Dysfunctional Family Contributes to Sexual Coping MethodsBy
In my last post “Psychological Abuse is the Root of All Abuse ~ many years later ” I talked about one incident that reflected on how my belief system impacted my life. I continue today with examples of how this played out in the past.
I have written in the past about how I was actually taught that my value as a woman was sexual and how that belief became true for me over time. This false belief has caused me many problems some of which I continue to become more aware of as time goes on. Like so many other multi level belief systems, this belief that my value was sexual has been a very complicated belief system to untangle, especially since I acquired it by the time I was about 6. As I grew up, it was continually reinforced along with the connected belief that I brought on and actually caused any sexual misconduct or inappropriate behaviour that came my way.
Coming from a dysfunctional family system, out of necessity we develop survival systems and these become our coping methods in order to deal with the feelings of not being valuable, not being safe etc. Each person has their own way of doing this and the dynamics between us can be very similar and very different or a combination of both. Because these systems were developed in the first place to protect us, it is hard for us to re-wire them. Our minds actually caution us against changing our thinking because we so deeply believe that these coping methods are what are keeping us safe.
Coping methods become like a buffer zone. Sometimes there are some really destructive behaviours that we believe keep us safe and we are afraid to give them up because we are convinced that these behaviours are part of the solution, such as in the case of addictions. Depression and sexual behaviour can also be coping methods though. The purpose and passion that I have for writing the posts for this blog is to shed some light on the stuff that gets in the way of this work; I believe it goes deeper than just the coping method. It starts in how we develop our belief systems in the first place. The challenge is that we have developed so many belief systems and coping methods, therefore there is so much to untangle.
When it came to men and my belief system about my sexuality, I believed that my power, value and even my safe existence all depended on men; not just men but men who desired me and part of the problem is that therefore, I tried to make men desire me. Taking this all apart and sorting through it was difficult because there were so many different beliefs, fears and aspects to it. I remember in high school I had a science teacher, a much older man who wore nerdy glasses and bow ties and I was very afraid of him. How I coped with that fear is that I constantly stared him in the eye and smiled while he was in the middle of teaching. It was my way of throwing him off. He was not at all the kind of teacher that any girl would flirt with. I was so mixed up that I thought being sexually attractive proved my worth, but it also might keep me safe in certain situations. If he was sexually attracted to me, he would not yell at me or pick on me for not understanding the work. He would show me “favour”. It wasn’t that I thought “having sex” with someone would keep me safe, it had more to do with the misunderstanding of my value, and my behaviour around sexuality. I thought that a man “wanted me” I was safer. I thought he would feel more tenderness towards me. I had love and sex mixed up. In the case of this science teacher, I was not afraid of him sexually, I was afraid of his moods, so I threw him off balance with my sexuality because that was the foundation that I had been taught about survival.
As you can imagine, this tactic sometimes backfired.
Because I had been sexually abused, I also associated sexuality with fear and when I was afraid of a man, I often turned on the sexual energy thinking of that as somewhat of a protection. It made me feel more in control and I believed that being in control was all important. I associated not being in control with being hurt in all ways. When I was 19 I had a boss who was over 40 years old and married. I was afraid of him and saw him as having power over me (my job was in his hands) and I turned on the charm; it backfired when he took me up on my flirting. I was so sure that everything in life was my fault so I just froze the same way that I did when I was a child. I froze and dissociated ~ disconnecting from myself and from the situation. (Another coping method.) You can also see how this coping method does not work. Once I dissociated, I had even less control and my job was in jeopardy even more then it was originally.
These two stories illustrate two very different aspects of one coping method that was born out of my belief system based on how I was taught that my sexuality was my value but I was also afraid of it and believed it was the cause of my problems as well. As I grew in my understanding of how my belief system formed, I was able to untangle the beliefs as well as replace them with truth and I was able to stop reacting to situations this way. I also stopped connecting my value with my sexuality and realized that my definition of safe and in control was very wrong. As this all got sorted out, I needed coping methods less and less.
Fearlessly exposing truth!
~ Darlene Ouimet