This is what i know internally and from a long lifetime of intimate relationships with those like me.
Persistent Drive for Autonomy, (there are other names for this phenotype but I consider them too insulting to state at the beginning of a perfectly civilized post.)
Let it be known we are NOT inherently uncooperative. We are not harboring pent up anger, or an evil agenda, we are simply built to react differently. We do not automatically step in line with human made divisions of hierarchy. No matter who you are, if you expect something of us you must consider – why are you requesting/demanding this? Because if you’re just throwing out orders and agendas for which you cannot quickly and easily give rational reasons or because you’re “the boss,” you need to stop that shit!
In the face of an order, where the neurotypical system may react: “Do it,’ mine reacts: “Question that.” If all is well in my life, if I am feeling safe (CNS cleared for action – not hungry, tired, overstimulated or worried about something) and someone I trust issues a request, my rational can override the “question that” reaction so fast no one will even notice. I can cheerfully comply. But the more burdened I am or the less I know or trust you, the longer it will take me to get to compliance, if I get there at all.
You remember that often cited study where the authority figure issues an order to a test volunteer to painfully electroshock a test subject? That shit isn’t going to happen with a PDAer.
Remember that emperor who had no clothes? It was probably a PDAer who called that shit out.
If you are attempting to restrict my autonomy, even if it is for my own good, or the good of my family, or society… be prepared to prove your rational and even then, if you don’t approach me as an equal, you are in for a fight. If you act like an expert in any area that concerns my life, expect me to follow up on any suggestions you make. If you are at all haughty, superior or “too” proud, I am unable to respect you; my distrust of you will elevate.
I have been told that I just never left my adolescent defiant stage, “arrested development” but not by those who know me well (ie/my mother). They know I was BORN a rebellious teenager.
But something painfully detrimental happened when I was very young. There were parents, teachers and nuns who threatened me with shame & physical violence if I didn’t comply with haste to their unilateral directives regardless of their tone or rational. They slapped the shit out of my autonomy, (the nuns even used weapons.)
They forced me to believe I was a “sinner.” That when I acted against orders, or even thought about it, I was “driving the thorns on Jesus’s crown deeper into his bloody scalp”, causing the most important man in all of our lives to suffer more deeply than ever.
But worst of all … they implanted a vicious, critical voice in my head that tortured me for decades, long after I quit believing in any kind of supreme being. My inherent need to stop and question was met with feelings of guilt, shame and crippling fear for my loved ones. And, true to phenotype, even these automatic feeling could not stop me from questioning.
One of the last dysfunctional institutions I was forced into was high school. By then, the pent up flee and fight was so internalized I had to self-medicate to get through the day. But I was young and I had all the energy I needed to mask all day. I gave the appearance of compliance but most of the time I could not comply, even when I wanted to, intended to, or when it would have been kinder, gentler, and easier on myself to just do it.
Being autistic I love to ponder “why.” How did this phenotype benefit us evolutionarily? Remember that for a couple million years (the vast majority of the time we humans have existed on this planet) we lived in tribes as hunter gatherers.
We know typical humans are very social beasties and divide themselves into hierarchies. This is not a late stage capitalism thing, it is an evolutionary reality. Typical humans respect and obey their leaders, or they “fight” to become leader themselves. They cannot help it.
Think how valuable it would be to have a person or two in a tribe whose entire point in life is to question the leader while not wanting to replace them. Add: intense curiosity, a fundamental need for fairness, creativity, ability to think outside a box and any communication skills at all. A wise society would value the shit out of this phenotype! It would actively protect her. It would preserve her and those like her in the tribe’s sacred lore. The elders would nurture her skills and elevate her voice whenever important decisions needed to be made for the welfare of the tribe.
You dear PDA are not “a problem”. You are essential in the evolutionary story of human life. My wish for you is to heal, learn to respect your phenotype, learn strategies to nurture and protect your uniqueness, and find the people wise enough to value you.