Hyperempathy, Autism and Creativity

Are there substantial links between hyperempathy – a condition of which I had not been aware of until recently – autism and creativity?  This is a question I want to address in some depth.  I have a personal interest in this issue because autism and related disorders affect so many of my own family.  Me included

It is nowadays well known that people diagnosed as being located on the Autism Spectrum vary in their personality types, their skills and interests, their aptitudes and behaviours in the same way that people who a ‘neurotypical’ do.  Or perhaps I should say this ought to be a well known fact. Sadly, there are far too many people who clump all autistic people into the same large unwieldy basket. It is an error that frustrates many of us who deal with the issues of abuse, bullying, disrespect and even contempt directed to themselves or members of their family on a daily basis.

Creativity and autism have been frequently recognised as being connected.  I want to take that one step forward, and look at how this relationship may/may not affect my own family. There has been a succession of women on my mother’s side who have been very creative, although not always successful.  There is also a long history of anxiety disorders, depression, feelings of personal and social inadequacy, clinical depression and alienation that shows up through 5 generations. This extends now to my granddaughters.

This pattern is not limited to the women in the family.  3 of my 6 grandsons have been diagnosed as being on the spectrum. Another has both verbal and physical dyspraxia. 4 of my grandsons – not all those diagnosed as having ASD but certainly including some – are extraordinarily bright. 5 have experienced serious bullying in the streets and in schools, both as children and as young men.  This includes occasional bullying conducted by staff in their schools/colleges. 1 of my 6 grandsons has attempted suicide, and very nearly succeeded.

Recently there has been an explosion of knowledge about the way autism expresses itself in females. For many years the seeming disparity in the ratio of males to females diagnosed as being on the spectrum meant that autism was seen as a ‘male’ disorder. This is no longer the case.

So you should be able to see why the issues I have set out below interest me so intensely. I am particularly focussed on the three articles I have linked to this post. The issues they raise tie in closely with the experience of my own family, and in future posts I will be examining them more closely.

Dana Fenton 06 /11/2014, Exploring Hyper Empathy Syndrome.  in  Emotional & Stress Management, Steady Health
Henry Markram,1 Tania Rinaldi,1 and Kamila Markram1,01/11/2007,   The Intense World Syndrome – an Alternative Hypothesis for Autism in Frontiers in Neuroscience
Sandra L. Brown M.A. 11/03/2012,  Genetic and Neuro-Physiological Basis for Hyper-Empathy in Psychology Today

Does the theme of disconnection speak to you? Some of my poetry is very bleak – but it speaks my truth.

Out of Phase

It’s not my territory
And I feel the outer circle
The edge between the in and out.

I sit,
alone

while inner-tension builds

I’m strangely out of phase,

Distortion-pedalled, yet
disconnected to the energy
that flows, and fills the room
with sound.

I slowly fade into the in-between
I take the space
Beyond the in. I’m out

I find
– the nowhere land
where isolation rules –

and think of nothing

but where to put
my hands
and look
my eyes

and how to be
so still
no air
ripples.

The outer circle,
The nowhere land

The edge alone

Copyright Jean Law   1990-2017

out