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”.