feeling an invisible glass wall between myself and others

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orbweaver
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24 Aug 2022, 10:08 pm

Is this just a common autism feeling? I have felt all my life like I'm basically encased in a bubble.

I get by just fine out in the world, socially speaking, in terms of everyday types of transactions. I feel like, at this point in my life, I have mastered enough social skills. I don't offend people for the most part. Not at this point. I have learned to keep my mouth shut at the right times.

But it's like there is this wall between myself and others and I can't explain it, I just know it's there. I feel it there in every social situation I'm in aside from with my best friend or partner and I have no other way to describe it aside from feeling like I'm trapped behind a glass wall. And it's almost like... the better I got at social skills, the thicker this wall actually got, and THAT'S hard to explain, too.


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The_tick
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24 Aug 2022, 10:11 pm

Yeah bud I feel it too. I'm exactly the same, I can get by out there just fine but that wall is definitely still standing.



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26 Aug 2022, 3:33 pm

I often feel that wall too. I think it's mainly because NT social norms intrinsically exclude some of my greatest joys.

For example, I like in-depth conversation on topics of common interest, whereas most people, most of the time, prefer superficial chit chat. Also, relatively few people share my specific interests.


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GaetanK
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01 Oct 2022, 9:51 am

Hi there,

Well you describe it perfectly, I've had the same experience of feeling like a wall of glass or glassbox around me that was sort of isolating me from the outside world. I've asked to many people with Asperger's syndrome if they felt surrounded by a glass wall, or an invisible barrier, or some kind of layer of separation, and most of them do recognize the feeling.

I have done a lot of research on it and it seems to be at the root of many typical traits of Asperger's (ASD in general, but the social aspects of asperger specifically). So in my theory, here is how the 'wall of glass' works :
- this feel like an invisible barrier between you and the world, that you cannot touch or see, but you know it is there
- it makes you feel as if you are estranged from this world, different from other people, or misunderstood
- the deeper feeling is that this wall of glass is preventing a good connection with people at the emotional level, as if you cannot "reach out" to them
- it also seem to act as a filter : you can see through it, but not "feel" the outside world, especially other people ; therefore, it filters out some unspoken informations, body language, emotional cues, and non-verbal communication from others
- the consequence is that you "feel" less emotions in people ; and that is why people with asperger are often blamed for having no or low empathy. While they do care internally, they either don't recognize what's expected from them in expressing empathy, or, they don't actually understand why such and such person have such and such emotion, therefore this misunderstanding creates an empathy problem
- I've seen above 50% of people with this 'wall of glass' describe themselves as hyposensitive (they feel alright in their bubble and wouldn't want to feel what's outside) while the other 50% describe themselves as hypersensitive (they feel too much of what is outside) ; and I guess that is an effect of this glass wall
- this glass wall also prevents other people from correctly feeling the person who has it, hence why that person can be deemed as cold, arrogant, inexpressive, or even weird, etc...
That is sad!

Now the effects of all this, is people who have this wall of glass often have troubles making friends, feeling safe about expressing themselves and therefore hiding behind a mask, being bullied more than others, seen as weirdos, and even when they have friends, always feeling misunderstood, alone, as if craving a deeper kind of connection that they do not find.

Curious what you think of this theory ?



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03 Oct 2022, 4:32 am

GaetanK wrote:
Curious what you think of this theory ?


Sounds about right to me. I experience the world mainly as an observer, never as an active participant. I sometimes feel like a single point of perception. Like a camera angle in a movie or videogame, just moving through an artificial environment. The sensation goes away when I'm alone in the outdoors - I feel part of the natural world, with the trees and animals I feel appropriate. Around people I feel alien. I can't care about what they seem to care about. I can't reach them and they can't reach me.

orbweaver wrote:
And it's almost like... the better I got at social skills, the thicker this wall actually got, and THAT'S hard to explain, too.


I have a theory on this that I've posted before. I'm sure that much of what makes communication work is micro expressions - tiny muscle movements in the face that we pick up subconsciously. Many ASD people mask by replicating the behaviours we see in others, but we're doing it consciously, so the micro expressions don't happen. It's like when people say you can tell a fake smile by the eyes, but much more subtle. So I think our attempts to learn social skills result in something that looks and sounds like social skills but is interpreted by the receiver as fake. I'm not saying the person we're talking too comes away thinking we're lying or anything as obvious as that, just that they come away feeling disquieted by us, just a little unnerved somehow in a way they can't put their finger on.

There's a concept I learned about in robotics called the 'uncanny valley'. It refers to a graphic representation of the way humans respond to human-like robots. If you don't know it, imagine putting robots on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is totally unconvincing and 10 is totally, indistinguishable from a human, convincing. Around 9 on that scale, there's a dip where the robots cause a revulsion response in humans - they make us feel uncomfortable. Similar thing with waxworks, they're lifelike. Emphasis on the like.

So I think our attempts at emulating social interaction on NT terms are doomed to fail because of this, even if superficially they seem to go well. And that's why our social interactions don't tend to lead to friendships or anything like connection.


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orbweaver
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04 Oct 2022, 6:54 pm

DuckHairback wrote:
GaetanK wrote:
Curious what you think of this theory ?


Sounds about right to me. I experience the world mainly as an observer, never as an active participant. I sometimes feel like a single point of perception. Like a camera angle in a movie or videogame, just moving through an artificial environment. The sensation goes away when I'm alone in the outdoors - I feel part of the natural world, with the trees and animals I feel appropriate. Around people I feel alien. I can't care about what they seem to care about. I can't reach them and they can't reach me.

orbweaver wrote:
And it's almost like... the better I got at social skills, the thicker this wall actually got, and THAT'S hard to explain, too.


I have a theory on this that I've posted before. I'm sure that much of what makes communication work is micro expressions - tiny muscle movements in the face that we pick up subconsciously. Many ASD people mask by replicating the behaviours we see in others, but we're doing it consciously, so the micro expressions don't happen. It's like when people say you can tell a fake smile by the eyes, but much more subtle. So I think our attempts to learn social skills result in something that looks and sounds like social skills but is interpreted by the receiver as fake. I'm not saying the person we're talking too comes away thinking we're lying or anything as obvious as that, just that they come away feeling disquieted by us, just a little unnerved somehow in a way they can't put their finger on.

There's a concept I learned about in robotics called the 'uncanny valley'. It refers to a graphic representation of the way humans respond to human-like robots. If you don't know it, imagine putting robots on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is totally unconvincing and 10 is totally, indistinguishable from a human, convincing. Around 9 on that scale, there's a dip where the robots cause a revulsion response in humans - they make us feel uncomfortable. Similar thing with waxworks, they're lifelike. Emphasis on the like.

So I think our attempts at emulating social interaction on NT terms are doomed to fail because of this, even if superficially they seem to go well. And that's why our social interactions don't tend to lead to friendships or anything like connection.


Everything you say here is why I gave up on trying to pass too "normal." When I'm trying to pass "normal," I'm read as a broken normie who is failing at it, instead of a whole-ass weirdo.

The glass wall sensation is the worst in a group. The extent to which I must observe from outside in order to integrate myself into a setting, actually prevents me from integrating. Because all I'm doing is sitting there, watching, and often struggling to figure out where to insert myself in the conversation. :(

I have literally felt this sensation all of my life and part of it is not reacting in real-time, not experiencing my emotions in real-time, etc. So it's like I'm on a time delay. Or... I'm in a conversation but I don't really feel like I'm connecting (most of the time), I just feel like I'm maneuvering myself through the conversation mechanically, saying what is expected.

I wonder if there's a masking element and if the glass wall is actually the mask, and that's what I'm describing. I never feel a true connection, I feel like I'm in a simulation a lot of the time.

Every time I try to actually make a real connection with a lot of people, in conversation, and break out of the wall, it goes badly. I do not feel this with my partner or my (autistic) best friend, that said.


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04 Oct 2022, 7:15 pm

orbweaver wrote:
Is this just a common autism feeling? I have felt all my life like I'm basically encased in a bubble.

I get by just fine out in the world, socially speaking, in terms of everyday types of transactions. I feel like, at this point in my life, I have mastered enough social skills. I don't offend people for the most part. Not at this point. I have learned to keep my mouth shut at the right times.

But it's like there is this wall between myself and others and I can't explain it, I just know it's there. I feel it there in every social situation I'm in aside from with my best friend or partner and I have no other way to describe it aside from feeling like I'm trapped behind a glass wall. And it's almost like... the better I got at social skills, the thicker this wall actually got, and THAT'S hard to explain, too.


One can feel like one is living in the CB world of sideband where ones communication is somewhat ignored or unwanted because it is seen to interfere with the standard CB channels. Except this analogy is not with CB but in real life.



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04 Oct 2022, 7:41 pm

The way I've come to think of that wall - it's clustering by inherent neurological conformity. I really think most of what gets called 'social skills' and particularly charisma is that commonality. It's the way some people can say things completely out of the blue and everyone's immediately on page with them, whereas I could either never dream of getting away with that or can only get away with it around people I really know and who know me well. I put it that way because I've had the experience, I think many if not most people on the spectrum do, where once you learn whatever you can about rote social skills, and even then pick up all kinds of subtle body language skills just from observations over time, it still barely gets you halfway - if that.

Life generally follows the path of least resistance. For many if not most NT's we're a massive uphill slog, they are for us as well but the difference is they can get away from us much more easily than vice a verse.

Best perhaps to understand that this isn't a rational problem but rather something more like physics, a bit like if a bunch of people between 5'5" and 5'10" want to play basketball maybe they're okay with occasionally having someone in whose 7'0" just to see what it's like, or maybe have a three on two or four on two where one team has more players to counteract the height difference, but generally people want to compete with people who are even with them. Something similar happens with neurotype, it happens with intelligence, it happens with all sorts of things where if you're different you're stuck in the dilemma of either looking like a damaged / incomplete NT much of the time or, on the other hand, showing your different in which case okay it's more congruent but fewer people want you around because you're just not expedient and instantaneous or energizing to deal with for them.

In that case I get the sense that these things sort of just 'are' and that they're best understood as hard-coded Darwinian realities rather than things that are socially flexible (ie. with hard boundaries and limits requests to be met half way generally can't be complied with). That's not fun because while I do like my time alone I also realize that I am lonely, would like more social interaction, and then I even go hang out with friends, see the constant bits of minor conflict getting smoothed over, it gets draining, I put more of a premium on enjoying my alone time again... till I get lonely, rinse and repeat.


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08 Oct 2022, 11:57 am

This actually describes a lot of the interactions I have with NTs as well. Especially at work.


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09 Oct 2022, 10:37 am

Yes!

Though I always thought of that feeling like being an observer of the things that were going on around me. As of very recently, I could zoom in and out of a situation in terms of how detached I wanted to be, yet never being full in.

A few years ago bad things happened. Nothing extremely traumatic in their own, but together they were hard to keep out. Then Covid came, and I completely lost my ability to deal with people. With social media invading everybody's life, and people hiding most of their faces behind masks, I was unable to communicate or to correctly interpret what was being communicated to me.

After three breakdowns I was diagnosed with Asperger's and PTSD (from having to move to another continent to live with quasi-strangers when I was a child)

And now that rather comfortable feeling of being "detached by choice" became a wall of very thick, impenetrable and somewhat milky glass.



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12 Oct 2022, 6:21 pm

Quote:
Feeling An Invisible Glass Wall Between Myself And Others

That's exactly how I have described it. I felt it acutely around age 16 when relations between my peers got more complex, and while many were of positive disposition toward me, I felt myself not being able to keep up, left out and left behind. Or other times not able to articulate myself to others. I wanted to, but couldn't.


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12 Oct 2022, 6:47 pm

Oh this feels all so typical of my experiences with most all NT type of people . I no longer am so bothered by the disconnect but rather just accept it as ,”what is” . But have found my masking skills when am feeling well to be very good . For short periods of time . It can be kinda draining having to deal with NTs regularity on anything but a cursory engagement .


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14 Oct 2022, 10:20 pm

The wall is there for a reason. You might not like what happens once you break it. So that's why you created this wall in the first place, and then you forgot.



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14 Oct 2022, 10:47 pm

himmellaufen wrote:
The wall is there for a reason. You might not like what happens once you break it. So that's why you created this wall in the first place, and then you forgot.

You mean getting groped by the hive mind?


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14 Oct 2022, 10:49 pm

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
himmellaufen wrote:
The wall is there for a reason. You might not like what happens once you break it. So that's why you created this wall in the first place, and then you forgot.

You mean getting groped by the hive mind?


Dunno what that means.
I meant being bullied and disappointed when you try to get closer to people, but they reject you for who you are.