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  • Kristy Forbes

PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) and consequences

Updated: Mar 1

PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) and consequences. ----------------------------------------------------------

As a PDAer, I’ve always been organically wired to explore worst case scenarios, rather than consider consequences. . The moment a thought entered my mind around something I wanted to do, my choice was gone and I knew it would happen. . The PDA brain is like the autistic brain on steroids. . The adjective ‘determined’ tends to undermine my experience. . What many people don’t understand is that ‘lack of control’ is often confused with forced determination; an experience that not even we, the PDAer are safe from. . And if anyone should suggest a reason why I shouldn’t do something or how I might be impacted, the ‘determination’ pushes me harder toward the doing. . In fact, my inability to refrain from my actions despite being warned of consequences was a clear indication of there being something far more powerful than pure will and choice at work. . My Mother once said to me on a car ride when I was 23 years old that she had tried everything with me when I was younger, yet nothing made me happy; nothing was ever enough. . She was right. . And with that came great unrest. . She’d been soft, she’d been hard, she’d been flexible, she’d been strict. . And it’s true. . My will was extreme: is extreme. . Talk of consequences was not only an ineffective deterrent, but a guarantee that I would be pushed toward the very thing I was being warned against. . My brain wasn’t ever willing to consider consequences in a way that would prevent me from moving ahead. . Instead, I would scan through and analyse all worst case scenarios. . How bad would it be if *insert consequence here* happened, really? . Would I be prepared to be yelled at? Disapproved of for a day or so? Disappoint others? Be injured? Be grounded? . And every single time, that force to act was far more powerful than the worst case scenario. . I stood, one time, with one of my own PDA children discussing what might happen if she did not take the time to use the toilet now when she really needed to. . I watched the internal cogs of her mind churning over with all the possibilities as she decided that toileting would have to wait. . And I understood it. . The brain just could not comprehend that having a toileting accident would be far worse than following the directions of someone else or obeying the body. . Because the PDA body responds to the hypersensitive neuroception of the PDA brain. . Every single time. . Many a time I’ve witnessed and been myself, the PDA child who places themselves in far greater danger or a position of humiliation than our brain has been equipped to analyse and process in terms of threat response. . It is the demands of others, the demands of the body, the demands of everyday life that the PDA brain responds to and diverts from, and the definition of demand is widely misunderstood and underestimated. . And the control we have over our brains is not as other perceive. . Pathological demand avoidance is not a case of will not. . It is a case of cannot. . Consequences or the threat of them are not enough to change the wiring in our brain. . Flexibility, sitting with the discomfort of letting go of our own need to control outcomes for our children, changing our language to be non directive and creating space for our children to thrive is always best. . Over time I worked things out. . It took longer, it was harder, there was a lot of pain, but the choice was not mine. . And in the same way we should not expect a wheelchair user to suddenly walk, we should not expect a PDAer to suddenly follow directions without extreme anxiety. . This is how my brain learns. Autodidactic, self lead, autonomous, explorative, unconventional, freedom seeking. . Always freedom seeking. . I stopped going to school at 15, I experienced homelessness and was pregnant in my teens. . I did drugs. . I was addicted to pills and alcohol. . I had a criminal record. . Every parent’s worst nightmare for their child became my reality. . And yet, here I am. . And whilst I may now have degrees, my own business and a family, the most important and the only important factor.. . Is that I am well. I am happy. I am connected. . I am free. . . Kristy Forbes inTune Pathways