of just being upset… It’s either all or nothing for everything I feel… I guess the thing that gets me the most is my fiance… I have told him about that I am an Aspie, he takes it lightly until something I do doesn’t go his way… or when I shut down, or am other wordly and lost in Liv-Land… He gets mad and tells me to “snap out of it…” but that isn’t how it works so I become more mad, and eventually spew all kinds of horrible things upon him, none being true but the ability to remember what he said 2 years ago sometimes gets to me and I can’t deal with it. I don’t want to be this way, I wish that I could be NT and I try to hide it as much as possible… but sometime I think I would be better off single… always breaking hearts, the eternal Ice Queen… even though I love more deeply than my female friends every seem to be able to (but I am bias)…
I know exactly what you mean about the two extremes of emotion. We seem to have an on/off switch but no volume control when it comes to certain types of feelings. I’m sorry things are so difficult with your fiance. It took my husband a long time to begin to understand that when I shut down or do certain things, it’s not by choice and I don’t have control over it. Being an aspie can be a huge challenge at times.
I feel this way so often. I realized that I do this to get my husband to leave me a lone. We’re having a discussion or argument, usually about something I did or didn’t do (because I have Aspeger’s!) and my husband seems to forget this fact and take something very personally or not believe me when I explain I don’t understand or don’t remember. I become filled with RAGE and have to have time by myself because I can’t do anything. My brain is overloaded, and I will do whatever it takes to be left alone if he won’t leave me alone. It must be hard for the non-aspie partners, but I don’t think it compares to how hard it is to have Asperger’s.
I think there’s a bit of a “cultural divide” in AS-NT relationships that can be hard to navigate at times. Even though my husband logically understands why I’m doing something, it can be hard to set emotions aside because we’re both very human.
I am an Aspire… my fiance often says “This isn’t normal” which he is right, it isn’t. I often find that I am sad or angry and I am never sure really why. I can usually cope with it, and ignore it… but sometimes I have a bad day and I do not know what’s wrong but everything is just wrong and mixed up, I just try to make it through the day without trying to ram my car into the back of another. I have been on depression medication and some for bipolar disorder and nothing helps… .they actually make me depressed and more angry. I am not violent but I yell and throw tantrums. I become so overwhelmed with this pending sense of doom that I do not know what to do… I wish that everything would be normal, but no matter how hard I try to make it that way it never happens. I never thought there was anything wrong with me. I don’t feel like it’s this thing that defines me or something that holds me back… I have never felt incapable but then my mother, brother, sister, friends, and fiance, my soon my be in-laws, and grand-parents will tell me that “this isn’t normal,” to which I have to face that something isn’t right and at the same time that makes me feel weak and defeated. I do not want to be “Chad’s wife with Aspergers.” I just want to be and do whatever it is I want and be successful, and not say “Oh I have this condition,” and I do not ever want it to be an excuse… I hate it when people say “Liv you can’t help it…” It makes me so mad.
I can really relate to your frustration. I have those moments where I wish things were “normal” too. The anger and the tantrums are part of the aspie package, I think, along with the mixed up/hard to define feelings. It’s a lot to cope with, especially if you don’t have a lot of support or if it feels like people are being judgey or singling you out.
Have you talked with your doc about how the medication makes things worse? There’s some indication that people with ASD react differently to medications for depression and other mental health conditions. There is also the possibility of misdiagnosis. Sometimes ASD traits, especially in women, can be mistaken for other conditions, which can lead to an ineffective course of treatment.
The anger you describe reminds me of how I feel when I get overloaded–either with too much sensory input or just with life feeling like too much to deal with. I think it’s a uniquely aspie thing, one that is hard for doctors and others to understand if they haven’t experienced it.
I second the comment that the difficulties that people on the spectrum have are often misdiagnosed and thus mistreated. I went through many years of psychoanalysis and related methods and they didn’t work the way it’s expected. So yes, I think it’s good to have a autism/aspie knowledgeable doctor look at your diagnoses and treatments and maybe find a different way forward.
I struggle with how much being on the spectrum should define me and how open I should be. I don’t want the stigma and I just want to move in the world like everybody else and not think about it too much. On the other hand, it explains my struggles, especially social ones, so well that sometimes I think it would be better to focus on it more and use it to explain it to people why I am not “normal”, or why some supposedly simple tasks (telephone!) are really challenging for me. For now, I just explain them separately, like “excuse me, I am bad at recognizing people, could you please tell me where we know each other from?”.
HI I am new to this…. actually my girlfriend is an aspie and has most of these angry tendency… yes I take most of them personally and they hurt like heck…. it seems to me that I am her safe punching bag and that is really hard to remember she does not mean it… she used to lash out physically and I just dont believe in that and said I could not stay in this relationship if it continued…. thankfully it has not happened again…. now it is verbal abuse… I guess what I would like to know is what do the non aspie partners/parents do when this happens… when I say nothing I get the chat about not caring and not being supportive, when I agree with her, I am told that I am being patronizing and fake, when I argue or defend myself then im selfish and making the situation worse… our life is very isolated and I try hard to make life easier and let her know just how great she really is (because she is that wonderful person)… understanding aspergers is only part of the issue…. the other part is finding a way to live with it…. I suppose I would love some feedback if any is available out there….
Honestly, I would recommend relationship counseling since it sounds like you are very frustrated and at an impasse in terms of communication. The type of anger you’re talking about is quite different from what I experience, it sounds like.
My partner does verbal/text and same stuff, but he either calms down after a while and ‘blows off’ the arguing/anger. Or if it doesn’t stop, then he goes to bed, and by morning, everything is good.
“you’ll shut someone out for 5 years instead of yelling at them for 5 minutes.”
Oh god this is so me! I’m crap with confrontation (it scares me I think) and much better at avoidance. I’ll lose friends rather than challenge their behaviour. Though some of them I’m probably better off without anyway.
(I love these little ‘yay me too’ moments – they’re so reassuring and like a good cup of tea or a warm dog thumping herself down beside you.)
Same here. Plus I’m a champion grudge holder. D:
Me too moments are the best.
Oh yes, once someone’s p*ssed me off that’s it, I’ll carry that memory for eternity!
And nearly 2 years later and I still can’t do confrontation! I’m either a doormat (and then rant afterwards to myself) or I end up being verbally (and in my head) aggressive. I think that does come from not being able to put what’s in my head into words and so it comes out as frustrated anger. And I get frustrated-angry when I’m on my own because little things go wrong (or just not as planned) and I struggle to cope and it’s like a release valve goes off and I need to let off that emotion physically. Cue slamming things down on surfaces. 5 minutes later (usually) and I’ve calmed back down (apologised to dog & cats for noisy outburst!) and can get on with life. As a child I just bottled it all up inside (outbursts were NOT encouraged at home, nor were individual personalities) and that’s possibly why I went through periods of depression as a teenager / young adult.
I am also really bad at confrontation. Also at telling someone that I did something wrong.
Part of it is social inability, I think. I simply don’t know how to do this in a way that it comes out well and actually helps restoring the relationship. And part of it is simply fear of loss of relationship, I guess.
I think if I say anything I’m more likely to make it 10 times worse!
Inability to express yourself can also lead to rage, because there’s no outlet for your anger. Also, we aspies have a low frustration level and experience emotions intensely, and rage is one of those emotions.
I read or hear about something someone did, and immediately I think it’s going to be done to me, that I’m the next victim. I run the scenario in my head repeatedly and obsessively, the way only aspies can. You do it to me, you bastard, you better watch out for what I’m going to do to you right back. I keep thinking of ways to get revenge for something that hasn’t happened to me and is as likely to happen to me as getting struck by lightening. Still I pace the room, flapping my fingers while thoughts race through my head and my anger builds.
“Annoyance is the fly buzzing around my head; frustration is taking twenty whacks at it and missing every time.” – yup! 🙂
“Anger is an expression of a violation of my person. If I deprive myself of the right to express that, then I’m depriving myself of the right to have boundaries and to keep myself safe.”
– spot on as well.
You’ve nicely nailed a whole bunch of stuff inside me.
I am the mom of an aspie boy. I am crying at 1:30am reading your blog because it gives me a clue as to why my boy is so angry and seems to make a habit of verbally abusing the people who care for him. I didnt know it was this tough for aspies. Thank you for giving me this insight. I will keep it and remember to diffuse my own anger during tough times ( which is everyday).
While I am afraid to personally self-diagnose, I think I share a lot of characteristics of the aspie crowd. I find it difficult to express myself. I find that other’s have difficulty dealing with my mannerisms. I also find that excusing myself from situations and people that bring out the worse in me to be a way to alleviate the tension I feel. In and of itself, leads to a lonely existence.
However, it’s also nice to read that I’m not the only out there. It’s nice to see someone else articulate how I feel.
Thank you for writing this. You’ve summed up exactly how I feel. The irrational anger plus some 🙂 so thank you for not making me feel so alone anymore.
As an aspie father with an NT wife and several diagnosed children, I’m in the process of trying to understand the various manifestations of anger in my family, especially my own rage issues.
Your article has been very illuminating for me, especially in ideas f where to focus my attention in seeking effective strategy.
I am a melancholic-choleric-supine aspie. I feel intensely and, though not many people know this, I am inclined towards anger. I just learned how to release it constructively. I have been told to calm down when I am angry, but that does not bode well for me. Supines have a natural “cork” on their emotions, which is good for the short term, but leads to meltdowns and unmet needs in the long term. A heated choleric response combined with melancholic intensity and duration is not easily quelled. Fortunately, I have (mostly) learned how to uncork before the pressure builds too much. However, in meltdown mode, I cannot rationalize at all. People have attempted to do it and, no matter how they do it, it does not work.
I have that physical raw reaction when I get angry, especially if I am already under a lot of stress, or sensory overload. I get this white hot almost electrifying sensation in my arms and down my spine. I have yet to figure out how to reroute the sensation to prevent punching an object, throwing something or screaming at someone.
When I am not stressed out I have great self-control, but when things get too much for me I just explode. I have actually lost jobs because of this… I have reached a point in my life where I need help and just can’t afford enough therapy, let alone pay my bills. Finances are a big stressor, especially when I can’t get or keep a job.
This subject is so close to the surface that it doesn’t take much to prompt me to talk about it. Most every conversation I have ends up centering around the subject of money problems and my frustrations with trying to find and keep a steady paycheck. It is hard enough being a working class citizen on the low end of the income scale… It is so overwhelming dealing with these things as well as just trying to get through a day without getting overloaded.
In my mid 40’s things have only recently made sense to me. From day dot, too many incidents to mention which I just never managed or learnt how to cope, deal with etc. Prisoner of the past, few friends through lack of interests and too many episodes of a whirl wind/blank mind.
Hating the world for my wrath, difficult situations and no-one to turn to, sad poor victim though I am not.
It was only doing a personal development course that I realised just how wrong I had perceived things all of my life. Mixed feelings but also racket feelings (as in anger was frustration, hate was fear).
I guess it has always seemed to be me me me as I was constantly analysing myself as to what I had done wrong, how did I hurt someone etc. A lot of shame, remorse, guilt, feelings of being trapped or stuck continuously. Feeling worthless, broken, fearing rejection and scared of living.
Thank god, I now get so much about myself but I would have never have guessed I had aspergers, I only heard this term very recently and after reading a lot I totally feel both cheated but relieved.
Life goes on, the next 45 years has got to be better than the last.
Time to touch up on my social skills, make some friends and have a bit of fun…. as well as try and get my children to understand themselves a little better too.
There is light, but its damn hard work.
Help! I’m a mother of a 13 year old boy with Aspergers. He gets angry quite often and even though I know better I react sometimes and even take it personally. Do you have any suggestions on how to support my son better when he is upset?? I love him so much and worry about how depressed he seems and the biggest heart break is thinking about how I could be contributing to it at times!
What could help is trying to understand why your son is upset. Often it is that something didn’t go as planned or some other kind of overwhelm. This could help react to the anger in a helpful way and maybe also try to prevent some of the outbursts by providing a more stable life situation.
I am a sixteen year with aspergers and what you wrote down spoke to me I feel these same things and it’s great to know I am not alone
Christopher, my son is 15 and in the process of being diagnosed. It is his anger that made us insist on counseling. As his mum, I can tell you that much of this anger is directed to me because we are close and he feels safe to do it around me. I just want you to know that if you have a mum, she has NEVER stopped loving you. No matter how tired she may have got or how bruised, you have always been loved. I know.
Are you still responding to posts? This blog is incredible.
I am the father of a 7 year old who is a classic “borderline” case. He has no formal diagnosis. He is highly verbal and of (at least) normal intelligence. He is great with imaginative play. He has “friends” (although no really close ones). He loves playing with his brother. He’s pretty good at chit chat and gets a lot of social cues. He has been in OT since age 3 for sensory processing issues and is nearly “caught up” in terms of his proprioception, coordination, etc.
His main issue is emotional regulation. 99% of the time, he is the sweetest member of our family. But recently, we’re seeing a significant decrease in “frustration tolerance.” He gets incredibly pissed off when he is not allowed to do what he wants. Not every time, but often enough for it to be an issue. He has been somewhat aggressive towards his mom–less so towards me. After an INCREDIBLY good year at school last year (so good they threatened to pull his IEP!), he is really struggling this year. He has been really disruptive in class and is now showing defiance toward his teachers.
Can you shed any insight into what might be going on with him? Wiill it pass? Will he eventually “figure it out” and develop better coping skills? I’m just so worried about him. He is my heart.
Very nicely written, sums up so much of my own issues within this world we live.
At 55 and recently appreciating my Aspie-ness, I felt enlightened, confused, furious, cheated and now somewhat relieved, and most of all hopeful.
Thank-you, there are most likely a lot of well meaning people, professional and others, whom would greatly benefit from such insights as yours!
It’s interesting that a few people here mention the feeling of being cheated. I have never thought about it this way, but it does make sense. Being on the spectrum explains so many of my life struggles that I was often told simply shouldn’t be there or that were tried to fix by psychologists and nothing really worked. Now I kind of know why.
I’m a new reader here. Have seen a couple of your articles. Thanks so much for posting. I have a younger brother who I suspect may have aspbergers to some extent…he had bouts of anger when he was younger and I’m wondering how this compares to my situation…have only recently discovered expressing anger. Would love to talk sometime
I’m 40 years old this April and finding quite a bit of solace in a soft diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Rage was an ever present friend as a child and it always felt like other people were sparking a forest fire in me and they did it on purpose. Learning to breathe and separate myself from their actions is a challenge and I changed careers from one that is customer facing to one based in data… I couldn’t be happier.
In fact, i might be happier now than I ever have been, as they say in the military “embrace the suck”. Accepting this as my life and a few ways to work around the incipit stupidy of my fellow man, “they know not what they do” as some famous guy said.
I don’t engage in random conversation and stick to relationships with people i know or “screened” new friends who match my profile.
Life gets to be more fun when you know what you know.
I can’t thank you enough for sharing your life. It has helped me so much understanding how my 12-year-old has been feeling/behaving lately. I think we are moving from a PDD-NOS diagnosis to an Asperger’s diagnosis. Your explanation of anger and frustration describe my son to a T. I am so grateful.
I am an autistic lawyer
I do anger on demand, for my clients when required.
Aspie anger is a switch. It is on, or off.
It can be quite disconcerting to those NTs to see me fly into full on rage fury over the phone, still perfectly in the right place in my head, and then switch it off and go back to calm and normal
Tom my son does this and it baffles me.
I keep asking myself, “How can he speak to me like that and then just carry on as if we are just back to normal?” It leaves me bruised and has damaged our relationship so much. So he switches off the anger, but I think he feels guilty when he sees it upset me. Or does he really just go back to normal?
I definitely know the feeling guilt part. Sometimes it’s hard to predict the reaction of others to my behaviors, so if I make people upset, I often feel guilty. But it feels like a maze, I can never completely figure it out. Trying to figure out how to express my feelings appropriately is very stressful, and every now and then I mess up.
Growing up, I think at some point I switched to not expressing my feelings anymore, because it didn’t feel safe – and I had developed the ability to do so. It smoothed out my interactions with others but also made me less authentic and it was a lot of work. So I don’t know what is better.
It’s good to read that this can also be an asset.
I can almost do the same, but I wonder which of the two states is more “correct” (as in more reflecting of how I feel on the inside).
Wow. Thank you for sharing this.
It helped me understand how my son may be feeling.
My son is 15 years old and it is his anger that has made us seek out counseling. He suffers from anxiety but after much research, I am convinced he will be diagnosed with high functioning autism.
It is going to be a long, hard journey to get him to accept any diagnosis as he has refused to have counseling and I suspect he fears being labelled. I have book marked this page to read each time his anger wears me down. I feel so tired already. How will I cope? I love my son so much. I accept him as he is.
I was once asked by a psychologist: “Why are you so angry?” I had no answer at the time. Now? I have a short answer and a long answer. Naturally the long answer would take an eternity. But the short answer is the typical “answer a question with a question” : “Why is it so hard for people in positions of power and authority to do the right thing? ” I believe in most cases the short answer says it all. Of course, that’s possibly a question most of these so-called medical “experts” can’t answer. Rather like a politician being asked a straight- forward question. He (or she) will likely never give a straightforward answer.
I came to your page trying to understand my anger and it gave me a lot of insights and I recognized of what was written here in me.
However I think, the anger I am currently struggling with, is still another issue. It’s a long and slow burning anger that I can usually control rather well and only comes out in a surprising sharpness when I talk about different topics. I am still trying to figure out what it is, but I think it is the long term frustration of not being a part of society, of there being something like a glass wall between me and the rest of the world. I can spend a lot of energy masking and then achieve almost smooth interactions, but of course this is not really me that is interacting in that case. If I am more “authentic”, people will shy away from me. I am too intense and negative and weird for most people most of the time.
And my current guess is that this inability to be a part of a group, to belong and just flow along is what is causing my anger. Sometimes I just want to hit that glass wall to break through it to actually get to people. And sometimes it feels like a child who is not allowed to play with the others and gets upset because of it. And then there is the thing that I don’t really want to play with the others (metaphorically speaking), those games just feel too silly to me. And I get angry at the sillyness of society – and partly I think I am right and partly it’s because I just cannot “do” it.
Thank you so much for this. I finally can explain to my loved ones how I feel inside.
Your article should be required reading for all who are Aspies/HFA or who have loved ones who are.
Thank you for such incredible insight into our “Aspieness.”
-52y/o Aspie from Bethlehem PA.
I’m struggling with anger myself, mostly when my routine gets disturbed by factors outside of my control (other people basically). I tend to explode although I’m never violent. I hate myself for it and my inability to cope with a world I’m
excluded from and a world that wasn’t designed for me.
Thank you so much for your website. I came across it before I was diagnosed and it helped me come to terms with who I am and seek a diagnosis at 30 years old, which I now have. It’s funny, but finally understanding myself a little better has changed everything and nothing at the same time. I still get super grumpy all the time, but at least now I understand why a little better, am quicker to do something to prevent it, mitigate it, and/or apologize. I end up apologizing a lot. But that’s progress because in my 20’s I was resistant to doing even that.