It looks like I’m going to be doing a series of rambles about emotion. This one, as per the title, is about feeling left out. I was thinking about other stuff yesterday, and a few memories came up that put me in mind of this particular emotion.
It’s a difficult feeling to quantify and to express, the sense of feeling left out of something. Particularly when you already have trouble with social cues and body language, and so can’t necessarily recognize that whatever you’re feeling left out of has nothing to do with you.
It’s also a very alienating and isolating emotion. Even thinking about talking about it makes me want to cry or melt down. Not exactly a pleasant topic, I’m afraid.
But it’s an important one. Particularly when the people around you don’t mean for you to get the impression that you’re being left out of things.
Okay, yes, this is definitely going to ramble. Just letting everyone know that up front.
I’ve felt this way a lot over the years. And in most cases, as I said above, it wasn’t that I was actually being left out, it was that whatever was going on had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t recognize the social and body language cues that indicated that. On other occasions, people haven’t felt certain of how to talk to me, or how to tell me things. And on still others, my issues with maintaining contact, and my problem of “out of sight, out of mind” come into play. (The Slack team that my brother set up to help us stay in contact with each other a few years ago has been a great help with this, which is one reason I appreciate it so much.)
And there’s also the issue that there are some activities my friends and family enjoy that I don’t, for a variety of reasons (most of them sensory or social communication related), and things get discussed during those activities. Or even such things as regular phone calls between family members and friends – given how much I hate using the phone.
As well, I still mis-step over some things. There have been times that I’ve known something, and haven’t understood the appropriateness – or inappropriateness – of telling someone else. Not with things I know are confidential – that’s a given and something I consider common sense – but with topics that no one has realized they have to tell me not to tell others, like my nieces and nephews, for example. (And there are other times where I know whether it’s appropriate or not, but other people don’t realize I know that, so they make a point of telling me. Communications chasm strikes again – some things to me seem to be self-evident or obvious, that are not to others, and vice versa.)
There’s also the reaction in social situations, when something comes up that I had no idea about. It’s hard enough navigating the minefield of social interaction (chatting, etc.) in large groups as it is, but when something is mentioned that everyone else seems to know about but I don’t, I feel even more lost. (And this is one of the situations where the sense of isolation and alienation comes in.)
So, back to the emotion itself, and the ways in which I’ve dealt with it over the years.
One of the ways in which I dealt with this feeling was asking questions. Constantly. Usually “What’s going on?” or “What are you talking about?”. I do that to this day. It has irritated my family over the years – because like I said above, the issue often has nothing to do with me at all – but before this I’ve never been able to explain why I’m always doing that. And to be honest, being told, “It’s nothing to do with you” or “It’s not any of your business” makes the whole thing hurt even more.
(And I’ve hit the reaction the psychologist I saw in Toronto, before moving to St. John’s, called a “red flag” – tears have started pouring down. Some of that reaction may be because I’m more emotionally vulnerable at the moment – see my last post – but some of it is also because this is a difficult topic for me.)
I think part of what makes dealing with that particular reaction so difficult is that I have no ideas on how to resolve the issue. (Here is one topic I would love to hear from people about. Do you have any suggestions I could try, or that I could ask my family and friends to implement?)
Also, please note that this is not unique to autistics – anyone can end up with the feeling of being left out. It may be somewhat more intense or frequent for those who are neurodivergent, because of the neurological differences (like the problem with social cues for autistics), but anyone can feel this way.
At the moment, I can’t honestly think of anything else to add to this post. I may end up doing another post about it later (like I said with the last post). But I would really appreciate comments on this subject. Let’s talk about it!