Episode 39: Disintegration and Neurodivergence

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson with guest Joey Lawrence

Release date: August 14, 2023

In episode 39, Chris and Emma talked with Dr. Joey Lawrence, a PDA autistic person, clinical psychologist, and neurodiversity advocate living and working in Australia. In this episode, we discussed neurodivergent lived experiences and how we think about and talk about these aspects of our lives with partners, clients, and at the societal level. The importance of mutual understanding was a part of this discussion, and how difficult it can be to attain.

Joey shared her experiences from multiple viewpoints since she is a gifted, autistic PDAer who also is a clinician working in practice with neurodivergent clients. She discussed PDA as the persistent drive for autonomy and explained that anything that impinges on autonomy—whether that impingement is perceived or actual—causes a dysregulating response. We learned that PDA people don’t respond well to traditional approaches.

We discussed relationships and the challenges of balancing our passions and interests with partners who may not operate from the same level of intensity. And we also addressed the struggle of talking about giftedness in neurodiversity spaces where it is often dismissed or seen as elitist, ableist, or otherwise problematic. Not to mention that Joey and Emma live in Australia, where they feel there is a sense of erasure around giftedness.

Chris talked about the desire to be “normal” and how difficult it can feel to accept ourselves and be authentic when others perceive us as too intense. Joey described the experience of unmasking and discovering that being herself sometimes derailed relationships.

We talked about Joey’s work as a psychologist using TPD in practice in Australia. Chris mentioned the struggle of reaching the people who need help when we are so limited due to licensure and regulations. We agreed that we need a different kind of field since what we’re talking about is guiding people through the process of positive disintegration. We need to revolutionize the mental health system because people who need help are so frequently traumatized by their experiences in the current system.

While wrapping up this episode, Joey said that Dąbrowski was creating a system dynamics theory before there was system dynamics, which resonated. She said we need to go through positive disintegration at the societal level, and this is the neurodiversity movement. We cause harm when viewing distressing human experiences as pathology. We have to shift our way of thinking, not only the content of our thoughts.

Bio: Dr Joey Lawrence is a PDA Autistic person, Clinical Psychologist, director of Neudle Psychology, and neurodiversity advocate. Joey shares her lived experience via TikTok and her handle is @nd_psych. Joey and the team and Neudle are passionate about created neurodivergent safe spaces and providing unmasked support services and education for neurodivergent people, their loved ones, and the broader community.  

Resources from this episode

Joey shares her lived experience on TikTok, and you can also find her on Instagram.

Joey is the Director of Neudle Psychology

The paper Chris and Joey mentioned at the beginning of the episode [PDF]

Conversations on Gifted Trauma podcast

Emma’s video on Disintegrating in a Relationship

Are you a Thought Dancer? blog

Embracing Intensity podcast

If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? by Jen Merrill

Autistic Researchers Researching Autism (Facebook group)