Confrontation — and how to handle it
By John Counsel
Does my daughter want to meltdown? Does it give her a sense of relief? We turn the lights off, turn noise (tv, voices) down low, and give her space but she follows us and it seems like she’s trying to pick a fight.
It’s unlikely… that would be a tantrum (a choice) rather than a meltdown caused by neural overload (an involuntary response to unbearable stress, often causing them physical and emotional pain) and loss of control over their own situation.
The persistence she displays could be due to a number of factors — including either Oppositional Defiance Disorder or Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome, the common Aspie tendency to feel a need to defend and justify our positions, a perception or feeling of betrayal of trust or unfairness, injustice, inconsistent behaviour or decisions on our part, etc.
I often quote this verse by the unknown author of the Book of Proverbs to my adult Aspie children when they have issues with their own Aspie children:
“A soft answer turneth away wrath.”
Sometimes it’s a reaction to our own response… which may be an indication of undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome — and PDA — in ourselves!
Never leave them in any doubt about your unconditional love for them. After such episodes, show an increase in love and kindness and acceptance. This is how true bonding and relief occurs.
Just a couple of weeks ago I had a confrontation with a 10 yo Aspie grandson. He and his three younger brothers were staying with us and Lynne and I were physically and emotionally exhausted. After a trying day at school his PDA* flared — and I reacted badly.
Imagine two obstinate Aspies digging in and refusing to budge — the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immovable object — with stress levels escalating rapidly and you begin to get the picture.
Lynne was so angry with me that she left the house. Then the absurdity of the situation hit me… a 74 yo trying to compel a 10 year old Aspie child (with PDA*) to comply against his irrational, hard-wired will… and I pulled back (see The Bow and Arrow Principle — link opens in a new browser window or tab).
I literally walked away from him, feeling a deluge of remorse and self-recrimination, so I could remove myself from my own overwhelming exhaustion and stress. As I reached the door, I turned to face him, a heart-wrenching picture of defiance and helplessness. I gestured to show my acceptance, smiled at him and said “I don’t want to do this (name)… it’s not working for either of us and we’re family, we’re not enemies. Let’s both take a time out, calm down, then see if we can’t find a way to get past this using our love for each other instead of anger, okay? No more fighting — I love you too much. This just isn’t us, right?”
He instantly relaxed and nodded.
A short time later we met up in the family room, just the two of us, and had a warm, open, frank conversation where love and and acceptance was the only priority. We both ended up apologising and hugging and agreed to look out for each other — to hold up our arms in surrender/truce — and allow that person to state their feelings, perceptions, interpretations, etc because they felt that their personal control was being lost.
It works every time for us. These confrontations have been happening since our first confrontation when he was just a few month old and, in his overwhelming frustration with me, he leant over and bit me on the face with his two new, lower front teeth.
I’d love to be able to say that this kind of loss of control no longer happens, but it does. We’re both Aspies with PDA*. He has my DNA via his mother.
I love him so much it hurts and I’d willingly give my life for him… but I’m battling my own neurology, so the best I can do for now is to focus on those two twin keys for handling these confrontations:
UNDERSTANDING what’s happening and
RECOGNISING the signs — preferably BEFORE they escalate out of control. And if they do, pulling back as soon as reality becomes obvious and mending the damage with unconditional love and affection.
Life as an Aspie is often challenging… but it is SO worth the effort! 😀
(*PDA = Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome)
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