WeFeel, strangely enough, is the end result of my attempt to understand a world where I didn’t quite fit in. For most of my life I didn’t have a clue why I was different. Luckily I eventually ended up seeing someone who could identify what it was. It turns out I’m a high-functioning autistic and have Autism Spectrum Disorder (previously it would have been said I have Asperger’s). One of the key features of people with ASD is difficulty relating to other’s emotional states. I’ve been called cruel, heartless, and a robot for what I always thought was just stating a fact. Before my diagnosis, I had no idea why this kept happening. People on the higher functioning end of the Autism scale tend to be very literal and for some reason think everyone else should be as well. I often miss the emotional context of situations which can get me into trouble. Oh, and the fact that I’m sometimes a bit of a jerk who thinks he’s hilarious probably contributes to that fact.
Another common feature of those of us with Asperger’s on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum (thanks DSM-5 for making it more to type) is that many of us focus on one specific thing or obsession and we end up being really knowledgeable about that. You often hear that it’s things like trains, cars, computers, certain TV shows. You’ll find some out there there with lifelong singular obsessions and others like me who instead flip our interests. At an early age I went through an obsessive phase about the concept of the “Renaissance Man” and that has shaped me ever since. Obviously to be the best person you can you should be well versed in both the arts and the sciences! So I’ve gone through poetry, song-writing, music composition, electronics, engineering, auto mechanics and plenty of other phases. A side effect of this is a belief that with effort I can understand anything (although I just can’t wrap my head around Calculus). It also has given me a very broad knowledge base throughout my career. I’ve primarily been focused in the tech fields, but I’ve been in charge of marketing, sales, tech support, IT. Throughout all of that I’ve always ended up as a mentor to others. Because I often become obsessed with whatever I’m in charge of, I spend hours learning all I can about the topic which then leads to being looked to as an expert. Also I really enjoy helping others.
So that leads me here. You see, I don’t really “get” emotion. I don’t understand my own emotions, let alone those of others. Being who I am, I decided to figure out a way (read that as become a bit obsessive) to help everyone better understand their emotional self, and to also help researchers to gather vast amounts of data around individual experiences of emotion. One of the things you find when you look into current theory of emotion is that there’s a lot of conflicting information. Are emotions discrete? Are there polar opposites? Do we feel many emotions at once, or just one at a time? Are there primary emotions we all can identify? How do different emotions affect physical state?
WeFeel is designed to help me answer those questions, I’m just selfish like that. Or maybe that’s just the high-functioning autistic in me speaking. Regardless of my initial motivations, I do know that I’m looking forward to creating experiences for each of you that help you see yourselves with more understanding, and hopefully more compassion. People have so many differences, but we all think, we move, we feel.
Thank you for joining our family. Feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll try to respond to you personally as soon as I can.
WeFeel is part of Jeff’s journey to understand the world. When he came to me with the idea for WeFeel I saw a way to support him and make things just a little bit easier for everyone.
Being married to someone on the Autism spectrum has its challenges. Being married to someone who doesn’t know they are on the spectrum has even more challenges. (Yeah, I’m the one that called him a robot. And for the record he is pretty hilarious.)
Learning that my husband has difficulty relating to other people’s emotional states made me look harder at emotion. I had to understand my own emotions better and that made life easier — not just in my relationship with him but with everything. I’m not on the spectrum and I don’t have a history of mental health difficulties, but I have a family history that includes a wide range of mental health issues. I want my family to feel their feelings no matter what they are and be ok. I want more people to know it is ok to be sad, afraid, angry, or happy. Like Jeff, I want each of you to see yourselves with more compassion. Everyone is different, but we are alive and because we live, we feel.
Thank you for joining our family.