I thought I’d finally write my story. Fhorns inspired me since he’s writing his. I’m also taking out a membership so that I feel more like a fully participating member. I’m not sure if any of this is going to be triggering for you or not. If you are likely to be triggered by stuff that is culturally normal and subtle, then please be careful of yourself. My case is a case of covert incest coming primarily through my mother (see: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2014/07/childhood-covert-incest-and-adult-life/
). I am not, however, a sex addict as described in the link. I am much more likely to be strongly sexually repressive to the point of damaging my health. It has strong cultural roots. I’ve had some reticence to participating fully in MaleSurvivor and thought I should explain that in a preface.
There are a few aspects of recovery that I find disturbing. I struggle with them because much of what was hurtful in my youth was very subtle and embedded in a cultural context that was and generally still is seen as normal and highly desirable. Fully trusting others doesn’t come easily for me.
1. The Survivor identity: I’m not particularly keen on this identity. Granted, it is better than “victim” but I’m leery of getting my sense of self-esteem from simply surviving. I have survived and it has been a close call many times, I suppose I should take pride in that, but it isn’t what I strive for or I’d be happy simply to be alive and inhabiting this body of mine. I’m not satisfied with this. I’m reminded of a story told by Friedrich Neitzsche in his book “Thus Spake Zarathustra”. He talked of three stages of human evolution: Camel, Lion, and Child. In my mind, the Camel is the Victim. The Lion is the Survivor roaring against the violence. The Child is something beyond both. Perhaps I could call him a “Thriver”. His qualities are play, innocence, laughter, freedom, love, and joy. I long for this and think it is who I am at my core.
2. The concept of abuse: I struggle with this one too. It’s a good concept to identify hurtful behaviour and provide motivation to heal. It is, unfortunately steeped in ideals of what is desirable which vary through time and in my case, between people.
Abuse is to not use a relationship for its intended purpose. In my youth, having children wasn’t questioned. It was (and still is to a large degree in the community where I live) unquestionably good. You had children to fit into the cultural paradigm of getting married to a member of the opposite sex and then getting busy creating 2.5 offspring who you raised without killing them before they were old enough to survive on their own. In this paradigm, you would have to kill a child to be abusive. That didn’t happen to me, at least, not in any obvious way.
I question that paradigm. I question the value of having children at all at this time. In my mind, right use of having kids now involves reproducing because the world needs more human beings to attain a population that is in harmony with all other species and congruent with the carrying capacity of this Earth. It has something to do with recognizing the value of all life forms. It also involves supporting that child to flower to his or her ultimate potential without imposing the unmet needs of adults on them (including inspiring the adults to heal themselves) at all, period. We are nowhere near that.
So in my mind, the decision to have children at this point in our human history is abusive. We need an entirely new culture based on much healthier individuals and much healthier ways of relating to each other. I’m here to heal myself and contribute to a healthy culture of the future. I have no children and don’t intend to create any. My perspective tends to put me in a very socially isolated place. It affects my understanding of what is “recovery” too (see below).
3. Confidentiality. I fear the turmoil my healing path tends to create when confronted with my biological family. They don’t understand me at all and yet I don’t have a family of choice in any practical way. There is only so much I can do to hide my identity. A family member reading this would perhaps recognize me. I guess that’s just a risk I’m going to have to take if I want to fully heal.
My birth family is made up of people that are generally described as high functioning, professionally successful, highly educated, socially desirable, physically healthy and attractive, good, nice people in one of the most “successful” cultures on Earth. It’s challenging for me to describe the cracks in that reality to people who don’t see it (and don’t experience it) at all.
I clearly experience the problems with it. My body, my intimate relationships, and my work relationships have all paid a big price for it.
The cultural background of my story is important in my understanding.
I was born the first son of a military officer who worked closely with Cold War policies. He was a good “family man” but in line with his career was emotionally incapable of expressing vulnerability. His birth family had a history of involvement in the military and none of the death tragedy that can come of it. I was his eldest son and hence felt the pressure to step into his shoes. In a sense, I have. My interest in world peace is very strong. My methods to move in that direction, however, are fundamentally different. I rejected the military model of “maleness” quite deeply and thoroughly and became a sensitive mother’s boy.
My mother was born just after women got the right to be legal “persons” in Canada. Women’s right to vote was still in the process of being granted in some provinces. It was also an era in which career options for women were very limited. The best choices for women were nurse and secretary. Women were expected to drop their work to become wives and mothers. Even though she would have rather been a geologist and spend much time in nature, she trained as a nurse in university and then married and became a mother and housewife. I was born at a time that was challenging for women in general. The second wave of feminism was taking off and women were either seen as straight and cowards/prudes or liberated and sluts. She has told me that she didn’t feel good in either box but as a military officer’s wife, mother, and housewife, she was pretty much confined to the gender roles dominant for women in the 1950’s. I was also born at a time that was very challenging emotionally for her. Her much younger brother died of bone cancer when I was 9 days old. His illness had endured for a couple of years before he died. I was given his name. Her twin sister died in a tragic mountaineering accident when I was 3 and a half. This turned my mother into the sole surviving child in her family of birth. Her family of birth has a history of tragedy that dominates her father’s family. My brother was born 15 months after me. So my sense of my very early youth was of being abandoned emotionally. My mother did her best in very challenging circumstances.
My parents’ marriage was a very traditional one (‘til death do us part) with little attention paid to the sexual and emotional aspects of relating. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t a partnership that had a foundation in a conscious search for Truth or Love. In their era, that was very normal. They were very successful in pursuing this model. They stayed together for 49 years until my father died.
My father’s religion was Anglican and we attended church sporadically. My mother abandoned religion after the death of her sister. We were considered Anglican even though I refused confirmation in High School. I pursued my own (very controversial and far ahead of their time) religious interests when I left university.
So, I started life without a strong mother-son bond. I learned quickly to please her in order to get the little attention of which she was capable. This set me up to be vulnerable to her. I was also a middle child in a family where my mother was the oldest of her siblings and my father, the youngest amongst his. I didn’t really bond well with anyone. I tended to have one friend with whom I knew I wouldn’t be spending a long time together. We moved fairly frequently.
In High School my mother took an interest in the sex education of my brother and I. She once had us watch a movie with a strong sexual theme without our requesting it or our consent. I remember sitting there, too scared to leave. I sensed her anger. She posted a cartoon drawing on the ceiling of our garage that had a strong sexual message in it (again, without our consent or request). Once, when I was looking for something and knocked on her bedroom door to ask about it, she called me to enter. When I entered she was stark naked and seemed to be showing her body off to me. I found it very awkward and embarrassing. Nudity was unknown in our family. Later on, she would often bug me to take off my shirt in summer. I didn’t like it. She showed an extraordinary amount of anger at the news of my first sexual partner. She found a way to criticize every intimate female partner I had (that she knew of) including my wife. The one exception to this rule was a woman who was as aggressive as she was. Sexualized conversations with my mother continued for a long time. I finally put a stop to those in 2005.
My cousin once told me that she saw me as my mother’s “special” kid when we were young.
Even though we did many outdoor activities together as a family, my father’s connection to me was rather distant emotionally. He once shamed me for having expressed anger (The only time I expressed anger in my youth). He told me that I had “upset Mom” (a cardinal sin in our household). I often had the impression that I was in competition with him. If we ever did a shared project together (like building a model airplane or drawing), he would find a way to outperform me rather than celebrate my accomplishments or support me in my efforts. I was told by my mother that he refused to fill the role of sex educator for us boys at her request. She said he didn’t think he was capable.
I didn’t really notice the effects on me for a long time. The first clues should have surfaced when I clearly showed no interest in healthy sexual encounters with available and willing women in my early 20’s. The woman I eventually married told me that she didn’t think I was attracted to women at all when she first met me. When I eventually pursued her (after a breakup with another woman and a close brush with death through suicide), I first experienced and fully acted upon my feelings of sexual attraction. The results were very disturbing to me yet completely mystifying. I became very angry, confused and attracted to other women in spite of my desire to become intimate with my wife. The anger became so intense that I feared what I would do, so I divorced her. That started a long period of very few and very brief intimate connections with women. In this time period I did a time line regression to birth, which got me to a memory of being alone in a dark forest calling for help, and no-one was listening. I had no idea why I would associate this with my birth (The deaths in my mother’s life were taboo topics (family secrets) for much of my life). Later my boss’ wife showed an inordinate amount of sexualized attention toward me that I found intensely stressful and disturbing. She, at once point, exclaimed that I had been hurt. I guess she saw something in me that I didn’t. Later on, a very aggressive woman pursued me as an intimate partner while I was only moderately interested. I became intensely ill with a severe auto-immune illness. My body seemed to know that she wasn’t good for me.
In my pursuit of physical healing, I knew that the quality of the community around me could affect my stress level. I knew that I felt happiest in communities where the people were sexually satisfied. I had lived in unusually high functioning meditative communes during my 20’s and knew how good I had felt. So I explored a similar communal house not far from where I lived. Unfortunately, it was far from healthy. I was wrongfully accused of being a pervert and fled after confronting the women who perpetrated this crap (and refused to take responsibility for it). Fortunately, the men of the house saw what I was up against even though they were unwilling to do anything about it. It seems that women can get away with practically anything as long as the men aren’t willing to confront them. During this time I had a series of “past life” memories. Most of them showed a strong identification with women’s trauma (medieval torture histories) and a memory of being the male leader of a primitive nature loving tribe that was wiped out by a more patriarchal culture. My parents both had prominent places in this latter memory.
After moving again, I ended up in a workplace scenario where the woman (boss) was showing more interest in me than her partner’s (boss #2) comfort level. It was very stressful and mirrored my youth quite closely. At this point, I asked a friend about where he saw people who shared my interest in sexual health. He suggested people recovering from abuse. I read Mike Lew’s book and saw so many parallels with my own life that I started to wonder where it was coming from. A talk with Don Wright of BCSMSSA confirmed that I was dealing with a subtle form of childhood abuse. That’s when I started talking about myself as recovering from childhood sexual abuse and looking for opportunities to heal.
“Recovery” is a strange word for me. It implies recovering from a wound. Although this is true, I resent that the wound is attributed to me and me alone. The connections of my “wounding” to the lack of health in our entire culture and civilization are very clear to me. I am recovering from the effects of a sick civilization. I am also paving the way for something far healthier. I like to focus on the latter. I’m much happier being a brave pioneer of my inner world, than a royal screwed up mess trying to be normal again. I’m not striving for “normal”. I’m shooting for better than that.
My waking up to the reality of covert incest in my youth happened only a year before my father died. In retrospect I think it was a good thing. He was intensely protective of my mother and would never have allowed me to criticize her in the slightest way. Soon after he died, I wrote her to ask her to stop sexualizing our connection. She told me it was a shock, but at least I got her attention.
I was told at a healing centre in Europe that if I could find someone to sleep with (no sex) that it could be very healing for me. That was nine years ago and I’ve still had next to no luck in that department. Other healing practitioners have told me the same thing. Currently I’m trying to connect with the asexual community to see if I can at least get some healing touch in a safe environment. I’ve known for a long time that massage sessions are helpful to me and have pursued those diligently. I came across an approach to healing in intimate relations that intrigued me a great deal (see: www.reuniting.info/node/1734
). Finding the required partner, was again next to impossible (I did experiment with a friend with this method for three nights at which point, my friend bailed). I trained in three types of healing touch (Reiki, Healing Pathways, and Quantum Touch). Unfortunately, after a while, I noticed that I was being caught up in subtle sexual politics by some of the women there and being used by another emotionally to compensate for her crappy marriage. When I attempted to clear up these stressful connections, there was no interest and no support from the group. I bailed. I’ve explored three local men’s groups and created one myself. None of them seemed to fully understand my needs and none were supportive of my healing process. I bailed from these too. My first therapist turned out to think that I was exaggerating and that I should look into emotional intelligence. It was the only therapy centre for male survivors in town (individual counseling only in a centre created to support women). It took me many years to return and try again (this time more successfully). I bailed from a friend’s healing circle when his partner was showing more interest in me than my friend was completely comfortable repeating a very common theme in my life (Very high stress for me). I signed up for MaleSurvivor in 2008 but somehow being limited to an internet connection wasn’t all that satisfying for me. I craved some form of healing touch. Getting a handle on my identity has been an important part of my healing process. I’ve legally changed my name 4 times. These were all relatively subtle changes and the most important one was the last one. I deleted the name given to me at birth that was the name of my uncle who died when I was 9 days old.
My health eventually deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t work anymore. My mother moved to be closer to help out. This has been helpful to me. It’s given me a much more realistic idea of who she is and where her capabilities lie. It also showed me that she does care. She definitely wants to be supportive and she does what she can. She doesn’t seem, however, to be interested in her own healing even though her physical health has some issues that are often connected to emotional turmoil. Her presence would often trigger feelings of sexual arousal in me. This was very disturbing to me. I only managed to stop these a couple of years ago. Most recently, I’m recognizing a pattern of “entertaining” her emotionally. It’s been very difficult to let go of this trip. She responds to my distancing by becoming more needy and showing signs of physical distress. Helping her seek support for her physical health (rather than getting hooked into entertaining her again) has been a good way to set a healthy boundary on this behaviour.
Finally a friend offered to help me commit suicide. This forced me to evaluate that urge in me very closely. I decided not to pursue that route (mostly to prevent perpetrating more tragedy in my mother’s life). It took me a while to find my own reason to live. I found it in Michail Naimy’s “Book of Mirdad” (pg. 104):
Micayon: I would be forever weaned from the Earth. How can I do it, Master?
Mirdad: By loving the earth and all her children. When Love is the only residue of all your accounts with the Earth, then will the Earth acquit you of her debt.
More recently Osho’s “Love, Freedom, Aloneness” attributed this quote to Buddha: “Love yourself and watch. Today, Tomorrow, Always…” . It’s very much my Koan these days.
Strangely this seemed to be a turning point for me. My monthly blood work shows the change quite clearly. My physical health is slowly and steadily improving. My social connections are still very weak, but I’m getting more out of MaleSurvivor. It seems to be the only group of people to which I have access that really understands the depth of what I’m healing in myself.
I hope to find people I can get close to physically some day without having to pay them. I hope to live closer to people who share my interests at the depth I need. I hope to have an intimate female partner some day and work that is rewarding. For now, I focus on loving myself regardless of how far away I am from these dreams.