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Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle:

A Manual for a  Guilt Free System of Healthy Living

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Chapter 7:  Impact of Sexuality on Body Image and Weight

Impact of Sexuality on Body Image and Weight

 

I. An ALERT on Sexuality


Cavepeople had instinctual and intuitive responses to their sexuality. They allowed themselves the freedom to experience their sexuality. Their sexual nature was also a survival skill which allowed them to have offspring who would then be available as co-workers to survive the pressures of Mother Nature. Cavepeople were not embarrassed by their sexual being. They were not pressured to hide or disguise their sexuality. Sexuality and their sexual being was a natural course of human life and they did not fret or obsess over its impact in their lives. How about you? Do you consider your sexuality a normal part of your being? Do you obsess over the impact of sex in your life? Do you try to hide your sexual nature? Do you use weight and fat to insulate your body from the sexual advances of others? Do you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed when faced with issues involving your sexuality and sexual nature? Do you prefer to maintain an asexual stance in life, professing that your sexuality is not important to you so why should it be important to other people? Do you seek out the attention and sexual advances of others or do you prefer to be sexually invisible, undesirable and unapproachable? Do you have a healthy sense of your sexuality or do you hide from even thinking about it? How does your sexual nature affect your body image and weight? How are your sexuality and body image and weight control related you ask? Do this ALERT on sexuality to give you some insight on this issue.

 

FIRST - ASSESS

The first thing you need to do as you address your sexuality and its impact on your body image and weight is to ASSESS what anxiety, panic, guilt, stress or tension do you experience in relationship to your sexuality and how does this get exhibited in your body and weight? Take the time to look at your body in a mirror. Does your body hide your sexuality or does it accentuate it? When you visualize a person saying something complimentary to you about your sexuality, what are you feeling? When you visualize yourself having a sexual relationship with someone, what do you feel? If the answer is that your body hides your sexuality and that you experience fear, anxiety and tension when visualizing either sexuality related compliments from or your involvement in sexually oriented actions with others, then your sexuality and how it is responded to by others is a cause of irrational concern which does have impact on your body image and weight problems.


SECOND - LESSEN

Once you accept that sexuality and your response to it may be an underlying stimulus for your body and weight problems then go on to LESSEN the impact of sexuality as a stressor in your life by identifying the irrational thinking which underlies this stressor and then develop new positive self-messages which help you to accept your sexuality as a healthy part of your life. What follows are samples of irrational messages about sexuality and their healthy counterparts.

 

Unhealthy: My weight will keep me safe from sexual comments and advances from others, insuring that I can be happy and relaxed with my life.

Healthy: I can be happy and have a good life if I allow my sexuality to be seen and experienced by others as long as I maintain healthy emotional and physical boundaries which insure that I am not abused in the process.


Unhealthy: Sex is dirty.

Healthy: I can make sex a beautiful and healthy part of my life.

 

Unhealthy: I do not like to have my body seen as sensuous and sexual by others.

Healthy: I will allow myself to enjoy my sensual and sexual self so that I have no need to keep my body fat with excess weight which hides my sexuality.


Unhealthy: I hate my body when it accentuates my sexuality and sensuousness.

Healthy: I will live a balanced lifestyle and enjoy a new body which accentuates my sexuality and sensuousness.


Unhealthy: My sexuality has gotten me into trouble and I have been abused and hurt by it so I will never allow myself to expose my sexuality again.

Healthy: Although I have been abused and hurt sexually, I will maintain healthy emotional and physical boundaries so that I can allow my sexuality to flourish and be healthy.


Unhealthy: As long as I am overweight I am safe from sexual advances which could hurt me.

Healthy: I am safe as long as I maintain healthy boundaries between me and others and the weight I have carried on my body has caused me more pain and abuse than the sexual abuse I received which stimulated my putting on the weight in the first place.


Unhealthy: I feel uncomfortable when others find me attractive or desirable.

Healthy: It is healthy for me to know that I am attractive and desirous to others and I will handle comments and actions of others in healthy ways and not use food, weight and fat to hide behind to avoid such comments.


Unhealthy: I feel obligated to engage in sexual activity when someone I enjoy being with requests such activity.

Healthy: I have the right to say who, what, when and how my body may be touched and no one has the right to ignore the boundaries I set in this regard.


Unhealthy: I don't feel like I can say no to someone's sexual advances, I usually feel guilty when I do.

Healthy: I am in charge of my body and sexuality and I will not allow anyone to violate me and there is no need to feel guilty about saying "no" to something I do not want to do sexually.


Unhealthy: As long as I have been overweight and my body has been fat I have not felt pressure from others to perform sexually and I would like to continue to feel this safe for a long time.

Healthy: I can be thinner and have a healthy weight and be in charge of my sexuality by maintaining emotional control and protecting myself from potential sexual violations.


Unhealthy: My being sexual and sensuous should not be a desired goal of mine.

Healthy: I am a sexual and sensuous being because I am a human and I deserve to experience the joy and contentment from having a healthy sexuality which others can admire and desire.


Once you have identified new healthy messages about sexuality which relate to your body image and weight then make a concerted effort to say these affirming messages to yourself on a daily basis to help you promote your sexuality and sensuousness by changing your body size, shape and weight.

 

THIRD - EASE OUT

Once you feel comfortable saying these new self messages to yourself, then you are ready to

EASE OUT of the stress which sexuality and the sexually related attention and advances of others give to your body. To EASE OUT, visualize, on a daily basis, your maintaining the tenants of the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle and enjoying the attention given by others to your renewed sexuality and sensuousness. Visualize yourself receiving compliments about your looks and body and picture yourself saying "thank you" without feeling fear, panic or tension. Visualize your maintaining healthy physical boundaries with people who approach or come on to you due to your more sexual and sensuous looks and demeanor. Visualize yourself feeling good about your sexuality and maintaining your new relationship with food and exercise so that you no longer hide your sexuality behind fat and excessive weight. Maintain this visualizing and saying the affirmations about sexuality to yourself as you proceed to the next ALERT step.

 

FOURTH - RELAX

As you continue your self-affirmations which encourage you to feel safe to live a balanced lifestyle and stop hiding your sexuality behind excessive weight and fat and as you visualize your successful handling of your sexuality and sensuousness without putting on new weight to insulate yourself then you are ready to RELAX yourself from the stress which sex has played in your dealing with your body image and weight. You can now release the old unhealthy messages about sex and the use of food and weight to protect you from the abuse and hurt which sex could bring to your life. You can now accept into your life the new messages about how you can keep yourself safe from sexual abuse, hurt and pain by maintaining healthy emotional and physical boundaries with others. You can continue to visualize yourself handling the sexual offers from others in healthy ways without having panic or anxiety attacks. You can RELAX your fears when topics of a sexual nature come up, by realizing that you have the right to say "no" to discussing or acting upon any sexual connotations which you do not feel would be healthy for you. You can RELAX knowing that healthy boundaries, keeping safe and saying "no" do not mean that you will eat excessively and gain weight to insulate yourself from such offers. As you feel more relaxed about your sexuality and sensuous and recognize the rational perspective that sex is a normal and natural part of your life which is always under your control, you are then ready to do the last step of the ALERT system.


FIFTH - TAKE ACTION

Your last ALERT step is to TAKE ACTION to insure that you promote your sexuality in a healthy way as you implement and maintain the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle in your life. You need to insure that you do more mirror work to accept your body as sexual and sensuous. You need to insure that you do not use food as a weapon to medicate your fear, panic, stress, tension or anxiety when your sexuality is commented on by others. You need to insure that you utilize your new exercise program as a means to gain more energy and strength to maintain your healthy physical and emotional boundaries when others come on to you in a sexual way which might be harmful to you. You need to insure that you utilize the armory of tools available in this program to get your emotional health into a saner, rational place so that you can handle the emotional upheaval you might experience as you begin to allow your sexuality and sensuousness become more visible to others. You need to insure that you have a realistic perspective about the covert and overt sexual abuse you might have received in the past and how it has affected your perspective about your sexuality. You need to insure that your body image has improved by allowing yourself to unconditionally accept yourself just the way you are which is a as a sexual being. You need to insure that you let go of any shame or guilt you experience about your sexuality and that you forgive yourself for past sexual behaviors which have brought you shame and guilt. You need to let go of the need to be perfect and accept yourself as "good enough" which includes that you are a sexual being which is not something dirty about you but something good and wholesome about you. You need to TAKE ACTIONS to insure that you maintain your lifestyle changes and do not sabotage them when you are finding increased sexual attention coming your way. Once you have done this ALERT work on sexuality you are then ready to proceed to the ANGER work related to sexuality.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous, The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The ALERT System

2. Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 9: Mirror Work for Growing Down
  • Chapter 10: Re-Parenting for Growing Down
  • Chapter 11: Overcoming Invisibility
  • Chapter 12: Establishing Healthy Boundaries

II. ANGER Workout on Sexuality Related Issues

 

Cavepeople were too busy to get angry over sexually related issues in their lives because they were too busy trying to survive. They did not question the role of sexuality in their lives and accepted it as nature's way of insuring that they would have additional hands in the future to pitch in to work at the survival game. Cavepeople did not use passive aggressiveness nor revenge tactics in their sexual relationships because they lacked the anger related to sexuality which underlies such behaviors. They did not use sarcasm or humor to sexualize every aspect of their lives or to put down others with, because they needed to keep everyone in their lives as their allies so as to work together for mutual survival. They did not engage in silent withdrawal from engaging in sexual relationships because they did not have the time or leisure to waste in avoiding contact with one another. How about you? Do you engage in passive aggressive, revenge tactics, sexually related sarcasm or silent withdrawal from sexual relationships due to your anger over sexuality related issues? If the answer is yes or you are unsure then proceed with the following ANGER Workout on such issues to see how to rid yourself of the anger which underlies such behaviors.

 

FIRST - ACCEPT

The first thing you need to do is to ACCEPT you harbor anger about sexuality related issues. To do this you will need to decide if you participate in anger related sexual behaviors by considering the following descriptions:


1. Passive Aggressive Sexual Behaviors

These behaviors are subtle and not so easily recognized at first. They involve your stated willingness and desire to have an active sex life and yet your behaviors say you don't want to have a sexual relationship. You might tease and be a come on to your potential sexual partner and then do not engage in the sexual activities which you have telegraphed verbally or nonverbally a desire to participate in. You might be engaged in a "loving relationship" with a significant partner and yet allow your weight to increase and your body to become less sexually desirous and thus fend off the sexual advances of your partner. You might not even be aware you are doing these passive aggressive behaviors and as such are out of touch with the anger which underlies these behaviors. You may have been sexually abused either overtly or covertly and have a confused message about sexuality in your emotional center. On one hand you love to be loved and wanted but on the other hand you dislike and hate sexual activity because of the pain and hurt it once brought into your life when you were abused. You have come to hate the act of sex rather than the people who abused you with it. You have turned against sexuality and its activities but verbalize that you enjoy and want sex in your life. You have probably disassociated or numbed yourself of the pain of the previous sexual abuse and you need to do massive ANGER Workouts to rid yourself of your rage and anger over your sexual violations so that you can free your inner self from the torment and pain which sexuality brings to your subconscious life. If you are unsure if you are passive aggressive with your sexuality at this point ask a significant person in your life if you appear to be passive aggressive sexually or ask your support group in this program to help you sort this out. For a more complete description of these behaviors read Chapter 14: Eliminating Passive Aggressiveness, in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

2. Revenge Seeking Sexual Behaviors

These behaviors again are subtle and not easily recognized as revenge behaviors. You might have been or still are promiscuous having sexual relationships with many people and not limiting your involvement to a monogamous sexual relationship. Or you may find that you are very aggressive and at times close to violent in the act of having sexual relations with a partner. Your partner might even have commented at times that some of your physical actions hurt or were painful. Or you know that your sexual partner would like for your body to be slimmer and yet you persist in gaining weight and getting bigger despite this wish of your partner. You find yourself eating more and "pigging out" when your sexual partner makes mention of body size or weight issues. If you are engaging in revenge seeking behaviors this may be because you have been abused verbally, emotionally, physically and/or sexually by your current partner or in the past, by someone of the same sex as your current sexual partner. You have submerged a grudge and chip on your shoulder against the abuser and at the subconscious level seek revenge by your behaviors sexually with your current partner who is of the same sex as your previous abuser. This is even clearer if your current sexual partner has also been the abuser. If you are unclear now if you use revenge tactics in your sexual relationships ask your current sexual partner, or a significant person in your life or your support group in this program to help you sort this out. For a more complete description of these behaviors read Chapter 10: Eliminating Revenge, in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

3. Sexually Related Sarcasm

These behaviors entail the sexualizing of things which are said by others so that there is a sexual connotation given to most things. These can be "jokes" about such things as cutting off a guy's penis or licking or touching a gal's breasts. There is generally a lack of respect or appropriate demeanor connected with these sarcastic comments and jokes. There is so much sexualizing that it makes people around you uncomfortable at times. You might make jokes or comments about both sexes but it still is unsettling to others to have so much focus in a conversation put on sexually related topics with such irreverence and humor attached. You might even justify your large body size and excess weight in a sexual connotation by statements such as: "There is more of me to love when I am this big." or "Wouldn't you just love to get your hands on all this flesh." You might use this sarcasm and sexually related humor to be a cover up for your obesity and the shame or embarrassment you have over your body size and looks. You might have also been abused sexually either overtly or covertly which resulted in your early developmental years so sexualized by the sexual abuse that you do not know that it is socially unacceptable or inappropriate to focus so much on sexually related topics in normal conversation. The sarcasm is a sign that there is anger inside of you about your sexuality and the sarcasm is used as a shield to hide your hatred and dislike for sexually related issues in your life. If you are having a difficult time determining if you use sexually related sarcasm then ask significant people in your life or the support group in this program to help you sort this out. For a more complete description of these behaviors read Chapter 4: Handling Hostility, Sarcasm and Cynicism, in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

4. Silent Withdrawal from Sexuality

These behaviors involve your withdrawal from all sexually related behaviors in your life.You choose to be asexual by these behaviors. You put on weight and grow large so that your sexuality can be hidden. You refuse to engage in any relationship which might end up with any sexual activity involved. You keep yourself from discussing sexual matters with others. You are very uncomfortable with this topic being brought up in this program. You reason: "I have survived so far without having to deal with my sexuality, why do I need to deal with it in this program which involves changing my relationship with food and exercise and how to deal with my emotions in a food free way." You have distanced yourself from all comments or looks of a sexual nature which have been given you by others. You find that by being a hermit hiding in your cave of fat that you are safe from having to engage in anything sexual at all. You are probably a victim of sexual abuse, be it overt or covert, earlier in your lifetime. It was so traumatic that you stuffed your anger and rage over it and have pulled in and withdrawn your self sexually. You need to recognize that the actions which hurt and caused you pain sexually have resulted in your turning off from your sexuality. Actually, it is your anger over this hurt and pain which really needs to be addressed so that you can be freed emotionally to have a more healthy, happy and energized life which this program promises. If you are not sure you are silently withdrawing sexually ask significant people in your life or the support group in this program to help you sort this out. For a more complete description of these behaviors read Chapter 9: Silent Withdrawal, in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

Once you have ACCEPTED that you engage in either or all of the anger based behaviors of sexual passive aggressiveness, sexual revenge seeking, sexually related sarcasm or silent withdrawal from sexuality then you are ready to proceed to the next stop of the ANGER Workout.

 

SECOND - NAME

You now need to NAME what you are angry at by writing down in your journal full descriptions of what has transpired in your past to affect your sexuality negatively today. You need to decide, for each of the anger based sexual behaviors you engage in, who was involved in your past or current life who stimulated the sexually related anger which you now display. NAME these people and the deed they did to you which have caused you pain and hurt emotionally, physically and/or sexually. NAME why it was that you were afraid to vent your anger when these abusive behaviors occurred. Finally you need to NAME and declare the hatred, rage and disgust you have for these people who have affected you so deeply to this day.


THIRD - GET IT OUT

Once you have taken the time to NAME each guilty abusive party, you are now ready to

GET IT OUT by using one of the many ANGER Workout mechanism available such as yelling, pounding a weight bag or beating on pillows etc. As you GET IT OUT, be clear to get your anger out over the person who did the "bad" sexually related behavior and not at your sexuality itself. You might think you are angry at your sexuality because it has brought you so much pain and hurt. But remember that it was not your sexuality at fault, it was a person who was stupid, inconsiderate, evil, sick, demented, obnoxious, disrespectful, brutish, callous etc who did the action that you are really angry at. Keep the focus of your GETTING IT OUT on the perpetrators of your sexual violations and not on your sexuality so that you will be able to experience the next step of the ANGER Workout.

 

FOURTH - ENERGIZE

Once you have fully GOTTEN OUT your anger over the perpetrators of the sexual violation and abuse in your life you will feel ENERGIZED and more full of life. You will feel more relaxed and at peace with your sexuality and want to improve its health by implementing the Balanced Lifestyle more in your life. You will find that you will engage less in the anger related behaviors of sexual passive aggressiveness, sexual revenge seeking, sexually related sarcasm or sexual silent withdrawal. You will be more committed to accepting healthy and wholesome sexuality and sensuousness as a desired part of your new Balanced Lifestyle.

 

FIFTH - RESUME

Once you experience being ENERGIZED you will finally be ready to take the last step of the ANGER Workout which is to RESUME your life with a new commitment to initiate the Balanced Lifestyle in your life so that you can gain the 3 Increase of the program of Health, Happiness and Energy so that you can have a fuller, richer and healthier sexuality which can be shared openly and honestly with others.

Once you have completed your ANGER Workout you are ready to proceed to a CHILD workout on increasing your interpersonal intimacy with others in your life.


Tools for Coping Series Related Readings

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous- The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The ANGER System

2. Tools for Anger Work-Out

  • Chapter 2: Handling Blocks to Anger
  • Chapter 4: Handling Hostility, Sarcasm and Cynicism
  • Chapter 9: Silent Withdrawal
  • Chapter 10: Eliminating Revenge
  • Chapter 14: Eliminating Passive Aggressiveness

III. CHILD Workout on Sexual Intimacy

 

Cavepeople didn't give sexual intimacy much time or thought because they considered sexual relationships as an ordinary part of everyday living. They did not have a plethora of self-help books available to them to clarify the sexes roles in relationships. They were not worried about the lack of communications in a relationship. They took their relationships with their sexual partners as an every day occurrence and did not fret about it. They entered relationships with facility and ease. There were some mating rituals, but often their partners were already prearranged by their parents when they were infants. The war of the sexes and the risks in entering a sexually intimate relationship with a partner were minimized by the rules and cultural traditions under which they lived. This is not so true in today's society. Do you fear taking the risk of getting back into or maintaining an intimate relationship with a partner? Are you afraid of being vulnerable to the possibility of being hurt and rejected? Do you find yourself feeling insecure when a potential partner comes into your life? Are you not sure if this may result in the same abuse you have experienced in relationships before? Do you find it hard to trust anyone enough to establish an intimate and sexual relationship with that person? Do you wish you could continue to hide yourself so that you don't have to deal with intimacy and sexuality? Is your body size, excessive weight and compulsive eating a clue to your openness to your sexuality and willingness to share yourself intimately with a partner? Is it difficult for you to consider initiating or maintaining a Balanced Lifestyles program in your life? Is the fear that once your body size is smaller and weight is better under control that you will be faced with sexual advances and offers from others? Are you afraid that such advances will become a threat to the safety from future sexual abuse and failed intimate relationships you have established for yourself by maintaining your excessive fat? Are you at the same time concerned that you are not "normal" because you cannot maintain a sexually intimate relationship with a partner? Are you worried that you are "sick" because you are not able to give and receive love with an intimate partner? Do you want to change your ability to be intimate and sexual with a partner? If you are ready to open yourself up to become intimate with your current or a future (or your current) partner then you need to do this CHILD workout on Sexual Intimacy. It will nurture your enough to maintain your commitment to continue to work on your Balanced Lifestyle so you will become more sensuous, sexual, attractive, willing and motivated to have sexual intimate with a loving partner.

 

FIRST - CALM

The first step is to CALM yourself down by clarifying for yourself what are the issues in sexual intimacy which you need to do more self-nurturing in. To do this consider the following issues in sexual intimacy and select the ones you need to do more CHILD work on:


1. Risk Taking

This is the opening of yourself to change your sexual feelings and dealings with others to allow yourself to establish an intimacy with a partner. This is a gamble that you may experience rejection or abuse from this person. It requires an investment of time, energy, ability and action to take the behavioral steps necessary to result in the change in your current status of intimacy and sexual fulfillment. There are pros and cons involved in taking the risk and you enter it openly and willing considering that to stay stagnant is not a choice anymore if you want your sexuality to grow. For a more complete description, read Chapter 8: On Becoming a Risk Taker, in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).


2. Vulnerability

This is the willingness to take risks and chances to try new ways of dealing with intimacy and sexuality with others even though the outcome is unsure. It is the opening of yourself to the possibility of growing as a sexual and sensual person in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. It is the opening of yourself to the possibility of being taken advantage of by another person in an intimate and sexual relationship with the belief that the risk is worth the taking if you are ever to experience personal growth and the 3 Increases of this program of Health, Happiness and Energy. For a more complete description, read Chapter 7: Becoming Vulnerable, in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).


3. Developing Trust

This is the ability to let an other person into your life in an intimate and sexual way so that you and this person can create a relationship built on an understanding of mutual respect, caring and concern to assist one another to grow and mature independently of one another. This is the glue or cement of an intimate and sexual relationship which allows you and your partner to feel at ease and safe so that there is a reduced fear of abuse. This is the placing of confidence in your partner and yourself that you both will be supportive and reinforcing of each other's sexuality, sensuousness, individuality and your efforts to maintain the Balanced Lifestyles Program in your life. For a more complete description, read Chapter 5: Building Trust, in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).


4. Developing a Security in Self

This is the allowing of yourself to believe in yourself as a sexual being and to accept your sexuality and sensuality as being "good enough"to be seen and admired by others. This is believing that you are adequate, competent and capable of handling an intimate and sexual relationship with a partner in a healthy, wholesome and growth promoting way. This is the accepting that life is unpredictable but that your are willing to accept the risk and challenge to grow by opening yourself up to be vulnerable by becoming intimate and eventually sexual with a partner who is reinforcing and supportive to you. This is an inner directedness which is clear about your desire to maintain all aspects of the Balanced Lifestyles Program in your life. This means your goals are clear, where you want to go in life is clear and what responses are appropriate for you for the events or outcomes life might bring are clear. For a more complete description, read Chapter 6: Handling Insecurity, in Tools for Personal Growth (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

5. Establishing Intimacy

This is the establishing of a sense of oneness, unity and uniqueness with a partner. It is the mutual respect, recognition and approval of each other's needs to be a sexual and sensuous person. It is a shared sexuality and love which culminates in loving sexual intercourse. It involves a nonpunitive, nonabusive and noncoercive environment in which both partners feel safe. It is the sharing of tenderness, caring and affection which results in increased closeness and proximity. It requires you to unmask yourself to make yourself take the risk to be vulnerable in a loving, trusting and secure relationship with a partner who supports your efforts to grow and gain the 3 Increases of this program of Health, Happiness and Energy. It requires a firm commitment, agreement or contract between partners to be mutually supportive, understanding and accepting of each other. For a more complete description, read Chapter 11: Handling Intimacy, in Tools for a Relationship (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992).

 

Once you have identified which of the 5 sexual intimacy issues you need more work on, then you are ready to CALM yourself down by mirror work. In this mirror work you visualize yourself talking to your inner spirit or inner child with your Higher Power present during this dialogue. As you stand in front of the mirror look at your body as a sexual being which is healthy, pure and deserving to be sexually intimate with a healthy, wholesome partner who will give you respect and understanding.


SECOND - INFORM

As you feel the presence of your inner child and Higher Power begin to INFORM yourself of affirmations and information about: risk taking, vulnerability, developing trust, developing a security in self and establishing intimacy which you have decided you need if you are to grow in your sexuality and sensuousness.


THIRD - INFORM

In your INFORMING try to help yourself HEAL from previous hurt and pain you may have received from the abuse, rejection or nonacceptance you received from unhealthy sexual partners in the past.


FOURTH - LOVE

As you INFORM yourself let a sense of self- LOVE grow in you so that you feel safe and ready to accept yourself as a person deserving a healthy and wholesome sexual intimacy with a partner.


FIFTH - DIRECT

As you experience this LOVE for self then DIRECT yourself to take actions which will encourage your growth, such as maintaining or implementing the Balanced Lifestyle Program in your life by changing your relationship with food and exercise and changing how you deal with emotions in foodless ways. Write a script for your Sexual Intimacy CHILD workout similar to this one:

 

SEXUAL INTIMACY MIRROR WORK SCRIPT

I love you. You are OK just the way you are. Your body is sexual and sensual and I want to increase its ability to establish and maintain a healthy intimacy and sexuality with a healthy partner. 

 

My Higher Power I ask You for the strength to grow in my ability to take risks to be vulnerable with others. I ask You for the strength to build a relationship with a partner while feeling secure in myself and my abilities to handle such a relationship. I ask you for the strength to establish an emotionally intimate relationship with a partner based on mutual respect and acceptance before I involve myself sexually. I ask You for the strength to say NO to any sexual offer which is too premature and not reasonable for me to accept.

 

My Inner Child, I ask you to help me feel OK about taking risks which could result in my being rejected. I know that my approval is all that I need in life and so I ask you to remind me of this if such rejection should come. My Inner Child I ask you to give me the courage to open myself to be vulnerable in a relationship. I accept that unless I open myself up to the possibility of being hurt and rejected I will never be able to grow and experience the fullness of the new life I am trying to gain by the Balanced Lifestyle Program.

 

My Inner Child I ask you to help me develop trust in another person and to let go of the past hurt and pain which keeps me frozen and insulated from others. My Inner Child I ask you to be my inner source of security to keep me grounded, goal directed and committed to maintaining my Balanced Lifestyle as I engage in developing (or improving) an intimate relationship with a partner.

 

Lastly my Inner Child I ask you to be an ALARM BELL, by your intuition and instincts, to keep me clear if I do not have a healthy intimacy with a partner. I ask you to give me the internal push to end a relationship in which I am not respected, supported, understood or accepted for who I am.

 

I promise you my Inner Child, Higher Power and Self that I will work my hardest to maintain my Balanced Lifestyle Program and work at continuing to change the way I relate to food and exercise. I promise you that I will continue to address my emotional responses to life in a food free way. I promise you that I will grow in my ability to take risks, be open to being vulnerable, developing trust, developing a security in myself and establish healthy sexual intimacy with a loving, caring and affectionate partner. I will maintain my weight loss and changed body image as I grow in healthy sexuality and sensuousness and will no longer use food or weight to isolate me from them. I will do this mirror workout as long as it takes for me to establish healthy sexual intimacy with the partner of my choice.

Use your CHILD script as often as you can until you find yourself feeling comfortable with your sexuality and realize that you have an increased ability to take risks, be vulnerable, develop trust develop a sense of security in yourself as a sexual and sensuous person and are able to establish healthy sexual intimacy with the partner of your choice. Once you are feeling better about your sexuality then your are ready for the LET GO work of establishing healthy sexual intimacy boundaries so that you do not lose yourself in your relationship with your partner.

 

Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous - The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The CHILD System

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • Chapter 5: Building Trust
  • Chapter 6: Handling Insecurity
  • Chapter 7: Becoming Vulnerable
  • Chapter 8: On Becoming a Risk Taker

3. Tools for a Relationship

  • Chapter 11: Handling Intimacy

IV. A LET GO Workout in Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Cavepeople protected themselves from being invaded physically by attacking or fending off the invading party. They were literal in their need for self-protection and did not worry about the feelings of the other party because personal survival was the name of the game. Unwanted sexual advances towards another caveperson would get not only the negative response from the person but also from the other dwellers in that person's cave community. Sexual indiscretion or violation of others was not tolerated in such communities. Cavepeople had no problems in establishing and maintaining physical, emotional and social boundaries which dictated how people treated one another in the cave community. Since their boundaries were so well known and respected there was little need to worry about sexual violation from the unwanted crossing over of the established boundaries. How about your life situation? How well are your physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual boundaries established and maintained? How successful are you in protecting and maintaining your boundaries when someone is highly intrusive and persistent? How hooked are you by others manipulations to lower your boundaries with them? Do you use your weight or food as a boundary to protect yourself from intimacy or sexual relationships with others? How well do you stay unhooked and detached when someone is working you over to lower your boundaries with them? Does your inability to maintain healthy intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries with others frighten you? When you consider trying to maintain healthy boundaries sexually with others without the use of body weight, food or some other compulsive behaviors to protect and medicate you in the process, are you scared? Would you prefer to stay fat than to work on learning how to establish healthy boundaries with others?


To maintain your new Balanced Lifestyle Program you will need to first establish healthy intellectual, emotional and physical boundaries with all people in you life. Once you have been able to do this then you will be able to establish healthy boundaries around your sexuality and sensuality. With healthy boundaries established then you will be able to establish and maintain healthy intimate relationships with people which will ultimately result in your establishing and/or maintaining a healthy sexually intimate monogamous relationship with someone special to you. First you need to identify if you have healthy intimate relationships with people at this time. Consider the following description of a healthy intimate relationship.


Characteristics of a Healthy Intimate Relationship

The goal in an intimate relationship is to feel calm, centered and focused. The intimate relationship needs to be safe, supportive, respectful, nonpunitive and peaceful. You feel taken care of, wanted, unconditionally accepted and loved just for existing and being alive in a healthy intimate relationship. You feel part of something and not alone in such a relationship. You experience forgiving and being forgiven with little revenge or reminding of past offenses. You find yourself giving thanks for just being alive in a healthy intimate relationship. A healthy intimate relationship has a sense of directedness with plan and order. You experience being free to be who you are rather than who you think you need to be for the other. Such a relationship makes you free from the "paralysis of analysis" needing to analyze every minute detail of what goes on in it. Such a relationship has its priorities in order with people's feelings and relationships coming before things and money. A healthy intimate relationship encourages your personal growth and supports your individuality. This type of relationship does not result in you or the other becoming emotionally, physically or intellectually dependent on one another.

 

Are you able to establish this type of relationship? What factors impede your ability to have this kind of relationship with others? If you are not able to establish healthy intimate relationships then you run the risk of not being able to establish a healthy sexually intimate relationship with another person. Most probably what keeps you from having a healthy intimate relationship with people is your inability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with them. What you need to do is to do a LET GO workout to identify how to establish healthy intellectual, emotional and physical boundaries with others so that you can use this skill in establishing and/or maintaining a healthy sexually intimate relationship with a significant other.

 

LET GO STEP 1: LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE

The first thing you need to do is to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE to control people in relationships so that you can have healthy boundaries with them. To do this you have three substeps to accomplish to LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE.


Substep 1: Get ALERT to the hooks in a relationship which keep your boundaries down.

You first must ALERT yourself to what irrational messages you have about relationships which get you stuck boundary-less with others. You need to identify the irrational emotional hooks which prevent you from having healthy boundaries with others. Consider these emotional hooks as examples for your ALERT work.


10 Emotional Hooks in Relationships

1. Maybe you are hooked by the irrational belief that: "I am a nobody without a somebody in my life." If you are, you maintain no boundaries with people because you are very dependent on getting involved with someone to make you feel like a somebody. You are willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship happen, even if you have to give up your health, money, security, identity, intelligence, spiritual beliefs, family, country, job, community, friends, values, honor and self-respect. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: " I am a somebody, just by being who I am. I am OK just the way I am, even if I do not currently have another person in my life. My value and worth as a person is not dependent on my having a significant other in my life. It is better for me to be on my own and healthy than to be with another person and be sick intellectually, emotionally and/or physically."

 

2. Maybe you are hooked by the scarcity principle of feeling happiness: "because this relationship I have is better than anything I have ever had before." The problem is that the relationship you have might be better than what you have had in the past, but it might not really be a healthy intimate relationship as described earlier in this section. You may be so happy with your relationship that you are willing to give all of yourself intellectually, emotionally and physically with no regard for what you need to retain for yourself so that you do not lose your identity in this relationship. If you are in a recovery program like the Balanced Lifestyle Program and have a support system and a plan of recovery and you find that in your relationship you have no time to do the "recovery activities" of maintaining contact with your support system, going to 12 Step meetings, reading the Tools for Coping Series Books or other recovery literature, maintaining your new relationship with food and exercise and handling your emotions in food-free ways, then your relationship is not supportive of your recovery and is not healthy for you no matter how happy you are in it. If in your relationship you have no time to spend with your children, family or friends then it is not healthy no matter how happy you are in it. If in your relationship you have no time, energy or resources to put into your career, education or current job then it is not healthy for you no matter how happy you are in it. If in your relationship you are finding it difficult to maintain your own spirituality and connection with your Higher Power then it is not healthy no matter how happy you feel in it. A relationship which requires that you sacrifice all of you for the sake of the happiness you feel, in it, is not a healthy intimate relationship. A healthy intimate relationship allows you to make time, space and allowance for you to focus on yourself, your own needs, your children, your family, your friends, your recovery program, your support system, your career, your education, your spiritual beliefs and your personal integrity, individuality and identity. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I will focus on my needs, my identity, my individuality and my personal integrity in any relationship I engage in . I will set aside my time, resources and energy to give to my children, my family, my friends, my support system, my recovery program, my spirituality, my career, my education and my community involvement while maintaining healthy intimate relationships with people. I will insist that I have the time resources and energy to focus on all aspects of my life in any(or present) healthy sexually intimate relationship I have with a significant other."

 

3. Maybe you are hooked by irrational guilt that you must think, feel and act in ways to insure that your relationship with another person is preserved, secured and nurtured no matter what personal expense it takes out of you. You feel guilty if the other person is not succeeding or thriving without your personal resources, energy, money, time and effort going in to making such success happen. You have a problem in feeling over-responsible for the welfare of the other person and cannot allow that person to accept personal responsibility to make choices and live with the consequences of these choices. This irrational guilt is a driving motivation to keep you tearing down your boundaries so that you will always be available to this person at any time, in any place for whatever reason the person "needs" you. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "People are responsible for accepting personal responsibility for their own lives and to accept the consequences for the choices they make in taking care of their own lives. I am not responsible for the outcomes which result from the choices and decisions which others make. People are free to make their own decisions and no one is forcing them to make bad ones which will result in negative consequences to them."

 

4. Maybe you are hooked by the inability to differentiate the difference between love and sympathy or compassion for another. You find yourself feeling sorry for another person and the warm feelings which this generates makes you think that you are in love. The bigger the problems the other has, the bigger the "love" seems to you. Because the problems can get bigger and more complex, they succeed in hooking you to lower your boundaries so that you begin to give more and more of yourself to this "pitiable" person out of the "love" you feel. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is OK to have sympathy and compassion for another, but that does not mean that I have to sacrifice my life to "save" or "rescue" this person. Sympathy and compassion are emotions I know well and I will work hard to differentiate them from what love is. When I feel sympathy and compassion for another person, I will remind myself that it is not the same as loving that person. The ability to feel sympathy and compassion for another human being are nice qualities of mine and I will be sure to use them in a healthy and non-emotionally hooked way in the future."

 

5. Maybe you get hooked by the neediness and helplessness of others. You find yourself hooked when the other person gets into self-pity, "poor me" and "how tough life has been." You find yourself weak when this person demonstrates an inability to solve personal problems. You find yourself wanting to teach and instruct, when this person demonstrates or admits ignorance of how to solve problems. You find yourself hooked by verbal and non-verbal cues which cry out to you to "help" this person. You find yourself feeling warmth, caring and nurturing feelings which help you tear down any shred of boundaries you once had. This sad, weak, distraught, lost, confused and befuddled waif is so needy that you lose all concept of space and time as you begin to give and give and give. It feels so good. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "No one is helpless with out first learning the advantages of being helpless. Helplessness is a learned behavior which others have quickly learned to use to marshal others to give of their resources, energy, time, effort and money to fix. I am a good person even if I do not try to fix and take care of the next helpless person I meet. I cannot establish a healthy intimate relationship with someone I am trying to fix or take care of. I need to put more energy into fixing and taking care of myself if I find myself being hooked by another person's helplessness."

 

6. Maybe you get hooked by the sense of being depended upon by others. Unless these people are your children under the age of 18, there is no reason to feel responsible for them if they let you know that they are dependent upon you for their lives to be successful and fulfilled. This is over-dependency and is unhealthy. It is impossible to have healthy intimacy with an overdependent person. This person is a parasite sucking you dry of everything you have intellectually, emotionally and physically. You get nothing in return except the "good feelings" of doing something for another person. You get no real healthy nurturing, rather you feel the weight of this person on your shoulders, neck and back. You give and give of yourself to address the needs of this person and you have nothing left to give to yourself. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is unhealthy for me to be so depended upon by another adult. There is a need for me to be clear what I am willing and not willing to do for this person. There is a need for this person to become more independent from me so that I can maintain my own sense of identity, worth and personhood. It would be better for me to lose this person than to continue to allow such dependency on me. I am only responsible for taking care of myself. Human adults are responsible to accept personal responsibility for their own lives. Supporting another person intellectually, emotionally and physically where I have nothing left to give to myself is unhealthy and I will be ALERT to when I am doing this and try to stop it immediately."

 

7. Maybe you get hooked by the belief that: "If I give it enough time things will change to be the way I want them to be." You have waited a long time to have a healthy intimate relationship, you rationalize don't give up on it too soon. Since you are not sure how to have one or how one feels, you rationalize that maybe what the relationship needs is more time to become more healthy and intimate. You find yourself giving more and more of yourself and waiting longer and longer for something good to happen and yet things never get better. You find that your wait goes from being counted by days, weeks or months to years. Time passes and things really never get better. What keeps hooking you are those fleeting moments when the relationship approximates what you would like it to be. These fleeting moments feel like centuries and they are sufficient to keep you holding on. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "It is unhealthy for me to sacrifice large portions of my life, invested in a relationship which is not going anywhere. It is unhealthy for me to hold on to the belief that things will change if they have not in 3 or 6 months. It is OK to set time limits on relationships such as: if in 3 months or if in 6 months things do not get to be intimately healthier then I am getting out of it. It is OK to put time demands on relationships so that I do not waste my life away waiting for something which in all probability will never happen. It is not OK for me to blow out of proportion those fleeting moments in a relationship which make me believe that there is anything more in it than there really is."

 

8. Maybe you get hooked by the belief that: "If I change myself more things will change to become more like I want them to be in this relationship." You reason that maybe the reason things are not getting healthier and more intimate is because you need to change more to be the person the other person wants you to be. You feel blamed and pointed out by the other person as the reason why things are not healthier or more intimate in your relationship. You find yourself having to defend yourself from attack from the other for "not being good enough" or "doing enough" to make the relationship work. You find yourself with a mounting list of expectations, duties or responsibilities, given you by the other person, which must be accomplished if the relationship is ever to become what you want it to be. You find yourself needing to change the ways you think, feel, act, dress, talk, look, eat, work, cook, entertain, have fun, socialize, etc before you will be "good enough" for this relationship to work. You find that you will have to basically give up "who you are" for "who your partner wants you to be" if this relationship is ever to work with this person. You find yourself hooked by the challenge to change and you find yourself working harder and harder to effect the change. What keeps you hooked is the affirmation and reinforcement you get from the other person when you effect a small change. The only problem is that there is always something else identified which needs to be changed after the last change has been accomplished. You are in a never ending loop of needing to change and unfortunately there never seems to be a end to it. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries for this hook is: "I have to be real to myself and be the person I am rather than to be the person someone else wants me to be. It is not healthy for me to give up my personhood and identity to please someone else just to have a relationship with that person. I have a right to my own tastes, likes and dislikes, personal style, beliefs, values, attitudes etc. I am in control of my own thinking, feelings and actions and I will allow no one to take control of these basic rights of mine."

 

9. Maybe you get hooked by the fear of the possible negative future outcome if you are not deeply involved in taking care of and fixing another person. You may be aware of the hooks which keep you boundary-less with a person. Yet you are afraid to LET GO of the control you have with this person for fear something very negative might happen to this person. Maybe the person will be homeless, hungry, jobless, poor, in jail, lonely, scared, or worse yet dead if you do not continue to fix and take care of the person's needs. This fear of the possible negative future outcomes is so debilitating, that it feels better being sucked dry intellectually, emotionally and physically than to LET GO and watch this person suffer this feared awful negative outcome. You find yourself powerless to keep from doing the healthy thing because of the intensity of this fear. You have become a prisoner in the prison of this relationship. You have become a hostage by a very powerful, needy, helpless, manipulative "hostage taker." You are a possession of this person and you find yourself doing all you are asked to insure that this possible negative dreaded outcome does not happen. You are being emotionally blackmailed in such a relationship and may even have heard threats of suicide from this person if you say you want out of the relationship the way it is. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I am only responsible for my life. No one can make me responsible for that person's life. I can choose to feel responsible for another person's life, but I cannot control or determine the outcome of this person's life no matter how hard I try. I am powerless to control other people, places, things and conditions. The only thing I can control is my own thinking, feeling and actions. I need to hand this person, this person's problems and needs and the outcomes of this person's life over to my Higher Power. I cannot carry this person's possible negative future outcomes on my body or I will experience failed emotional and physical health. It is OK for me to make other people accept personal responsibility for their own lives and to accept the consequences for their own actions, choices and decisions which they make."

 

10. Maybe you are hooked by the fantasy of the way it is supposed to be. You have an ideal, dream or image in your mind of how a relationship is supposed to be or how it should be and you have a difficult time accepting it the way it really is. You work hard at making the relationship approximate your idealized fantasy and put a great deal of time, energy and resources into making it become a reality. Unfortunately the more you give and give and give the fantasy never becomes the reality you are wishing for. The pull to make the fantasy become real is so powerful, that you are almost brainwashed into believing that it is possible even though all of your efforts have not made it happen even after years and years of effort on your part. You get hooked by the delusion of the fulfillment of the fantasy and live as if the fantasy has become reality. You are sometimes so out of touch with reality that you appear to be psychotic to others when you discuss your relationship, because they know that what you are saying about your relationship is not real and in some cases does not even closely approximate what you are saying about it. You keep pouring your resources, energy and time into an empty pit which seems to never get filled and you become obsessed into giving and giving to make the fantasy become real. You get hooked into waiting for the "big pay off" down the road if you just stick with this relationship and remain loyal to the belief that it will happen one day. "Wake up and get off the fantasy train before it runs off the track!" you hear people saying but you ignore their warning and keep blindly on, in search of your quest. The rational message needed to establish healthy boundaries from this hook is: "I must accept reality the way it is rather than how I want it to be. I will give my support system in my recovery program permission to call me on it if I am hooked into a fantasy relationship and losing myself in it. I will work hard to stay reality based and keep myself from losing my objectivity and contact with the way things really are. I will make every effort to accept life the way it is rather than how I want it to be. I know that people are human and subject to making mistakes and failing and I will forgive myself if I make a mistake in my efforts to establish intimate or sexually intimate relationships with others."


Use the tools in the Tools for Handling Control Issue (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) to get yourself unhooked and detached from unhealthy relationships.


Substep 2: Do ANGER Workouts on the lack of boundaries in your relationships.

Once you have ALERTED yourself to the emotional hooks in relationships which keep your boundaries down then you need to do ANGER work about how angry you are that there are these hooks out there which are so subtle and powerful. You need to get your anger out about: why can't relationships be like the ideal fantasy you always dreamed them to be and how hard they really are to maintain. You need to do your anger work about how unfair it is that nothing in life comes easy and how you have to work so hard to be healthy and ALERT to all of the hooks which keep you unhealthy in relationships. To do your ANGER work you must be sure to address the different faces of anger which the lack of boundaries in relationships bring on.

Anger Issues Resulting from a Lack of Boundaries

1. As a result of getting hooked into a relationship and having no boundaries in it, you might become invisible. This comes from your needs being ignored, your being socially isolated and being made to deal with the relationship on your own, alone and away from your family, friends and support system. You need to get out your anger over your rights being ignored. You need to get your anger out over your fear of not speaking up lest you "cause waves" or start a conflict. You need to get your anger out that you are not seen, heard or considered in the relationship. You need to get your anger out that you stopped thinking, feeling and acting on your own lest you were seen and problems resulted from such independence of action on your part.

 

2. As a result of getting hooked into a relationship and having no boundaries in it, you might experience major silent withdrawal. This withdrawal involves not allowing yourself to feel feelings of anger or disappointment because things are not going well in the relationship. You might even be driven to use your compulsive behaviors to medicate your negative feelings. You might become more compulsive in your overeating or in other addictive like behaviors (eg.: drinking, drugs, shopping, gambling, credit car use, risk taking etc.). This is the act of holding in your anger about the fact that your relationship is not giving you what you wanted and is not as healthy and intimate as you had hoped. If you continue to hold your anger in, you will became more and more depressed which feeds the need to self-medicate and withdraw more from others. By this action you pull away from family, friends, support networks and life in general. You need to get your anger out about how hurt you are that the relationship is not what you wanted. You need to get your anger out about how you have given and given in this relationship until you have no more to give. You need to get your anger out that you have lost yourself in the relationship because you have no boundaries between you and the other.


3. As a result of getting hooked into a relationship and having no boundaries in it, you might experience rage which comes as an over-reaction to your hurt and pain. You might finally realize that you have been conned and duped by the other in an unhealthy relationship and get so angry that you fly off into rages. You need to get your anger out in healthy ways so that you do not feel guilt after these rages. The guilt will only hook you back into the unhealthy relationship. You need to get this rage and anger out in healthy ways so that it does not turn into anger-in which results in your becoming depressed which feed your compulsive behaviors of overeating etc. You need to get this anger and rage out so that it does not turn into self-anger and self-destructive rage. You need to get this anger out so that you can forgive yourself for "being so stupid" or "being so naive" that you could have been "conned and manipulated" so by such a person. You need to get your anger and rage out in a healthy way so that you do not act "crazy" in front of this person which then can be used against you later. You need to get this anger and rage out of your system in healthy ways so that you can be "squeaky clean" in front of this person as you confront the problems in the relationship.


4. As a result of getting hooked into a relationship and having no boundaries in it, you might want to run away. You might find yourself wanting to get away with this person and create a "geographic change." This is thinking that in a different place you can work out the relationship in a better way. You need to recognize that this is just holding in your anger and things won't be any different in a new place. You might be repressing your emotional response to the relationship and find yourself running away from the relationship itself. The chances are that you will get out of this bad one but in a new place will probably find another bad one to replace it with. You might be so wrapped up in your fantasy and ideals of how relationships are supposed to be, that you find yourself running away from this bad one only to fall into the trap of a new one which more closely approximates what it is supposed to be and yet it is not. Running away from problems is only to run right back into them in a different formate, place or time. You need to get your anger out about your bad relationship so that you do not repeat the same pattern in the future. You need to rid yourself of all of the negative feelings and emotions which come from an unhealthy relationship so that you are free to experience healthier, more positive feelings in the future. You need to confront head on the anger and rage you feel about being disappointed, duped and conned in a boundary-less relationship so that you do not repeat the pattern in the future. To run away from it and not to face it, is a guarantee of repeating the pattern in the future.


Use the tools in the Tools for Anger Work-Out (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) to get your anger out in healthy ways.

 

Substep 3: Doing CHILD work to nurture your right to have boundaries in relationships.

Once you have done your ANGER work then you need to self nurture yourself with CHILD work focused on how you deserve not to be hooked by the pitfalls in relationships and how you deserve to establish healthy boundaries between you and others to protect yourself intellectually, emotionally and physically. To do this CHILD work you first need to recognize what your rights are in a healthy intimate relationship.

 

Personal Rights in a Relationship

1. I have the right to expect a nurturing environment in a relationship. I deserve to be recognized and accepted by others for who I am unconditionally. I need the environment in which my relationship exists to have clearly defined and enforced limits and boundaries so that I do not get lost or used up in it. I deserve to have respect and latitude to be an individual in this environment so that I can retain my individuality and personhood. I deserve to have an environment which has structure so that I know what are the expectations and obligations expected of me. I deserve to have freedom within the established structure so that I am not penned in or limited so much that I can no longer be the person who I am in this environment. I deserve to maintain open, honest and feelings based communication with my family, friends, support system and recovery colleagues so that I can receive feedback if I am falling back into a "hooked" relationship in which I am losing all sense of my personal boundaries.

 

2. I have the right to be self-nurturing in a relationship. I deserve to love myself unconditionally. I deserve to take care of my own intellectual, emotional and physical needs with no need to become dependent on an other person to meet these needs for me. I deserve to accept myself as a unique person who is different and separate from my partner in a relationship. I deserve and need to be open and honest with myself so that I am constantly in touch with my feelings and emotions so that I do not slip into fantasy or delusion about what is happening in the relationship with another. I have the need to be open to my inner voice which is the source of my instincts and intuitions so that I can hear the Alarm Bell if the relationship, I am in, is unhealthy for me.

 

3. I have the right to expect to be nurtured by a partner in a relationship. I deserve unconditional love and acceptance from an other person in a relationship. I deserve to receive warmth, caring and affection from my partner. I deserve to be accepted as the unique individual I am in this relationship. I deserve good open and honest communication with my partner. I deserve to have open and straight forward problem solving with my partner so that all issues which come up can be handled in healthy logical, emotional and physical ways.

 

4. I have the right to expect the relationship I am in to support my healthy self-esteem. I have a right to expect that my relationship will be supportive of me so that I can grow in my self-worth, self-concept and optimism. I have a right to expect to become a more productive person in a relationship. I have a right to become a better creative problem solver and experience improved coping skills in a relationship. I have a right to expect respect for my leadership capabilities by my partner. I have a right to expect that my self-deservedness and self-confidence will grow in a relationship. I have a right to expect that I will grow in altruism and personal responsibility taking in a relationship.


Use these four personal rights in a relationship as affirmations and visualizations to nurture yourself in CHILD work to give yourself permission to establish healthy boundaries so that you are not hook in an unhealthy way in future or present relationships. To read more about what you have a right to expect in your relationships read Section 1: An Overview of Self-Esteem in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous - The SEA's Program Manual (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Use the tools in Tools for Relationships (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992) to develop healthy intimate relationships with others.


Once you have completed the 3 substeps of LIGHTEN THE PRESSURE about the hooks in relationships which keep your boundaries down then you are ready for the next step in the LET GO process.


LET GO Step 2: EXERCISE RIGHTS

You next need to EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS to set up your boundaries which is essentially to say "NO" to those hooks which keep your boundaries down. You also need to identify what boundaries you want to set up so that you do not lose yourself in future intimate or sexually intimate relationships. To help you exercise your rights here are boundaries you need to establish in a relationship if it is to be a healthy one.

 

Boundaries Needed in a Healthy Relationship

1. You need to put limits on your time in a relationship. You will need to establish a good sense of time management so that you do not give all of your time over to the establishment and maintenance of your relationship with a person. You will need to develop a schedule daily, weekly, monthly and yearly for your time. You will need to set aside time enough for your work, sleep, self-nurturing activities, family involvement, friends involvement, support group(s), recovery work, spirituality endeavors, Balanced Lifestyle activities, exercise, having fun, leisure time, vacation times, alone time and couple time. You cannot afford to give away precious time to a relationship which must be spent in those necessary activities which insure that you are not lost or swallowed up in a relationship.

 

2. You need to put limits on the money you spend in a relationship. You will need to establish a budget for your money so that you do not spend inordinate sums of money in the establishing or maintaining of a relationship. You need to be clear that your money will not be used to rescue or save your partner from fiscal irresponsibility. You need to be clear that your money will not be squandered on high risk activities such as gambling or "get rich quick" schemes. You need to be clear that you will not foot the bill to support fully a partner who is not willing to take responsibility to find a job or get a better paying job for which the person is qualified. You will need to set limits as to how long you will fund a partner who is out of work before the funding is pulled. You will need to be clear that your money will not be spent to cover legal costs if your partner is purposefully involved in illegal activities.

 

3. You will need to set limits on your external resources in a relationship. You will need to set limits for the person in a relationship, on the use of your house, car, or other piece of property you possess. If you have a business or have a supervisory position on your job you will need to set limits on how much involved your partner can become involved in your work. You will need to set limits on how much your partner will have to do in terms of chores or work load to take care of the "shared space" in your house or other property you own or share with your partner. You will need to set limits on how much you will allow your partner to have access to your family, friends and support system. You will need to set limits as to how involved you will allow your partner to become in your recovery and support group(s) activities.

 

4. You will need to set limits on your talents, skills and abilities in a relationship. You will need to set limits on how much of your talents, skills and abilities or internal resources you are willing to expend on a relationship. You need to be clear with your partner how much of your internal resources you are willing to share or give away to establish or maintain the relationship. You need to be clear with yourself that your skills and abilities are commodities which others pay for (be it on the job or in the market place) and that you do not have to give them away for free just to keep a partner in a relationship. You are not required to give and give in a relationship of your talents, skills and abilities without expecting something substantial in return. You need to set limits on how much you will give before you will stop giving of yourself.


5. You will need to set limits on your emotions in a relationship. You will need to set limits on how much you will emotionally invest in a relationship. You will need to recognize the emotional hooks which keep you stuck in a relationship. You will need to set limits on how "hooked" you will allow yourself to become. You will need to set time limits on how long you will allow a hook to go on in the relationship. You will need to develop a sense of emotional detachment so as not to get hooked and drowned in an unhealthy relationship. You will need to develop emotional limits so that you will be able to figure out where you begin and end and where your partner in a relationship begins and ends.

To assist you to develop healthy boundaries read Chapter 12: Establishing Healthy Boundaries in Growing Down - Tools for Healing the Inner Child (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Once you have identified the five areas of boundaries you need establish so that you can have a healthy relationship then you are ready to proceed to the next LET GO step.

 

LET GO Step 3: TAKE STEPS

You are now ready to TAKE THE STEPS to establish healthy boundaries with others. This involves actualizing the 5 areas of boundaries for healthy relationships. You will need to do the following:

 

Boundary Development Tasks

1. Establish a Calendar

Set up a schedule for yourself by day, week, month and year and keep to it. Be sure all essential components need to have a nurturing environment, self-nurturing, partner nurturing and self-esteem enhancement are put in the calendar. Make sure that spending time on the Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle is included in the calendar.

 

2. Establish a Budget

Set up a budget of how you will spend your money. Make sure you are honest with yourself about your actual income and do not depend on credit as a source of income. Limit your expenditures on relationship establishment and maintenance activities so that you are not irresponsibly squandering your money.

 

3. Establish rules about use of your external resources

Set up a set of rules and regulations about use of your resources. Be clear about getting reimbursed for any damages or misuse of them. Set up chores and work schedules to insure that all of the resources are taken care of in a responsible way.

 

4. Establish rules about use of your talents, skill and abilities

Set up as set of rules about what you will and will not do in the relationship with your talents, skills and abilities so that you will not feel raped or violated because you have squandered your internal resources on the relationship.

 

5. Establish emotional limits

Identify what you are willing to do and not do in the relationship. Identify when, where, how and why you are willing to do what you will do. Set goals for the relationship which fairly protects each person. Develop open lines of communication so that all problems are openly discussed and creatively resolved. You will need to learn to say "NO" over and over again until it becomes a habit and you feel no more guilt after saying it.

 

Use the Tools for a Relationship (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992), Marriage Workout - Tools for Marital Enrichment (Messina, J.J., Advanced Development Systems Inc., Tampa, Florida, 1986) and Pathfinder: Tools for Effective Parenting (Messina, J.J., Advanced Development Systems Inc., Tampa, Florida, 1993) to assist you to take the steps necessary to develop healthy boundaries in your intimate and sexually intimate relationships. 


Once you have TAKEN STEPS to establish boundaries then you are ready for the next step in the LET GO Process.


LET GO STEP 4: GIVE UP NEED

You now need to insure that the boundaries you establish are maintained in your relationships. To do this you will need to GIVE UP THE NEED to have control over other people, places, situations and conditions. To do this, you will need to stop doing the following control behaviors which weaken your boundaries with others.

 

Control Behaviors Which Weaken Boundaries

1. Need to Fix

You will need to LET GO and GIVE UP THE NEED to fix other people when you see that they are hurting or in need. If you get caught up in the compulsive need to fix you will weaken your boundaries and become lost in trying to fix the other to the exclusion of taking care of yourself.

 

2. Need to be a Caretaker

You will need to recognize that you have a compulsive trait of needing to take care of people in need because you have a severe case of the "need to be needed" syndrome. You will need to recognize that the more you give and take care of a needy person the more your boundaries disappear and the less of you is left.

 

3. Unchecked Idealism

You will need to recognize that you cannot control how the world should be. You can only accept how the world is. You will need to work at tempering your idealism so that you do not exhaust yourself after allowing all of your boundaries to collapse around you.

 

4. Non-acceptance of Powerlessness

You need to work at accepting that you are powerless to control and change other people, places things, situations and conditions. You are competing with your Higher Power if you hold to the belief that you can control and change others. You will lose in the long run and you will be boundary-less and defenseless from the onslaught of needs of others, which you believe you can be change and control.

 

5. Lack of belief in a Higher Power

You will never be able to maintain your boundaries with others if you do not have a belief in a Higher Power or God as you understand it to be. You need a Higher Power over to whom you can let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in you life. Without this resource to hand over these things to you will be exhausted trying to meet everyone's needs and your boundaries will be non existent and you will be ultimately lost in the process.

 

To learn more about the control issues and to develop tools to GIVE UP THE NEED to control others read the Tools for Handling Control Issues (Messina, J.J., Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1992). Once you have GIVEN UP THE NEED you are then ready for the last LET GO Step.

 

LET GO Step 5: ORDER LIFE

Once you have done the ALERT, ANGER and CHILD work about emotional hooks in relationships, and anger responses to those hooks and self-nurturing by recognizing your rights to have healthy boundaries you had LIGHTENED THE PRESSURE to control others. Then you EXERCISED YOUR RIGHT by identifying what boundaries you wanted to set up for yourself in relationships. Then you TOOK STEPS to establish the boundaries. Finally you GAVE UP THE NEED to control others by recognizing the control issues which keep you boundary-less. Now you need to make a commitment to ORDER YOUR LIFE so that you will continually be on the lookout for your boundaries being violated, ignored or dropped.You will need to recognize that as part of your boundaries, you need to be clear that the Balanced Lifestyle Program is an essential part of your life and all aspects of it must be respected and not altered. You will need to state that you will allow no relationship to interfere with your recovery efforts and that you will allow no one the power to divert you from this important project in your life.


You will need to ORDER YOUR LIFE to recognize that you cannot have a healthy sexually intimate relationship with a significant other unless you have established and maintained your boundaries in a healthy way. You will need to be on ALERT to recognize if you are being hooked into a relationship because sexuality and sensuousness is the only economy exchanged in it. You will need to do ANGER work if all you have in a relationship is the physical act of sex and lack all of the other essential components to make it healthy and enriching. You will need to do CHILD work to nurture yourself to let you know that you are OK just the way you are, if you need to drop out of a sexual relationship which is not healthy or emotionally rewarding. You will need to do more LET GO work to get back on track to re-establish healthy boundaries if you relapse and allow yourself to be consumed in a relationship which provides you physical sexual contact but no emotional or intellectual nourishing. You will need to allow your support system to call you on it if you relapse into being your boundary-less, so you can cease a relationship which although sexual is not healthy for you.


You will need to work at preventing relapse by working hard at your recovery program so that you have enough people in your life to call you on it, if you begin to isolate yourself and you become a hostage in a new relationship. You will need to work at being open to others about the need for their feedback if they see you sacrificing your internal and external resources just so that you can have a sexual relationship with a partner. You will need to have support people prepared to call you on it, if you drift away from your new program with food, exercise and food-free ways of dealing with emotions. You will need to give permission to people to call you on it if they recognize that you are deteriorating in your health, happiness and energy levels since you got involved in a new (or altered) relationship.

 

You will gain the 3 Increases of Health, Happiness and Energy, if you are able to deal with your sexuality and sensuality in a healthy way and are able to maintain your healthy boundaries in the process. You have much to gain by establishing healthy boundaries with others and it is up to you to be vigilant and on guard for any relapse in keeping your boundaries up and healthy. Lastly you need to make a concerted effort to adopt the words of Rheinhold Neibuhr as a daily affirmation for yourself to insure you do not relapse into a boundary-less life:

 

Serenity Prayer

by: Rheinhold Neibuhr

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time,

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it.

Trusting that You will make all things right,

if I surrender to Your will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

AMEN


Tools for Coping Related Readings:

1. Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous - The SEA's Program Manual

  • Section 1: An Overview of Self-Esteem
  • Section 2: The SEA's Tools for Recovery
  • The LET GO System
  • The RELAPSE System
  • The SEA's Program of Recovery

2. Tools for Personal Growth

  • All Chapters

3. Tools for Relationships

  • All Chapters

4. Tools for Anger Work-out

  • All Chapters

5. Tools for Handling Control Issues
  • All Chapters

6. Growing Down - Tools for Healing the Inner Child

  • Chapter 5: Letting Go of Shame and Guilt
  • Chapter 6: Self-Forgiveness
  • Chapter 7: Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Self-Love
  • Chapter 10: Re-Parenting for Growing Down
  • Chapter 11: Overcoming Invisibility
  • Chapter 12: Establishing Healthy Boundaries