Friday, November 8, 2013

Vulnerability (Part Two)

The floors of the high school halls shine like the polished deck of a luxury yacht. The low morning light gleams from them as Mitchell makes his way to this locker. His habit of arriving early to school began years ago. The early start gives him an added edge, which Mitchell finds comforting. He usually sits on the floor, his back against his locker, reviewing or finishing his homework. He likes to imagine that the "peer-proclaimed wimp" is in control. It provides a confidence booster prior to the distress he feels when the halls stream with fellow students.

Mitchell's daydream is interrupted as he notices the signs hung by the student council the night before; brightly colored artwork lines the halls. Mitchell feels despair as he reads the announcements for the homecoming dance.

Mitchell lives in a small town in southern Indiana, a tight-knit community that demonstrates its enthusiasm and spirit through Forth of July parades, town-hall Christmas carols, and sold-out high school sporting events. An event like this is a big deal.

"How did the dance turn out for you?" I ask.
"It was the worst," Mitchell say. "My mother, if you can believe this, set me up with this girl, who I later found out she was paid to go -- some girl from another county who didn't talk to me all night."
"Your mother probably thought she was being helpful, but that must have felt like a huge betrayal. And then the humiliation of how your date acted," I say.
"Exactly," Mitchell says, no animated. "That really cemented my fear and distrust of women."
"Wasn't this when your addiction really took off?"
"Big time. After that, I just gave up."

Mitchell learned to hide in his addiction to porn. He learned that his shame and fear of emotional rejection far outweighed his risk of being vulnerable. Instead of living in connection and sharing his truth with another, he leaned to live in reaction, behind walls of fear, anger, and resentment. This was the home of Mitchell's trauma. From this place, he could never have a relationship, much less a truly erotic one.

Like other recovering addicts working toward healthy sexuality, Mitchell must identify his fears and expectations as belonging to his wounding. He also must understand how his dysfunctional traumatized self undermines his attempts at intimacy.

This means that, if a person is going to engage with another, whether in friendship or intimacy, he has to learn how to access his needs and wants while respecting the needs and wants of his partner.

When we enter into a relationship, we strive not only for the enhancement of the self, but for the enhancement of the relationship. When we work for the betterment of the relationship, it takes us out of our self-centered fear and out from behind the walls of aggression, defense, and retreat. 

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