Dysfunctional Family Contributes to Sexual Coping Methods


Disfunctional family dynamics produce fear of change

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

7 response to "Dysfunctional Family Contributes to Sexual Coping Methods"

  1. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 10th June

    I understand that you got your value from being sensual. I never did. The whole time that I was being abused by my dad, he was telling me that being sexual was bad. He was telling me by his attitude that being sexual was dirty and disgusting and not something that a good girl should do at any time. He was condemning me by the very actions that he was forcing me into. He also gave me the attitude that said he couldn’t help himself because he was a man. Everything that he told me was a lie.

  2. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 9th June

    Darlene, I am the exact opposite of you in this issue. Sex never felt safe to me even after I was married for a long time. Thanks to the love and patience of my husband have I learned to enjoy the sexual side of our marriage. As well as feelings, the sexual side of me was so shut down. I saw no power in sex except for the part of the abuser. For me it was all fear, disgust and shame. My husband has taught me to enjoy my sexuality. It has taken years for me to get where I am today.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th June

      Hi Patrica,
      It isn’t sex that felt safe to me, (it never did) it was the feeling of being “wanted” and valued that way that felt safe although I am very aware that I was NEVER safe in that belief syestm. It was the approval and being desired that I thought made me safe, those things that I got mixed up with love. Sex was just the price that I sometimes had to pay for those feelings of being wanted. Sex itself was never even something I was interested in, but like food or water, sex and the many crazy beliefgs that surrounded it, served its purpose in my messed up life.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th June

    There is such a connection with the whole sexuality / fear/ body image and weight for me also, so I can totally relate to what you have said here. I was just as afraid of being attractive (blaming my looks on why I was abused) as I was of being fat or unattractive (blaming my looks on not being good enough and being the cause of rejection) that I lived in this total confusion with this conflicting belief system for most of my life, going up and down as little as 5 to 7 lbs. at a time. I am trying to concentrate on my health and the balance that I need to have there these days. I don’t always succeed, but it is still better than it ever used to be. As I have said before, I intend to write a whole series about the body image and weight issues and how they related to my belief system and coping methods… it looks like that series might get started soon… =)
    Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Rebekah Posted: 8th June

    I can relate to this so much. The feeling of being in control and using sexuality to keep you safe but being afraid of it at the same time. I never even connected it until I was probably 30 years old, I had been married to my current husband almost 2 years, and we had been having a lot of problems (all related to my PTSD that I thought was bipolar disorder and medication issues and my non-functioning and inability to be a wife and a mother at that point) and he had become bitter and angry and I always was afraid of him (I still am but Im working on it) and I tried to use sex to “fix” the problems that we had, and it didnt work because in people who dont have the beliefs that we have, sex is intimacy and love and connection that I dont understand, so he felt disconnected and the sex stopped, and I had also gained almost 100 lbs since we got married and then one day we were arguing and he told me he wasnt attracted to me sexually anymore because of these issues and my weight problem, and I literally felt like I was dying, panic and fear and just emotions I dont even understand…and now, even 3 years later, I dont feel safe in my marriage because it doesnt have the sexuality in it that makes me feel safe and because I know Im overweight and cant use my body to make it ok for me to be here, even though its not a positive relationship between sex and safety, it is still there and its what I know.

    and then there is the whole thing about feeling safe from the world because of my size and not being sexually attractive to all of the general population keeping me from really being successful at losing weight, because Im not doing it for me and my health, Im doing it to feel secure in my marriage and to feel loved and wanted and needed, and sex is the only way that makes any sense to me,but Im afraid that if I lose weight, I will go back to being attractive to other men who might hurt me and since I dont feel safe in my marriage, there is always that nagging that he will hurt me too, even though he never has, its still there. So I stay fat and afraid and miserable.

    Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that its obviously connected for me too.

    Splinty–thats great that you are using a tree as an image of strength…I have had that same idea for a long time, for the same reasons you mentioned. Giant trees radiate strength.

  5. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th June

    I love this image Splinty!
    This tree, stands strong and gets stronger. I had so much fear of actually taking my life back and being in charge. I realized in looking back that I thought I might die if I was not under the control of others, they had convinced me that I needed to be under that control.. once agian I bleieved that the way I was and the way *it* was kept me safe. I had to learn whole new definitions of so many concepts, including “safe”. I became strong like that tree. I am not that other person now. I am the person I was born to be, before the abuse, before the control, before the depressions and dissociation. But we can get through it; it is possible to sort it out and get to the other side.

    Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Splinteredones Posted: 8th June

    Yes, the Control Monster. I’ve just been sitting here meditating and it kept beating in my mind like a jungle drum. Control. Safety. Fear of control as such a responsibility I don’t
    know that I can handle. Gaining control meaning gaining my life–which i have never owned. Conversely, ways in which I have sought to wrest control from my long-dead perps just suck.

    At this moment I am laying on my couch, looking out at this huge, huge tree in the neighbor’s backyard 3 houses down. It’s taking up most of the windows. It’s dark and rainy and windy. The tree leaves are chattering in the wind branches swaying and bobbing about. And I am thinking this tree that sways and bobs and bends with the wind is not going to break. It has been constantly adapting to every breath of air as it’s trunk stands impermeable with it’s own natural power. And I think thAt maybe that’s a pretty good model, this tree. Because when the storm
    has passed and the air is still, the treetrunk will be no more strong than it is right at this moment.

    Or maybe I have no clue as to what I’m talking about and it’s just an old tree. Control though there are so many ways it manifests. Thank you once again.

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