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Intimacy After Childhood Sexual Abuse / SNB132 show notes

Updated: Mar 16, 2023



Quotes from this episode

Being immobile is going to be a really big challenge for someone who has that freeze energy, especially if it’s triggered.
Being still requires that we’re immobile but we’re okay with it. We feel safety.
Physical intimacy kinda has elements of play and of stillness, right? And you can’t play and you can’t be still unless you have your safety pathways active.
No matter how we got to a traumatized state, we have to identify safety. We have to identify what brings us to safety, what safety feels like and to increase our capacity to stay in a safety state.
Confronting [traumas] head on can be helpful, but it also could easily be too much and be retraumatizing. I don’t recommend that, personally.
Regulation - it’s not a one-time thing… it’s an ongoing process. It’s not just for crises.
Don’t wait until the crisis to do some regulation. You need to do these things beforehand.
Work on your self-regulation before - before the crisis.

Hi Justin, I’ve been listening to your podcast for a long time now and am just coming into the realisation that I think I experienced csa (childhood sexual abuse). I think I’m in perpetual shutdown and hyper vigilance somehow. It feels like intimacy is sometimes impossible and other times I feel like a different person.. I wonder if you had any thoughts on how to regulate when a lot of what I’m remembering and putting together still makes me numb and unfeeling? I hope this isn’t too much to ask (I’m aware you can’t give in depth advice etc and I am seeing a psychotherapist at the moment). Thank you for all your work! Best wishes xx


Perpetual shutdown and hypervigilance

  • hypervigilance is a sx of freeze imo - flight/fight and freeze

    • Maybe a bit of coming out of shutdown

  • Panic element, possibly a rage

    • The pause in fear of a danger

      • Being stuck in this

    • The perpetual triggering of one’s rage

  • Perpetual shutdown makes sense due to the energy being frozen into the system

    • Common from sexual trauma

    • Immobilized while in flight/fight

  • One could also fluctuate between shutdown and freeze, depending on the context of who and where

  • Intimacy could be challenging

    • Due to immobilization as part of sexual intimacy potentially - if hypervigilant or panicky or rageful, we need movement, not immobilization

      • Sex can obviously be mobile, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cue of safety

      • Stillness requires safety to be stillness

      • Play requires safety to be play

      • Sex has elements of play and stillness

    • Sex might be unsafe due to familiarity of sexual abuse

      • The familiarity takes one out of their safety state, then vagal brake comes off

Memories make you feel numb and unfeeling

  • Definitely a shutdown flavor in numbness and lack of feeling

    • Not necessarily freeze

    • Common shutdown experience

  • Once these become reintegrated in some way, then the way we approach ____ will change

    • Holidays change after processing your grief for someone like a parent

    • Intimacy will be approached differently as well

      • Instead of being fearful, it might be more connected and shared and vulnerable



How to regulate through dysregulation?

  • BSA can be helpful in this

    • Identifying what brings you to safety

  • Confronting things head on can be helpful, but could also be too much and be retraumatizing

    • Just thinking about things and feeling them can be retraumatizing

    • Just sharing the story can be retraumatizing

    • So engaging in an act that is similar enough can be as well

    • Need to build safety first

      • Then address our past stuff, maybe that’s head on

  • Where I want to take this - We all want to have a sex life or a healthy sex life

    • I would encourage people to not sacrifice their well-being and their feelings of safety in an attempt to achieve that goal

      • The goal can still happen, but you might not be ready

      • A traumatized soldier may want to go to a shooting range, but the sounds might be too much and they are retraumatized

You need to find safety first

  • Regulation is not a one-time thing

    • Not something that you do as crisis arise

    • It’s a slow process of building your safety state

    • BSA can be helpful

  • Doing this a bit at a time is helpful

    • Gradual exposure, then work your way to your goal

    • My fear of heights

      • Gradual exposure to heights when I can

      • Recent experience of driving on cliffs and being okay

    • Compile wins

    • Ask yourself what is tolerable

      • Notice the feelings of that, then build

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