- Social conditions – Neurologically, you may have a condition such as Asperger’s Syndrome, in which you may succeed in experiencing emotional states within yourself, but your brain, on a logical level, doesn’t form an association with what you’re experiencing.
- Apathy – An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical and/or physical life (Wikipedia). Normally, absence of interest or concern about something is a side-effect of depression. When someone is apathetic, they either suppress the ability to feel, or neurologically, they never formed an associative response.
- Narcissism – Being obsessed with yourself. When you are so focused on your own traits, your own personality, and your own needs/wants/desires, it’s understandable as to why you cannot read anyone else.
Two major traits of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome:
- Difficult reading social cues, social nuances, and/or social situations.
- Responding inappropriately to predictable social cues/situations/nuances.
Social cues (in American culture) can be as simple as reaching your hand to shake hands, upon introducing yourself to someone, but as complex as somebody pointing at their watch to indicate that they want to conclude what they or you or doing. Those kinds of cues are logical in nature, because they rely on learning a predictable response to a given social cue.
Social nuances (in American culture) can be as simple as recognizing that women carry purses and men carry wallets, or as complicated as realizing it is rare for a straight man to make an appearance at a gay bar, due to the associations that it may carry. These are a combination of logical and emotional, because logically there’s an association to be formed; but emotionally, an Aspie may not understand men can’t carry purses, or why straight men cannot patronize gay bars.
Social situations can be as simple as watching someone get shot by someone else and seeing that person go down, lifeless; or as complicated as having sex. (Talk about a paradox!) These are purely emotional circumstances, since chemically and physiologically, your body has to release a series of chemicals in order to put your body in a certain state of mind. The difficulty here, is that Aspies will recognize that something has occurred, or is occurring, but the raw emotional state makes no sense to them.
Responding inappropriately to the things I mentioned above can range from. Keeping in mind that Aspies tend to be rather literal in their approach, so I’m assuming that the scenario is direct.
- Laughing when someone tells you that they’ve suffered a loss.
- Saying something obscene, when you’re complimented.
- If someone is complaining that they can’t lose weight (and they are visible overweight), asking them how much they weight; unless of course, you know the person.
- If someone offers you a helping hand, to harshly or sharply criticize their work or assistance.
- If somebody shows you a picture or displays a picture of someone that is meaningful to them, criticizing something about that someone.
So, the big question is: How do you separate apathy, narcissism, and Asperger’s?
In order to be apathetic, you first have to recognize presence of an emotional state, on both a logical and emotional level. Apathetic people either disregard such presences out of suppression, or as a result of lack of experience; logically speaking, both can be treated with counseling.
In order to be narcissistic, you have to be so focused on yourself that you don’t see any other emotional states, except your own. Where does this differ from apathy? You most likely see the emotional states that are put out by other people, but because your own sense of self, ego, and value is considered superior to everyone else’s, you choose to ignore that information.
In order to be Aspergian, you would logically be able to pick up on the emotional states that people are putting out, including the ones that the narcissistic person is ignoring, on a procedural level, but the ‘why are they feeling this way/doing what they’re doing’ is going to elude you, if there’s no purpose or reasoning behind it.
Don’t forget, when the brain encounters a visceral response, the brain has to know what to do with it, in order to react: The apathetic person won’t know what’s happening; the narcissist will disregard it unless it’s happening to them, and the Aspie won’t understand why it’s happening, unless there’s some logical reason for it.