I’m presently reading Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. I’ll have further insights once I am finished with it, but for the moment I am still working through the introductory chapters. Having blunted – though, still present – emotions of my own and formal training in mathematics and computer science has left me with a void when it comes to truly understanding emotive processes. My rational mind will always trump my emotional mind, but I am curious as to the mechanisms that I am, more or less, missing out on.
Goleman does a satisfactory job of describing the evolutionary reasons behind humans’ emotive states. Fear leads to mechanisms that allow for quicker retreat. Anger allows one, also through biomechanics, to strike harder and faster in a retributive fashion. Love allows for self-sacrifice in order to ensure the survival of one’s children, thus passing the parents’ genes far into the future. All of this makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. So, then, what exactly am I missing out on? I’ve written that I feel that I am not missing out on anything, but upon further introspection, that may not be quite right.
I now believe that my shallow affect, caused undoubtedly by the psychopath’s abnormal limbic system, is a double-edged sword. My lack of fear, for instance, means that I can act when others are paralyzed. However, it also means that I can be susceptible to dangers because I do not register situations as needing a fear response. Several times in my life, looking back, I recall times in which I should have been frightened. The unknown guest riding the hotel elevator with no destination. The drugged-up man approaching me on the streets with his pockets in his hands and his gaze fixated on me. In both cases, I was merely curious and sought no action to remove myself from any potential danger. In the former, it took a neurotypical friend to drag me out of the elevator and into the hotel room, where via a call to security we discovered the stranger was undoubtedly looking to mug someone. In the latter, the man just wanted to show me his crack pipe – not joking. A person with a healthy fear response would have not been vulnerable like me during those times.
However, a lack of fear is not the only damning response. An inability for love and compassion means that I solidify my position as one who is – essentially – a loner. I am blessed with the ability to always put myself first – Goleman mentions a case in which a set of parents literally sacrifice themselves to save their disabled child – and I will ensure my self-survival (except when I don’t) at the expense of others. However, it also means that I have an inability to form those bonds that could help me in return when I need it. Reproduction is a non-issue for me, but the thought that my toys may not be there to save me when I need it is disheartening.
My lack of deep emotions is both a great power and a great curse. I’m still not convinced that I’d prefer the life of a neurotypical, even if I could, but I do recognize now that there are advantages and disadvantages to the emotions associated with neurotypicals. I am interested to see how my stance does or does not change as I continue my own research into the realm of emotions.