Emotional avoidance

Did you know PDAers may also avoid feeling and/or reacting to emotions? It’s not something most people will see as a demand but as I like to say, anything and everything can be perceived as a demand, this includes emotions.

You’ve probably heard about kids who don’t react in a socially preferred way at funerals and parties, much of this is due to having opposing emotional responses to the environment than deemed ‘normal’. There are many sensory issues, anxiety responses, lack of understanding of social norms etc at play in some situations which cause autistic and PDA people to react differently than expected. But for some, it goes a little deeper. Even when we may know how to ‘be’ in those situations, the demand to ‘perform’ will cause anxiety which will make us either avoid our feelings or avoid reacting to those feelings.

This can be seen sometimes when opening presents from people, everyone is expecting the PDA person to respond a set way, this can cause anxiety which will make the person want to avoid their feelings, as a way of coping, or will leave them with a blank face as the pressure to smile gets too much.

This is seen when another person is ill or hurts themselves, especially if the PDA person is an empath, the emotions can become too much and threaten to overwhelm, so it’s easier to ignore or turn off emotions than try to respond. When another person is ill/hurt we are supposed to be emotionally caring, this can be a hard demand to meet and some may even react oppositional to expectations, becoming angry or aggressive or laughing at the other person.

This is seen in friendships when the PDAers may respond differently to what the friend expects simply because the PDAer is expected to respond in a set way. It’s hard enough understanding social situations without becoming avoidant to the ones we do ‘get’. This can also be hard for the friend as most non-autistics rely on copying responses to affirm their own feelings and thoughts, so when someone acts differently and even oppositionally then they can be left feeling confused and hurt.

This is seen in everyday situations such as making a sad face at bad news or showing remorse when caught out doing something wrong, feeling happy when someone else has good news or is happy and showing understanding when relating a story.

We have very little control over our emotions, we can’t stop having them but we can push them away or ignore them, we can control how we respond to emotions (to a certain degree). This can be hard for many PDAers who fear not having full control over things, especially our own bodies. Avoiding our emotions/responding to emotions in certain situations helps us gain some control but also helps us avoid negative feelings, even if this means getting a negative reaction from others.

Please note that when I say we control our emotions and/or reactions to our emotions, this doesn’t necessarily mean we consciously control and/or avoid. Often we have reacted to something before we know what’s happening. 

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