Very Grand Emotions: How Autistics and Neurotypicals Experience Emotions Differently

Characterizations of Autistic people often reflect a profile of a stoic, unfeeling, emotionless automaton. Many times, the only emotion ascribed to autistics, especially by the lay writers who populate the dustbin of Amazon Kindle’s self-published section, is explosive anger.

This is an accusation which has often been leveled against me, usually much to my confusion. One notable example was a social media post I was tagged into about infant circumcision. The journal article in the post was absolute quack science. It was emotionally manipulative, purposefully misleading, and rife with untruths and ethical violations.

So, instead of responding to the topic, I talked about the lack of veracity and the void of research ethics from the authors of the journal article. If a debate were happening, my friends deserved to have accurate, factual information to make such an important decision.

Immediately, everyone in the discussion assumed I had coldly taken a position in favor of routine infant circumcision. It was intense. I was accused of intellectualizing to preserve a personal preference (I hadn’t stated or even considered a personal preference), of not having a conscience, of “supporting genital mutilation,” and other atrocious attributes and thoughts.

The more I attempted to reason, the worse the situation became and the more convinced people were about my terrible personality and empty heart. Explaining was regarded as manipulation, being combative, and again… having no feelings. I lost friends over that conversation. I didn’t realize I was speaking a different language. I didn’t realize that my emotional experience was different from theirs. None of us did.

This was one of many similar instances in my life. I have historically walked away from such situations feeling devastated, angry, confused, and frankly, like everyone else was delusional. They felt the same way about me.

My “massive ego” is almost always a part of the charges in these discussions, parallel to the narrative that I am emotionless. What most bothered me was that no one was understanding how deeply I did feel.

It’s only been recently that I’ve reached an understanding about what is really happening in these situations. I haven’t had the right language to define and label my emotions, because my emotions are different and are experienced differently from other people’s.

An Epiphany Courtesy of RBG

Another reason I’ve been accused of being emotionless is my lack of tears during films. Other times, I’ve been accused of emotional instability due to my intense reactions during documentaries, news segments, and even advertisements others have been able to easily move beyond.

I can’t handle television, and must digest my news with a curated and metered approach. If I’m in a restaurant, at someone’s home, or even in the waiting room of a doctor’s office and the news is playing on the television, I can’t understand how others can see a bloodied white sheet covering a casualty of war after a bombing, or an advertisement for a non-profit featuring a scarred and mangled animal that has been the victim of abuse, and can simply continue eating or carry on with their casual conversation unfazed. I don’t understand how they can laugh at a joke seconds later.

But, so many times, my focus on something is coming from a different emotional angle, and it doesn’t read to neurotypical people that my response is deeply felt and from a place of passionate emotional depth.

Then, there was clarity. While watching the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, I had an epiphany. She said, “Justice and mercy. [ . . . ] They’re very grand emotions.”

And it hit me, that to me, those are two of my deepest-felt emotions. Justice, equality, fairness, mercy, longsuffering, Work, Passion, knowledge, and above all else, Truth. Those are my primary emotions.

I didn’t have the language before to be able to explain how profoundly these emotions affected me, conceiving them more as ideas than feelings. At least, that’s what I was told they were.

In the pursuit of those emotions, other feelings are secondary, superficial, misleading, and trite. Sadness, grief, jealousy, fear, joy, shame, sympathy… those are emotions which serve only me; but Truth and Work, Passion and Justice, longsuffering and Equality… those are emotions which serve the Greater Good. Those emotions are the mobilization of Love.

Practical Application & Conflict

As long as the characterization of what autism means is pathologized and wildly misunderstood, the majority of autistics will not find their way to a diagnosis. Characterizing us as being without empathy is not only categorically untrue, but it also guarantees that we aren’t going to find our way to diagnosis and self-knowledge. It’s dehumanizing and unethical. There’s no way we can see ourselves as not having empathy because we feel a profusion of it.

I have a close friend, a neurodivergent woman I trust more than family, and we have only recently met. We don’t observe neurotypical boundaries. She, too, is a writer and a prominent figure in the Neurodiversity Movement. She will show me something she has been working on, and my immediate response will be to correct the language which might not be as accurate or as thoughtful as it could be. I do this before telling her how proud I am for the Work she’s doing, before I tell her it’s well-written, and before I affirm for her that she is a good person doing a good thing. She does the same for me.

The reason I skip the validation or praise is because if someone complimented me on Work I was doing, then I would feel they were implying that I was Laboring in the interest of self-promotion or validation-seeking.

These aren’t spoken values, but something we feel innately. This is how I Labor with other autistics. We correct each other. We offer what expertise and insight we can to sharpen the other’s Work, to add volume and clarity to the other’s Love song.

My new friend and I have already joked that we won’t be sending each other birthday cards or holiday gifts. We don’t ever talk about clothes, or the weather, or even ask each other, “How was your day?” To us, these details are things we will offer up if it’s relevant.

If the other doesn’t address something adequately enough, we tell them directly, “I still want to talk about that thing you didn’t respond to with enough focus.” We do sometimes talk about family, health, and our personal emotions, those secondary feelings most people experience as primary emotions.

These emotional differences do cause profound conflict with our neurotypical peers. When we follow the, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” maxim, it fails us with our non-autistic loved ones. They feel that we are invalidating, selfish, thoughtless, and socially tone deaf. We feel that way about them, too; however, being the vast minority, we are the ones who are pathologized.

Are We in the Wrong?

Reason would be another “very grand emotion” for me, so I would like to invite readers to “feel” through my lens as I Reason through this question. Is it wrong for autistics to feel the way we do and interact the way we do? Do we need social skills training to learn to listen to people’s personal emotions and respond to those instead of the “very grand emotions” which take precedence for us?

If so, do others not need social skills training to respond to us in ways that feel unnatural for them? Are we tone deaf for not responding with, “That must be so scary/difficult/painful for you,” as opposed to, “How can I help?,” or “Here is how to fix this problem”?

Because we do have our own intuited, innate empathy. We do have a social “code” that is written in our neurology, and we do respond in a way that gels with and validates other autistics. We do form deep, impenetrable connections with each other, and these connections are not chores to maintain.

We tend to not interact outside of those things which involve the “very grand emotions,” but we pick back up immediately when we need each other, be it a month later or in three years. Sometimes, our interactions are based on personal emotions, but that’s in the spirit of another grand emotion: Solidarity.

Solidarity is why when you tell an autistic something, we share with you our closest relative experience. We aren’t one-upping or implying we know how you feel… because we truly can’t. It would go against what we can know is empirical Truth to claim to understand your emotions through your perspective and in light of your experiences and history. It would be disrespectful to you, a platitude or a lie.

We are saying, “This is how I share your path.” There is a question implied, too. “Have I come close to your experience?” To neurotypicals, this reads as egotistical in the same way that neurotypicals, estimating our feelings in response reads as egotistical to us.

We want to hear if something was Fair or Just, if our secondary emotions are in-line with the “very grand emotions.” Or, at least we want you to troubleshoot with us and help us explore the angles beyond our limited perspectives.

To know about these differences, though, is empowering. It’s why Knowledge is valuable as a “very grand emotion.”

A neurotypical person is not wired to be rewarded by our brand of interaction and emotional Solidarity. Our method of relatedness doesn’t translate our heart accurately with neurotypicals. Our direct, blunt, and sometimes-brutal honesty is offensive to neurotypicals; and in turn, their roundabout, indirect, suggestive language reads as confusing, manipulative, and patronizing to us.

Our neurotypical therapists don’t even have the language to understand us because they’ve not learned how we experience emotions differently. That’s okay, because we don’t have the language yet, either. This failure to be understood is infinitely isolating, especially when it is perceived that we are unfeeling.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always been a shero to me. In watching the documentary with my husband, the only film I’ve watched in the last two years, he and I felt a lot of those “very grand emotions” in Solidarity. The relationship between Ruth and her husband Marty was very similar to our own marriage.

Marty had to remind Ruth to sleep, eat, and do whatever else that wasn’t Work. Professionally, his career took the back seat to her Work, because her Work contributed more to the Greater Good.

He did the brunt of the domestic load and the cooking at home, and he moved so that she could advance her career, not for any monetary reason, but for Justice and Mercy. He was also the primary source of humor and nurture in the house. He was laid back where she was rigid. This is all familiar to me and my husband, and we find this tale to be profoundly romantic.

There were so many times during that film that I brimmed with “very grand emotions” and my eyes welled with tears. My husband, who is also autistic, was on the same page with me the whole time, squeezing my hand in Solidarity at just those right moments to say, “That’s you right there,” or “That’s how I feel about you.”

To me, this was deeply romantic and validating. He was loving me with our primary emotions by loving my Work and being proud of what most partners would see as neglectful.

I felt extreme gratitude to him for that validation. We use our strengths to supplement each other. As a team, we can accomplish more for the Greater Good by dividing the Labor. Our accomplishments belong to neither of us, because we don’t believe in ownership. We don’t really congratulate each other, because that would be an invalidation of the Purpose.

We didn’t remember our anniversary this year. Or last year. We forgot together, even though it’s on a holiday. We have grander emotional connections, and that is okay. It works for us, but neither of us would be great partners for a neurotypical spouse.

I realized, too, that the emotion which has always moved me most profoundly, that brings me to tears every time, is Dissent. To see RBG, her tiny form and her enormous heart, utter the words, “I Dissent,” moved me to sobbing. It was Righteous Indignation and Solidarity. Pride. Movement. All “very grand emotions.”

To this day, I can’t look at the image of the man standing before the tanks at Tiananmen Square without crying and experiencing full-body chills. I’m crying now, as I type this. The Courage and Selflessness it took to be one small person against a literal army, against what had to feel like the weight of the universe, is the most inspiring gesture fathomable.

I cry with inspiration and reverence, too, every time I think of the Dandi Salt March led by Gandhi or the Bloody Sunday Selma-to-Montgomery March held in the US during the Civil Rights Movement. Dissent is the mightiest, boldest, bravest of “very grand emotions.”

There were so many instances during the film that comments were made about Ruth as a synesthetic consumer of classical music and opera, as a hater of small talk, and as singularly-focused workaholic that one would wonder what the producers were trying to communicate.

I am by no means suggesting or implying anything about RBG’s neurotype. I definitely am not comparing my or my husband’s accomplishments to her’s and Marty’s. Most autistic people’s Movements are smaller in scale, and some never are realized because of antagonism, self-defeat, lack of motivation, lack of understanding, and lack of privilege.

But, I am sure that, if RBG didn’t have the celebrity she has, a therapist would decry that her Work habits are unhealthy and that she needs to find a balance between her job, family, and self-care. Her path to get where she is would be pathologized. Her role as a wife and mother might be considered as lacking in nurture or being absent, though I doubt her husband would ever have felt that way about her.

I mention her not to conjecture about her neurology, and especially not to compare myself to her. I only wish to credit her as being the source of inspiration for giving me the language to understand, study, communicate, compare, and contrast my emotions with those of the neural majority.

A Request for Feedback

Since the epiphany, I’ve had many conversations with other autistic friends and with some neurotypicals, too. Overwhelmingly, my experience is not unique to me, and other autistics relate profoundly while neurotypicals do not. Of course, no two people’s experiences are identical, but there is enough assent among autistics to verify that this is an idea with legs. It’s worth pursuing.

A notion like this is a big one, a theory that if validated could provide much value to the world, in industrial and organizational psychology, in education, in professional settings, in therapeutic interventions, in sociology, in behavior economics, in social justice, and in understanding empathy in a way that is universal and not contingent on cultural norms.

It has potential to inform Progress, to humanize and de-pathologize neurodivergent existence, to tailor treatments and diagnostic indicators for them, to help inter-neurotype couples and loved ones understand each other better and have more rewarding interactions, and to re-frame the conceptualization of neurodivergent people with more of those very grand emotions, like Fairness and Truth.

So, if you have access to influence research, please consider this as a topic to explore that would benefit the autistic condition and define autistic identity. Use your fundraising and efforts to explore this idea. Love us in our language with our “very grand emotions.”

I give permission to the world to take this theory, develop it, use it, improve it, research it, publish it, respond to it, and mobilize it for the Greater Good. I don’t believe in ownership.

And I ask that, if you have the time, you share with me your thoughts and your feelings, be they personal or “very grand emotions.” It would be helpful to know if you are neurotypical or neurodivergent.

Information-sharing is a love language of autistics, as Knowledge is a “very grand emotion,” indeed.

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78 Responses

  1. Yes. Yes . Yes. I know I have “very big emotions” and Truth is one of them. Obsessive sometimes really. My dad had infark dementia and bipolar disorder and while I knew my emotions went outside “norm”, it wasn’t his. But your explanations described my emotionl issues perfectly.

  2. And I thought I was the only one who responded sensitively to the news. The possibility of seeing a body bag was enough to cause me to not watch the news to this day. I don’t watch PG13 movies either because the intensity is uncomfortable and the most intense scenes (involving shooting and a little blood) replay in my mind for months. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think I’m likely on the spectrum and certainly at least fit the broad autism phenotype.

  3. Terra, thank you for this. It perfectly highlights some of the same realizations I’ve had over the past few months in finally understanding myself and my life experience after 36 years. I experienced a traumatic event recently which lead me to trauma therapy, through which I discovered my sensory sensitivities, to which I now understand can be attributed to lifelong complex trauma over events that to NT’s may integrate as “normal.” However, the recent traumatic event was the first time in my life that I felt an act of injustice was committed toward me. For the first time in my life I actually saw myself as a victim. In all previous negative experiences I was always ‘trouble shooting’ and problem solving to figure out what my part was in either creating the situation and/or blaming myself for being too sensitive. When I told my dad about my recent traumatic experience he responded by trying to explain the why’s and share perspective of the perpetrators. It was infuriating. The week after I told my therapist about the event. He simply responded with, “Wow, that is terrible. I’m so sorry that happened to you.” I felt this sudden sense of peace. It was a lightbulb moment in understanding validation. I’d never sought out or understood this type of validation before, it just seemed like useless commentary. However, in this case I’d already done all of the situational analyzing and come to the conclusion that it was not my fault and there was also nothing I could do to fix, change, or prevent the situation in the future. All I needed was for someone to confirm, “yep, that just sucks.”

    So, YES, relating through problem solving is 100% my M.O. Why would you not want to figure out how to prevent something negative from happening to you again? Or relating through my personal experience might offer comfort (I’ve been in your shoes) or possible insight into how I’ve solved this problem before. I didn’t understand that the takeaway for NT’s might be that I’m in a way blaming them for what happened. Maybe this stems from blaming myself over a lifetime of an invalidated experience? I’m not sure. In any case, I gained the perspective of how NTs like to relate. I often don’t feel emotion over the same things my NT friends typically do, therefore relating in this way can feel really awkward and unnatural to me. BUT, I’m learning that even though it is not natural to me it’s not hard to learn with a few basic phrases or questions… “I’m so sorry that happened.” “I’m so happy for you!” “What do you think you’re going to do?” “How can I help?” At times I’ll ask my friends up front before they tell me about a crisis or negative situation, “do you want advice or do you just need to vent?” That way I know if I should be turning my problem solving wheels or just listening.

    I have a different perspective on justice as an emotion but I get what you are saying. My therapist shed some light on this recently as we explored my difficulty in expressing anger. Witnessing or experiencing injustice can invoke one of the strongest emotions of anger. Anger is okay and typically what propels some sort of helpful action if funneled and directed appropriately. I’m learning how to use the energy of my strong emotions to propel positive action instead of overwhelm myself with sadness and negativity about the world. It’s also helpful for me to allow the anger to move through and recenter myself in compassion before taking action because, for my own sake, I don’t like feeling angry all the time!

    Thanks for sharing this! I watched RBG after reading and was so moved and inspired. I’ve also been a disability advocate over my entire career in education. It now makes sense how I came to be so passionate in this field!

  4. I love this and your impeccable writing. Full of Greater Good. And all the other bold words, and values. I also liked learning the term inter-neurotype couples. The information is invaluable to all, and even more to someone who spent her life trying to understand – professionally and personally.

  5. Your article resonated very deeply within me, both for the experiences in my life that have left me confused (or worse!) and for the greater emotions that I deal with that my NT friends typically do not. As one who is a diagnosed aspie who loves visual and aural stimuli (like many of my peers), It took me years to figure out how to explain just how differently we emote in general. In the end I resorted to telling them that the simplest way to explain it was to understand that to profoundly distress such a person all you needed to do would be to play images and video of war and famine to them, set to music written by a composer who’s soul mate was dying.
    Thank you for filling many gaps in my knowledge, I will refer my peers and anyone else that asks me to your page, maybe we might understand each other more with some insight into processing differences between us.
    I wish you a long and happy life. Thank you.

  6. As a neurodiverse person this really spoke to me. It speaks to many of the frustrations I have had across my life on a generally smaller scale. I would say I hold Truth, Fairness and Equality above nearly all other things, they are emotions that make me feel more than the feelings of ‘sad’ or ‘happy’, these things seem untouchable and generally lacking to me. Though I think to some people this article could appear grandiose or over the top to me it made me feel more understood than I ever have.

    Some of my hardest memories growing up were of trying to understand why there were different rules for different people, I would try to express that I needed to understand WHY, I needed knowledge and truth to understand the fairness of a situation. These things drive our lives and communications. Though maybe they are not strictly emotions they are the basis for how we react and how we expect to communicate. I have many times shared my story in a hope of solidarity, I get bored of adding the ‘I know this is not the same as you but this is what I have to share’ because it seems obvious to me. Also when people get bored of me talking about Work. Work is one of the corner stones of my life, it is furthering my pursuit of knowledge and being a high achieving woman in a male dominated career brings me a great sense of justice and I am furthering the Equality of the work place.

    I want to share these feelings with everyone, I want to share all this stuff because it is what I am passionate about. I don’t know, I am certainly not as good with words as you are, but I wanted to share in solidarity I guess.

  7. This article struck a chord with me. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve never been able to. Among other things, I raise chickens for eggs and meat, and explaining to others that I do not have no regard for their lives just because I don’t cry or agonize over doing the deed is extremely difficult. In fact, I care for their well-being very much. They are my whole life, my passion, my obsession. Culling extra birds is simply a part of how I run my flock for the greater good. Keeping extra roosters would make the hens’ lives miserable, and hens that don’t lay eggs any longer are frequently in the process of dying from reproductive diseases. How can it be considered kind to let them slowly fail? That is what I do not understand.

  8. Thank you for giving me insight into my daughters life. I often am at a loss of words with her, simply because we don’t speak the same language. You have now given this neurotypical mom a way to communicate with her neurodiverse daughter.

    1. Susan, this made me cry. Thank you so much. You are very good at the Very Grand Emotion of Solidarity. ❤️🖤❤️

  9. Hi there, thank you for this thought-provoking article.

    I would like to share my experiences as a NT child raised by an autistic parent.

    It was very interesting to hear your summary of neurotypicals as being driven by “ego” emotions. This was indeed the case for me, growing up, that I was constantly told my emotions were “wrong”, and invalid. That I should not be feeling anything, since all my mother was sharing with me were “facts”.

    For example, the time when I found out I had to have a caesarian to deliver my daughter at 37 weeks gestation. I was distraught, having hoped for a non-surgical birth, and concerned about possible complications. At that time my mother thought it appropriate to share facts concerning all the possible birth defects / lifelong developmental problems my child could experience, due to being born at 37 weeks. This was not at all helpful for me at the time, but on reading your article I consider that this may have been her way of sharing solidarity with me.

    I suppose the main thing I take from my childhood experience, is that I can very clearly understand what it feels like to be told your way of “being” is wrong. To have many, many conversational exchanges that leave you feeling incompetent and worthless. I think neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals both need instruction in the different, but equally valid ways of experiencing emotions, and of communicating.

    1. This is very valid, and until autism is better defined in how it differs from neurotypicals, it’s never going to save all of us from a lifetime of emotional and interpersonal pain. It’s not possible to just “work at it” because we’re wired with different instinctual rules. The harder we try (in our own language) the worse it gets.

      What your mom was doing was that, yes, but also something I call “joint troubleshooting.”

      It’s when an autistics expresses a disconcerting possibility, we need to go through all the variables in our heads and consider each option so that we can be emotionally and intellectually prepared to handle the situation. By intellectually, I mean that is emotional for us. It is far more important to development that I know parenting best practices and to providing support and making important decisions that I’ve walked through them and not made a decision that will harm someone else. I need another person to walk through that process with me, and to do it with a cool head. I need them to not add to my distress by being emotional at the same time.

      A similar incident happened with a good friend. During her pregnancy, she was considered at high risk for certain genetic conditions. I have Bernie Sanders level recall of statistical information. I started telling her statistics, and she looked at me horrified. I forgot I was talking to a neurotypical. I grabbed a jar of loose change and counted out 400 pennies. I took a sharpie and colored one with a black X on each side. I put the 400 pennies in a bowl and stirred it up. I told her, “Close your eyes and take one out.” She did. It was not the penny with an X. She felt so relieved she laughed. I threw it back in, stirred it again, and asked her to close her eyes and choose another. She did. No black X.

      She started tearing up with relief. The process repeated for several minutes. The black X penny never came up. After the fifth penny, the dam broke and she was bawling with relief. So was I. See how my intellectual emotions are not cold?

      She not only was less afraid after a few minutes, but she also felt so much more prepared. Before, emotionally, it felt like a 50/50 chance. If I hadn’t known I was autistic (like most of my life), she would have thought I was an asshole, I would have started overexplaining with more facts, and we would’ve both lost out.

      I’m trying. Stories like yours are very helpful. In an autistic marriage, with an autistic child, I rarely interact too much with non-autistic people any more and can’t generate examples without reminders and/or hearing from neurotypical people how something feels to them.

      Thank you for coming here. I hope this “joint troubleshooting” explanation helps you frame your mom’s behavior.

  10. I have another perspective on the irritation that arises between diverse-spirited people (I do not want to use neurodiverse here, because it already has become such a narrow meaning, and what I observe is that definitely there are also non-autistics as well as autistics that have an interaction mode that works smooth with me or don’t have an interaction mode that works smooth with me):

    Some people have a way of communication where they expect in every communication some interpersonal message, and they intuitively try to find one. Even if none is there they sometimes “succeed” in interpreting one into it (sometimes “fail” and might be irritated). The other way round they put an implicit interpersonal message into many communications they do, and expect the other to get that message.

    Some people have a way of communication where they don’t search for interpersonal messages in pieces of communication when they don’t expect one or it isn’t explicit (and may fail to get important messages). The other way round they communicate many things without an interpersonal layer, and would communicate interpersonal messages explicitly.

    If the two kinds of communications described above come together this often leads to frustration or misunterstandings.

    (I am aspergic and belong to the second kind. I neither want to state that these two are exclusive, nor exhaustive.

    And I think it partly is related to what you describe with the emotions, because people who find the personal emotions as importand often also expect the interpersonal level in communication.)

  11. I observed some feeling that I can describe of “feeling personally
    bestätigt”, if someone mentions true good things about some structure
    (e.g. a public transport system) I care about or feel somehow attached

    I think it is still the same mechanism of feeling personally humilated
    that also the majority of persons does, just that the attachments might
    be different.

    Once I really felt my ego humilated when someonne said I don’t have an
    ego. Whups, there was it.

    So, in general for me there is at the very basis not so much
    fundamental difference between me as an autistic and others, just that
    technically things are at different levels. And also in other autistics
    (I do not want to say all!, but I encountered) I can observe similar
    mechanisms (feelings as grief, anger, jelausy, strife-for-Bestätigung,
    …) at work as in the majority of people. Only that technically it
    works/ shows up differently.

    And regarding myself, I am constantly trying to pull apart what it
    truly because of my neuro-/spiritdiversity and what is due to secondary
    effects (micro- and development traumata, compensation, learned
    avoidance and re-filling the now empty spaces, dealing with stress and
    “too much”, …).

    1. I forgot to translate the word “Bestätigung”/ “bestätigt”. I mean confirmation (affirmation??).

  12. Wow, this was a fascinating read, and really hit home for what I’ve been thinking about lately. I am neurodiverse, with a soft diagnosis of ADHD and a shrug thrown in on top, and I feel those Grand Emotions every day. Whenever I try to explain why I am angry, and hurt from the current events I hear about, or try to convince someone to care, when to me it’s obvious that injustice is happening, there is just such a disconnect between how my neurotypical conversation partner and I experience the world. I’m glad to have these words to use now, to help explain my feelings, or to explain how the relationships I have with other neurodiverse people are so much deeper and more profound in what we’ll do for each other, than other friendships I see around me. Very thoughtful and insightful, will share!

  13. I will be processing this for some time, but you’ve definitely hit on something HUGE here. The one point that occurs to me immediately is related to motivation. Most people (I’m guessing NTs) seem to be motivated by internal, personal things. Maybe those “ego” emotions, or things they need to get done, etc. Most advice on self-motivating runs along those same lines, e.g., figure out why you need to do x and you’ll feel motivated to do x. These things don’t work for me and never have! It’s part of the reason I have so much trouble eating, washing, sleeping appropriately, I know I need to do these things but can’t make myself do them.

    But I’m discovering that if I frame my attempt to self-motivate in terms of the “Grand Emotions”, it works! Reading political Twitter in the morning gets me pissed off enough to get out of bed when nothing else will. It’s fascinating!

  14. I’m neurodivergent. I would not characterize “very grand emotions” as primary and other emotions as secondary. However, I would say that I prioritize engaging with “very grand emotions,” both socially and internally, as the associated thought processes are more enjoyable. I imagine this is partly rooted in discomfort engaging with other feelings, which likely stems from a cultural priority deficit for teaching emotional self-awareness (for NTs and NDs alike). It could also be related to my love for analyzing and trying to solve complex problems. It’s definitely a multifaceted and interesting topic.

  15. I would argue that the things you’ve listed as your emotions e.g. truth, work, equality, justice, etc, aren’t emotions at all, but something else entirely. Truth, work, etc, are probably better described as virtues or ideals or behaviours. I think what you mean to say is you FEEL strongest about your ideals. You’re passionate, for example, about finding out the truth. You’re intensely committed to your work. You value justice. You value equality. The problem is you’re confusing emotion with the VIRTUES or IDEALS you’re emotionally invested in. That’s just my autistic take on the topic. But, yes, reading your article, in a weird way, I almost understood what you were grasping at.

  16. Thank you so much for so eloquently explaining what I would not have imagined into words of my experience in trying to communicate with the world around me. ❤️❤️❤️ I am ND with 3 beautiful ND teenagers and a dear husband trying his best to understand us all!

  17. thank you so much for this article. I am an undiagnosed neurodiverse woman with a strongly felt sense of justice. Having done some research in a related area, seems to me that as ND we may have access to a deeper level of consciousness, some of us perhaps even without knowing.
    Another aspect of the same issue is our orientation towards and grasp of what seems essential in a situation/matter – while NT think in a more ‘scattered’ way or – to put it more politely – socially oriented (groupthink).
    I first came across this distinction years ago in an article about characteristics of people who would blow the whistle at work, The article did not mention ND/NT, but the different orientation. And it makes perfect sense to me: That is what they were talking about.
    And a thirdaspect coming to mind now, as I write: RBG speaks of justice and mercy as emotions, You pick that up.In the common linguistic definition they are indeed values. I think what RBG is saying that (for her) they have a highly emotive character, a high emphasis in our range of emotions. Thanks again for making me think (and feel) all this. 🙂

  18. ¿Qué puedo decirte? Solo que me reconozco en tu texto… me reconozco y me encuentro linda y digna… y siento un enorme alivio porque me ayuda a quitarme otra de esas etiquetas horribles con las que me clasificaron: negligente.

    Mucho amor… y tiemblo de agradecimiento… RECONOCIMIENTO… debe ser otra “gran emocion”

  19. This very clearly highlights two points that I’ve been thinking myself. One is that we (autistics) experience different emotions, or experience emotions differently, and I can say that those given here certainly ring true for me. And the other is how unfair, unjust, and neuronormative it is that only we are expected to undergo some communication training, when we clearly communicate just fine with each other, and communication is a two way street! Thanks for this great article.

  20. Thank you for this. I have often been accused of being cold or unfeeling when my own experience has been overwhelmingly emotional, often confusingly so. This now makes sense to me. I had lumped all of the grand emotions into “the big picture” which NT people seemed to overlook so effortlessly. And then I would chastise myself for thinking that I could see the big picture better than other people could. I gaslit myself into believing I was just being too sensitive and needed to toughen up, and I flew under the radar so well that I did not discover my own Autism until age 41. I got my official diagnosis a couple months ago at age 42. Midlife crisis in full swing now, but I am hopeful to come out of this a happier and functional, maybe even a contributing person.

  21. While I will agree with you that I like you have always been consumed, since a young child with Justice, that things were not right in the world. I came to realize the difference between Justice and Fairness. Both of which the world will never be able to offer to us Autistic individuals. I however found another path, One that I am often bashed for from Autistics who claim they want acceptance. Fairness is a mankind created idea, Justice on the other hand can only truly come from God. My faith is often bashed and I am usually hesitant to contribute to sites like these because of it. If I am to be tolerant of the queer, the liberal the…. you name it then you must also consider being tolerant of a Christian Autistic individual, one who also was called cold, cruel and heartless for many years.

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