Mentions of abuse, death, compliance training, ABA and more.
Flop is one of the F responses (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Flop, Friend), an instinctive reaction to danger. Most people when in danger will resort to Fight, Flight or Freeze to protect themselves or escape. Friend and Flop are more commonly used when the first 3 responses haven’t worked or the danger persists for so long that Fighting, Flighting or Freezing are not viable.
When a person Flops, they give up.
They may dissociate from themselves in order to protect themselves, no longer feeling the danger they are experiencing (often from abuse).
They may become depressed, they may switch off their emotions to protect themselves or dissociate from physical pain. They basically stop caring about what happens to them and what is done to them.
Flop means they go along with the danger.
If the danger takes the form of physical abuse they may stop trying to protect themselves/run away/avoid/appease the abuser.
If the danger takes the form of verbal/mental/emotional abuse they may stop arguing back/mentally or verbally objecting. They may start to believe what is being said to them, they may even agree.
Flop is what happens when a person stops trying and just accepts their fate, this can last for seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, years, even their entire lifetime. It may last only as long as the danger is present, it might last for some time even after the danger has passed. For some, it never stops even when the danger is fully removed.
So what does this have to do with PDA?
As you know (and if you don’t then please read my Why anxiety isn’t the cause of demand avoidance post. All links open in a new tab), in PDAers, whenever we try to do something it triggers the danger response, which activates one or more of the F responses. For PDAers, even giving in and complying is a Demand, so Flop is rarely used.
Sometimes though, a PDAer may be pushed so far, their autonomy removed so much and their previous F response tactics ignored and challenged so much, that they do Flop. They give in and comply.
This kills the PDAers soul.
Flopping kills the soul of any person affected, it’ when the person has been attacked so much by danger that they have no choice but to protect themselves by giving up their autonomy, their life, themselves.
For PDAers, Flopping feels like death. It’s only happened to me a small number of times but even that was enough to scar for life. There are PDAers who have suffered this far more frequently, on a far more numerous basis.
Flopping damages the soul.
PDAers have been, and probably are being, abused in such a way that the only response available for them is to Flop.
For some it might not look like abuse.
Being forced to comply over and over while any F response given is beaten down, you can’t run, you can’t fight, you can’t freeze, the only option left is to comply. The only way to comply, to make the Demands stop, is to stop caring. While your brain is screaming that complying is death you ignore it because listening is also death.
Being forced through therapies such as Lovass ABA, where the only acceptable response is compliance, and refusal is punishment. Like many autistics before you, you stop fighting, you give in and act like a good little dog.
Being forced into sensory nightmares that don’t affect anyone else, being forced to make eye contact even though it’s like beaing your soul to the devil, being bullied, being ostracized, having your autonomy removed or constantly violated, being spoken about in negative ways or treated in negative ways.
Even well meaning parents/doctors/teachers/professionals might inadvertently cause Flop if they don’t realise their attempts to help are actually hurting.
There’s a saying “I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know, better I do better” Maya Angelou.
I write this post in the hope that people read it and then know better, because it might hopefully make people stop and consider ‘is my help hurting?’ And if even only one person is saved from having to Flop, that’ one less damaged soul to heal later on.