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#47161 - 12/29/03 01:39 AM Re: Acting out
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Acting out to me means all of those things mentioned, all the numbing, distracting, actions that I've done / do to move my mind into another place. Somewhere that way back in the past was probably the only escape I had.

My acting out went from sexual fantasies, to sex with strangers, and a whole pile of crap inbetween.
On the rare occasions I wasn't haveing a sex fantasy I was winning the lottery or the next world war !
Anything to escape.

I don't do anything like the amount of 'acting out' behaviours now, just occasionally it kicks in - why I still don't know, but it does. Although I can control it most of the time.
It's been hard, and I needed support, but there is life after acting out - I think.

ARW's point about perps saying they act out is interesting, I think that we 'share' a lot of behaviours - we just happened to use them in a different way.

I often wonder if the other guys who hang around toilets, parks or wherever, looking for casual sex are like me - acting out because of their pasts, or do they genuinly enjoy what they choose to do ?
If they do, I can't imagine why.....


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#47162 - 12/29/03 03:06 AM Re: Acting out
bountiful1 Offline

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 62
Loc: New York, New York, USA
Hi Guys!

I realized last night when I got home that I had not included a definition of "acting out" that has also been given to me by several therapists.

As a point of interest; I had thought that - because I have to travel so much - having several therapists would prove confusing. I have found the opposite to be true. It keeps me from having a narrow view of all the aspescts of my recovery. And it also keeps me from having only one point of view about everything about experiencing life that I bring up in therapy. They have all spoken abvout acting out pretty much the same way / definition.

What I'd forgotten to define yesterday was an interesting and equally believeable definition of "acting out". It makes total sense to me.

It has also been defined to me as "a deep inner belief about ones' self - that is usually rooted in our subconscious - and that comes from repeated actions from outside of ourselves. (words and assaults that create a belief about ourselves which may be so deeply rooted in our subconscious that we do not even know that we believe this about ourselves). We act out the truth of that belief as a ritual act of affirming what we have been taught about ourselves by the words/actions of others. (Words are tools we use to define our actions towards others. Examples are - we use words to comfort someone, to confront someone, to demean someone, to cherish someone, to destroy someone... All of those verbs are actions that we do through differing was of communicating - the most common being what we say to someone).

Examples of this are - with no offense meant to anyone - society repeatedly teaches gay men that their relationships are meaningless, sexualized, and without concern for each others health or well being. We are repeatedly taught that our "relatinships" are of lesser value than heterosexual relationships. As a result - as a way of confirming and confirming this belief about ourselves we act out that truth by doing exactly what we have been taught and defined as by others. We ritually have annonymous sex as a group. We act out exactly what we have been taught about ourselves.

Another example is the connundrum of the sexually abused boy. I myself was taught over and over by almost every man I met and encountered between the ages of 7 and 17 that I was not worth spending time with except as a little item to be used to get themselves off on. As a result, I cannot to this day imagine someone spending time with me if that is not the sought out result. I have many facts that have happened to me that counter that belief; but nothing has changed that belief. I will probably always think that i am of no use spending time with except for the fact that I am good for use for sex. I have not met anyone or read anything that can change a deeply rooted belief that has been that ingrained in a person. I know that I don't have to let that happen to me - be done to me; but thet fact that I always feel that way remains very intact. If I did not have therapy, I would probably act that belief out for I don't know how long, because I wouldn't have had the understanding that those beliefs and feelings are deeply rooted in my unconscious mind because of the repeated actions of others.

Going to a bathroom and having sex wioth numerous strangers - has been defined to me as a ritual acting out behavior that re-affirms what the abusers taught me about myself. That I am only of use as a tool to get off on. Getting strangers to beat me up would be another way of acting out that belief about myself. As would spending hours and hours a day doing sexuall acts via the internet.

In that definition of acting out - which makes a lot of sense to me - one is re-affirming a belief about ones' self that came about as a result of repeated teachings by the actions of others.

As a reference to "acting in", I was also thinking about that last night. It is a strange term. As I understand it, all actions are acted out. An act is not an act unless it is done. Even cutting ones' self or killing ones' self is an outward action. The act of cutting has to be done by you to yourself. Inner actions are very few, and include such things as - to think - to weigh the options - etc... but even these actions are clearly manifested by a persons behavior. Even words are only tools for actions. We use words to calm someone - to celebrate someone - to demean someones' experience of being with us - to avoid connection or commitment - etc...

My education was in the study of actions and affect. I studdied actions and emotions for more than 5 years. (Only one of my teachers is considered to have been one of the three or four most influential teachers on the subject of the past century, but a couple of the other teachers are also highly regarded world wide). In my studies - we learned that all actions are outward in their manifestations.

Even inner acts - such as to think or to contemplate or to act like it doesn't mean anything to me - are all very readable actions in their behavioral aspects. It is easy to see that a person is deeply thinking - or - pretending to not be affected by one's surroundings. One is truthful- meaning it is something that the person really needs to do and is really doing; and the other is false/manipulative; meaning the person is pretending to do something and is not really doing it. One cannot actually be devoid of being affected by the things that happen around ones' self. One can only act as if that is true. Therby making it a untruthful action. Example is the current fashion of - let's say - store clerks asking "how are you?" and staring at a pretend disinterested spot accross the room. Their action is a lie. They are pretending to have no interest in how you are doing. If they really didn't care, they would not say the words. If they have to ask as part of their job, but do not want to invest themselves in the action, then they are faking the act of doing their job. Their real action is defined as pretending to not be doing what they are doing, or demeaning you by pretending that you are not worth acknowledging. Either way they a faking their behavior. They are acting a point of view. A real point of view is a deeply held conviction which moves one to act/speak/etc. The only person I have studied the actions of who truly separated affect from his actions was Hitler. He was able to list facts that could justify what he was doing; but he was never able to jusify his actions emotionally. He convinced a nation to do the killing of their neighbors by staying very factual and devoid of affect. If one gives information as an action, it is an act of avoiding human contact.

From what I have learned - and witnessed - in the suicidal actions and other acting out behaviors I have seen or been told about, all of the actions whether done to the self or to an other as acts to end feeling like they felt - not seeing other ways of expressing the emotions coming from those deeply rooted beliefs about themselves.

In the end I would think that acting out is actions taken to avoid really feeling - and done without an understanding of the hurtful impact the actions might have on ones' self or others.



We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and I dream of freedom and happiness and fulfillment for us all.

#47163 - 12/31/03 08:26 PM Re: Acting out
Stephen_5 Offline
BoD Emeritus
Registered: 09/12/00
Posts: 667
Loc: Northern California Foothills
To my mind my acting out was just a re-enactment of the abuse in a situation where I had this illusion of control. I just thought that the other participant was just like my perp. But since I've come to this MS site and read what my fellow survivors have been through, been to a few retreats and met some of my fellow survivors, I can't help but think that the anonymous sex that I had could have been with guys that were hurting just as much as I was. The thought of that is sobering to me. It's one of the reasons why I won't do that anymore.

The difference between being an abuser and a victim is a thin line. Yes, an abuser could have been a victim too but crossed the line when he went on to coerce and abuse other vulnerable kids. I think that's the big difference. I always knew that what happened to me was wrong and I never wanted it to happen to some other innocent kid.

Take good care of yourselves,


I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

#47164 - 01/06/04 07:36 AM Re: Acting out
senordeaner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 11
First off, from reading through this post, I can say that I have acted out. Mostly with numbing my feelings-ignoring them, or doing things like overeating. I never acted out with molestation, if that would be the right choice of word, but it's the first that comes to mind. That is why I was upset by what others were saying-I still consider abuse any form of sexual activity that the victim doesn't want-any kind at all. I can't read minds and my situation is different from everyone else. All that happened to me was oral abuse, no more.

I guess what I want to know, I ask of anyone's opinion-who really is an abuser then? What about the one's who don't act out with sexual activity-of any kind? What exactly would be "healthy" or "normal"?

People of the strongest character exist here.

#47165 - 01/06/04 12:50 PM Re: Acting out
phoster Offline

Registered: 11/21/03
Posts: 758
Loc: ohio
You make a very valid point. Acting out doesnít excuse what a person does in my mind. For me it is only a means of separating the effects of the abuse from healthy things I have done. In other words, when I molested the girls as the result of being abused I was acting out not having a relationship. Itís more of a divider in my own mind rather than me trying to defer my responsibility for what I did to those girls.

Yes, I molested seven kids as I grew, and nothing can excuse the pain I know I have inflicted on them. That is something that haunts me daily. I try to realize that I dealt with life the best I could. When it all washes out, I am responsible for my actions. Yes, I was damaged and didnít understand fully, but nothing will ever relieve me of my responsibility for harming those other children.

I think in the end, I have to forgive myself for those childhood mistakes. I canít go back and undo them, so all that I can do is move forward and learn something from it.

As far as who is abuser, arenít we all guilty of it? If you overeat, arenít you abusing your body? If you hate yourself, arenít you likely to mistreat yourself? Certainly when I molested the children after my abuse, I was abusing them.

Healthy and normal are very abstract terms because they are different for everyone. To me, having your sense of morality match your lifestyle is what recovery is all about. Letís face it, if our actions meet what we expect of our selves, we would be perfectly happy. A person is unhealthy when something is out of balance, when you are not living up to what you expect of yourself. The conflict that arises by not being the person you think you should be is where problems come in.

I dislike labels. Things like acting out, normal and healthy all become points of confusion. I think it is better to focus on the bottom line behaviors and feelings. It doesnít matter what label we place on things. All that counts is the effects they have on our lives.

compassion is a light even to the darkest soul

#47166 - 01/10/04 04:03 AM Re: Acting out
andrew-jess Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/07/04
Posts: 3
Loc: Massachusetts
I've been numb for years and now I'm feeling everything. This is almost unbearable. I meditate to deal but the years of physical and psychological abuse along with a huge emptiness that resides in my genitals and stomache are taking me down right now. I don't want to admit I was sa. I really might not have been. I don't remember but my feelings are real and I feel suffocated by all of this.
I don't act out. I stopped the numbins stuff but I sometimes act in. I've always been suicidal but now I'm getting much better. I just meditate and brace myself during the flashbacks. Taking it all in. I know they will end. They did before and I know I'll be stronger for it.

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