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On Unmarried Harlotry and Misogynist-Feminism – Paul: Week Two

Posted Oct 17 2010 6:07pm
My counselling session with Paul last Monday was so wide-ranging that I hardly know where to begin. As I noted in this post , it was like I condensed years of sexual abuse into a minuscule 50 minutes, which doesn’t make for a good written recollection of the session. I’ll therefore take it on a desultory point-by-point basis.

As I sat down with Paul at the start of the session, there must have been some ongoing amicable-enough conversation bouncing between us. When he’d first seen me downstairs in the waiting room, with my formerly-blue hair now jet black, he’d said, jokingly, “you’re trying to confuse me, aren’t you?” Maybe we were discussing that, but I don’t remember. The subject matter is unimportant in any event.

He asked where I wanted to start the discussion, and I didn’t have a clue (as had been so frequently the case with C, Paul’s predecessor). But somehow or other, we eventually got to the subject of the sex abuse (I mean…it is what I’m there for!) and in doing so, I instantaneously switched from this cheerful, fairly vivacious and easy-going young woman, to a verbally dried-up, suspicious, nervous, child-like…thing.

He asked me how I felt in that moment, but I failed to articulate myself particularly well and out tumbled some incoherent mutterings about it being an awkward subject to discuss. How wonderfully insightful of me; I bet he has never heard anything of the like before. Self-vituperations notwithstanding, I must have ‘relaxed’ into it eventually (insofar as that’s possible, anyway), because on our Let’s Talk About Sex (Abuse)! journey of fun and discovery we eventually arrived at the thrilling destination of…

Ever since I began talking about my experiences of sexual abuse, I have been horrified by the use of the terminology that’s inevitably involved. I’m fairly OK in certain circles with using the supposedly vulgar swear words for those ‘proper’ terms that I still find wholly intolerable, but that’s about it.

I remember when I talked about one of the somatic symptoms of my various illnesses to C one day that his response – to my utter, utter horror – was, “is this feeling in your vagina?” Vile word. Disgusting. I hate hate hate it. I feel sick even typing it, never-mind hearing it, never-never-mind saying it. I nearly threw up all over poor C as a result of his verbal use of this term. Eugh. Yuk yuk yuk.

(As a related aside, I have made a discovery. Well, not a discovery, but I have come to a gradual and clear realisation. Paedo – and/or, apparently , his friends – must have been heavily pissed during many of their little anti-me enterprises. I’ve always experienced this kind of physical reaction ((a dull ache or sense of horrible and distinct pressure down there, or the tactile equivalent of an illusion that I need to micturate)) when confronted with overt drunkenness – stuff like hiccups, significant word-slurring etc. It’s particularly notable when it’s on the TV, though it happens in person too. Which is all a bit odd given that, staying ever patriotic to this island, I happily knock back booze with the best of ‘em. Strange).

Anyway, back on topic, one thing that stands out in my mind about this session with Paul was that, during the discussion of a vaginal (grr) rape that I recall well, I quite matter-of-factly said, “I remember looking down afterwards and seeing this horrible mixture of red, cream and pink liquid, which I now realise was a concoction of semen and blood.”

I’m pretty sure I didn’t shift my gaze from him as I said this either, and I don’t remember being particularly shamed using the words, though of course I harbour great shame in general. If I had ever been able to say that to C, it would have been through stuttered gasps, and from behind a protective mane of Uncle Fester-ised hair.

Not that I am criticising C, but I was desperate for him to like (love?) me, and I would not have readily put myself in a position where (in my erroneous but strongly held estimation) I looked like a shameful slag in front of him (at the very least, not until I was convinced that that wasn’t how he would have seen me). Maybe that shows a problem with the existence of attachment in psychotherapy, and maybe it doesn’t. It is just an observation.

This was my eventual response to Paul when he asked me what I felt as I was being raped, or in the immediate aftermath of such an incident. The question produced something akin to a reliving-it-style-flashback, although I didn’t feel as much physical discomfort as one may have expected, thank fuck. I didn’t entirely have words for the sense of WTF? that Child Me / Adult-Me-Having-a-Flashback-in-the-Room-with-Paul felt, which indicates that I must have been very young as my vocabulary would have included words such as ‘confusion’ and ‘perplexity’ from a pretty young age (I’d guess seven-ish).

The WTF? of the moment was best summarised by me eventually, there in Paul’s counsellor-ly room in 2010, as ‘bewilderment’. He said that that was “a good place to start.”

We spent quite a bit of time discussing why I never told anyone what was going on and how great the “emotional trauma” of that alone must have been. As he rightly noted, it is not in the normal psychology of a child to keep quiet about something that hurts or confuses him/her (certainly not to at this level), and to that end, he held, Paedo must have made some threat to or instilled in me some worry that made me keep my trap shut.

I have absolutely no recollection of anything like this whatsoever. After Paedo had done what he was doing, he would dress, tell me to do so, wait for me, then lead me back to the house (or wherever was applicable to the incident in question). I can’t remember if we exchanged words during these brief jaunts, but I am certain that there was no malice emanating from him (which sounds laughably improbable but, you know…relatively speaking).

Paul urged me to consider the issue deeply and I really, really did. He reiterated his position that something must have made me so terrified of repercussions to keep something of such magnitude to myself, but all I came up with was a big, fat blank. This remains the case a week on.

His view of this is that there was a fear running so deep somewhere that I was/am not ready to ‘recover’ it. My theory, in contrast, is a little less dramatic.

My mother (who has mellowed out considerably since, praise be) loathed (or at least regarded with the utmost contempt) the idea of sex before marriage when I was a kid. I can’t imagine that she must have harped on about it specifically to me when I was at the age at which the abuse started (five-ish), as she only found out that I knew about sex (that I knew far more than she about sex!) when I was about eight, but still – I have recollections of her views on this anyway. One such memory is of her and my grandfather sitting in the living room, tutting moralistically when some unmarried woman on the TV was up the duff. I asked them what was so unspeakably heinous about this woman who should clearly have been burnt at the stake, whilst being doused with sulphuric acid whilst having her eyes gouged out with a rusty spoon. Rather than give any sort of reasoned or thoughtful response, they both look at me in aghast horror and advised that one day I would understand the nature of her offence. Patronising pricks.

So anyhow, my theory is that I thought that my mother and her family would have been so utterly ashamed and mortified that I had engaged in sexual acts before marriage – indeed, with someone already married – that they would have disowned me, or at the very least judgementally condemned and sneered at me.

I said so to Paul. He doesn’t think this accounts for my complete failure to reveal to someone in authority what was happening to me, but he did acknowledge that it could certainly have added to my senses of shame and complete defilement.

He sighed, and told me he’d read through the ‘how depressed are you’ questionnaire that he’d given me to complete the previous week .

“You ticked the box stating that you felt ‘very’ guilty and ashamed,” he said.

I nodded.

“Almost all of my clients tick that option,” he continued, shaking his head with gentle sadness. “What – what – have you got to feel guilty for?!”

I shrugged, and hypothesised that whilst I had nothing to feel guilty for really, that I had only developed that awareness as an adult. “I grew up thinking it was my fault, I think” I explained. “Rationality and logic are all very well, but even they can’t reverse 20 years of tunnel-vision thinking.”

Of course, for every utterance of “it’s not my fault,” comes about 17,000 “I’m a filthy whore!” declarations. I told Paul that I was a disgusting slag who seduced Paedo (I’ve just spent 20 minutes looking through the archives of this journal, because I had the following conversation with C too, and I know I wrote about it. Alas, I am missing it somewhere). I admitted to my sexualised behaviour around Paedo, a debauched behaviour on my part that occurred on two types of occasion: (1) when I knew he was incapable of touching me for whatever reasons (meaning I could satisfactorily watch his frustrated ‘suffering’); and (2) after I had become pubescent and Paedo was no longer interested in fucking me.

I saw this as my own mini version of revenge, but opined (and still do) that it exemplified my unadulterated (or, perhaps, adulterated? That also works) sluttery. Paul had a somewhat different view, which slightly echoed what had been C’s take on it (I still can’t find the relevant post, and it’s fucking doing my head in. If you’ve spotted this missing post, please contact the Missing Posts Unit at the Serial Insomniacal Headquarters…). The idea to both men was that dressing ‘seductively’ had given me some level of control over a situation in which I’d always been powerless. I don’t remember exactly what C had been getting at when we’d had the discussion, but with hindsight I can say with some confidence that it was probably a similar line of thinking to Paul’s.

Paul thinks that I was taken aback by the sudden or (more accurately) trailing off of the abuse, not understanding entirely why Paedo had ‘lost interest’ in me. He said that because no one had realised that anything was happening, and that it had gone on for so many years, it had become normalised in my head – and that when it stopped, although part of me was decidedly grateful, part of me felt rejected too. He wondered if my ‘seductive’ dressing was therefore some (admittedly unconscious) pseudo-attempt on my part to reignite Paedo’s interest in me. Better to have some attention than to be greeted with utter indifference.

I don’t know what I think of this. I don’t remember feeling ‘rejected’, but the implication is that even if I had done, it would have been as a psychological undercurrent and was not something of which I was aware. I do remember, again, a sense of WTF? when IT was no more – but quickly concluded that he simply wasn’t interested in anything other than pre-pubescent bodies, which is still my held position. But did that make me feel unloved? I suppose in a twisted way that it’s possible, though it doesn’t feel true.

Paul asked me if, either in my childhood or my adolescence, I’d had what would these days be termed “behavioural problems” by the psychiatric profession. My cynical laugh confirmed that this had, indeed, been the case (only as a teenager, mind you. I was a strange child, but not a nightmare one).

Paul spoke of his anger towards care-givers who are slapped around the face everyday with classic symptoms of child abuse in those of whom they are in charge, dismissing their ‘issues’ as teenage angst, being a spoiled brat or whatever. I nodded in agreement, but did point out that the dividing line between an ill-bred little cunt and a severely traumatised young person was blurred and hard to define.

He didn’t disagree, but said that most parents/guardians had it well within their power to do a little research into their kids’ behaviour, which would shed a lot of light on things, and possibly enable as-early-as-possible treatment for the abused youngster.

Was there an implicit attack on my mother here? I think so. I couldn’t disagree with him though – I still have a lot to tell here on that score. In short, aside from her denouncements on the information I gave her about Paedo (which, unsurprisingly, have “served to make [me] think that [I] was the one at fault” in the saga of Him and Me), she used to beat the living fuck out of me until I was ‘within an inch of my life’. My crime was being depressed.

But that’s a story for another day.

Paul said that when adults don’t notice the obvious signs of abuse – in my case walking strangely (obviously in the immediate aftermath of a certain type of incident), dramatic social withdrawal – that the child has to start leaving more cryptic-seeming hints all over the place. This leads to thinks like anger, regressed behaviours, theft and/or lies and generally disruptive behaviour. Although he accepted that the crossover between ‘bad’ and ‘traumatised’ was at times unclear, he said that the behaviour that I described from my late childhood/adolescence was classic mal-treated-kid behaviour.

Of course, my mother doesn’t believe in the lasting effects of trauma (despite the fact that she herself is very clearly suffering from some sort of PTSD), so I doubt she’d buy that, but it made me feel better about some of the shit things I’d done as an unruly brat. It doesn’t excuse them, but it does go some way to help explain them.

It’s my last line of defence, apparently. I used the term “repressed memories” for some reason, then started lambasting myself because “repressed memories” were/are simply “false memories”.

“You know that’s not true, don’t you?” Paul queried, refusing to break eye contact.

I broke it, staring up at the skylight and pulling at my hair. Eventually I nodded regretfully.

I asked him had he seen Life on Mars . The philistine had not (I shall sack him as my therapist tomorrow ((today)) for this unforgivable atrocity), but he understood the premise, so I outlined its relevance to me (the first episode deals with the tiny things that the protagonist’s mind has ‘invented’, leading him to conclude that because there was no point in it making up such details, that his circumstances must be real).

Paul asked how I had felt during the experiencing of my small details – watching the rain water meandering down the garage wall, for example. I said that I had developed an odd fascination with such mundaneness at the time. Predictably, he saw this as a precursor to dissociation, and a coping mechanism to deal with the “unspeakable-ness” of what was being done at the time.

Way, way back many centurie(s-in-days) ago, not long after this blogging began, a blogpost lived in the land of Paaa-aahhnn, that identified her as a misogynist-feminist.

(If you understand what the deliberate cadence of the preceding paragraph was alluding to then you lead as sad a life as I do. Sorry).

Paul asked me how I felt about discussing the whole sorry thing with him, and I replied that it was odd talking about it with such candour to anyone. He accepted that, but was especially interested in whether or not having the conversation with “an older man” freaked me out.

I said that on the contrary, I preferred it. I told him that I had never particularly gotten on with women (though as I encounter more and more lovely ladies in the blogosophere, my flawed perspective on my own sex is finally being corrected – nevertheless, my older friends and acquaintances are still almost exclusively male, as was briefly discussed on the ‘ About ‘ page), and that I had actually become quite anxious about the possibility of seeing a woman rather than a man at Nexus before it was confirmed that I could see him. I said that my interests – heavy metal, science fiction, beer, poker, cars – were the much more frequent domain of blokes rather than women, and that things that women did generally seem interested in – babies, weddings, soaps etc – were strongly disliked by me. (Obviously this is a generalisation in terms of both genders, for which I apologise).

Paul thinks that it’s not as simple as that. Or rather, it is – I do harbour more traditionally masculine interests – but that it’s not been an accident of nature. This is where I think we’ll have to agree to disagree; I don’t believe in ‘innate’ gender roles. The fact that I do not have a penis (how odd, I can type that one without apparent difficulty) does not mean that I lack the interests more traditionally associated with those that do own such an appendage. Similarly, I deem it perfectly acceptable for blokes to be interested in fashion, kids, home furnishings, whatever – they’re not inherently not that way. I hold that we are first and foremost people, rather than members of groups that are specifically defined by our reproductive organs.

Paul, on the other hand, feels that I (unconsciously) developed my ‘masculine’ interests so as I could fit in better with men, thus (apparently) affording myself more protection than a female who was clearly ‘different’ in some ways from them. Psychology is a powerful thing, it must be noted, and I can see the argument that he posits. Nonetheless, I don’t like it, because it assumes that I intrinsically should have been different to the way I am, and I don’t feel comfortable with that idea at all. But then, what is there to feel comfortable about in this whole thing? He may be right. I don’t know.

As a counterargument, I postulated the idea that perhaps it was not about me becoming like males, but becoming unlike females. It was a male (males) that abused me, of course, but it was primarily females that sat idly by and ‘let’ it all happen. In that way, perhaps the development of a certain amount of disdain towards them was natural? I don’t know, and he admitted that neither did he, but it doesn’t seem totally unfathomable.

I also remember my eternal disgust for the public displays of emotion of Mum, Maisie, Georgie and to a much lesser extent Maureen, even from when I was very young. It used to grossly offend me to see an adult woman (or even one of the other girls) in tears – and I can’t say that led to an increase in my opinion of them. I suppose that I learnt early to be ‘hard’ and self-sufficient. I don’t know. I do know that Child Me cried a sum total of once in company greater than that of my mother, and that was when I had very severely twisted my ankle. I went about apologising to Maisie, Paedo (I was at their house) and their descendants for this gruesome iniquity in its immediate aftermath.

Paul and I had a brief discussion regarding the dynamics ongoing between us in the room at the time. One thing I really like about Paul so far is that he says what he fucking means. So for example where C would have endlessly asked, “what’s going on between us right now?” (a perennial mantra which, through no fault really of his, made me want to batter his face in), Paul asks, “what kind of transference are you feeling towards me at the minute, if any?” What’s even better is that he will then say, “…my transference is along the lines of x…”

C almost never alluded to countertransference, other than to sometimes (to be fair to him) admit to defensiveness or to remind me that the relationship was a co-construction. It would have been obvious to a dead fly that C reacted, at times quite strongly, to me, as I did to him – that was particularly noteworthy because, despite everything that happened, we did ‘click’ at a personal level. As I said before, Westminster’s loss is the NHS’s apparent gain. C was/is terribly good at avoiding and dodging questions are not traditionally the permitted territory of the analysand.

I have no idea whether or not Paul has such an ability towards avoidance, because he doesn’t bother to insult my intelligence by trying to employ it. He just comes out and says shit like it is.

Having said all that, don’t ask me what the countertransference to which he alluded actually was! I faintly recall an expression of sadness, but then that’s hardly surprising. It isn’t necessarily that I elicit that in him, I shouldn’t think – the material under the spotlight (no matter how hardened he is to same) can do that quite ably without any overt currents of psychological projection from me.

So, I don’t recall the nature of the transference/countertransference conversation, but – 3,800 words notwithstanding – my memory of this entire session is lacking. I knew as I sat there that I would be unable to detail it as accurately as I would have liked, and this instance is probably the best example of that. However, the very fact that he referenced the concepts with such openness was enough to continue to impress me.

So now it is Monday again, and I shall be seeing Paul in about 10 hours. I was going to write that I expected not to know where to begin – but that’s not entirely true, is it? I think he’ll have to be the first person other than A to have verbally been made aware of the unpleasantness of this – and, of course, my apparent return to being completely mental.

The latter I expected, even if I wasn’t fully prepared for it when it came. A gang rape? Well…not so much. Even though I sort of knew of it for a long time. Bloody brain and its nefarious dissociation.

Goodnight, lovely people. xxx

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