Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bruce's Lecture

Walking into the seedy, dark foyer, Ben pushed down any feelings of fear or guilt. He was guided along the narrow hallway, his head buzzing, his breath shallow, his heart pounding. When Ben entered the small, dimly lit room, he was oblivious to the dank smell, the sleazy surroundings, and even the woman who stood in front of him. Ben was high.

Much to Ben's surprise, he wanted only one thing, and it wasn't sex. He wanted this stranger to hold him against her large, warm bosom and hum to him. When she did, Ben let out a long sigh and finally was able to relax.

Once again, Ben was in the emotional bosom of his childhood nanny. But along with the return to Nanny came the anger implicit in the association of sexual pleasure with the forbidden. And along wit the forbidden came the shame of transgression. Like an alcoholic who, after a period of sobriety, takes the next drink, the doors of addiction swung wide open for Ben. Pleasure and shame were his heady cocktail, and he would subconsciously pursue them both with greater and greater intensity.

Soon Ben's sexual acting out became more blatant and dangerous. He would use unprotected sex with strange women. He invited a trick back to his home and got rid or her just seconds before his wife walked in the door. He spent large sums on prostitutes, heedless that his spending would be easy to discover. Sexuality was now fused with danger, as if been were inviting disgrace for being the shameful, disgraced person he believed he was.

Ben had been in an alarm reaction since the birth of the twins, when he imagined that his wife's diversion of attention from him to the children was similar to his mother's abandonment of him. He had been jolted back in time to memories of his childhood. His wife was transformed into his mother, and the resentment, anger, and rage had been harbored for so many years erupted into a binge lasting several years.

It wasn't until Ben's wife investigated unusual charges on their monthly credit card statement that Ben ended up in my office.

"Why do you go to prostitutes?" I ask.
"Because I can't get what I want from my wife," he says with a slight tone of indignation.
"What is it you want?" 
"A little attention would be nice," he says in a sarcastic tone.
"Have you asked for that?"
"What's the use? After our third child was born, I knew I could kiss it goodbye."
"Kiss it goodbye?"
"Any attention from her," he says, his body melting into a defeated ball.
"How old do you feel right now?" I ask.
"I don't know," he says in an agitated tone.
"Well, check in with yourself because you and your body's facial expression look very young."

Ben lets out a sigh of exasperation, as if this type of introspection is beneath him.

"I guess about three," he says, rolling his eyes.
"Three years old," I repeat.
"Um humm."
"Well, that is a problem because I can't work with a three-year-old; I need to work with your adult."

Ben's forehead furrows, and he narrows his eyes as if to center me in the crosshairs of a rifle: "What the hell are you talking about?"
"You look confused." I say.
"Yeah, just a little," he says, even more exasperated.
"Well, let me float my idea by you, and see if it fits."

Ben says nothing but lets me continue.

"When you were born, I believe you had a traumatic response that propelled you back to your original wounding, the abandonment by your mother. This triggered feelings of shame, which were intolerable, and so you moved to anger--sexual anger--to ease your pain, and you acted out."
"Makes sense," Ben says, barely nodding his head.
"If we overlay the original coping mechanism over your acting out behaviors, the are exactly the same, right down to the remaking of Nanny--same body type, same behavior."
"Humm... interesting," Ben says, making the connection. "So what do we do?" he ask with hope in his voice.
"That's easy. First you get sober, and next we heal your shame core."

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