Blog 52. SEX AND ADDICTIONS: Did You Know That Self-Loathing Can Lead To Extreme Forms Of Self-Punishment?
Human beings can behave in such extraordinary ways: Some can reach heights of immeasurable quality, no matter what their circumstances may prove to be, whereas others may find themselves sliding down quite a shocking and sad route of disempowerment.
Human beings often prefer and choose a whole array of destructive behaviours that can range from addictions, eating disorders, wrong friendships, wrong relationship or life choices, anger and money issues, right through to problems with career and jobs. And sometimes this route can lead to a life in prison and so on.
This is usually because for whatever reason, people who don’t feel they are worthy or who don’t feel they deserve much in life, will find ways of acting out their negative self-belief system.
This can lead to self-punishment – and extreme forms of self-punishment too.
In Blog 4 called, ‘If I’ve Been Abandoned There Must Be Something Wrong with Me. If There Is Something Wrong With Me – Then I Need To Be Punished’, I wrote about the emotional reasons why we punish ourselves.
Often the underlining reason is as a direct result of a kind of emotional or physical abandonment.
Feeling the need to be punished can also come from a range of situations: From a child feeling that they are to blame for their parents separating or divorcing, or the need to be punished may arise from a child feeling it was their fault that a parent or sibling died, or it can arise from a child feeling they were responsible for any abuse physical or otherwise, and so on.
The message that a child receives about itself is therefore crucial to building confidence and a good sense of who they are.
If this is lacking, and if a child feels unsupported, unloved or unwanted, or if they feel it was their fault that any situation occurred, then this could have a negative impact – which can become ingrained into the emotional psyche of a child.
Also, if throughout a child’s schooling, they are allowed to think that they are naughty, unruly, stupid and useless, this too will impact negatively on a child’s self belief.
And when we don’t feel good about ourselves we often find ways of acting this out.
Unfortunately, I have seen clients go to extreme lengths to act this out. Many do so consciously and others do so unconsciously.
Prison and Punishment.
Years ago, I helped out a friend who took a sabbatical and I landed up teaching in Holloway and Pentonville prisons in London, UK. It was an eye opening experience.
I do not wish to go into detail here about life in prison, however it is ‘suffice to say’ that from what I saw and heard, many of the prisoners who were from broken homes admitted that they never truly felt supported by either their families or their schools.
The system had failed them, as they in turn had also failed the system.
Acting out, trying to get attention, often getting negative attention as a result, was the only behaviour they knew. Many felt discarded by society and as a result, many took to drugs and alcohol. But then in order to pay for this lifestyle – many turned to a life of crime.
Very quickly it became apparent that therapy or life coaching classes, would possibly help some of the inmates deal with their rage, anger, self-loathing, and the emotional emptiness they felt with regards never having proper role models, help or support when they needed it most.
Consequently, it was evident that many inmates had developed an emotional numbness, which placed them into a kind of survival mode – especially if they had fallen foul to gangs.
Escaping gang life is for some – nigh impossible.
And because many of the inmates had grown up being told by all and sundry that they were stupid, not worth much and so on, usually they chose to stay loyal to the gang – which at least offered them a kind of self-respect that they so desperately needed.
What I witnessed was a bunch of inmates looking like lost buck in the African bush – scared, trying to survive, but adrift, unanchored and lacking purpose.
Sadly though, upon leaving prison, many having learnt a few new ‘skills’, often return to what they knew. And soon I would welcome the face that only a few months back – I had said goodbye to.
And so the cycle continues.
For some, returning to the safety of prison was better than trying to survive – out there.
Punishment via Self-Harm.
Sadly, this was often true also for many prisoners who were known to self-harm. They often preferred the safe confines of what prison offers, so that they could concentrate on finding various tools and more ways of punishing themselves.
Unfortunately, many prisoners have no real deep understanding of the reasons that keep them in the cycle of emotional punishment. To this day few prisons actually offer long-term individual therapy or life coaching. Some do offer men’s and women’s anger management groups and so on, but they are not always that effective.
Many feel that those who commit a crime are not worthy of ‘special treatment’, however for those whose sentences are not long-term, investing in treatment may be cheaper than constantly having to ‘re-house’ re-offending prisoners.
And then there are those who are ‘lifers’ – the ones that will remain in prison for the rest of their lives, punished forever and ever for the deeds they committed.
What is sad, is that some people can go to such extreme measures to punish their souls via sometimes committing the most atrocious deeds.
What is also sad, is that some people can go to such extreme measures to punish their bodies (via all sorts of addictions and so on) and how they do this, can be shocking – whether they find themselves in prison or not.
Punishment via Substance Abuse.
Years ago I had to visit an alcoholic acquaintance in hospital. There he was, looking drawn, death-like and breathless. A nurse seeing my distress calmed me down and said, ‘Love don’t worry, you’ll find that the kidneys of alcoholics are ‘pickled’ from all the drink they consume. He’ll be fine’.
She was right, ten years later he is still well and thriving – yet his drinking persists!
Punishment via Eating Disorders.
Furthermore eating disorders like obesity, anorexia nervosa, bulimia are other ways that people use to punish their bodies, especially if they feel they are not good enough or if via the Media etc, they have somehow learnt to feel that their bodies do not measure up.
It is really sad to see how diminished some anorexics become over time and on the other hand, it is quite disturbing for those who cannot physically move due to their obesity.
Fortunately, some parents are now becoming more aware of the messages they may be sending their children, especially with regards their own bodies. What a parent believes about food, dieting and their own body usually gets transmuted onto their children.
This, plus the conscious and unconscious messages that children and teenagers absorb from magazines, social media and so on, have put an undue stress on them – to develop perfect bodies.
We are now seeing more teenagers than ever before with eating disorders, self-harm behaviours and some even go as far as committing suicide.
This is very sad indeed.
How Does Self-Punishment Sometimes Play Out?
When we learn or feel that we are not good enough, that we are powerless and helpless, or useless, unloved or unwanted, often this can also lead to deep-seated fear.
Fear that we are not good enough.
Many start by using or doing something that they hope will make themselves feel better.
Others just put their head in the sand and hope that things will just go away.
But when this doesn’t work, they may try other ways and when that doesn’t work, they may become so desperate that they’ll use and do anything and everything to try and fill the void.
Then when the addictions, the debt or a situation has gone beyond what anyone can normally cope with, this can lead to feelings of dreadful guilt and shame.
Once things start to get out of hand and if we believe we are powerless or helpless – we give up trying.
And often this is at a point when someone has reached the stage of feeling a horrendous sense of isolation and loneliness.
Then when it really gets bad, suicide for some may seem the only way out. If not, sometimes it may be a life in prison or a life addicted to whatever behaviour or substance they may find – for now anyway.
This is usually when a person cries for help. But sometimes it is too late and the cry goes unheard.
However Jean-Paul Sartre once said,“Life begins on the other side of despair’.
Let’s just hope it does.
If reading anything in this blog has distressed you or if you recognise any of the issues, and you wish to talk about them, please do find help.
There are many groups and support networks, available.
You are never alone. There are people out there who are qualified to help.
You just need to ask.
© 2017 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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