Therapy reflections: The need for self-punishment

During my session yesterday we talked about sexuality and the problems I’m having with mine. I discussed this in a recent post so I won’t rewrite it here. To put it simply (Ha! what’s simple about it?) I have a problem with compulsive masturbation (sometimes involving pain) centered around fantasies about abuse, force and incest. Secondly, even though I want to be intimate with my husband, I want it without any emotion or connection. However, I want to change these things. Now comes the part about feeling the need for self-punishment.

My therapist said that the human brain is elastic, it can learn new things, new pathways, and that even though my brain has a pathway that was created by what happened during the abuse, with help, I can make a new pathway that circumvents this one and goes around it, getting me where I want to go without reverting to old behaviors ie: masturbation. She said of course that this would take time and that talk therapy helps to accomplish this. She pointed out that medication can’t help the brain to learn new things, medication is about the chemistry and that’s what it helps. Then she said something that kind of gave me an “Aha” moment. It wasn’t brilliant but more of an insight into my own thinking. I asked her what I should do when I feel the compulsion to do these things. I should mention here that she believes I have a type of sexual addiction brought on by being abused, that causes me to engage in this compulsive behavior. Anyway she said that it’s an addiction like heroin and when I feel this way I should ask myself, “Do I really want to do this? Do I want to reinforce this pathway or do I want to make a new one?” And she said I should figure out other things to do until the feeling passes (I’ll address that last part later). Anyway, this was my “Aha” moment because, inside, I said “But how else will I punish myself?” It was an “Aha” moment because the thought occurred naturally and it was an honest question. I actually felt puzzled by her statement as if she were suggesting something completely illogical. It was as if she were saying, “You don’t have to eat to live.” Of course you do. And of course I must do this. I told her what I was thinking and she was proud of me for picking up on the fact that this is about self-punishment. So her suggestion was to write, without censoring myself, about why I feel the need to self-punish. She said that perpetrators say things to children to make them believe that what’s happening is their fault. She said that, as adults we’re more able to push away things that people say about us that don’t make sense, we can filter. But when we’re children, we take everything in. So when a perpetrator tells a child that they did something to make the abuse happen, the child believes it. They take it in and think, “There must be something very bad about me.” The perpetrator does this intentionally, because if the child feels it’s their fault, they won’t tell anyone. I told her that I don’t remember any words being spoken and she said that logically, we know he said something to me at some point in time, which I agree with. It bothers me that I can’t remember more. She had said something earlier about my arousal being tied to abuse and she said something like, “If you had experienced orgasm or he did…” And I cut her off and was like, “I don’t remember anything about that!” She wasn’t bothered, she said that it was ok, ( I want to clarify that she wasn’t assuming that this happened, just that it was a possibility considering my sexual issues) but my reaction bothered me, like I’m missing a piece of a puzzle. Sorry, I went off on a tangent for some reason, sorry. Anyway, so I will be using my journal to write about the issue of self-punishment. This connects to another issue directly because, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to think about my childhood and that’s a problem. I’m going to write a second post about the fear of connecting with childhood emotions.

Let me throw in that we discussed ways for me to connect to my husband and I came up with being more physically affectionate, without sex being involved, like hugging etc. I’m not a physically affectionate person, I cringe when other people do it and there are very few people who I feel ok hugging. My husband is the opposite of me when it comes to the two of us privately. He doesn’t like hugging other people at all, but his family is affectionate with each other. They hug each other, kiss a cheek, say I love you. I thought they were all weirdos when we got married. 🙂 So, he likes to hug me or hold my hand, rub my back (yikes!), the whole thing. When he does that with me, I just look at him like he’s crazy. He’s ok though because he knows what my family was like and he chalks it up to that. But, I’d like to change what I can about myself. I thought about what I’m comfortable with, and hugging him is actually ok. So my therapist told me to just enjoy the hugs and accept the hugs and really sink into them. I told her that I’d like to be more physically affectionate but I didn’t want the pressure of sex, like him thinking, “Oh she must want to have sex.” So she said to have a discussion with him and tell him that I’m working on being more physically affectionate but that it does not mean sex! He was more than fine with that, which made me feel bad, because he’d love it if I was more affectionate with him. So that’s my other “homework”.


About CimmarianInk

Abuse Survivor Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personalities
This entry was posted in abuse, Alters, bipolar disorder, Child Molestation, depersonalization, depression, derealization, DID, dissociation, dissociative fugue, dissociative identity disorder, Family Relationships, Incest, Intimacy, Mania, Mental Health, Multiple Personalities, neglect, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychiatric Drugs, Psychiatric medication, Psychiatry, PTSD, Rape, self-harm, Sex, Sexual Abuse, Therapy, Trauma, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Therapy reflections: The need for self-punishment

  1. Wow tai! You are just SO brave! And you’re using the actual word now, not just “m”. I’m impressed. Really. I have talked to my therapists about it a little, but always just hinting at what I mean – I’ve never gone anywhere near the “m” word, although I’m sure they know. You are an inspiration. 🙂


    • tai0316 says:

      Hey Dawn 🙂 Thanks, even though sometimes I think I just have no sense lol

      In therapy, I would hint around at it too with a “You know…” and “*cough cough* When I’m alone…?” And she would just outright say, “You mean masturbation?” I was all shocked that she’d say it and embarrassed of course. But we need to talk about it in therapy and I figured I needed to just start saying the word already. I want to be honest on my blog too and I know how uncomfortable and humiliating this topic can be so I figured I’d say it so someone else knows that they’re not the only ones who do it. It was people like Lisa and Faith Allen who made me “brave” enough to talk about it using the actual word.

  2. castorgirl says:

    Hi tai,

    You’re doing so well to make these connections. I know that for me the sexual dysfunctional behaviours are about self-punishment (amongst other things). I like her suggestion of asking conscious questions when the urges begin. I started doing that, and it did help. It didn’t always stop it, but it helped me to sometimes slow down the pathway to the SSI.

    I do believe that the brain is capable of learning new pathways and coping mechanisms. I keep coming back to the stories of people who have had hemispherectomies, and go on to live productive lives. If the brain can cope with that, it can cope with some rewiring!

    You never know, the affectionate connection with your husband might help the younger parts of the system feel more secure, and open up a whole new world for you.

    I’m hopeful it will for you… really hopeful.

    Take care,

    • tai0316 says:

      Hey CG,
      Yes she told me that it may not always stop me from doing it but that practicing it would be good. Really good example with the hemispherectomies too.

      I hope the affection thing goes well, my mind gets so fractured at times of contact that it’s difficult to stay focused. Thanks for the encouragement though. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Back to therapy: shame, tell, relief, sadness « Dawn Awakening – Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder in Australia

  4. Freasha1964 says:

    Hello Thai,
    I came here through Dawn’s blog.
    I immensely appreciate how you shed more light on self-punishment. I come to it from a different reason and a different behavior, but I know I have felt suicidal when I have been in the mind frame of an abandoned 10 year-old. Mostly, I stay away from there. I believe I understand the cause. That my mother was killed abruptly in a car crash – that our whole family was injured in, including me- when I was 10. I think I carried this feeling for my whole life, unexamined until recently, that she set me up. She was a good mother, protected me even from death of my pets, then whamo, she left because I was bad and undeserving of a mother. So I keep punishing myself somehow to help her out or who knows why. My left brain can see this has no basis, but my emotional brain, the elastic one, I guess, (I hope it is elastic at least) really is struggling with the reprogramming of this.
    Thanks for your insights.

    • tai0316 says:

      Freasha, you had such tragedy! Is it survivor’s guilt? That can be very powerful. My grandmother was like a true mother to me and I found her body when she died at 66 yrs. old. That was extremely traumatic. Your perspective on what happened is so painful. I know the feeling of being able to look at something intellectually on one level and then seeing it a totally different way on another level. Do you see a therapist about what happened and how you feel about it?

  5. Freasha1964 says:

    Tai (oops, I just noticed I spelled your name/acronym incorrectly last time. Must be my love of Thai food. ),
    I am seeing a therapist. That story is long. I am in my 50s and saw therapists from time to time throughout my life and no one really got into my motherloss issues until the one I started with about 4 years ago. But that took a convoluted path that led to my dependence on her, and I think much of the last 3 years were more trying to get unhooked from her and searching for experts on motherloss – she certainly was lost on this, and I felt she was not trying to learn more on the subject. About a year ago, in one of my many fits of desperation, I sought out another therapist who had a master’s in Process Work which has a different philosophy on our troubled existence (the whole human race, basically). I have to drive a couple hours each way, but so far it has been worthwhile. She also does art therapy. Last month I terminated my visits with the therapist I was dependent on because I felt like I could handle it.
    Some of the things I learned, however, in the last 4 years are: that my childhood experience was not in the framework of the “normal” childhood I thought I had for so long. That I probably never married (or even had any significant relationships for decades) because of the fear I had of losing someone that important to me again. I think I would have been a good mother, and it is too late now. I especially learned that our psyches are fascinating things that allow the possibility for a woman who has been basically an adult since she was 10 and hyper-independent, to flip into the mode of a desperate, needy, abandoned child. And BELIEVE that I was utterly helpless.
    As for your question on survivor’s guilt, that is wrought with crevasses (the answer, not the question). I was helping drive the car because my father was falling asleep – it was early morning and he had driven all night on a cross country trip our family was taking. I have been through this in therapy dozens of times. I don’t consciously feel guilty, but the unconscious and the subconscious are so very deep and hidden. I don’t, to this day, know who actually drove the car off the road, but it probably wasn’t me.
    How long ago was it that your grandmother died? Were you fairly well settled into adulthood by then? I am sorry you had to go through that additional trauma. Death, endings… they are hard, hard things to come to terms with.

    • tai0316 says:

      No problem on the name Freasha 🙂

      I’m glad you found a differnt therapist. It sounds like the other wouldn’t have been able to help you. It’s really sad when someone doesn’t get to be a kid. You’ve had a heavy burden on your shoulders. It’s obvious to me that the accident was not your fault in any way and I’m so sorry that you had to be involved in something so horrible!

      My grandmother died when I was 18. I was living with her after I moved out from my abusive mother’s home and I found her on our couch when I got up one morning. Yes, death is a hard one isn’t it? I’m glad you came over Freasha 🙂

  6. Freasha1964 says:

    Hi Tai,
    I feel like I did get to be a kid, sort of, but when you look at it, I had a lot of responsibilities for a child my age. One 11 year old I know said she was a good cook, and described exactly how she makes toast (put a slice of bread in the toaster, butter it…) That was cute. I was baking bread, cooking dinner for my family, baking cakes and cookies for my teachers… back then when I was around her age. (The bread might have been later, but I learned in my teens, for sure.)
    I am so sorry about you finding your beloved grandmother deceased on the couch when you were only 18. That would have been very traumatic, indeed. You certainly did not get enough time with her. Losing a mother –or mother substitute- at age 18 is still considered “motherloss” in that you still needed her very much at that age. (Have you read “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman?) I think it is considered “Motherloss” up into the 20s somewhere. We all cope, and survive, don’t we? But nature just wants us to reproduce our DNA, and doesn’t seem to wire us much for recovery of our emotional health. Yet, we are somehow wired to want it. Hope I am making sense.

    • tai0316 says:

      Hey 🙂
      I have heard of that book before I just never considered it as something for me even though my therapist keeps telling me that my loss was very great. I always minimize things, so I’m like, “Oh finding her dead body wasn’t so bad.” Ha. Maybe I should ask her about the book. And yes you made total sense 🙂

  7. Freasha1964 says:

    It must have something to do with only having our own experiences, so there is nothing to compare to when we find our grandmother dead on the couch or see our mother lying on the ground unconscious. There might also be a resistance to accepting how out-of-the-norm these events are because we so desire to have had an ordinary normal childhood like everyone else. Like we don’t want to be so different from others. Another hard-wired brain thing, maybe?
    I have seen Motherless Daughters often at used book sales. Do try to find yourself a copy. It can’t hurt (I hope!)

    By the way, your collage of the bank vault hit me hard. Wow, I am so sorry to think how much I can relate to it. To every aspect, including the title. I have a different image for myself, and maybe I should paint it someday, but the upshot, the meaning, seems very similar. I might want to send that link to my own therapist. Did you show yours?

    • tai0316 says:

      I didn’t show it to her yet as I haven’t brought the fact that when she trys to get me to think of my childhood or children, she loses part of me. I dissociate up to a point where I know part of me is gone but I continue talking in therapy like nothing’s wrong. That vault was the best way i could show what I meant. Art therapy can be very handy can’t it? 🙂 I hope you do get to express yourself through your painting.

      And I agree with you, how can we have something to compare with those kind of experiences?

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