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#47141 - 12/18/03 10:49 PM .
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#47142 - 12/18/03 11:14 PM Re: Acting out
theo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/28/03
Posts: 1117
squigy,
it is my personal experience that "acting out" is something survivors do in response to the subconscious cues of our abuse to current situations. by way of explanation, this past summer i was frog deep in a depression that i could not understand. there was no current situation that warrented any kind of negative response. i was confused, depressed, and angry without knowing why. i engaged in a behavior that would have cost me the love of lady theo had it gone any further than it did. i only learned later that what i was responding to were the anniversaries of some very painful memories involving the loss of my son, the loss of my previous life, and the loss of the only family i ever knew. i was acting out against something i could not see or understand. somehow i think i might be making this more confusing then it needs to be. acting out is any behavior a survivor engages in as a response to old pain that it is making itself felt in the here and now. i think i better stop here before it gets any more convoluted \:D . hoped i helped at least a little.

_________________________
journey well,
theo dewolfe

- It is gift, and gift will find its way
- I inherit through my choice. I build through my affirmation. It is through my freedom that I nurture, or fade into autonomy
- I was not given to serve life, but to embrace it

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#47143 - 12/18/03 11:33 PM Re: Acting out
Ken Singer, LCSW Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 5778
Loc: Lambertville, NJ USA
As a therapist working with both sexual abusers and male survivors, I use the term "acting out" to refer to behaviors that people do to take their feelings out on people or property. Acting out, acting in, or numbing out are referred to as compensatory behaviors (compensating for something that has been done to you or for something that you feel should have happened but didn't.) Here is a part of an assignment I give to some people regarding compensatory behaviors:

Quote:
CompensatoryĒ behaviors are negative behaviors that usually make the person feel better for a short time but are not really helpful to change the trigger feelings.
These compensatory behaviors are taking the feelings out on other people or property (ďacting outĒ), taking them out on yourself (ďacting inĒ), or doing something to block out the feelings in a way that is really not good for you (ďnumbing outĒ).
For example, say you had a tough day at work where your boss didnít like the way you did something and he criticizes you in front of your co-workers. You might come home and snap out at your kids. This is acting out, taking out your feelings on another person. You can act out by words (ridiculing, cursing, insults), physical aggression or violence against people or things, or sexually abusing someone.
Acting in means taking out those feelings out on yourself. Take the example above. Instead of taking it out on your kids, suppose you went home and put yourself down by calling yourself a loser who is incompetent or worthless, and basically just feeling sorry for yourself. In some cases, people will do things to hurt themselves as a way of acting in. This can be done by punching a wall, cutting or burning yourself, or, in extreme cases of acting in, suicide.
Some people will numb out the feelings they donít want to have. This can be done with alcohol, drugs, as well as other activities which are not necessarily bad in small doses. It is obvious that getting drunk or stoned will numb out the unwanted feelings, but what about using tv or video games to excess (that is, spending hours doing this to block out feelings and thoughts)? People can also use sex (including masturbation), exercise, food, pornography, or work in excessive amounts as a means of getting rid of these feelings. When you stop the numbing out behavior, the problem is still probably there and the feelings will probably come back.
This is a small piece regarding the concept. If you have other questions about it, I'll be happy to respond.

Ken


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#47144 - 12/18/03 11:43 PM Re: Acting out
Ken Singer, LCSW Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/24/00
Posts: 5778
Loc: Lambertville, NJ USA
As an afterthought, sometimes people will refer to behaviors such as sexual acts like going to an adult bookstore for anonymous sex or compulsive masturbation as "acting out". That is a different use of the term than from what I use for a compensatory behavior. While it is technically acting out fantasies or needs for control (or being controlled), it is probably more of a numbing out behavior than taking out the feelings on another person. (In other words, being harmful or hurtful to another person for that purpose. Certainly, one can make a case for sexual acting out as being harmful to one's spouse or partner, but if you look at the intent, is it to hurt the other or to numb out pain in one's life? Sometimes it takes on both roles.)

The differences can be confusing and I don't mean to split hairs here. Suffice to say, whether it is a numbing out or acting out behavior, the end result is one that is disempowering to the individual rather than empowering him in his recovery.

Ken


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#47145 - 12/19/03 01:39 AM Re: Acting out
James_dup1 Offline


Registered: 04/13/02
Posts: 1332
Loc: Wyoming
Well I dont have the insite that Ken does (Thanks for your insite Ken). But I'm going to give my thoughts no this question. Acting out=what we as survivor's do/Abusing=what was done to us. Lots of us hate our abusers so much that thinking of ourselves as one as well would probley be just to much to bear. On the home page abuse is defined as
Quote:
Sexual abuse - Any sexual act between an adult and child. This includes fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts.
So you tell me the differnce between "Acting out" and "Abusing". After all if we are survivor's how can we be abuser's as well? Just my thoughts on it.
James

_________________________
I have more issues than Rolling Stone!


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#47146 - 12/20/03 02:42 PM .
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#47147 - 12/20/03 03:13 PM Re: Acting out
Andrew Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/25/03
Posts: 1192
Len,
man-o-man... I love the question you posed. I'm not sure if you built up to it deliberately, or arrived there by accident, BUT...it is a question I have posed in the past with much less skill, craft and diplomacy than you have exhibited in this thread.
In my opinion, we are completely responsible for all acting out, acting in, numbing out behaviours, without exception.

Quote:
Ok so if i'm getting what you mean about calling ourselves abusers as opposed to saying we were acting out, it raised a question. So if we are to say we are just acting out, then wouldn't the same go for our so called abusers? As you know in my case my cousin was also likely abused. so was he just acting out?
I guess if you are on the receiving end of the abuse, you might be reluctant to excuse the behaviour as acting out. But, it is probable that your cousin was sexualized at a young age and therefore was acting out and responding to his own anger and confusion.

These are some very provocative questions you are asking Len. Peace, Andrew

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there is no courage without anxiety

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#47148 - 12/20/03 04:53 PM Re: Acting out
James_dup1 Offline


Registered: 04/13/02
Posts: 1332
Loc: Wyoming
Right Len.........Andrew brought up a very good point.....does it depend on which end we are on as to what it is called? If we are on the reciveing end then it's abuse.........if we are giving it then it's acting out....so what does this say to people who "acted out" with us. And what does it say to those who we "abused". So is acting out ok and abusing not? or are both just as bad and we are just sugar coating one of the phrases. For me I've done somethings in my past Im not proud of, however.........I've never called it anything but what it is ABUSE peroid...So maybe what the problem is isnt that we call it "acting out" but we are in denial as to what it really is. Read the way it is defined again........doesnt leave alot of room open to wonder if what you have done is "acting out" or "abuse" does it? How can we truly heal if those of us guilty of "acting out" keep lieing about what it really was? Seems to me that on this road of recovery honesty (at least to yourself) is a big part of it.
James

_________________________
I have more issues than Rolling Stone!


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#47149 - 12/20/03 09:36 PM Re: Acting out
Andrew Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/25/03
Posts: 1192
James, Len, Theo & all,
I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there is a razor thin line between a lot of these terms and definitions i.e acting out, acting in, numbing out etc. I'm not even sure that I want to know the defining differences because that might force me to label myself and/or see myself differently than what I see right now, and that would be hugely uncomfortable.

Having done all those things (acting out/in,numbing), as well as disassociating, I can easily rationalize that all these responses were expected because I was victimized as a child. But the truth is, sometimes I did these things just because I wanted to, or because I was a jerk i.e. hurt people, got drunk, or acted sexually irresponsibly. And the truth is: I am responsible for my behaviours and whatever labels I accrue as a result. Tough to say, but true.

The bottom line is: Society couldn't give a shit about what happened to me as a kid. They see the adult and make a judgement as to whether his behaviours are good, bad or whatever. Our worth, goodness and badness is judged by society's standards not the standards of the MS discussion forum.

Peace, Andrew

_________________________
there is no courage without anxiety

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#47150 - 12/21/03 05:49 PM Re: Acting out
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Len

Quote:
At what point in our recovery do we have to accept responsiblity for our actions?
Good question, and a hard one.

I think it's one the very first things we have to do.
But - a big but - is we have to ACCEPT responsibility. Your choice of words was just right.

By accepting that responsibility I think we then begin to think a bit more clearly about the 'trigger - response - actions" cycle than we could when we didn't accept responsibility.

By that I mean that before I started any kind of recovery I would go through the whole acting out cylce without any remote idea of what was actually happenening and why. I was on some kind of auto-pilot, and I had no choice but to accept the inevitability of what was happening to me.

Once I started recovery I accepted my responibilty for certain aspects - acting out with other guys was the main one, it had driven me to being suicidal so I needed to do 'something'.
So I accepted that "I" acted out, and that "only I" could actually stop doing it.

It wasn't the instant cure I hoped for, but as the urge faded, or should I say became more controlable, I also accepted that it wasn't easy - sometimes I would fail - but it was GETTING EASIER.

"Accepting my responsibilty" was for me, getting rid of the guilt and shame.

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#47151 - 12/21/03 09:54 PM Re: Acting out
The Dean Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 2080
Loc: Milwaukee, WI
Len, this is a thread with many questions and distinctions in it.

CSA occurs when an adult uses his/her power to, make us in some way, experience sex against our will--it is not our choice.

The acting out that is eating way too much, or being a drunk as opposed to being alcoholoic is something quite different. We are not using or abusing another person, nor are we forceing booze down someone else's throat for example.

We also use the word acting out for what is promiscuous and irresponsible sex between consenting adults. But, I think that we usually also say that there is some definite link to our past abuse that leads us to act this way. We have men here who were never sexually assaulted as a child, but who have been raped as an adult--often under threat of violence and with the victim being alone against two or more perpetrators.

The porn business in the USA is a multi-billion $$$$ industry. Surely, not all the folks paying money to look at porn are survivors. But survivors may look at porn for different reasons than say a man who had not been abused but likes to look at the girls.

Looking at porn solely to get the energy to masturbate would seem to me to be more a sexual disfunction. But, again, it might be that survivors do that because of conflicted feelings about sexuality, or the inability to have intimate relationships with another person.

Dave made a huge point. Taking responsibility for our actions should lead to our having less shame and guilt. And not acting so complusively either, I feel.

I am not sure what the number of years in age makes an act no longer just "kids messing around," versus an older child, who is still a minor, but still legally abusing a younger child by overpowering the child in some way.

Power seems to be the most important word when we think of something being abuse--physical, mental sexual, or even financial.

When I hear men here speak of their "acting out" they are not overpowering some less powerful person. The acting in seems to be harming ourselves because we feel we are such bad people. Personally, I think that is more mental illness than a freely willed act of punishing ourselves--but I could sure be wrong there.

I have rarely seen a compulsive over-worker admit that he or she is "acting out" anything. They have some need to put in 14 or 16 hour days and find it nearly impossible to take two consecutive weeks of vacation. But, I am a guy who does that at times. And I am aware that I keep busy simply because there is something that my mind wants me to think about and I refuse to allow the mental state needed to give serious thought to it.

Using power to harm a weaker person seems the most important element in abuse from what I understand.

Bob

_________________________
If we do not live what we believe, then we will begin to believe what we live.

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#47152 - 12/23/03 06:43 PM Re: Acting out
survive75 Offline
Member

Registered: 09/27/03
Posts: 304
Loc: Massachusetts
This is always a controversial subject - but I do believe it is an imperitive one if we want to truly stop the cycle of abuse.

Despite the difficulty and pain (and god knows I can't do it with my own abuser,) we as survivors have to admit that sexual abuse begets sexual abuse, and therefore, many abusers have learned that behavior from somewhere. Murderers, rapists - hell, bankrobbers! - don't just fall out of the sky to spread their evil around the world!

I think that many people have a difficult time accepting that someone can hurt someone else, admit it, determine what the root cause was, and still accept responsibility and punishment for his or her actions. On both sides of the coin. People either want to label them evil and say things like, "Well, my dad hit me and I never grew up to be a serial killer." Or the more liberal side where they think that there should be no penalty whatsoever. There has to be treatment and real understanding, and that takes work and time and compassion and it forces people to take a look at the fact that what happens to you when you are a child affects you in profound ways as a teen and adult.

Sorry, this subject always fires me up.

-Sean

_________________________
-Sean

"Even though I know/I donít want to know/Yeah I guess I know/I just hate how it sounds"

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#47153 - 12/24/03 12:59 AM Re: Acting out
senordeaner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 11
I have a hard time building an opinion between acting out and abuse. For one thing, I was abused, but my abuser was actually a year younger than me. He most likely was acting out, because he tried to perform the same acts with most of the kids in the neighborhood. Some of them rejected, and some were unfortunate and he threatened us with a gun to the head or a sword to the throat. He threatened us. I was afraid for my life, so I did what he said, no matter how sick it made me feel. Now, I don't mean to offend anyone, but I believe he was an abuser. Sure, he may have been "acting out", but there was a definite element of abuse involved ALSO.
Acting out, in my opinion, can only go so far. When you threaten a person's life, that definitely turns out to be abuse in my book.

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#47154 - 12/24/03 06:33 AM Re: Acting out
phoster Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/21/03
Posts: 758
Loc: ohio
The terms are not all that important. It is like sexual addiction or sexual compulsion. Doctors argue over them, but in the end the effect on your life is the same. Regardless of what we call it, we all have symptoms and things we do as the result of what was done to us.

I have started using acting out, because before I kept calling my childhood sexual encounters relationships. Encounter makes it seem lighthearted and fun, or too abstract. It doesnít capture the darkness of it somehow. Relationship definitely is wrong, because children donít have sexual relationships. A relationship is something the people involved choose, and when I was molested or when I passed that on to others there was no choosing with understanding. It was acting out for lack of a better word.

I guess the reason it is important to me to make that separation is that I need to stop taking all the responsibility on my self. It is important that I look at those things as a response to being molested, not as relationships I chose to be in.

When I molested, abused, passed on what I was shown, I justified it as a relationship or encounter, but that wasnít it. I felt I needed to make that distinction in my own mind, because distorted views of the facts kept me locked into where I was. Rationalizing and distorting the truth are what we do to deal with painful things that we canít face. Only by facing those demons can we heal, in my opinion, and I am trying hard to call black, black and white, white now.

i have started to realize a health child would run or tell if someone aproached them with sex. those that i molested, acted out with, whatever, most likely had thier own issues going on. with the girl i acted out with when i was ten for example, we were sexual for two years. clearly she was there for her own reasons, acting out just as i was.

i used to call that my first relationship, but we were there for love, affection of longterm, we were there to be sexual, period. it is important in my recovery to quit thinking theses were relationships, and to label them soemthing else. i guess acting out was what my doctor called them, so i use it.

_________________________
compassion is a light even to the darkest soul

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#47155 - 12/24/03 11:55 AM Re: Acting out
theo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/28/03
Posts: 1117
this thread has way too many fine points to truly respond coherently right after you wake up, so i will limit myself to a few comments only \:\) . acting out, reponsibility, and possible equivelance with our abusers are three very different things in my opinon. while it is definitely true that we are to take responsibility for our own actions (such as my irresponsibility this past summer) there is a difference between acting out and our perps. that difference is the intent of the action and what it is sourced from. i was making a bad choice in my behavior this past summer then it got out of my control in a very serious way that all most cost me lady theo. that first decision to respond to the depression that way was the action i was responsible for. the intent was to escape from something i could not understand. the intent of perps is not escape it is coercion and power. when a person is coercive, forcing another to do something they would not otherwise do, that is abuse, not acting out. it can be said that our acting out is a form of seeking power, but there is a huge difference between trying to regain power for self through self then it is in seeking power over another. it is not the same by a long chalk. acting out is something we do to escape something we do not understand and we are respnsible for bad choices. trying to coerce someone into something is entirely different. take care, all.

_________________________
journey well,
theo dewolfe

- It is gift, and gift will find its way
- I inherit through my choice. I build through my affirmation. It is through my freedom that I nurture, or fade into autonomy
- I was not given to serve life, but to embrace it

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#47156 - 12/24/03 09:21 PM .
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#47157 - 12/27/03 07:39 PM .
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#47158 - 12/27/03 07:42 PM .
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#47159 - 12/27/03 10:52 PM Re: Acting out
ARW Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/29/02
Posts: 161
Loc: LA
I don't feel that my acting out is not abusive, in fact I'm heatedly aware of the effects of my abuse; on my wife, myself, whatever. However, the distinction of terms, or maybe more correctly, the importance of using the term "acting out" in addition to abuse, is to clarify that the subject of that behavior is aware and in some way dealing with his issues. He is taking responsibility for his behavior and admitting to himself (at the very least) that he has a significant problem. Abuse on its own strikes me as most often being used to describe another's behavior. I smile sardonically at the thought of my perp describing his molestations as either abusive or acting out. What a lovely thought. Makes me laugh, truly. He saw himself as a victim of, in his words, a horribly abusive and overbearing father (note: abuse describing another's behavior), and only described his relations with me and his obsessions with other children as "caring" and "deep friendship". I never saw the feintest glimmer of self-doubt or reflection. Not unlike Michael Jackson. In fact the similarities are frightening.

This isn't to say a full blown perp couldn't be someone in therapy who describes his behavior to himself as acting out, but it feels wrong doesn't it? It's almost impossible to imagine. Like a bad movie villain, who begs the cops to stop him before, gasp "he kills again." I'd be curious to hear from the pros on this site, whether that's a low-occuring type of perp.

anyway, my two cents. this thread has had some awesome contributions. really got me thinking. thanks.

_________________________
In every cry of every man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.
-William Blake

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#47160 - 12/27/03 11:40 PM Re: Acting out
bountiful1 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 58
Loc: New York, New York, USA
Hi.

Thanks for posting this question. I am not a therapist, so my opinion is only based on what I have learned in therapy with particular therapists and from the couple of dozen books I've read. (I travel - a lot - for work, and have seen 10 therapists in 4 countries).

When I have asked about acting out behaviors, they all gave me a definition that includes all of the behaviors refered to in this thread.

I was told that "acting out is any behavior that is done in an attempt to numb/negate/ or otherwise disown a feeling that comes up". (To avoid the discomfort of the feelings that come up as we move through space, and having to feel them). "A feeling we don't want to feel - so we act out to avoid feeling it - dealing with it as a reality". This includes numbing, suicidal behaviors, and harming any other person. It is "an act done by people in order to avoid feeling the discomfort of something that we don't want to feel".

As far as I have learned, acting out can include everything from; physically harming someone to demeaning someone to ignoring someone to ignoring someone's feelings in one's actions (abuse); - as well as physically harming your own body and demeaning and ignoring yourself and your feelings; to ritual numbing behaviors (cutting, sexual acting out, anorexia or over eating). It is "a behavior that gives a false sense of security/power about something that we don't feel that secure about" was how one therapist put it.

It is an "act done to yourself or others that avoids healthy expression of (sometimes terrifying and angry) feelings".

As I said, I am not trained in this field. This is what I have been taught by the therapists I have worked with, and have learned from the books I have read.

I think it is true; although I admit that what I think does not, in reality, make things so. But I have also experienced acting out. So I communicate from experience - which gives my thoughts meaning. I have never hurt anyone else. The harm I have done to myself has never had any outward signs. But I can imagine what it might be like to hurt someone and/or hurt myself. So from that I know that it can, and therefor must be a truth. It might even be a fact as well.

The only way I find the emotionally honest way of forgiving the dozens of men who abused me is that I assume they were acting out in their using me for their numbing out choices/actions. That they did it to me is a fact. That they took away my ability to experience anything as I moved through space for 25 yeras is also a fact. That they rendered me unable to learn (absorb things) is the biggest fact that makes me the saddest. That they were using me as an object to numb out on - as an acting out tool for things they could not face - is the only emotionally honest way I can forgive them.

Gosh, I didn't mean to go on. I have heard of so much acting out, it makes me very sad. Harmful to themselves (internally or externally), and sometimes others. It makes me very sad. Sad for them that they had to do that. Sad that abuse cycles bring about the need for escape. But I have also seen that emotion tinged with conscience has been so powerful and effective. I have witnessed such incredible growth when seeing that from the abused I have known. When, in one group I was in, people were given facts devoid of emotion, I have seen too many times, men stop and never move on. It's a toughie, like everything I've ever encountered worth knowing about.

Thanks for the question.

_________________________
I do not know what signature means in 300 words. I am guessing some thoughts?

Great book that captures the truth of PTSD: The Sentimentalists by Skibsrud

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#47161 - 12/28/03 08:39 PM Re: Acting out
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Acting out to me means all of those things mentioned, all the numbing, distracting, actions that I've done / do to move my mind into another place. Somewhere that way back in the past was probably the only escape I had.

My acting out went from sexual fantasies, to sex with strangers, and a whole pile of crap inbetween.
On the rare occasions I wasn't haveing a sex fantasy I was winning the lottery or the next world war !
Anything to escape.

I don't do anything like the amount of 'acting out' behaviours now, just occasionally it kicks in - why I still don't know, but it does. Although I can control it most of the time.
It's been hard, and I needed support, but there is life after acting out - I think.

ARW's point about perps saying they act out is interesting, I think that we 'share' a lot of behaviours - we just happened to use them in a different way.

I often wonder if the other guys who hang around toilets, parks or wherever, looking for casual sex are like me - acting out because of their pasts, or do they genuinly enjoy what they choose to do ?
If they do, I can't imagine why.....

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#47162 - 12/28/03 10:06 PM Re: Acting out
bountiful1 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 58
Loc: New York, New York, USA
Hi Guys!

I realized last night when I got home that I had not included a definition of "acting out" that has also been given to me by several therapists.

As a point of interest; I had thought that - because I have to travel so much - having several therapists would prove confusing. I have found the opposite to be true. It keeps me from having a narrow view of all the aspescts of my recovery. And it also keeps me from having only one point of view about everything about experiencing life that I bring up in therapy. They have all spoken abvout acting out pretty much the same way / definition.

What I'd forgotten to define yesterday was an interesting and equally believeable definition of "acting out". It makes total sense to me.

It has also been defined to me as "a deep inner belief about ones' self - that is usually rooted in our subconscious - and that comes from repeated actions from outside of ourselves. (words and assaults that create a belief about ourselves which may be so deeply rooted in our subconscious that we do not even know that we believe this about ourselves). We act out the truth of that belief as a ritual act of affirming what we have been taught about ourselves by the words/actions of others. (Words are tools we use to define our actions towards others. Examples are - we use words to comfort someone, to confront someone, to demean someone, to cherish someone, to destroy someone... All of those verbs are actions that we do through differing was of communicating - the most common being what we say to someone).

Examples of this are - with no offense meant to anyone - society repeatedly teaches gay men that their relationships are meaningless, sexualized, and without concern for each others health or well being. We are repeatedly taught that our "relatinships" are of lesser value than heterosexual relationships. As a result - as a way of confirming and confirming this belief about ourselves we act out that truth by doing exactly what we have been taught and defined as by others. We ritually have annonymous sex as a group. We act out exactly what we have been taught about ourselves.

Another example is the connundrum of the sexually abused boy. I myself was taught over and over by almost every man I met and encountered between the ages of 7 and 17 that I was not worth spending time with except as a little item to be used to get themselves off on. As a result, I cannot to this day imagine someone spending time with me if that is not the sought out result. I have many facts that have happened to me that counter that belief; but nothing has changed that belief. I will probably always think that i am of no use spending time with except for the fact that I am good for use for sex. I have not met anyone or read anything that can change a deeply rooted belief that has been that ingrained in a person. I know that I don't have to let that happen to me - be done to me; but thet fact that I always feel that way remains very intact. If I did not have therapy, I would probably act that belief out for I don't know how long, because I wouldn't have had the understanding that those beliefs and feelings are deeply rooted in my unconscious mind because of the repeated actions of others.

Going to a bathroom and having sex wioth numerous strangers - has been defined to me as a ritual acting out behavior that re-affirms what the abusers taught me about myself. That I am only of use as a tool to get off on. Getting strangers to beat me up would be another way of acting out that belief about myself. As would spending hours and hours a day doing sexuall acts via the internet.

In that definition of acting out - which makes a lot of sense to me - one is re-affirming a belief about ones' self that came about as a result of repeated teachings by the actions of others.

As a reference to "acting in", I was also thinking about that last night. It is a strange term. As I understand it, all actions are acted out. An act is not an act unless it is done. Even cutting ones' self or killing ones' self is an outward action. The act of cutting has to be done by you to yourself. Inner actions are very few, and include such things as - to think - to weigh the options - etc... but even these actions are clearly manifested by a persons behavior. Even words are only tools for actions. We use words to calm someone - to celebrate someone - to demean someones' experience of being with us - to avoid connection or commitment - etc...

My education was in the study of actions and affect. I studdied actions and emotions for more than 5 years. (Only one of my teachers is considered to have been one of the three or four most influential teachers on the subject of the past century, but a couple of the other teachers are also highly regarded world wide). In my studies - we learned that all actions are outward in their manifestations.

Even inner acts - such as to think or to contemplate or to act like it doesn't mean anything to me - are all very readable actions in their behavioral aspects. It is easy to see that a person is deeply thinking - or - pretending to not be affected by one's surroundings. One is truthful- meaning it is something that the person really needs to do and is really doing; and the other is false/manipulative; meaning the person is pretending to do something and is not really doing it. One cannot actually be devoid of being affected by the things that happen around ones' self. One can only act as if that is true. Therby making it a untruthful action. Example is the current fashion of - let's say - store clerks asking "how are you?" and staring at a pretend disinterested spot accross the room. Their action is a lie. They are pretending to have no interest in how you are doing. If they really didn't care, they would not say the words. If they have to ask as part of their job, but do not want to invest themselves in the action, then they are faking the act of doing their job. Their real action is defined as pretending to not be doing what they are doing, or demeaning you by pretending that you are not worth acknowledging. Either way they a faking their behavior. They are acting a point of view. A real point of view is a deeply held conviction which moves one to act/speak/etc. The only person I have studied the actions of who truly separated affect from his actions was Hitler. He was able to list facts that could justify what he was doing; but he was never able to jusify his actions emotionally. He convinced a nation to do the killing of their neighbors by staying very factual and devoid of affect. If one gives information as an action, it is an act of avoiding human contact.

From what I have learned - and witnessed - in the suicidal actions and other acting out behaviors I have seen or been told about, all of the actions whether done to the self or to an other as acts to end feeling like they felt - not seeing other ways of expressing the emotions coming from those deeply rooted beliefs about themselves.


In the end I would think that acting out is actions taken to avoid really feeling - and done without an understanding of the hurtful impact the actions might have on ones' self or others.

Oy!

Asher

_________________________
I do not know what signature means in 300 words. I am guessing some thoughts?

Great book that captures the truth of PTSD: The Sentimentalists by Skibsrud

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#47163 - 12/31/03 03:26 PM Re: Acting out
Stephen_5 Offline
BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 09/12/00
Posts: 667
Loc: Northern California Foothills
To my mind my acting out was just a re-enactment of the abuse in a situation where I had this illusion of control. I just thought that the other participant was just like my perp. But since I've come to this MS site and read what my fellow survivors have been through, been to a few retreats and met some of my fellow survivors, I can't help but think that the anonymous sex that I had could have been with guys that were hurting just as much as I was. The thought of that is sobering to me. It's one of the reasons why I won't do that anymore.

The difference between being an abuser and a victim is a thin line. Yes, an abuser could have been a victim too but crossed the line when he went on to coerce and abuse other vulnerable kids. I think that's the big difference. I always knew that what happened to me was wrong and I never wanted it to happen to some other innocent kid.

Take good care of yourselves,

Steve

_________________________
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

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#47164 - 01/06/04 02:36 AM Re: Acting out
senordeaner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 11
First off, from reading through this post, I can say that I have acted out. Mostly with numbing my feelings-ignoring them, or doing things like overeating. I never acted out with molestation, if that would be the right choice of word, but it's the first that comes to mind. That is why I was upset by what others were saying-I still consider abuse any form of sexual activity that the victim doesn't want-any kind at all. I can't read minds and my situation is different from everyone else. All that happened to me was oral abuse, no more.

I guess what I want to know, I ask of anyone's opinion-who really is an abuser then? What about the one's who don't act out with sexual activity-of any kind? What exactly would be "healthy" or "normal"?

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People of the strongest character exist here.

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#47165 - 01/06/04 07:50 AM Re: Acting out
phoster Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/21/03
Posts: 758
Loc: ohio
You make a very valid point. Acting out doesnít excuse what a person does in my mind. For me it is only a means of separating the effects of the abuse from healthy things I have done. In other words, when I molested the girls as the result of being abused I was acting out not having a relationship. Itís more of a divider in my own mind rather than me trying to defer my responsibility for what I did to those girls.

Yes, I molested seven kids as I grew, and nothing can excuse the pain I know I have inflicted on them. That is something that haunts me daily. I try to realize that I dealt with life the best I could. When it all washes out, I am responsible for my actions. Yes, I was damaged and didnít understand fully, but nothing will ever relieve me of my responsibility for harming those other children.

I think in the end, I have to forgive myself for those childhood mistakes. I canít go back and undo them, so all that I can do is move forward and learn something from it.

As far as who is abuser, arenít we all guilty of it? If you overeat, arenít you abusing your body? If you hate yourself, arenít you likely to mistreat yourself? Certainly when I molested the children after my abuse, I was abusing them.

Healthy and normal are very abstract terms because they are different for everyone. To me, having your sense of morality match your lifestyle is what recovery is all about. Letís face it, if our actions meet what we expect of our selves, we would be perfectly happy. A person is unhealthy when something is out of balance, when you are not living up to what you expect of yourself. The conflict that arises by not being the person you think you should be is where problems come in.

I dislike labels. Things like acting out, normal and healthy all become points of confusion. I think it is better to focus on the bottom line behaviors and feelings. It doesnít matter what label we place on things. All that counts is the effects they have on our lives.

_________________________
compassion is a light even to the darkest soul

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#47166 - 01/09/04 11:03 PM Re: Acting out
andrew-jess Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/07/04
Posts: 3
Loc: Massachusetts
I've been numb for years and now I'm feeling everything. This is almost unbearable. I meditate to deal but the years of physical and psychological abuse along with a huge emptiness that resides in my genitals and stomache are taking me down right now. I don't want to admit I was sa. I really might not have been. I don't remember but my feelings are real and I feel suffocated by all of this.
I don't act out. I stopped the numbins stuff but I sometimes act in. I've always been suicidal but now I'm getting much better. I just meditate and brace myself during the flashbacks. Taking it all in. I know they will end. They did before and I know I'll be stronger for it.


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