My son has autism. People with autism have difficulty with feelings. They don't pick up cues about what other people are feeling. They sometimes don't know what they are feeling themselves. When my son was a little boy, we would play the mad/sad/glad game. He would say mad or sad or glad. Then I would act out the feeling. If he said sad, I would make a very sad face and act like I was crying. I would say, "Oh, I feel so sad." Then he would name another feeling and I would act it out with all the exaggerated drama I could muster. We only used those three. It was simple and he liked words that rhymed. He loved the game and we would play it over and over. I hoped that he would learn about his own feelings. I hoped that he would develop empathy for other people.
I look back at those years and I realize that as I was trying so hard to help him understand feelings, I was denying mine. I felt so desperate. So alone. So terrified. Inadequate. Overwhelmed. Devastated. Ashamed. And angry. But I didn't acknowledge any of these feelings. They were so big and so dark and so scary. It was like having demons locked in your basement. I kept them at bay by trying to "fix" my son. How ironic. And futile. On both counts. My son is still autistic and the demons broke out long ago. I made my peace with them and they moved on, although they sometimes come for tea. And I think I still hear a few little ones scurrying around in the dark corners of the basement.
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