Aoife’s Top Songs for Emotional Processing

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Today I’m going to do something a little bit different and discuss with you some of the songs that I often find helpful for emotional processing.

Many autists struggle with alexithymia, (or an inability to identify emotions), which can make emotional processing challenging at times. How can you process anger for example, if you don’t even realize that you’re angry?

As I’ve discussed in previous posts (Autism and MusicAutism 101- Meltdowns), in my experience, music can play a very important role in helping  me to navigate and process my emotions. I may not be able to identify the emotion, but the right song can unlock and free my mind.

Now, I have amassed quite a large collection of go-to songs, albums and artists in times of need, all of which I can’t include in a single blog post, but for the purposes of this post I’ll tell you about some of my favourites 🙂

Jimmy Eat World- Futures (2004)

Futures‘, one of my top 3 favourite albums (which was interestingly given to me by a friend who was also diagnosed with AS as an adult!), is rife with lyrical inspiration. In times of muddled emotions I often find myself reaching for this album to verbalize and unlock my feelings so that I can find my way through the fog.

You can listen to (most of) the full album in the playlist below:

^^^copyright laws are making it much harder to track down albums on YouTube! 🙇

Their song ‘The Middle’ on their previous album ‘Bleed American (2001)‘ is also a great one for those days when you’re feeling lost and a little outcast from your neurotypical peers 🙂

Linkin Park- Meteora (2003)

RIP Chester Bennington! 😥

Taken too young, but your music shall endure.

During some dark and difficult times as a teenager, your lyrics were there for me in a very powerful way. I must have listened to ‘Meteora’ every day after school when I was 16. The lyrics expressed in this album verbalized the storm of emotions I was experiencing better than I could ever convey. Struggles with identity, bullying, feelings of depression- this album beautifully expressed in words the emotions that I could not make sense of and helped me through the darkness.

I also found the music of Nirvana to be quite effective in unlocking some of my more complex emotions.

The Gift- Seether (Karma and Effect, 2005)

Seether are my all time favourite band. I could write an entire post on the music of Seether alone- who knows maybe I will one day! 🙂 The music is heavy, but their lyrics are powerful! The 2011 album ‘Holding onto Strings Better Left to Fray’ got me through the grief of losing my dog to cancer (rather ironic given the title! 😛 ). Seether are often my first port of call when I’m struggling to process my feelings. ‘The Gift‘ in particular has always held a special place in my heart.

Other songs I find useful by Seether include Here and Now (try find the deconstructed version- just beautiful!), Breakdown, Rise Above This, Sympathetic and Tongue.

Foo Figthers- Walk (Wasting Light, 2011)

Man I love this song! 😀 One of my favorite memories is headbanging to this song in the rain at Slane Castle 2 years ago, just letting go of all my problems without a care in world! 🙂

Learning to walk again!

That’s exactly how it felt in the wake of my diagnosis.

The Foo Fighter’s have some great songs like this for emotional processing in their discography 🙂

The Kill (Bury Me)- 30 Seconds to Mars (A Beautiful Lie, 2005)

Don’t let the title fool you! As Jared Leto once said, “don’t be scared! It’s a nice song- about losing your mind.” Perfectly poignant for those days when you’re melting down! If you need something a little calmer, look up the acoustic version of this song- it’s amazing!

A Beautiful Lie‘ is a great album in general for emotional processing in my experience 🙂

Second Chance- Shinedown (Sound of Madness, 2008)

Again, like Seether, Shinedown have a lot to offer in their lyrics. I’ve been turning a lot to their music these past 3 years as I’ve been processing my diagnosis and found it to be quite therapeutic 🙂

I realize that many of these songs come from the alternative side of the musical spectrum, however, I do occasionally listen to music that falls outside of this genre 😛

A Window to the Past- John Williams (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Soundtrack, 2004)

Oh no- she’s off on the Harry Potter wagon again! 😛

OK! I know- buutttt, you cannot deny the genius that is renowned score composer John Williams! Without him we would not have the Star Wars theme, Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurrasic Park and everyone’s favourite Jaws!

Dun- dun…dun- dun.... 😉

On the third Harry Potter soundtrack there exists a song of pure magic (see what I did there 🙂 😉 ). Whilst the song is entirely instrumental, this beautiful piece is filled with emotion and has helped to calm many a storm within my mind 🙂

I’d tell you about a few more of the songs I find soothing outside of rock and roll, buuuttt as much as I like to tell you about my life in this blog, I don’t think I’m comfortable revealing some of my guilty pleasures quite so publicly (Yep, they are that bad! 😛 😉 )

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There we have it Earthlings! A brief insight into the contents of my ipod. I could go on for ages, but it’s better if I give you the highlights for now. So many bands, so little time!

If I have time I’ll circle back to this subject at a later stage with more music recommendations for autism management 🙂

Have a good weekend everyone!

Aoife

Autism 101- Specialist Interests

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Today I’m going to expand on the topic of specialist interests (SI’s).

SI’s are one of the defining features of Asperger’s syndrome in particular. Hans Asperger originally described us as ‘little professors‘ due to our ability to talk about our interests in great detail- often droning on in lengthy lectures, completely oblivious to our bored audience….

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….so I’ll try my best not to bore you today 😛 😉

As discussed in the previous post, specialist interests are subjects which autists are intensely preoccupied with. These are generally associated with higher functioning forms of autism, but have also been noted in lower forms. Interests can be random items (e.g toilet brushes and deep fat fryers- I have genuinely come across these examples in a research paper!), subjects that are unusual to focus so intently on (dinosaurs, trains, Star Trek etc.) and finally topics that overlap with the hobbies of normally developing peers (horses, music, gaming etc.).

Women in particular tend to have SI’s akin to those of their peers, which can make it harder to diagnose them.

This would have been my experience of SI’s. My most intense interest growing up was that of Harry Potter. It would have been seen as perfectly normal to be ‘potty about Potter’ as a teenage girl during the noughties, but few would have shared my intensity.

This intensity is the major difference between normal ‘fandom’ and SI.

Unlike fandom, your interest can entirely consume you. It’s like an addiction- you are hooked on your interest. It’s not a case of want, but you physically HAVE to get your fix. If you don’t get it, your brain feels like it’s going to explode.

If I didn’t get to see the latest Harry Potter film at the first possible showing, it literally felt like the end of the world. I once made a phone call to my mother after seeing gameplay footage for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to say that I needed the game NOW (why Aoife!)…even though I knew it was under the tree for Christmas!

But I just HAD to have it in that moment!

Oh but when I got that game- what a feeling!! Even better when I got to experience TWO different versions of the game on both PC and PS2!!!

Talk about shooting up on dopamine! 😀

It’s a little difficult to explain the feeling in words. It’s not just a sense of happiness or excitement, it’s like the atomic bomb version of Beatlemania has gone off in my head- if that makes sense?

Let me try to explain the feeling with gifs, I think these sum it up better:

 

 

 

If you combine all of these at once- that’s what it’s like in my brain.

Kind of a miracle that it hasn’t full on exploded yet 😛

Your interest is more than just obsession- it’s compulsion. Every time that I saw a still from the Harry Potter films in a newspaper or magazine, I was compelled to cut them out to add to my collection. It didn’t matter that I had the same picture six times already, I had to have it! If I didn’t get it, I would genuinely torture myself about that one lost picture, or missed TV special for years afterwards! Even now the residual memory of those missed moments still bother me! 😛

As with all addictions however, you can take things a little too far to get your hit…

One of the most memorable examples of this was my dedication to reading the latest Harry Potter books. Determined to be the first to finish the book, I would read in the car! This doesn’t sound too extreme at first….however, I can get motion sick from looking down while travelling in the car… but I didn’t care!

I read until I threw up and then read some more!!

In addition to this, I was also caught sneaking into my mothers room in the dead of night to nab the Half Blood Prince from her after the midnight opening! 😛 Luckily, we had the sense to buy two copies for the Deathly Hallows midnight release 😉

Such are the lengths we are willing to go to for our specialist interests. You become so intensely focused that you are often blinded as to the lows to which you sink…

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In addition to subjects, people can often become SI’s- especially in women. I’ve definitely been guilty of this at times.

You connect with a person, and like other areas of interest, you want to know everything about them- even the things that are socially unacceptable to ask! When you spend time with that person, it’s never enough. If you see them hanging out with other friends on social media, you feel a pang of regret/jealousy that you weren’t there- as genuinely irrational as you know your feelings to be. I suppose it’s like any other interest, every missed moment with your friend feels like a missed concert for your favorite band- a one off event that can never be recaptured.

You know you’re obsessing and that you shouldn’t feel like this, but you just can’t seem to stop yourself.

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Even worse when you inadvertently cling on so tightly that you end up smothering your SI…We don’t mean to act like crazy people, but sometimes it happens.

Word of advice to human SI’s: Just wait it out. We’ll move on to our next interest before long. Just try to understand and love your friend as they are 🙂

So why are we so inclined towards these interests?

Scientists are of the opinion that SI’s reflect some of the heightened abilities unique to autism such as systemizing- the drive to explore, analyze or construct a system. SI’s are also thought to correlate to the severity of social impairment in individuals with autism, serving a role in reducing stress and anxiety.

For me personally, I find that SI’s provide a source of comfort. Life can be pretty overwhelming for people with autism, and sometimes we need to escape. In my own life I have found that some of my more intense interests were born of the flames of turbulent times.

When I was 11, we sold my childhood home and I was completely knocked out of sync. This simple change combined with the joyous trials of puberty had a devastating effect on me. My world was, to my mind, spinning out of control, and I wasn’t coping very well. Around the same time, the Hogwarts Express was just leaving the station, and I jumped on board to escape. The books, the films and the games transported me to another world away from all of my problems. Harry Potter gave me a sense of control, an oar to navigate the rapids of life- which is kind of ironic given the intense hold that SI’s can have over us! 😛

For any parents out there reading this, don’t worry too much about our SI’s. This is perfectly normal behavior! 🙂 And if you’re sick of hearing about your child’s subject- they’ll move on eventually 😉

Top Tip- Experts in the area recommend using  SI’s to encourage your child in other areas they may struggle with. I really struggled to study for my exams when I was a teenager, so my mother encouraged me through an SI- gaming. For every hour of study I managed, I was awarded with an equal amount of gaming time. Before long, I was studying without any incentive at all!! 🙂

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Have a good weekend everyone! 🙂

Aoife

 

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