What do the words “systemising” and “empathising” mean?
Systemising, also referred to as Logical Intent, is about making sense of the world in terms of logic, rules and systems. A system is anything that follows rules. It is about the drive to analyse and construct systems to explain and understand other’s behaviour or to understand how things work. Systemising people see the logic of the world, they focus on facts, patterns and rules. Those who have high systemising qualities may be more interested in their own feelings than of other peoples.
Empathising, also referred to as Social Intent, is about making sense of the world in terms of emotions and feelings. It is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. It is about being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and feel what they might feel in a situation.
So, what do these words mean in terms of how you see the world?
Neither of these is better or worse than the other – they are simply terms used to describe different ways of making sense of the world. Some people may do a mixture of both. Systemising is not purely a neurodivergent trait – many neurodivergent people favour a systemising approach, and many neurodivergent people favour an empathising approach. Even if someone favours a systemising approach, this does not mean that they don’t experience empathy – this is a common misconception.
You may have heard of the ‘double empathy problem’ or ‘double empathy theory’ presented by a researcher called Dr Damian Milton. This theory is based on the idea that autistic and non-autistic people experience life very differently and that this can make it harder for them to understand and empathise with each other. Dr Milton’s research has found that groups of autistic people are just as good at communicating with each other as groups of non-autistic people – but communication breaks down when autistic and non-autistic people communicate with each other. Importantly, this research shows that it is not a case of autistic people being wrong or at fault – both autistic and non-autistic people need to make an effort to understand and empathise with each other, despite their different ways of experiencing the world.
Thinking about you
- Highlight your strengths. Think about what you enjoy and are good at and develop these interests.
- Have a safe place, where you can express yourself- such as your home.
- Find people you can express yourself and your views with. Start to develop the confidence to express how you feel and what is important to you.
- Peer support – find groups of others who hold similar views who you can share ideas and experiences with.
Dealing with feelings
- Situation: What, where and why is this happening that produces my feelings?
- Options: What are my options for actions to take?
- Disadvantages: What disadvantages are there with each of these options?
- Advantages: What advantages are there with each of these options?
- Solutions: What is the best solution for me to take?
The List idea:
- List recent behaviours that you think were impulsive.
- list recent behaviours that other people consider impulsive in you
- identify negative consequences of recent impulsive behaviours
- identify positive consequences of recent impulsive behaviours
- pinpoint the places where you most often become impulsive
- select some impulsive behaviours that might be the most harmful to you or others
Name it, reframe it, and tame it (Knight, 2015)
- Name it: Identify situations where your buttons might be pushed and the root cause for your anger.
- Reframe it: Believe that you can change the way you react when others push your buttons, seeing it as an opportunity to learn about yourself, what troubles you and how you can avoid these situations in the future.
- Tame it: Use strategies to buy time and keep your emotions under control: (see ideas we have suggested here and in anger management section) leave the situation for a while, count to 10, take a deep breath, rewind the tape.
Suggestions to improve self-esteem.
Keep a Positive Journal or have a plan at the end of each day to speak about positive things:
Every day brings a combination of good and bad experiences. Unfortunately, the human brain tends to focus more heavily on the bad experiences, while forgetting or discounting the good ones.
Making a point to recognise positive experiences no matter how small, can help to improve a person’s mood. Try to remember three positive things at the end of each day.
Self Esteem Journal.
A further idea could be writing down each day reflections that are positive about you and those in your life. Here are suggestions of things you could include: Try to use three of these statements every day and add them into a journal.
Help when you get angry:
Everyone feels angry. It is how we manage it that is important:
If you show your anger in ways that get you into trouble or hurt you then it can be a problem. This information was taken from a website you may find helpful:
It talks about types of anger:
Being aggressive towards others. Does your behaviour ever frighten or worry you or those around you?
Telling yourself you are useless or don’t deserve things. Shutting yourself off from the world, not doing things that make you happy.
Ignoring people, refusing to speak to them or being sarcastic or sulky.
Some ideas on how to manage your anger with relaxation here are some ideas:
- Going for a walk.
- Listening to music
- Taking deep breaths.
- Doing some exercise.
- Doing something you enjoy. (do you like riding your bike, skate boarding, or baking, cooking)
- Playing your computer games.
- Reading a book or looking at You Tube.
- Having a hot bath.
You may find having items that relieve stress useful, such as stress balls, or even fidget items like spinners.
A distraction/relaxation trick to try when you are really angry – think of (you may need to practise!):
- 5 things I can see
- 4 things I can hear
- 3 things I can touch
- 2 things I can smell or taste
- 1 breath.
Then continue to just notice your breathing and the sensations of breathing
Keeping a Journal
Keep a note of how you are feeling:
What happened to make you angry?
What did you do? Did it help?
How did you feel afterwards?
Is there anything else on your mind? Is there something making you feel scared or alone?
There is a method called journaling where you can write your thoughts down, draw pictures, or make patterns etc to help you express your feelings. The book you use is your private book. It would be up to you if you want to share it.
When you are angry with someone:
Try to think about what you want to say beforehand and how you want to get your point across. (especially if it’s an argument over the same thing like coming off your game immediately)
If you feel angry walk away from the situation and calm down. Possibly at school have a “volcano card” you can use to leave a lesson if you are starting to struggle.
Plan how to talk to someone about what is making you angry:
For example – “I’ve been feeling really wound up recently, can I talk to you about it? I’ve noticed it is when we have to rush out of the door when I am in the middle of a game. Please can we figure out a way together to make this easier”.
Thinking of going to university
The Curly Hair Project is an organisation that helps people on the autistic spectrum and the people around them, founded by autistic author Alis Rowe. It uses animated films, comic strips and diagrams to make work interesting and easy to understand!