Daily Cosmonaut #15: Privilege, Disability, Intentions, & Resolution

Last night I did an interview about Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business with Asperger’s for New Noise Magazine that ran about 75 minutes. We talked about the motivations for Microcosm and quite a bit about how Asperger’s affected my life and compared stories about other people that we know with Asperger’s and how it affects them.


It struck upon a thought that I’ve had for a while. As a person with Asperger’s I’ve often found myself upsetting people for reasons that I couldn’t understand. But the more that I learn about the incredible complexity of emotional communication, the more I realize how contextual it is. The average person has no idea what it’s like to navigate the world with a disability but even after I explain that what someone perceives as rudeness or insensitivity is a result of Asperger’s Syndrome rather than my own callousness, their feelings are still hurt. Their feelings are also real and valid. They don’t simply go away once someone can intellectually understand what caused them. I’ve learned the hard won lessons that more often than not, other people want to feel heard rather than to resolve whatever transgression has happened between us.
And similarly, I’ve watched hundreds of people slowly learn the lesson that they can hurt someone’s feelings even if their intentions were good. Our intentions don’t change the harm that we can cause to other people. And given that my empathy is product of my intellect rather than a natural process transferred from the mirror neurons in my brain, this confuses me. But at least knowing this stuff helps tremendously as life moves on not to harm other people.