Archive for the ‘sexual abuse’ tag
The sky is wild this morning. One minute it is dark with ominous clouds flying by as if they are on a freeway, and the next minute there is glorious sunshine. And the speed at which this is all happening makes the mind swirl. The wind has been blowing all night following a long period of rain yesterday late afternoon and all evening, and is still blowing strong creating whitecaps and pounding waves along the shoreline. Sometimes nature serves as a good metaphor for what is happening within one’s psyche. I know that in today’s case, it is quite the mirror.
I didn’t sleep well and it wasn’t because of the rain or the wind. Rather, it all had to do with the stirring of shadow contents within, stuff that lies below the surface of my awareness. I was asked why I was a naturist, why I needed to be naked when the rest of the world, the civilized world was doing well with their clothing on. I wasn’t able to give a satisfactory answer nor did I think that there could be a satisfactory answer in terms of having another person who is not a naturist, understand and accept. Of course, saying that, I open myself to the possibility of being very wrong. I don’t really have an excuse for not finding the words to answer this question, even if it is just for myself.
Because of my long involvement with depth psychology, I knew that the answers did exist, somewhere deep within my psyche. So this morning, I opened up the door to the question during my time for meditation which then lasted longer than usual. It was essential to let the question stew for a while, allow the contents within to become stirred up in the darkness of the unconscious. Later in the morning, after sitting for a while in silence with my morning coffee, not actually thinking but also not banishing thinking, I went for a long, two hour walk along the beach. I refused to force an answer but I also left an opening as if an opening in the clouds, for whatever needed to come to consciousness to have an entry.
As a child I was sexually abused, emotionally abused, physically abused in my family of origin by my biological parents. The sexual abuse extended to include my maternal grandfather and more than one parish priest. I was a docile child, the eldest of a large group of children. It was my job, the expectation that I came to embrace that I was there to please others, to take care of others, to put others before myself. I forgave my parents before they both passed away, enough years before their death so that I would be able to include them in my own children’s lives as grandparents. It also gave them time to acknowledge their part in my wounding – but that never came to be.
The patterns learned in early childhood that continued through to a few years after I was married with children of my own carried over into how I interacted within the family in which I was husband and father. It carried over into my career as an educator, coach and then as counsellor to students, staff and people within my community. I was well trained to put myself behind me and do my utmost best to be a good father, a good husband, brother-in-law, coach, neighbour. This is a story I knew well, one that I wrestled with through midlife and my own course of psychoanalysis. But where does this almost primal urge to naturalism come from?
It was soon after the sexual abuse from my grandfather, the last time I was sexually abused as a youth, that I found myself in a quiet meadow in a nearby small forest with a book of poetry. It was a warm late spring day, about six months following this last incidence. Feeling the warmth of the sun and feeling the words of classical poetry, I soon found myself naked. Over the next two years, my last two years at home, I took every opportunity, weather permitting to hide in this forest and meadow in order to be free.
Leaving home, I found other opportunities, especially the opportunity of sleeping in the nude, to recapture this sense of freedom. A job at the other end of the country found me enjoying social nudity in swimming pools and saunas with my co-workers, other young adults. The exhilaration of body freedom acted as a sort of barrier that banished my history of being abused.
Yet now, the pull to nudity is again strong so I look to these roots and it dawned on me that it is being nude where I claim control of my body, control of my identity, control of my sexuality. My body is not about pleasing others, making life easier for others. Do I remove body hair or make sure it is groomed for my own sense of well-being, or do I allow the needs of others dictate what I do or don’t do with my body hair? It comes down to control. Am I in control or do I defer control to someone else?
Now, in my sixties, I am saying this is my body and I will care for it, and my identity, and my psyche as best I can. I will not be a child and give control to another. I am a man, not a child victim continuing to seek approval, seeking to please others while disregarding my self.
I wonder if this is an answer, or just the beginning of an answer?
For those following my latest version of “journey,” today was my first session in a return to analysis. Of course I will not talk about the content of any analytical session as what happens in any session involves both the analyst and the analysand. The session happens in a container that I can best describe as being a sacred and safe container – temenos. But I will speak about what I learn from the process and about feelings so that anyone reading this will have some sense of the value as well as the process.
Before I begin, I want to be clear with you as to why I have re-entered analysis. The truth is, what I was doing stopped working for me. I was in analysis almost fifteen years ago following the suicide of one of my brothers, an event that acted as a trigger or catalyst for stuff I had long repressed, bits and pieces of my life I had forgotten about as I went about my life as a husband, father, teacher, and coach. My life back then began to come apart at the seams and I found myself entertaining suicidal thoughts in an attempt to escape the flood of images and memories. Those images and memories revealed a lot of childhood abuse which included an incident of being sexually abused as a teenager, several incidences of physical abuse, and a fair bit of emotional/mental abuse. It seemed like a lot to deal with but after a semester off from teaching, I was able to return to teaching with a decent level of balance.
With the death of my mother last fall, the floodgates opened further revealing significantly more incidences of sexual abuse, from different people beginning somewhere around the age of six or seven. Some of the sexual abuse happened over an extended period of time. Overwhelmed, I decided to return to analysis in order to deal with all the memories that were presenting themselves in a way which would allow me to avoid becoming a victim of the memories. The work of analysis isn’t about erasing the abuse, it is about responding to the knowledge of the abuse in a way that allows one to grow passed the abuse, becoming stronger in the process.
As I engaged in this morning’s analytical session I was surprised by the process. I have counselled as a therapist for a long time and I have been through the process of being counselled, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Regardless of whether one has been counselled in the past, each time one enters into a new counselling (therapeutic) relationship, some basic work needs to take place, work that is about getting information flowing in both directions. You have to do all the foundational work before heading into the work of analysis (depth psychology). I had already skipped this part in my mind since this was a not a new process as a person being counselled or as counsellor; I was skipping the foundational work assuming that I would be diving head first off the 10 metre diving board as soon as the first session started. When my analyst then began with the beginning I was surprised, and relieved. My guide knew what he was doing and I began to relax and become more present in the moment.
I want to bring something here that I hope will be of some use – in the days and hours leading up to this first session, I was worried by quite a few things: Would the analyst want to continue working with me? Would I give him the right answers to his questions? Will I become silent and hide my words because of my shame? Will the analyst think less of me because of what he hears? These questions and more tortured me and sleep was hard to come by and never long enough to be actually restful. My body was in revolt and every part of me began to ache. Of course, all of this was in my head and had nothing to do with the reality of being in an analytical session.
As a therapist, it was good for me to re-experience the angst of a person entering into therapy so as remind me of what each of the people who begin their work with me would be experiencing. That knowledge allows the therapist to effectively create the therapeutic container that will keep both the therapist and the client safe. Doing the work of building that container is a joint effort that grows out of the initial dialogues between the analysand and the analyst. And now, looking back at this morning’s session, I see that our beginning work has done just exactly that. And so, I find myself relieved that I have chosen my guide wisely and have good hopes for the analytical journey that has just begun.