Posted by: Marie | September 17, 2009

(147) Lasting effects – Part 3 of 9

Post #147
[Book study – June 15-17, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part One: Taking Stock
Effects: Recognizing the Damage

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


Writing Exercise: The Effects

Write about the ways you’re still affected by the abuse. What are you still carrying in terms of your feelings of self-worth, your work, your relationships, your sexuality? How is your life still pained, still limited?

(My answer is continued from the previous post . . . .)

Physical touch (continued)

Then, there is the other side of the coin . . . the reality of touch.

With both men and women, when it comes to quick greetings (handshakes, quick hugs, a pat on the arm), I am very comfortable giving and receiving such contact as long as it is superficial and brief. The only exception is if I feel uneasy about a person in general – for example, if he has a history of violating my boundaries or if I get a bad vibe off him.

Flower by Martin Chen

Flower by Martin Chen

In my younger days, I was very comfortable with the sexual contact that occurs within the context of flirting – when both parties are trying to get the other in bed for the first time. At that time, sex was the only way I knew to gain the attention of men – what else did I have to offer?

I was very bold in my flirting. I knew how to touch a man in ways that signaled my willingness to go to bed with him. I was very good at sending and receiving that language, and very comfortable doing so.

Catching a man’s attention and getting him interested in me sexually was a thrill for me back then, for I believed that every sexual conquest was a golden opportunity for finding someone who would stick around and really fall in love with me. I really believed that “this one” will surely be my knight in shining armor.

Of course, now that I’m twenty years wiser, I know that I was grossly mistaken. But back then, I believed that fantasy.

Over the years, as I began to awaken to reality, I became more and more grossed out by the lustful, self-serving behavior that appeared in the men with which I flirted. I became more and more disgusted with their grunting and panting during sex – that noise came to represent to me the reality that I was nothing but a sperm depository for those men – just a warm body in which to shoot their spunk.

And now, I cannot bear the thought of allowing a man to gratify himself by touching or looking at my body. Nor can I fathom wanting to touch a man sexually. I have disconnected totally from that aspect of real life.

This is so difficult to write – I’m doubting my ability to continue. I’m cycling among thinking, writing, curled up under the covers crying, sleeping, dreaming violent dreams, writing, crying, thinking, hiding under the covers . . . this writing exercise is far more difficult than I could have imagined. I’ll keep going as long as I can.

Here is what I find very interesting . . . I am in the first days of my monthly period, so I’m experiencing heavy blood flow and cramps . . . my uterus is emptying itself of fluid it has been holding for several days.

Then, because I have eaten so much waxy chocolate in the last week+, I now have a semi-clogged large intestine. The ball of chocolate has worked its way to the descending portion – I have felt its every movement upwards, sideways and down over the last couple of days. I finally took two laxative pills last night to help it along . . . which has helped some, but the ball has not made its exit yet. In the meantime, everything else in my intestine has exited in the most explosive fashion . . . my bowls are emptying themselves of byproduct they have been holding for several days.

(Yeah, honey, there’s a picture of sexy for you!)

Then, because I had my housemates’ cats in my part of the house yesterday, my allergies are stirred up and my nose is running . . . my sinuses are emptying themselves of snot they have been holding all night while I slept.

These semi-dramatic bodily acts of exodus are occurring while I am struggling to empty out my darkest habitual thoughts from my brain and onto paper . . . my soul is emptying itself of puss that it has been holding for several days/weeks/years.

I find it interesting how I have created this four-part ensemble of purging in the absence of conscious forethought. Ah, but I digress . . . and now I must return to the task at hand.

I struggle the most with non-sexual touch . . . I mean, affectionate touch that is a step above casual – holding hands, putting an arm around someone’s shoulder, letting someone cry on your shoulder, sitting close together while watching a movie, giving each other back rubs . . . touch that occurs without the expectation of subsequent sex.

I pretty much have managed to avoid this type of contact throughout my entire life, even though it is the contact I crave the most. I was able to explore this dynamic with Mark, to some extent.

With Mark, I learned that I am absolutely paralyzed when I am being touched this way. I am terrified to move a muscle. I have tried to understand the reasons “why” by observing my thoughts while Mark sat next to me during our last session – but I didn’t figure it out that day nor have I been able to since.

I only know I feel terror – a paralyzing fear that I’ll do something unforgivable, cross some line if I reciprocate the touch . . . . I’m not sure what I think will happen if I make that terrible mistake (maybe rejection? danger? obligation to do something sexual?) . . . I’m not sure from what experiences that fear developed. It is a mystery right now.

My best guess is that it mostly has something to do with being brushed off – rejected. If I am very careful, I can stay in the inner circle, I can stay inside the circle of attention and acceptance. But, if I mess up, I’ll be brushed off – I’ll have to stand off to the side and be ignored – I’ll be invisible.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

Quotes 837


  1. I’ll be interested to hear if you figure out what the fear is. Invisibility would be a big one.

    One woman I know who was healing from sexual abuse found it really difficult if even a casual remark wasn’t heard and responded to. This brought up feelings around not being acknowledged/invisible.

    • Hi, Evan –

      I have been getting a bit more clear about the emotions attached to it . . . I have figured out that I fear I’ll be rebuked — shamed — for initiating or reciprocating touch . . . I have uncovered an historical memory of an adult male charging at me, screaming, “Shame on you! Don’t you ever do that again!” I think it is my dad. I’m not sure what kind of touching I did that brought that on or why it was shameful in his mind. Maybe I’ll remember the “rest of the story” at some point in time.

      And, yeah, the not being acknowledged and being invisible thing is big with me . . . I have done (and sometimes still do) things that don’t honor who I am because I want to be acknowledged and seen. I think that’s pretty common.

      Thank you for comment!

      – Marie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: