And you do what they told ya: autism and pathological demand avoidance

Brass Against, for these who don’t know is a Rage Against The Machine cover band. If you don’t know the song, it’s from 1992 and it’s about how there are white supremacist cops out there.

The song has always been really personal and scary to me. Not because it’s informing me of the obvious, but because I have a problem with cops. It’s one of the reasons I won’t join the protests. I can’t be responsible for my actions around them and I don’t want to endanger anyone else with my actions.

When I was 21, the Nogales PD stopped my dad’s black Suburban at the border as we were on our way to a Mother’s Day brunch on the Mexican side. I lost my shit. Just went off on them. My whole family watched, standing on the side of the car, where they were instructed to wait. But something came over me and I went nuts.

It wasn’t an illegal search because you have no rights that close to the border. They claimed they were looking for illegal cash smuggling and the car fit the profile. But really, they were just town rejects who could only find work on the local goon squad and they liked throwing around their weight.

I don’t have a problem with authority. I have a problem with arbitrary authority and its abuse. But it rises to the level where I refuse to be motivated by external factors.

My motto has always been: I don’t wanna and you can’t make me.

Last night I read this strange website about pathological demand avoidance and it really seemed to strike a chord.

I don’t think it’s fully gelled but it appears to be related to autism. And it can look like borderline personality disorder. Basically, autistics who can come off as socially aware and manipulative who also form obsessions with people and just don’t wanna do anything anyone tells them.

I think the reason it can’t be pinned down, but don’t quote me on this…is that an autistic person who was raised by a narcissist or person with BPD would grow up mimicking and coping accordingly. They get bent in a different way.

I don’t fit the profile for BPD. There are traces there. There are traces of narcissism. But they are learned behaviors that I got from my parents. They don’t feel inherent to me. I could point out their symptoms, but it’s not what I want to talk about today.

I think part of the reason autism has to be a spectrum is because the kernel of autism is very fundamental, and how it plays out individually is determined by a host of factors: co-morbidities, intellectual prowess, environmental conditions, and interventions. Plus the fact that autistics make for great mimics. These factors cast different shadows that make the autism look like it’s a bunch of things, when it’s just that we’re humans who are complex to begin with along with this brain that is wired so sensitively.

In my life now, at my age and with my experience, I’ve learned to avoid situations with arbitrary demands. Even demands like: you need to do laundry. I got around that by paying someone to clean my place. But, left to my own devices, it would never get done. I have trouble paying bills on time, even with money in the bank. And if someone is passively aggressively trying to herd me into doing what they want, I figure it out fast enough to move around them without complying. Passive aggressive people quickly learn to hate me because I’m wily and slippery and I can predict what they’re going to do before they even do it. The things they usually do to get their way backfire on them and they aren’t used to that.

You’d do this too if you grew up how I did. It comes from a very deep seated fight for survival.

I looked at the criteria for oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and I definitely don’t have that. I just don’t follow orders willingly and I will use my cunning to get what I need done. This means I come up with novel solutions to problems that stymie others. But it also means that I am better as an outsider than working within organizations. As soon as I hear, “That’s not how we do things” or “We’ve never done things that way,” I’m out.

I won’t comply with what I’m told unless the method to the madness can be explained.

But once I understand that, I can embrace it. It’s just that most people are compliant and never ask these questions, so processes don’t get updated or innovated.

And I think that is the key to my usefulness. Upsetting the apple cart has a negative tone. That’s not what I’m about. I’m about optimization to use the least amount of resources in order to get maximum results. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism derived from dyslexia where traditional methods are too difficult to maneuver, so the brain uses ingenuity and imagination to get over, under and around hurdles.

But it can look like I’m lazy or manipulative. The key difference is that I’m not malicious. Anytime I’ve engaged in this behavior, it has been because there has been an actual threat to my core safety, and I’ve figured the clues out and seen how the game is played way before others catch on and then acted accordingly.

I’ll tell you the truth. There isn’t one day that goes by where I don’t question if I’m a bad person. If people are justified in hating me. If people are thinking I’m terrible. If people are avoiding me. It sounds like paranoia. It sounds like a very bad personality disorder. But it’s not. It’s that my mother told me these things every day when I was growing up. Every single day. And I, objectively, was not a bad kid. She is just a nutcase. Someone did something terrible to her, too. Most likely my grandmother. I’ll never have clear answers to that, but it’s my operating theory.

So no matter how much work I do on myself, and how I grow and learn and progress, I use up a lot of energy questioning my self-worth and my motives. And then I have to look to external inputs to reassure myself that I am not a super villain. That I am ok in asking for respect. I call it “checking my math.” It’s exhausting.

And it never ends. But it has gotten easier over time. I can function. But I do run out of steam.

What I have learned is that people project all the time. And lots of people lack an understanding of themselves and empathy for others. And that nature vs. nurture is a false dichotomy. Everyone is a product of their genes and the environment in which they developed.

So if I’m part of that myself, well, I know I can be cognizant of what is intrinsically me and what has been coded into me that isn’t doing me any favors. It helps. But I don’t think there’s ever a cure for this, unless we can find ways to permanently disengage this thought process without huge risks.

So yeah, I won’t do what you tell me. At least not until we come to an understanding as to why. And yeah, I will always be of two minds about myself. But that’s because I shared a womb and a house with someone who spent decades daily telling me how awful I was. And unraveling that Gordian knot is a Herculean feat.

But knowing what’s going on, instead of being lost in the shadows, or at the whim of every internal and external pressure, helps me keep my head on a swivel. And going forward, it’s going to help me expend less energy to possibly get some interesting things done. You can get a lot farther in life when you aren’t weighted down by baggage.

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