Posts Tagged ‘social’


Alexithymia. A new word for me. A new word to get my tongue round and to understand in different ways. Alexithymia is the name for a condition that means people affected by it are dysfunctional regarding emotional awareness, social attachment and interpersonal relating. It is a condition that co-occurs with autism but does not share the same symptoms. Researchers are constantly debating which symptoms are related to autism and which are related to alexithymia. More can be read about autism and alexithymia and how they co-exist with each other by following the link: https://sites.google.com/site/geoffbirdlab/home.

In layman’s terms you have no words for anything, no emotions, nothing to say and nothing to talk about. It can be as if you are a shell just existing and literally going through the motions until you die. You have no life and spend most of your time alone wondering why you are the way you are and why people shun you. It drains you constantly wondering why people avoid you, don’t talk to you, cross the road to avoid you. You have no energy left to deal with day to day life. All you do is exist for reasons unknown to you and to anyone around you. You have no purpose in life, no reason to exist. All you can do is wonder why…

Dr Rachel Moseley from the University of Bournemouth describes alexithymia as: difficulty identifying what you’re feeling, difficulty describing what you’re feeling, and an externally-orientated, ‘stimulus-driven’ thinking style (which means that people with alexithymia don’t tend to be introspective about their feelings and emotions or spend a lot of time thinking about how others might be feeling – because emotions are very confusing to them. They therefore tend to think more ‘concretely’ about things that are going on (i.e. EXTERNAL stimuli in the outside world rather than INTERNAL feelings). And adds that this is the most common view but not the only view. This is a view I can relate to from my own personal experiences.

In my personal experiences I have been shunned by people at work and in social situations. In relationships I just sit there at the most wondering what to say or do, usually just staring blankly at a wall ignoring the person I’m with. It’s no wonder I’m single. How am I supposed to respond to questions of how I feel when I cannot interpret any feelings I have? And what happens when you don’t feel anything? How do you answer someone who asks you how you’re feeling when you’re feeling nothing at all?

Conversation does not come easy to me. I struggle to keep up with what is being talked about and quickly lose interest preferring to do anything but converse. If someone has a baby it’s so what, people buy a new car and I’m wondering why they are so excited, they got a new job or a promotion and I’m wondering if they will be so excited in a year’s time. I’m not interested right now.
Even if people are ill, injured or dying there’s barely a flicker of an emotion. Life goes on and these things happen. At funerals there’s no tears. I go because I know it’s expected, a social norm and because I know it means something to my friends. This could be seen as pragmatism and stoicism at an extreme most people cannot comprehend.

And yes I’ve felt lonely, isolated, anxious, stressed, depressed and suicidal all because I did not understand why some people wouldn’t talk to me, why some people shunned me, why I found social situations difficult, why I didn’t behave and express myself the same way other people did naturally, why no-one wanted a relationship with me, why I felt different and not in step with the rest of society. This is when you’re at your lowest, everything is too much to cope with and ending it all seems the only way out.

Yet I’m still here. The suicide attempts failed and after years of trying to find a purpose in life I did, study and research. I started an access course at college and now I have just started a PhD the highest qualification you can get. I have found something I enjoy doing and something I feel that I am good at and is worthwhile.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 41 in October 2008. This answered many questions, filled in gaps and helped me to move on and understand myself and others better. There still seemed to be something missing but I assumed it was my Asperger’s being unique to me and got on with life still wondering about some things and still making some mistakes the same.
Then in March this year I was diagnosed with dyspraxia and this helped move things on a little bit. A lot of it crosses over with Asperger’s but there was still something missing, one more gap to fill. Then the lead researcher on a study I had taken part in Dr Rachel Mosely emailed me the results of some research I had taken part in about autistics and self-harm and here was a new word alexithymia.

I read about it and I recognised myself in the description. All of a sudden it made sense why I was the way I perceive myself to be. Why I find social situations difficult, why I feel emotionally detached and why I find it difficult relating interpersonally. The final gap in my personal identity had been filled and I had a name, a label to attach to my feelings and identity. I could call them something, read about them and understand them. It’s how my mind works.

I felt that all the anxiety, stress and pressure had been lifted from my shoulders. No longer did I need to try to fit in and try and be someone else because I could not and cannot be that person. I can only be me. I don’t need to try anymore I can relax and let the things I cannot control go and concentrate on the things I can do.

I understand now why I struggle in relationships and social situations and why I don’t feel emotions the same way others do and I’m fine with that. I get why my supervisor at university says they want to see some enthusiasm from me and then stare at me wondering why I’m just sat there staring back at them blankly. I now understand so much more about myself, people and life and all because of one word.

On a daily basis this means I struggle to understand why some people seem to get on with others and make progress effortlessly , talking to others, making friends, making contacts whereas I struggle to do these natural, normal interactions and are quite often left at the edges of discussions and meetings looking on, wondering what I need to do to get my voice heard and feel involved in society. This includes my autistic friends too. Many of them have social skills that I am envious of and I can only stand and wonder at their ability to start and hold a conversation with others.

One skill I do have is that I can write. I can write about how I feel and what I see going on in society far more effectively than I can talk about it. I don’t know why this is, it’s just the way I am and I’ve long got past the point where I would lay awake all night worrying about it. I can read theories, apply them to autism and write about them. Once I’ve written about them I can talk about them all day long, until the topic changes and then I’m lost.

I am lucky too in that I have a good and varied circle of friends and I look at them differently now. I see them in a new light and realise how lucky I am to have them in my life. I am also very lucky in that I am studying for a PhD and if I’m having an off day I can stay at home and do nothing or go for a run over the moors and get back to being myself.

I understand and appreciate that not everyone would feel the same way I do. I know people who don’t like labels and are always trying to fit into society in as unobtrusive a way as possible and all they want to do is to feel accepted and that they belong. And I have been there too fighting a constant battle to be accepted and understood but it was a battle that drained me of everything and nearly destroyed me.

Now I’m just myself and if people like me they do, if they don’t they don’t. I understand myself now and understand why some people like me and some don’t. I feel so much better now and I’m sure people are noticing because more people are saying hello to me and smiling at me. It’s amazing how one word can change everything in your world.


It’s been a while since I did a blog but I do have what people will see as a good reason. As part of my dissertation at university I have to do a literature review of any relevant literature and it’s not as easy as it sounds! Reading through pages and pages of academic literature takes its toll on your brain and your sanity. Making endless notes and re-reading to make sure you haven’t missed the all-important word that could make a difference strains not only your brain but your eyes too. But having said all that it is very interesting and rewarding on many levels.

For many students the word dissertation strikes fear into them. It is the same for many employees who are asked to compile a report on their competitor’s latest product or last week’s sales figures. Where do I start! At the beginning. Sounds easy enough and for some reports it is. You will have a start point already made for you. For other reports and for a dissertation it is not so easy. My advice is to find a significant point in time to focus on and to remember that you can go back before this point as well as forwards after it too. The point provides a reference for you to focus on and to start your dissertation or report from.

As part of my dissertation I have to apply a sociological theory to my work. This is because I am studying sociology and my dissertation needs to reflect that. The theory I have chosen is that of habitus and capital from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. I have chosen Bourdieu’s work because I am interested in how power is controlled and maintained within society and within certain groups. Some groups appear to have a lot of power, others none at all. But who decides who has the power and how it is distributed amongst society? How do the powerful maintain their power? What are the subtle signs within society that many of us are exposed to from an early age that influence our perceptions of power? There are many signs that influence our decision on who are powerful and why. Bourdieu classed them as Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Economic Capital and Symbolic Capital. We are exposed to these forms of Capital from the day we are born and continue to be exposed to them till the day we die.

Many of them are so familiar to us that we don’t even notice them anymore. Statues looking down at us from on high signifying power in one form or another. If you do as well as me you may too get a statue made of you they seem to tell us as we walk by. This signifies power and who has it. If you read the plinth it may tell you why they earnt this power, in battle, in politics or maybe for writing or painting. Either way it signifies what constitutes power in society and why. Are we meant to bow down to this form of power, aspire to it or both? Either way it tells us who are the powerful and why on a daily basis.

Every day we are exposed to Economic Capital with endless news reports of sporting superstars earning vast amounts of money, companies making billions of billions of pounds of profit while still increasing prices but telling us that we should be grateful to them for providing us with energy, housing, food and other commodities at vastly inflated prices. We get told that these sporting superstars are worth every penny but is that for their talent or for the immense revenue and profits they generate from companies around the world?

Speaking of brands they enter into our Symbolic and Cultural capital unnoticed. Just think of McDonalds, Adidas, Ford and Apple to name a few. They and many others have entered into our Symbolic and Cultural society naturally and now all we have to do is see a product of theirs and we immediately know who made it, how much it cost, where it was made and based on this information we make assumptions about people. If we take the example of Ford we may assume that this person is at the lower end of the economic scale and so doesn’t have much spare cash. Compared to someone who is driving a Porsche or a Ferrari we would assume that they are at the other end of the economic scale and are very wealthy. Both examples could be wrong. The Ford driver could be rich but likes to save his pennies whilst the Porsche driver could have hired it for the day just to experience what it is like to own one.

But the point still stands that we give these products such Symbolic and Cultural capital and this is so ingrained within our natural psyche that we don’t even register the assumptions we are making about the people who use these products. We have subconsciously given these products and by association the people who use them Symbolic and Cultural capital and therefore power. With regards to this power we may position ourselves above them if we feel we have more power than them or below them if we feel we have less power than them.

This power is then transferred into where we stand within society. Someone viewed with low power will have a low social standing within society and viewed as not making much of a contribution to the running of society. On the other hand someone viewed as having high power will have a high social standing within society and viewed as having made a greater contribution to the running of that society. High power also brings more opportunities to maintain and exploit this power to the full. Once people have this power they do not want to give it up and will keep it for themselves only transferring it to their next of kin. This then maintains the status quo of the elite and any new members must have sufficient Social, Cultural, Symbolic and Economic capital of their own in order for them to join the club.

I will stress now that these are my thoughts and I am probably repeating the thoughts and ideas of many who have gone before me. This is also a very complex branch of sociology to get to grips with and a blog such as this does not have the space or scope needed to explore Bourdieu in sufficient depth and breadth. I just hope I’ve given you something to think about next time you look around at all the cultural symbols that surround you in your life.

Thanks for reading and take care 🙂