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#60668 - 03/15/06 10:36 PM Acting Out
Rayne Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 23
For some of us supporters it is hard for us to understand certain things. Acting out is one of them. Like I can understand if a survivor of abuse becomes introverted, angered, frustrated, overly saddened, depressed, etc., but I don’t understand what is that defining moment that a man will decide (and I am particularly talking about married men) to go out and continue practicing the same acts that haunted and devastated them as a child? Plus, what can another man do that his wife can’t do in the intimacy of their own home? And, why do many say that although it happened, they don’t consider themselves “gay”?
Sorry, it has been 2 months for me and I still have questions. Sometimes they are redundant, but I am trying to get this all in my head and it is taking some time.

_________________________
Rayne

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#60669 - 03/16/06 01:41 AM Re: Acting Out
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Rayne
I acted out for a combination of reasons, none of them on their own were enough of a 'reason', and none were more influential than the others.

I was looking to regain the abuse of power that was imposed upon me by my abusers through recreating the same sex acts as an adult.
I 'thought' that if I did those acts again but this time on MY terms, and under MY control, then I would somehow gain ........and I find it hard to describe this exactly...... some kind of understanding, closure or reasons for my childhood abuse.

I also thought that this kind of sex was all I was good for, some of that was due to confusion over being gay or straight, I'm straight, but at a very impressionable time I was schooled in gay sex.
But I NEVER fantasised or fancied other men, my acting out was purely sex acts with strangers.

I still have trouble associating sex with the intimacy of a loving relationship as well, even after therapy. I see sex as something seperate to my 32 year marriage to a woman I love, and with hindsight I can see that it's been that way pretty much all the time.
I find it hard to kiss while having sex because kissing is a loving and intimate thing, and sex is something that I was 'taught' by the wrong methods, by the wrong people at the wrong time.

Was there a "defining moment" when I decided to act out?
No, I think we'd been married about 23 years before I actually engaged in sex with a strange man, but the thought, and then the fantasy, had been there from the day the abuse stopped.
I didn't fantasise about the sex we had, my abusers and I, but, again with hindsight, I can see that I did think and fantasise about the sex acts. Always with me in control though.

The truth is I could never regain control over what had already taken place, and neither could I take control over sex with another man, no matter how it took place.
This 'seeking control' wasn't something that I did consciously though, that 'theory' has only come up through therapy and a huge amount of soul searching. It might not be the same for every guy that acts out either, but I've yet to deal with anyone who's acted out that can't trace their acting out back to their abuse, and that includes guys who were married but are now very happy in a gay relationship.

Acting out has very little to do with sex, I believe the roots lie in the abuse of power, the survivor feeling like shit, having such low self-esteem that we feel deserve nothing better, sexual identity confusion, and our perception of the relationship between sex and intimacy.

I certainly didn't do it for great sex.

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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#60670 - 03/16/06 03:13 AM Re: Acting Out
Trish4850 Offline
BoD Liaison Emeritus
MaleSurvivor<

Registered: 10/15/05
Posts: 3280
Loc: New Jersey
Dave,

I can intellectually understand the why’s of acting out, but my heart doesn’t get it. Why would a man act out, with men or women, knowing full well that when or if they get caught {I’m betting on when} that the person who loves them will be devastated? Isn’t that just another form of abuse that the survivor is now perpetrating against the person who loves them and who they purport to love?

I know you hate what you did. You’re a good person who is priceless here and I’m sure in your “real” life and the lives of your friends and family. I know that my b/f is a good person but I also know that for as tremendously as he was hurt, he hurt me. Not physically, but my heart and my self worth have been badly damaged because of his actions. Does that thought even enter the mind of a survivor when planning or participating in an illicit sexual encounter? Is it just disregarded?

Like Rayne, I understand “if a survivor of abuse becomes introverted, angered, frustrated, overly saddened, depressed, etc.” but I can’t understand how a survivor would even take the chance of hurting maybe the only person who has ever truly loved him when he has been hurt so badly.

I know I’m asking these questions from the perspective of someone who was never abused but they are questions that I’m desperate to find answers to. It just doesn’t make sense to my heart.

ROCK ON..........Trish

_________________________
If you fall down 10 times, Stand up 11.

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#60671 - 03/16/06 01:22 PM Re: Acting Out
phoster Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/21/03
Posts: 758
Loc: ohio
to be honest, therapists dont know, and i'm betting in most cases the survivor doesnt understand it either. not in terms he can tell you anyway.

one theory is that we are trying to regain control. we are drawn to it because as an adult we have the control that we didnt as kids. another theory is that survivors do it so that they can try and understand what happened and make it make sense. all that is well and good, but i bet the guy doing it doesnt think in those terms.

it is very confusing and complex. speaking from my experience, the first part of it is hating yourself. when you see yourself as sick and perverted, you dont respect yourself. i had this hopelessness that made resisting very hard. it was kind of like being surrendered to it. it was my destiny kind of.

you walk around empty and unhappy, looking for that magic thing that will fill you up. you love your wife and kids, your family, but you dont love yourself and you dont love your life. you dont value anything except maybe the idea of death. the only time you escape all that is when you're having sex. when you're having sex, you focus on the sex and the pleasure, and escape the reality of all that hate for a little while.

the problem is, because sex is a thrill, a high, an escape, it becomes more than just sharing with someone you love. it becomes your drug, something meant to take away the pain. you need that edge, that something daring and thrilling to make it better than the routine of your wife. you have all these fantasies that just eat at you all the time. you think about it, dream of it, look at porn showing it, write about it, until the draw is just so powerful there is no hope of resisting. it takes on a life of its own.

at first you resist. you dont want to hurt your wife. all you want is to feel good. you wish your wife would do this or that, but are too ashamed to ask, or worse, you have asked and she doesnt want to. the urge gets stronger, you fight it, but when you hate yourself, you have no value and no worth. you arent worthy of your wife. all you are worthy of is sickness and perversion. you see no good in the world, only pain.

you get so empty and feel so isolated that everything around you loses all meaning. the only thing that can stop the pain is that high. you need that escape so bad you can't stand it. maybe you've made arrangements to meet someone over and over, and each time in a last minute battle with guilt, you make an excuse and back out. then one time, after a fight or when you are really extra down, you give in.

for a brief instant, all you feel is the pleasure. you feel the high while you are living it. you block out everything and live for the instant. for that instant, for that blink of an eye, the pain is forgotten. you know you will pay an awful price after, but for that one instant, you have relief.

when it is over, the whole cycle starts again. you feel awful for doing it. you hate yourself, and that hate builds and grows until you need that next escape, that next moment where you can forget all the pain. that is what it is like for a survivor. it isnt that you dont love your wife or girlfriend. it is that you hate yourself. it takes self esteem and self worth to be able to resist when things get bad. remove all hope and all value from a person, and he just doesnt care what happens to himself any more. if he loses you, well it is just something else he deserves and has coming. the whole time it actually has very little to do with you or his love for you. it is all about him, about his pain, about making it go away for a moment.

_________________________
compassion is a light even to the darkest soul

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#60672 - 03/16/06 03:03 PM Re: Acting Out
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Trish, Rayne,

One thing that might help you to understand what Dave is talking about - look at your posts, and you will see that you ask a certain kind of question:

From Rayne:

Quote:
I don’t understand what is that defining moment that a man will decide (and I am particularly talking about married men) to go out and continue practicing the same acts that haunted and devastated them as a child? Plus, what can another man do that his wife can’t do in the intimacy of their own home?
From Trish:

Quote:
Why would a man act out, with men or women, knowing full well that when or if they get caught {I’m betting on when} that the person who loves them will be devastated? Isn’t that just another form of abuse that the survivor is now perpetrating against the person who loves them and who they purport to love?
These are good questions, but they miss several key points about what it means to be a survivor. First, both questions presume that we're talking about a man with a good sense of boundaries, but many survivors don't have that. When a boy is abused, in most cases this will be his first experience with sex. What he knows and thinks about sex will be defined by what the abuser does to him, and this is terribly destructive to any nascent sense of boundaries he may already have and it will obstruct his ability to nurture good boundaries in the future.

The other problem is that your questions presume that we are talking about a man who knows his worth as a person and has a good sense of direction and goals. But an abused boy will very often feel worthless and unlovable; he will feel alone, lost and confused, with no one to trust or talk to about what is happening to him.

What's important to bear in mind here is that the feelings the boy has won't just fade away because he grows up. Unless he gets help he will carry all this junk into adulthood with him. His acting out isn't rational and thought through; it's desperate and based on a need to do SOMETHING to respond to his problems. He may rationalize the acting out - for example by saying that he won't get caught, and even if he is he's not worth anything anyway so what does it matter what he loses. That's how I was with alcohol and drugs; I simply didn't care what happened to me, so the risks were never a factor in what I was willing to do. To look at the specific issue you both have in mind, a married survivor (or one in a long-term relationship) may consider - if he thinks at all before he acts - that if he's caught and loses his SO, never mind, she deserves better than him anyway so what the hell.

I actually think I am being too rational even when I just talk about this. One reason it is so difficult for us to recover is that these feelings and emotions aren't all sorted and classified in our heads: like okay, shame is here, guilt is there, sexual confusion is in this corner, and so forth. It's all a wild hurricane and it's a hell of a task even to START to try to get a grip on everything that's going on.

I'm not offering any of this as an excuse. I guess what you really need to bear in mind is that a survivor may not be looking at the "why" questions from the perspective you think he does. In fact, he may not have thought of them at all until the damage has been done.

He's trying to escape from his feeling of powerlessness and helplessness, though he may not see it as that as the time. He may feel he HAS to do this, or he may convince himself okay, just this once. True, there's no sense to what he's doing, since the acting out will only make things worse, but he's responding emotionally, not rationally, and what he's responding to is trauma, not an intellectual puzzle or logical problem.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#60673 - 03/16/06 04:11 PM Re: Acting Out
Dan88 Offline
Member

Registered: 08/07/02
Posts: 247
Loc: DC
I don't think it's possible to really understand someone else's compulsive behavior and how or if it ties back to a trauma in their past.

I've known many survivors who cheated on their wives and their stories are all a little different. With some, you talk about the adrenaline involved and how it compared to what they experienced when being abused and that really rings a bell. It's almost like fear of discovery equals sex to them.

With others they connect with it being about control. Still others see it as repeating their victimization, sort of repetion of a learned pattern the way abuse victims will sometimes seek out abusive spouses.

I would just say to spouses that at some point they need to accept that what they're told is as close to the truth as they can get, and then they need to decide if their spouse truly intends to change and then they have to make the decision as to whether to forgive or not. And I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that forgiving this type of thing is the right thing to do. Just my two cents.


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#60674 - 03/16/06 11:39 PM Re: Acting Out
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Phoster has written possibly the best account of acting out I've ever read, and every word, every sentence and paragraph sent a shiver down my spine.

I have to remind myself of the way I was back in the 1990's,and earlier, when I think about my acting out.
And I wasn't the man who's sat here typing this.
Back then I didn't give a flying f**k about anyone, most of all me.
In the early 80's I walked out of a good job because the manager was lying on the floor of the factory. I walked before they sacked me.
My next employer fared little better, but at least I didn't try to strangle anyone.

I drank too much, used drugs, and generally arsed around without any regard for anyone.
I worked hard, with my father in law Jim's help we turned two ruined cottages into the lovely home we have today. I would plaster walls, install plumbing until the early hours of the morning, but Jim somehow understood me and I was fine with him.

It was mainly 'authority' that I raged against, and now I can understand that. But back then I didn't, to quote Popeye "I am what I am" was my attitude.
And how I saw myself is crucial to how I ended up acting out.

I saw myself as a worthless underachiever, but it was always someone elses fault.
I was having weird and sick fantasies, so I believed I was a pervert - no better than the "boys I had fun with at school"
I was in a work culture where as a maintenance guy I was always rushing to a breakdown, and getting shit because the repair took longer than they wanted, or we didn't the spares. If I fixed it, then another pile of crap was waiting.
Regard for me or what I did was rare, and when it came, from my wife or Jim, I didn't believe it.

I finished the house, my job was steady with decent hours despite the crap, so I had no real pressure on me, so I sat in front of the TV drinking beer, a true couch potato.
By this time the fantasies were getting worse, I had started to rely on them while having sex so they became ingrained deeper. Then they started to not work as well as before, so I dug deeper and dragged new ones up. Sex became a chore because it didn't match my fantasies, sex died off.

In the mid 90's divorce was being talked about.
How much of a failure could I be?
Not that it bothered me greatly, I was so worthless in my own estimation that it seemed inevitable anyway, who would want to stay with me?

By this time I had fantasy down to a fine art, and Phoster and Dan both mention the adreniline rush of acting out, I had learned to start the rush with fantasy and prolong it over days until such a time I could act out, by that time I was oblivious. I keep saying it, but it was genuinly better than cocaine.

What about the risks? Did I care? The truth is that I didn't care, not about me or anyone else once the fantasy / adreniline rush was rolling.

But interestingly, I often had what I considered intrusive interruptions to my fantasies.
The thought of getting caught would surface, along with the consequences. Which for a married guy giving bj's to strangers in a toilet were not good. Divorce, loss of friends and family, probably loss of job, home and basically everything were real possibilities. How about AIDS for a risk? Using condoms never even entered my head.

However, in therapy we talked a lot about this and the thought I arrived at was that it was possibly a subconcious message saying "If I got caught, then MAYBE someone would ask 'why". And I think there's some valididty to that as well because over the years there were so many times that I craved to tell someone, mainly my wife, about what had happened at school. But in my mind I'd left it too late, so I needed an 'incident' that would make it possible to disclose.

This might also have some bearing on the increasing risks that I would take when acting out, but the 'getting caught' thing wasn't the only driver at work. ( it rarely is, acting out is a complex mixture )
The total lack of self esteem led me behave like a 'slut', and the greater risks led to greater thrills and increased adreniline rushes, it's why people go bungee jumping.
In the end the risks weren't considered, neither were the feelings of those I love, and this is how came to a situation one day where the risk of getting caught amounted to lunacy on my part, well both our parts because the other guy was willing as well.
That day haunts me, as they all do obviously, but this day was utter madness, and It was ONE of the reasons I sought help within a year.

Could I do it again?
No is the simple and honest answer - IF my circumstances stay pretty much as they are.
As long as there's some stability in my life, such as my wife, family and close friends, then I'm fine.
But if something major occurs, such as the loss of my wife, then I couldn't honestly guarantee that my acting out wouldn't return as a part of the coping stratergies I'd use. I honestly think it's a very small risk even then because I have terrific relationships with a lot of people now, and I KNOW where I could go for support.

I last acted out on May 8th 1998 and started therapy almost exaclty a year later, and since that sunny May day I have had the chance to act out with other men about 5 or 6 times. I drive a great deal in my job and have to use public toilets so in a way I'm going into places where I know men might be waiting for sex, and I know the drill of getting it.
But I walked away every time because I now know the REAL consequences, not just the list I wrote earlier on, but the consequences that I'd be inflicting upon myself mentally.

I deserve to live a decent life, I haven't inflicted deliberate pain and torment upon others. OK, I've not always been the perfect guy, but what the hell! Who is?
So even accepting that giving a bj has certain pleasures, I can see that it isn't a part of my life anymore because my life is good now.

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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#60675 - 03/17/06 06:17 PM Re: Acting Out
Rayne Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 23
Wow…thanks guys for your candor and honesty. I really did not know what to expect when I came back to the board. I know for my husband, he was going through a MAJOR depression before he started acting out. I am sure that had to be a big trigger. After I found out, my husband repeatedly told me how messed up he was, and what a bad person he was, so I am sure he has a lot of self-loathing going on. And as previously alluded, my husband would always say “I want to die”. But I thought he was being overly dramatic.

To me, it almost sounds like any other form of compulsion or addition. You look to a certain thing for that “escape” and once it is over, you are back to square one – reality. Then it starts all over again.


Quote:
Originally posted by phoster:
you hate yourself, and that hate builds and grows until you need that next escape, that next moment where you can forget all the pain. that is what it is like for a survivor. it isnt that you dont love your wife or girlfriend. it is that you hate yourself. it takes self esteem and self worth to be able to resist when things get bad. remove all hope and all value from a person, and he just doesnt care what happens to himself any more. if he loses you, well it is just something else he deserves and has coming. the whole time it actually has very little to do with you or his love for you. it is all about him, about his pain, about making it go away for a moment.
I like Trish, sometimes find it hard to understand it all. But hearing from all of you makes it a little easier to relate.

_________________________
Rayne

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#60676 - 03/17/06 06:43 PM Re: Acting Out
phoster Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 11/21/03
Posts: 758
Loc: ohio
"I thought he was being overly dramatic."

unfortunately he wasnt. we have lost a few members along the way here from this very thing. it is very hard living when you spend every day of your life feeling sick and perverted. it wears you down when you have to battle each day to resist acting out, and you reach this point where dying seems simple. if you were dead, it would all finally stop. i know it isnt easy to be cheated on. lord help for what i've done to my wife, but living like this isnt easy either.

"If you loved me, how could you do this?" my wife asked me. she still wonders, because she really doesnt understand how this stuff is. i do love her with all my heart, but i wasnt worthy of her. i was going to lose her anyway in my mind becuase i was so sexually screwed up, so why resist or put off fate? she deserved better. if i messed up and she left, she would be better off without me. she could find a good guy. it was an awful, awful way to live, and i can't believe i did it all those years, and only tried to kill myself once.

_________________________
compassion is a light even to the darkest soul

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#60677 - 03/18/06 01:25 AM Re: Acting Out
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Suicide is a very real possibility after acting out, it's something I nearly did because of the levels of guilt and shame, and the utter hopelessness of trying to stop the cycle.
I could be acting out within days of the last episode, after telling myself "never again"

As I said earlier, I'm very confident that I will never act out with other men ever again, but the basic urge still has some power left.
I haven't killed it off, all I've done is learned how to control it to a certain degree.

Which is why within 30 minutes of posting last night I was looking at gay porn.
In a way I look upon that as a minor victory because it's not acting out with other men, but it's still something I don't want to do. I want to make LOVE with my wife.

It's a gradual process I guess, and my use of porn is, on average, getting less. But I'm a bit stressed right now, there's a lot of crap going on around me that I have no control over, and I'm using every coping mechanism I can lay my hands on.
Which is why I said that "if something major occurs, such as the loss of my wife, then I couldn't honestly guarantee that my acting out wouldn't return as a part of the coping stratergies I'd use."
I have to retain my hope though, I have to believe that the progress I've made so far will continue, and I don't care if it's slow, I don't care if I stop as I am if that's all there possibly is; because 'this' is so much better that I was.

My stressors should hopefully go away in the next few weeks, so I'm planning ahead to that time and refusing to get hung up about this period of stagnation.
In the past the future was something that I never considered, but I do now.

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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