Posted by: Marie | November 28, 2012

(757) The yin and yang of things – Part 2 of 4

Post #757
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 – continued from the previous post]


Me: So . . . I was thinking that I would like to get into the physical stuff today. The idea of getting into that stuff really scares me . . . but, I know I need to go there. So, I guess we might as well get into sooner rather than later . . .

Edward: I think I know what you mean by “the physical stuff”, but I want to make sure I know . . . can you be more specific?

Me: Oh, sure! I’m talking about the body memory stuff . . . I’m not sure what to call it . . . it’s the stuff that causes me to feel paralyzed . . .

Edward: Would you like a clinical term for it?

Me: Sure! That would much better than vaguely calling it “the physical stuff” . . .

Anping Harbor by Martin Chen

Edward: The clinical term is retroflexion. It is defined as the turning inward or the holding back of an impulse that would normally be expressed outwardly. It is when someone holds emotional energy or tension in his body when it would be healthier to allow that energy to move out of his body.

Me: Oh . . . yes, that fits. I like that term . . . I’ll have to add it to my vocabulary! Now I know what to call it.

So, I’ve been thinking about three things related to my retroflexion . . . three scenarios that cause me to feel paralyzed . . .

First is the terror I feel when I consider the possibility of acting out my anger towards my dad. Second is the idea of having to have sex – the idea of having sex is disgusting to me. It makes me want to vomit.

Edward: (Putting his hand on his heart and speaking softly) Ouch! How painful!

Me: I don’t know that it is so painful . . . it’s more about disgust than fear . . .

Edward: How painful that something designed to bring us intense pleasure and emotional connection is instead representative of disgust for you.

Me: Okay . . . I see your point . . .

The part of it that creates the most issues for me is knowing that dating will surely lead to sex at some point . . . and that keeps me from allowing myself to really consider dating. I think I have to get past the disgust if I’m ever going to be able to date.

Edward: Dating does not have to involve having sex.

Me: Well, at some point it is going to . . . I know I don’t have to have sex early in a relationship, but a guy is going to expect the relationship to move to that level at some point . . . how can I go into the world of dating knowing that the idea of sex disgusts me? I would either have to deny the guy sex or I would have to submit to something I don’t want to do . . . or I would have to hurry up and get healed so I could enjoy having sex. That is one of the reasons the idea of dating creates anxiety for me.

Edward: There are other options.

Me: Not really . . . I disagree with you on that . . . life has taught me otherwise.

Edward: Okay.

Me: Anyway . . . the third thing that causes me to feel paralyzed and stuck on a physical level is . . . well . . . this really isn’t about feeling paralyzed . . . but it’s something that keeps me from finding comfort in something that should bring me comfort . . . it’s more of a mental block about something physical . . .

At night, when I’m trying to go to sleep, I try to imagine myself being held by someone – some man. But, I can’t ever find a scenario that works for me – a story that makes sense and feels possible to me. Any scenario I come up with is either going to have an element of danger in it so I don’t feel safe and comforted – that I can’t really trust the man . . . . or there’s going to an expectation of sex after the holding. So, I can’t enjoy the fantasy of being held because I can’t imagine a scenario where feel safe and/or where I wouldn’t then have to submit to sex.

I try to convince myself that, since it is a fantasy, I can have things be as I wish them to be . . . but, for whatever reason, in order for my fantasy to actually bring comfort to me, it has to be possible in reality. I can’t imagine a real life scenario where I would be emotionally connected enough with someone to feel totally accepted and safe, where it it morally acceptable for me to have close and prolonged physical contact, and where sex won’t be expected subsequently.

Edward: So, sex is the price you would have to pay for being held?

Me: Yes, exactly. The only reasons a guy wouldn’t expect sex would be 1) because he is already in a relationship, which would mean close and prolonged physical contact would be inappropriate, or 2) he wouldn’t find touching me pleasurable, in which case I don’t want to ask someone to hold me who is disgusted by the idea of holding me. If a man finds physical contact with me pleasurable, he is going to want sex at some point.

(He was taking notes during this part of our conversation. Apparently this was new information to him – a new angle of looking at what ails me.)

Me: Maybe those scenarios could give us an inroad into the retroflexion stuff – maybe we can look at what I would like to experience in those scenarios and at what keeps it from happening.

Edward: I see all three of those pieces being intertwined. If we work on one, we very well may pull the strings on the others.

Me: I agree.

Starting with one of those things would be less scary for me because they are topics we have talked about before . . . it is relatively familiar territory for me. But, I don’t know what that kind of therapy would look like and I don’t know if you would be able to use those scenarios to get into it. I’m just telling you in case it is helpful to you . . . but, whatever . . .

Edward: It is good information to have . . . thank you for bringing that information to me.

Me: You are welcome!

(Deep breath) You know . . . I felt a lot of shame when I was talking about the fantasy of being held . . . I don’t know why . . . I almost couldn’t talk about it, but I pushed through it and told you anyway.

Edward: Can you identify what specifically is behind the shame?

Me: It’s difficult for me to admit that I want to be held – I’m ashamed of that.

Edward: It is normal to want to be held without the expectation of sex . . . it is normal to want to experience affectionate touch that occurs only for the purpose of emotional connection and not as a prelude to sex. You have a specific need to be held – and to feel safe and to not feel pressured to have sex. Everyone has specific needs . . . and this is one of yours.

Me: I know . . . but it is really hard to acknowledge I want that physical connection . . . it is hard to admit it to myself and it is really hard to admit it out loud to another person.

And, it is hard for me to admit that it is a need . . . I can admit that it is a want . . . but I believe it is overly dramatic to say it is a need . . . I’ve gotten along this far in my life without it, so obviously I don’t really need it.

Edward: Let me assure you . . . it is more than just a want . . . it is a need. And, you are very brave to speak about what you need out loud.

Me: Thank you.

(It was an uncomfortable moment for me, so I turned and looked at the clock . . . there were about 20 minutes remaining in the session. I decided we really didn’t have enough time to do anything substantial with the retroflexion stuff, so I changed the topic . . . )

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. You may have found this out in the session or since but there is a good deal of evidence that physical touch is a need for our physical and psychological development.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I do understand and know that on a logical level . . . but, for some reason, I seem to believe I’m an exception to the rule . . . I’ve survived, so I must not REALLY need it . . . it’s challenging to shift that belief!

      – Marie

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