Autism, Empathy and Boston


The pervasive thought that people with autism don’t have empathy is not true for me, and I suspect not true for many or most autistics.  Lack of empathy is in the realm of psychopathy, and I am not a psychopath, as others with autism are not.

So, when the bombs in Boston happened, I felt.  I felt a lot.  I felt pain in my chest and stomach because people had lost limbs.  I felt sad that people in Boston and across the country feel unsafe like I did.

Is that empathy?  I don’t know how to define empathy.

My mother has always said that I am extremely sensitive emotionally.  I feel so much, so fully.  What happened in Boston upset my world, not just for my own safety and the safety of my family, rather, it’s the experience of people at the race, in Boston, in the country that upsets me so much that I can hardly think.

My mind turned to my daughter who works in downtown Minneapolis.  Will she be safe?  Intellectually, I know Minneapolis is not a likely target because we don’t have anything as iconic as the Boston Marathon or the World Trade Center.  Though, that evening I had to drive my son downtown to the bus station, so I worried for his safety also.  When we arrived downtown, the streets were packed with people arriving for a Twins baseball game.

Every intersection had a police officer directing traffic.  But, what was different was the increased police presence that was not directing traffic.  Was it actually increased or was I more aware of them due to what had happened?  Regardless, I was glad for their presence.  I was reassured.  Though in reality, if there was a bomb already, the police would not likely make any difference.

My son is safe in Fargo where a terror attack is 99% not likely to happen.  My daughter starts work in 30 minutes–downtown.

I feel the nervousness that I assume others would be feeling, not just in Boston, but around the country.  I’m sick in my stomach.  Is that empathy?  Does empathy mean equating my feelings with the feelings of others?  Is empathy more that I try to fathom what others would be feeling even if they are not the same feelings that I have?

I know that I feel a lot.  I am very sad for people who lost limbs, for family members who are horrified, and for people like me who were not directly affected, but can’t help to feel the insecurity and pain.

About Eileen Parker 100 Articles
Support a starving writer, by buying my current book, The Weighted Blanket Guide, on Amazon. I'm a writer working on my fourth book. I live in the Twin Cities with my husband. Between us, we have four children.