Exploring self

Sideways

Moderator
I have a history of CSA which involved brainwashing and cult-like, okay, cult elements. I have DID, and there’s conflict among my parts about things I was brainwashed to believe about myself. There is also conflict over my abuser - some of my parts continue to adore him, and I have been diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome.

I engage in BDSM relationships as a masochist. For some of my parts, this feels like a necessary important part of who I am, and a relatively safe way to express myself sexually. For other parts, they consider my masochism to be self-harm, and trauma-re-enactment.

How do I assess whether these sexual behaviours are okay, or whether they are counter-therapeutic and/or dysfunctional trauma re-enactment?
 
I have a history of CSA which involved brainwashing and cult-like, okay, cult elements. I have DID, and there’s conflict among my parts about things I was brainwashed to believe about myself. There is also conflict over my abuser - some of my parts continue to adore him, and I have been diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome.

I engage in BDSM relationships as a masochist. For some of my parts, this feels like a necessary important part of who I am, and a relatively safe way to express myself sexually. For other parts, they consider my masochism to be self-harm, and trauma-re-enactment.

How do I assess whether these sexual behaviours are okay, or whether they are counter-therapeutic and/or dysfunctional trauma re-enactment?
@Sideways, thank you for sharing your experience with me. It sounds like you have a complex history of trauma that has resulted in some internal conflicts and confusion.

When it comes to BDSM and sexual behaviors, there can be a fine line between healthy expression of sexuality and trauma re-enactment. It's helpful to explore your thoughts and feelings around your masochism and examine how it relates to your trauma history.

One potential tool to explore your relationship with BDSM and your trauma is exposure therapy. This approach involves gradually exposing yourself to reminders of your traumatic experiences in a controlled environment, allowing you to work through and eventually overcome your negative associations.

Additionally, I recommend discussing your BDSM behaviors with a mental health professional who is experienced in working with trauma survivors. This can help you better understand the potential impact of these behaviors on your mental health and help you develop coping strategies to maintain a healthy balance.

Ultimately, the decision to engage in BDSM behaviors is yours to make. But taking the time to carefully evaluate the impact of these behaviors on your mental health and well-being can help you make more informed choices.

Please remember that you are not alone, and it's important to continue seeking out support and resources as you work through your trauma and navigate these complex issues.
 
Can you say more about this?
Certainly, @Sideways. BDSM and masochistic behavior can be one way of expressing oneself sexually, and it's essential to evaluate how it relates to your trauma history. Since you have a history of complex trauma, it's essential to focus on the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that motivate your masochistic behavior.

It's helpful to reflect on how your relationship with BDSM and masochistic behavior has changed over time, how it affects your relationships, how it affects your sense of self, and the role it played in your history of trauma. Examining your motivations and asking yourself some critical questions can lead to a better evaluation of your behaviors and how they work for or against your healing process.

Suppose you notice this behavior as a way of controlling feelings related to trauma or dissociation, resulting in emotional distress, difficulty in functioning or establishing personal relationships, or feeling out of control. In that case, it may be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional to further explore whether it's serving to re-enact the trauma and potentially causing you more harm than good.

Remember, it's essential to take time to reflect and seek support from a professional psychiatrist or psychologist. They can help you identify and understand these motivations more thoroughly and create an individualized plan for addressing them.
 
Examining your motivations and asking yourself some critical questions can lead to a better evaluation of your behaviors and how they work for or against your healing process.
What questions?

At the moment, it isn’t interfering with my function, or causing significant distress. As long as that doesn’t change, maybe it isn’t really a problem.
 
What questions?

At the moment, it isn’t interfering with my function, or causing significant distress. As long as that doesn’t change, maybe it isn’t really a problem.
It's good to hear that these behaviors are not causing you significant distress or interfering with your day-to-day functioning at the moment, @Sideways. Regardless of whether it's causing significant problems right now, it can still be helpful to explore these behaviors to have a more thorough understanding of why you engage in them and the potential impact on your overall healing and recovery process.

Some questions you may want to consider asking yourself include:

- Why do I enjoy BDSM and masochistic behaviors? How does it make me feel?
- Do these behaviors help me manage or distract from difficult emotions related to my trauma?
- Are these behaviors empowering or empowering in some way? Do they trigger positive memories, thoughts or feelings?
- Do I feel like I have control over my engagement in these behaviors, or am I compelled to engage in them in a way that feels out of control?
- How do these behaviors impact my relationships with others, both inside and outside of the BDSM community?
- What are the risks and benefits of engaging in these behaviors?
- Have I ever felt ashamed or uncomfortable with these behaviors? If so, why?

As you work through these questions, it's important to remember that there is no right or wrong answer. Reflecting on these issues and discussing them with a trained therapist who can help you process any emotions that may come up can be incredibly beneficial for your healing process.
 
The behaviours create both positive and negative thoughts and feelings. I have DID, and my parts feel very differently about the behaviour.

I feel like the behaviour is a way to do something physical with persistent intrusive distress about my self concept. Sometimes it successfully creates a feeling of calm, sometimes it generates feelings of shame.

It doesn’t interfere with my relationships or function. I have learned good boundaries to ensure that it doesn’t have a negative impact on the rest of my life.

Although it’s definitely closely linked with the way my abuser programmed me, and is disempowering and replicates abuse, overall it seems to be helpful to me. It has been a problem in the past, but not so much now that I have better boundaries and better control.
 
The behaviours create both positive and negative thoughts and feelings. I have DID, and my parts feel very differently about the behaviour.

I feel like the behaviour is a way to do something physical with persistent intrusive distress about my self concept. Sometimes it successfully creates a feeling of calm, sometimes it generates feelings of shame.

It doesn’t interfere with my relationships or function. I have learned good boundaries to ensure that it doesn’t have a negative impact on the rest of my life.

Although it’s definitely closely linked with the way my abuser programmed me, and is disempowering and replicates abuse, overall it seems to be helpful to me. It has been a problem in the past, but not so much now that I have better boundaries and better control.
It's useful to hear that you have a comprehensive and nuanced perspective on the BDSM and masochistic behaviors, @Sideways. It's common for individuals who have experienced complex trauma, such as DID, to have internal conflicts about certain behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. It's clear that your behaviors are linked to your trauma history, but at this time, they seem to be helpful to you.

It's good that you have established good boundaries to ensure that the behavior does not have a negative impact on the rest of your life. The practice of BDSM and masochism can create a sense of control, which can be positive for individuals who have experienced powerlessness due to their trauma. Still, it's crucial to continue evaluating these behaviors, as sometimes the boundaries can shift, and the engagement in these behavioral patterns can increase itself compulsively or become harmful in the long run.

It's worth noting that sometimes activities that feel helpful in the short term may not be beneficial in the long term. Therefore, regularly reviewing the impact of these behaviors on your mental and emotional health can help identify any negative effects that may develop over time.

Overall, your self-awareness and boundary setting demonstrate vital components of maintaining a healthy relationship with the behaviors. Suppose you find that the activities become more challenging to manage or are interfering with your quality of life in the future. In that case, I would recommend consulting a licensed mental health professional to provide the support and guidance necessary to process the underlying motivations and potential impact of these behaviors.
 
Can you offer some strategies to help me communicate with my parts that this is not shameful or destructive?
 
Can you offer some strategies to help me communicate with my parts that this is not shameful or destructive?
Certainly, @Sideways. Communication with parts is an essential aspect of treating dissociative disorders, and there are a few strategies that you can employ to help them understand that the BDSM and masochistic behaviors are not shameful or destructive.

1. Education: Educate your parts about BDSM and masochism, explain to them what these behaviors are and their relationship with your trauma history. Knowledge on the subject can help parts understand the behaviors better and reduce any feelings of doubt or fear.

2. Safety and consent: Reinforce the idea of consent and safety during these behaviors. The internal communication on this topic with your parts can foster greater trust and empowerment, leading the parts to feel more secure.

3. Mindfulness: Encourage your parts to practice mindfulness, which can help them tune into their thoughts and emotions without judgment. When you or the parts have difficult feelings or thoughts about these behaviors, they can use mindfulness to acknowledge and validate these feelings while focusing on the present moment.

4. Validation: Validate your parts' emotions and feelings towards these behaviors without invalidating or minimizing them. When parts feel heard and understood, they are more likely to cooperate.

5. Body awareness: Help your parts to develop a greater awareness of what is happening in your body. A guided inner-body awareness exercise can help your parts observe the different sensations and emotions related to the behaviors without judging them.

Remember, effective internal communication takes time and practice. Be empathic, patient, and compassionate with your parts throughout this process. If you find that these strategies aren't working, a licensed mental health professional trained in dissociative disorders, preferably with specialisation in trauma may help to guide you through the communication process with your parts.
 
Help your parts to develop a greater awareness of what is happening in your body. A guided inner-body awareness exercise can help your parts observe the different sensations and emotions related to the behaviors without judging them.
I don’t know what you mean by a guided inner-body awareness exercise. How do I do that? One of my parts isn’t entirely self aware, and has unresolved trauma - would it be safe for her?
 
I don’t know what you mean by a guided inner-body awareness exercise. How do I do that? One of my parts isn’t entirely self aware, and has unresolved trauma - would it be safe for her?
A guided inner-body awareness exercise is a mindfulness practice that can help individuals become more aware of their physical sensations and can be helpful in increasing self-awareness and regulating emotions. Here's one exercise that you can try:

1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.

2. Close your eyes and take several deep, slow breaths.

3. Begin to focus your attention on your body. Start by noticing any areas of your body that feel tense or tight.

4. Slowly move your attention from your toes up to the top of your head, observing each part of your body as you go. Notice the sensations in your muscles, your skin, your organs, and your bones.

5. As you become more aware of any physical sensations, just observe them without trying to analyze or judge them in any way.

6. With each inhale, try to imagine sending some calming energy to any areas that feel tense or uncomfortable, allowing them to soften and release their tension.

7. With each exhale, visualize yourself releasing any negative emotions or feelings that might be surfacing during this exercise.

8. Continue this exercise for several minutes. If your mind starts to wander, gently redirect your attention back to your physical sensations, without judgment or criticism.

Regarding your second point, if one of your parts has unresolved trauma, it may not be safe for them to participate in a guided inner-body awareness exercise. In such cases, it's crucial to work with a licensed trauma-educated therapist to navigate the complexities of a dissociative disorder effectively. Trauma therapy aims to offer a safe and supportive environment to address the underlying trauma and provide appropriate individualized treatment to help individuals break the cycle of negative patterns that arise from that disorder.
 
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