Two Years and 10 Months

A short update.  It has been 2 years and 10 months now without crossdressing.  I continue to live sober and somewhat more peacefully.

Thank you so much for all of you who have commented since my last post.  I really do appreciate your comments, insights and support. Reading them today gave such a refreshing feeling of encouragement! I wish I had been sooner in returning to make sure your comments are shared with all.

We are not alone.  It still makes me sad to see just from a simple Google search for “stop crossdressing” or “quit crossdressing” how many people who struggle with our same desires have given up hope, or question if such a goal is even possible.  I want to thank those who keep similar blogs to this one and who comment and share with others.  It is important that people know and can see that while our choice to change is challenging, there is a way for anyone who really looks for it and is willing to invest in and work just as hard at establishing the habits of recovery as we did establishing the patterns of our fixation. (Remembering to be healthy about progress and disappointments, and not letting any voices of discouragement try and pursuade us as we stumble or learn along the way).

When I started this path, I had hoped that by now the desire would have left.  It has not.  And that’s ok.  I also wish that I could say that the frequency of experiencing these desires has diminished.  It has not.  And that is also ok.  I still find that it seems to go in waves or cycles.  Some waves and cycles seem to tie to events or predictable triggers/etc, and others seem to still have no explanation to me and vary in intensity.  But knowing that it works like this over time helps me have healthy expectations and not feel overwhelmed or taken by surprise when a wave or cycle hits.  Realizing that these waves and cycles happens helps me to not give in, and reminds me that there are seasons and I have made it through some before, and can again.  It is a reminder that just as cold Winter comes, so does the calm Spring afterwards.

I can say that overall I feel that the intensity of the desire has diminished a little, only a little.  Not as much as I wish, but I am thankful for any windfall I can get.  I do not know that losing the desire will ever happen for me in this lifetime, though I have more than enough life left that I am still willing to see if I can happily find myself mistaken someday.  I can also say that it is ok though, because I have been able to live my life relatively peaceably in spite of the desires.

I believe it is important, at least for me, to admit that the desire remains.  Denial, especially to oneself is very dangerous and I know if I let myself indulge denial, it would lead to a lot of inner conflict and eventually blindside me with severe consequences.  Interestingly, I have concluded that giving up crossdressing definitely has some parallel to aspects of the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief (Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance of the loss.).  This should not have surprised me, and yet it did.  I sometimes still honestly truly feel like a part of myself has died or become tragically lost.  Early on, one of my great fears in starting this journey was seeing when I actually did find people on a forum who had been successful for many months or in some cases a matter of years, that many returned to the habit to escape their resulting depression.  I think many people conclude that quitting is not possible because of the depression.  Based on my experience I do not agree.  Reflecting, I suspect what I felt some degree of depression especially in that first year, though I did not recognize it for what it was.  I don’t think I have been unscathed since either.  It can resurface too at any time.  I have seen other loved ones in my own family that I know closely that have suffered through extreme depression, so I hesitate to put this in the same category because I do not know if I can compare the severity to what they experienced.  Or perhaps we deal with it in different ways and it affects our behaviors differently?  My point, don’t let it surprise you.  Be ready for it.  We can see with others that it can really derail a person and should not be ignored.  Don’t’ take it lightly.  Get help (including therapy if needed or other support) to the degree you need to be ready for it.

But my point in writing is not to dwell on that challenge. My point is to acknowledge at least some form of feeling a depression as a real step to be expected in the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, and more importantly to remind people that Stage 4 (Depression) is not the final stage.  Stage 5 is Acceptance of Loss.  Knowing that depression does not have to be the end state gives great hope.  I believe people can ultimately learn to accept the loss (i.e. no longer crossdressing).  For anyone who goes through the stages of grief, I am sure that they never stop missing someone you lose.  But they learn to accept and to cope.  Perhaps this is the same with the desire to dress not leaving.  It is something I enjoyed in its way and time, but have chosen to lose.  Perhaps it is not realistic to expect it to fully disappear.  And that is ok.

Usually the stages of grief get forced onto a person by events beyond their control.  It is not so when quitting crossdressing is made as a voluntary choice.  (Side note: I actually read a while ago of someone who became paralyzed and did not get to make this a voluntary choice.  Though not a voluntary choice for that person, I still wish this person may find peace on this path.)  That difference (Choice) changes some things.  Certainly as I have observed, that retained choice makes it easy to change one’s mind and back out if one wants.  How many people voluntarily choose to put themselves through those stages?  However, I think there is also a benefit of having the conscious choice to go through this.  We do not have to be ambushed by the unexpected feelings or timing of when we start this process.  We can have realistic expectations and choose when we want to undertake this.  I think in some ways that is also a small advantage.

I can tell you that I am still trying to find things gradually to fill the scar/gap in my life, that I often express best as “boredom”.  And I find additional small activities or interests that work with me from time to time along the way.  A spiritual gap?  Sure.  That is part of it, and God as I perceive God, helps there.  But there are other aspects of that gap too that are not just spiritual.   There is a change in how I think and act, and how I live. There is a tradeoff of thrill/excitement for peace, a more stable and manageable life and peace of mind.  There is a difference in how I live.  Those have value though it is living a different way.  My kids fill part of that large gap in my life.  I love them, and though I can sometimes feel bored with my own life from time to time, I have never found myself unable to tire of loving and helping them and spending time with them and their world, cares, concerns, challenges and fun moments, and doing things together.  Parenting is a blessing to the parents in ways I had not ever expected.  It is hard to find a new passion when the default passion has been one thing for so long.  But it is not impossible, and I am finding for me it is so far it is not about finding a single overwhelming replacement interest/passion.  Sometimes it is a collection of things, though I do still hope to discover a new great passion/interest in my life ( a passion/calling in life that I can truly dive deep into).  I like reading.  I like movies.  I love spending time with my kids.  I have been thinking about writing a fiction book.  I like some games.  I talk more with some people I care about, like my brother just about life.  I am more involved at my work, and with my family.

Friends, this can be done.  Be real and honest with yourself.  Be kind to yourself and do not underestimate your successes while overestimating the challenges or disappointments.  Have realistic expectations. If I had known for sure upfront that I would still not be rid of the desires even after this long, yes, I would still have made the choice I did.  I am happier, more peaceful, more stable, and more balanced than I was before.    Take the small successes as they come.  Let the good habits build.  It’s ok though if the path is not all roses.  It is ok to still have challenges left.  I think you can tell I am still trying to fill things in my life and it has not been easy and is certainly still not where I want to reach to.  Be patient.  I am convinced that this challenge is ultimately won by slow, steady, gradual healing of time as we keep good habits and let sobriety build.  A quick drastic naive approach to believing it all (including the thoughts) will go away, and it can just all be magically better one day overnight, is just setting oneself up for disappointment.  Just because we cannot have what we desperately want (immediate recovery) does not mean the longer path should be ignored.

You can desire something, but learn how to choose other things.  Therapy, being honest with myself, having my spouse and others know my reality; have helped me to learn this.  You can choose not to do something you want because other choices are also good choices.  You don’t have to deny its appeal.  For me being honest about my feelings/desire helps my choice last because I know I made an informed choice and not a decision that pretended the desire was not real.  The part of me that wants to cannot argue that I am just ignoring the desire.  The desire is not allowed a level of intensity that comes from denying it exists and then suddenly seeing a different reality when truly at a weak moment.  It knows I know it is real.  It knows I really would like it.  It knows I am still not choosing it, and that I can continue a series of such choices.  I do not get as surprised and overwhelmed when I start to feel weakness or a trigger hits, because I have been acknowledging the desire exists all along.  That trigger moment is no longer an ambush because the thought is old and not being presented anew after a long time of ignoring it.

I do not know how long it will be until I post again (for reasons I have explained in a past post).  I hope it will not be as long as this last interval.  Please know I wish everyone who is making this same choice, courage to continue, the ability to see the good in what they are doing, and to remember to count the small successes that will get us there, and patience to let the good habits develop and be granted the time it needs to lead us to our goal.

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1 Year Reflections

It has been over 1 year since I wore any women’s clothing.

It has been a very long time since I have posted here and there is a very good reason for that.  Sometimes I find it is just too difficult to force myself to take even more time than I already naturally do in my own thoughts or in conversations with others, to then think more about and the write about things.  Quite simply, I think about and discuss how I am doing, what is working and what is not, how I am feeling, what I am thinking, my temptations and desires more than plenty already with myself in my own internal thoughts, with my therapist, with my 12 step group, with my spouse and with other supporters.  Very often it has just seemed completely overwhelming to increase that frequency or add on top of that the need to have a schedule, an obligation, or even a goal to frequently write about it.  It becomes too much and reaches a point where I feel it fixates my focus on my challenges and feelings of difficulty more than I want it to be, instead of moving my focus to where I want it to be, my successes and how to get there.  Repeated, relived, and reviewed analysis does not always mean benefit, only if it is helpful, and I have found there is a point where it is too much.

I have mentioned this before either here or in talks with others about the driving near the edge analogy where you tell yourself “Don’t go over the outside line in the lane, and then fixating attention on that line”.  The result is you are drawn to what you focus on.  Instead in the same analogy it has been suggested to focus on the inside line.  I.e. where you want to go instead of where you don’t want to go and then you will naturally avoid the outside line.  I have been trying that, but it means in a lot of ways I am not looking for other things that directly relate to overcoming crossdressing which is the subject here, because the purpose is not focusing on avoiding crossdressing, my purpose in thought had been to focus on living my life.  I view crossdressing challenges as that outside line in the lane that then seems in many ways to deal with itself because I am focusing on the inside lane. 

I will admit and warn though, that in my earliest stages of recovery this approach of looking for the inside line rather than the outside line or edge would never have worked.  Returning to the analogy, if your car is already on the line or flirting with crossing it or on the edge then at that level of crisis it certainly makes sense (in “panic mode”) to be working on the smaller but more critical goal of getting away from the edge and back to that outside line, or getting on the other side of that outside line or getting even a little bit more on the inside of the line.  In my earliest stages of recovery, looking for the inside most line that is on the left side of the car (in the U.S. anyway) was too far away.  When you are panicked in the intense situation sometimes you have to start by focusing on what you are not going to do, and then get some experience and confidence with it before looking further.

I find great value in the calm and peaceful times when I don’t have to think about and analyze and focus on this aspect of my life.  I find great value in focusing my attentions on the things I do enjoy in life, on my kids, on my other enjoyments, etc.  In short, I do not want to give this blog, crossdressing and my difficult thoughts more attention than they deserve.  It does not define me, and I will not allow focus on the subject to give it more time than I feel comfortable with or want. Those aspects get plenty of attention without this blog.  If more attention and focus via blogging is useful to me, then great, I will post here when it feels helpful or when it feels not overwhelming, or when I feel I can handle the addition and believe it will help others to post here. 

I had wondered for many many years why it was so hard to find information or people who were recovering from crossdressing or striving to quit.  I am now very strongly starting to believe that what I have explained above is the great reason that it is so hard to find people who talk about success in overcoming crossdressing.  It is not an easy path, and revisiting, repeat thinking, and fixating on things too much, makes it a lot harder.  I now believe from my own experience that there may be many people who are succeeding at overcoming crossdressing addition, but the path and choices they must take does not leave easily searchable and discoverable evidence for those of us who are looking for how they do it.

I also believe another key to why it is so difficult to find is that so much of the effort is intensely individual.  It is internal and involves me taking my own personal responsibility, with me as an individual making decisions, discovering why I think things, discovering what I think, and wanting and then deciding to think differently and then working on changing how I think.  I am not talking about will power or having firmer resolve.  I tried that for years just believing that working harder or being more committed would work.  It has nothing to do with that.  I am talking about me questioning myself about why I think or feel or do things.  About me questioning what I need.  About me questioning what I can do that is a truly valid compromise and then trying it without fear of falling and without fear of leaning too much to the desires of my two sides of thinking (female/male).  For example, I have a flower on my cell background image.  I like to use prettier towels.  I have lost a lot of weight.  I have decided that these are small things I can do that my male and female aspects can both compromise on and collectively as a whole person I can feel good about.  It reduces conflict between the two without having to fully give over to the demands of one or the other and without having to choose to dress.  I am talking about questioning my own assumptions, about if I think or feel this do I have to do it?  About questioning my own assumptions about the meaning of my thoughts and feelings and self-worth from them.  About questioning my needs.  I am talking about learning to feel ok about myself and how I feel, but choosing what I do.  I am talking about questioning my own logic and reasoning and assumptions and presenting different ones and then trying them.  I find it difficult to work in that highly internal realm and then go external and explain it all.  It just seems like too much to put to words and explain sometimes.  The challenges with therapy and discussions with others and even the process itself is enough to make me tired.

I am finding that very often if I am working on it, over focusing on crossdressing recovery is just too difficult to give time and attention to and still succeed. I will do what I am able to show what is helping me, but please do not fault me for not posting regularly here.  I will not make that promise.  That method of giving so much attention to the issue does not work for me.  And searching the internet for additional support, or overthinking about my challenges can so easily lead to other temptations.  Not a formula for success long term.  I do hope there are therapists and others like me, or others involved who will share what helps, but it is not my duty to do this.  My first priority is my own recovery.  If as I suspect with others, it leaves little evidence, I apologize.  But I am starting to believe that is part of how the path to this personal recovery works.

So, with that long preface, I am going to talk about some things that have been helping me.  I mentioned already rethinking things and some small compromises that are not crossdressing.  The flower background on my phone.  My wife asked about it and we talked about it.  I told her I like it because I think it is pretty.  She agreed it is.  There, was that so hard or problematic?  It was.  And that’s ok.  And it’s not a threat.  The towel.  I think they look nicer.  It is ok for me to like pretty things and be a man.  And those ones do not carry the same consequences as crossdressing for me.  I have been learning that total denial of wanting something pretty leads to fights and stronger conflicts and stronger actions by both my male and female aspects of thinking.  I have been suspecting that some of this may have been learned from my childhood.  Some of it not.  As a child, my family struggled financially and we were not well off.  I often could not get things I thought were cool, or looked nice, or were neat, or were pretty.  Crossdressing presented a very radical form of protest where I could feel that very internally and personally.  It is not my parents fault that I didn’t get everything I wanted.  It is not their fault we were poor.  It is what it is.  It is not their fault I found the outlet I did.  But I have realized that coping with our financial situation required a focus more on basic needs than I liked.  It also ended up leading me to a mindset that things like that (pretty, neat, fun) are not needed or are ALWAYS unimportant and should be minimized to survive and even to succeed.  Look at that sentence, there are a lot of flaws in that thinking.  It is not “always” the case.  I am not always forced to just look at how I survive.  I am often, but not always in other situations where I can think differently.  It does not mean they are unimportant.  There is a time and place for their importance.  Some things like that are needed for me to feel my emotional or personal needs of what I value are met.  I don’t think my parents intended me to think that way, but I know I developed that way of thinking and it led to me suppressing some aspects of my life as unnecessary, or excess when in reality they have a place even if limited or situational.  This is just one example of many flawed thoughts I have.  Also about what is and is not masculine and feminine.

I am learning to choose what I can incorporate and not let my male side panic at allowing anything “non male” at all.  I have been starting to think that perhaps it has been that overreactionary hardliner stance that has caused many problems.  It comes from fear.  It comes from fear that if I give any ground to what I associate in my mind as a more female desire then the male me loses.  I have been learning by experiment and experience that that fear is not grounded.  There are aspects I associate with femininity that I can incorporate as some levels without problems.  And it gels more with the understanding I have been developing that everyone (men and women) have different levels of what our thoughts associate as “masculine” and “feminine”.  I have been learning in therapy that setting up extremes and absolutes does not resolve things when I have a mix of both needs.  The result is swinging hard and exaggerated between the two and hard protest by the losing side in its moment of rebellion, and even harder counterstrike and silencing retribution when the normally controlling side regains power.  It escalates conflict and reactions.  It does not fix things.

Even if one (male/female aspect) is far stronger, it cannot live at an extreme level all the time because I (the central me) am not either of those extremes.

I have lost a lot of weight.  Nearly 50 pounds.  There have been multiple driving forces for it.  The more female associated thoughts and feelings like my thinner body shape.  That aspect of me feels better and prettier being thin.  That aspect of thinking associates fat as male and despises it.  Admittedly that side looks at a thinner body shape and admits how much easier it would be to dress more convincingly and aesthetically and pass or more closely resemble a female figure and how much more easily the right clothes could create that shape.  Yes, those very thoughts send my male aspects of thinking and feeling into a feeling of panic sometimes, and I want to reach for the “total annihilation” button and call in all the armed forces to unleash a mass death extinction of them.  But I have had to rethink and reevaluate based on what actual actions and results my weight loss is leading to, not what fears it creates to my male aspects of thinking.  Decisions based on fear and panic are not always the smartest.  And I know what overreaction leads to.  I cannot cause extinction…the thoughts come back and if suppressed and smothered will boil and resurface like an angry violent volcano fully ready for any fight with any army.

So let’s look at the hidden agenda/thoughts of my male aspect of thinking on the same subject.  Here is one that bothers me from that side.  For a long time as a youth I was a highly accomplished athlete and in the prime of physical health.  After high school and college I stopped playing sports as much and lost a lot of interest for many reasons.  I got fat.  There is a male aspect of me that has always wanted to return to better physical shape and to not feel fat.  There is a male aspect that looks at things though and says, yeah, being fat is not really what I want, but it is tolerable for me as a male.  Then there is the “I refuse to get what I really want because she will get what she wants” thought.  My aspects of thought do not get privacy from each other.  Sometimes one drowns out the other for a while.  Sometimes one is naturally quieter for a while.  I know what all my thoughts are.  All aspects of my thinking male, female, central know what all the others are thinking.  So, when my male associated aspect says I refuse to lose weight or be healthier because the female associated aspects will get what they want and I can tolerate being fat as a man….what happens.  Does either side win?  No.  Both lose.  I am fat and don’t feel my best as a man either.  How does it make me feel?  Neither aspect, male, female or central is happy.  In fact, the more female aspect feels attacked because it knows the male aspect is not doing this of its own desire, but rather merely to spite and suppress and hold down the female associated aspect.  What results?  Anger.  Resentment.  Can you see where this is leading?  The volcano.  A fight.  Many fights.  A war without any possibility of negotiation or peaceful end or even of either side fully destroying the other.  It may seem a simple thing but the realization that these female aspect desires and thoughts are not going to leave me has been very important.  You fight, compromise, and negotiate differently if you believe you can destroy your enemy than you do if you believe you might not be able to.  In fact, you look with a lot more interest at the negotiating table, because you realize the war will not end.  You don’t want to surrender and will not.  But you realize that the extreme dual devastation of the conflict and war is leaving destruction everywhere in your life.  You start to think, maybe there is a way to reduce the fighting or its impact.  Maybe I don’t have to win everything, maybe I only have to win certain key things.  For the first time you start to think…if I don’t have to win everything what is it that I do need to win?  What is it that I can trade off?  What might I need to try and see and reevaluate.  What will we still disagree on but disagree peacefully until possibly at some later time a less conflictful method of dealing with it can be found.  On the weight aspect I have realized that I don’t have to be spiteful.  I can feel happy losing weight for both reasons.  It does not mean I have to dress though.  And oddly enough the female associated thinking aspect has not pushed for it, in fact has felt less need to push for it.  What I am finding is that there are some things that I can agree on, I can satisfy both aspects on, and now here is the key.  Both sides are learning that by reaching agreement on my losing weight, the more female associated aspect actually feel a sense of fulfillment in how my body is.  And guess what so does the male.  Now what about the male aspect fears?  The female aspects’ sense of improved satisfaction with my body not being fat has actually felt fulfilling to where having some success on that aspect makes me feel less of a need to take other actions (like dressing) to deal with it.

Something is working here.  Does either side like the other sides thoughts?  No.  But can either side change the other’s thoughts, desires and feelings?  No, each can only speak louder or try to suppress the other for some period of time.  But they cannot eliminate or change the thoughts feelings, and desires.  Here’s another odd thought.  Are they really sides?  At some point aren’t my thoughts feeling and desires (central)?  Well.  Yes and no.  At some level in between yes.  At both extremes no.  Hmm.  Now here is a key question I have come to grips with.  Can either side change the other’s ACTIONS?  Interesting.  Yes.  Yes they can.  How?  By agreement and compromise on aspects that will work for both, and by cautiously and carefully judging based on actions and results not on feelings/thoughts.  What actions changed?  The extremes.  The feelings are able to exist without extreme behavior and extreme actions.  I don’t have to dress but can still feel some sense of fulfillment.  I can also feel better about overall health from the other point of view and don’t have to forego being in better health and losing weight.  Do the actions do anything to solve the conflicting thoughts/feelings/desires?  No.  But they change how much impact actions from those thoughts can have.  They also change the frequency of conflict.  The disagreement at a thought/feeling/desire level still exists, but it is not ruling my life as much, it is a less frequent conflict.  It is not leading to drastic actions by either side.  It is not ideal to either side, but overall it is better for both and the real actions and results are better for both.

Is this giving some insight into what I mean when I say I am learning to rethink, learning to revalue, learning to question my assumptions?  It is not easy to explain.  But I can tell it is real.  My wife gave an interesting analogy she has derived from her own thoughts and reasoning while attending her SAnon support group.  She was telling me she views my challenges as similar to a disease like diabetes.  Now, before readers start jumping to conclusions and misinterpreting let me explain fully.  She is not saying that I cannot do anything about crossdressing because it is a disease.  She is not saying that because I have a disease there is nothing I can do and it is just a fact that I will have to dress.  Focus more on the diabetes part of the analogy.  Someone with diabetes has it.  They can’t make it go away.  It is there whether they like it or not.  But they can adapt how they live their life to make their life manageable in spite of the fact they have diabetes.  Diabetes does not have to define them.  But they can learn to eat differently and in some ways live differently.  So let’s compare.  My thoughts/feelings/desires may never go away.  I can accept that.  Just as someone with diabetes has to eventually accept that they have it and it is a reality.  They cannot change the fact they have diabetes.  I cannot change the fact that no matter what I do the desires/feelings/thoughts always exist.  But they can eat differently and live in a way that the negative consequences of diabetes don’t hurt them.  I can have those feelings/thoughts/desires but I don’t have to act on them.  Or I can express them in ways that don’t hurt.  Diabetics can choose substitutes that work with their diet and meet some of the cravings they might have satisfied differently.  I can do the same with crossdressing.  I can seek other nonharmful means of expression.  Does a diabetic still want and crave those things they can’t have?  Sure.  But it is a decision with multiple aspects.  Would the food still taste good?  yes.  Could it cause problems and also taste good.  Yes.  Same thing with crossdressing.  Does it always hold appeal for me?  yes.  Could it cause problems and also be appealing?  Yes.  Do I have to do it?  No.  Will I choose to do it?  Don’t have to.  I can live differently.  People with diseases, diabetes or other unchangeable conditions in their life do learn to change how they live.  Not because they don’t want what they had before.  But because the mix of good and bad results those previous actions provide changes to the point they want to make different decision in spite of the appeal aspect

I think again some of this comes back to thinking.  I grew up in a highly right/wrong religious environment.  I have spent a lot of time thinking more later in my life what right and wrong mean.  I have also been learning that a very common mistake in environments that teach right and wrong is what I like to call “oversimplification”.  Let me explain.  Is it right or wrong to jump off a cliff at the grand canyon with no parachute heading straight down to solid rock?  Very clearly and very “oversimplifiedly” the answer is a blatantly obvious WRONG.  It is Wrong, duh, obvious.  Ok, that is an easy one.  I gave it on purpose to show in even an extreme case how the oversimplification principle works.  Instead of quickly stating its wrong, and saying duh, let’s look closer.  And here is where people miss.  Most people don’t look closer and ask why.  Why is it wrong?  It will lead to pain and death.  There.  Case closed.  Very easy.  Duh, I can’t believe we are even wasting time on this.  Oh really?  Is it that simple?  No!  It is not.  We have oversimplified by focusing only on the biggest outcome…pain and death.  Is that the only outcome?  No.  For some people like me there would be a rush and thrill to the falling aspect.  There would be a rush and thrill to the courage aspect of trying it.  There would be a curiosity aspect of hmm wonder what it’s like.  Does what I say sound ludicrous?  Oh really?  Then why exactly is it that people skydive?  Or Bungee jump. Or cliff dive into water?  To some people like me there IS an enjoyment and thrill and curiosity and nuance aspect.  Oh, that’s different you say?  They have a parachute, or water, or a cord to stop them.  Baloney, I say.  In both cases the thrill, enjoyment, and curiosity is there.  The difference is that in the falling into solid rock example there is a second and much more prominent aspect that accompanies those feelings.  That is fear, pain, and death.  All of those exist.  Thrill, curiosity, enjoyment, pain, death, fear.  We tend to ignore the ones that are not fear, pain, and death though because in the falling into solid rock case, the fear pain and death are so immensely weighted and important that the other thoughts/feeling get drown out.  Now I will point out, that yes I will agree it is wrong to jump off the cliff into solid rock landing.

But the difference in how I am learning to think vs. how I used to, is that I am not doing a 1 sided analysis as to why.  It is not because there is pain, death, and fear that it is wrong.  It is because those aspects are far more significant than the thrill, excitement, curiosity aspects….even though the latter still exist.

Now translate that back to my thoughts on right and wrong.  I have been learning that it is not about oversimplified comparison.  Almost every decision I run into in life has a combination of feelings/thoughts/outcome and consequences that result.  Some are much larger than others.  But there is almost always more than just one to look at.  And I don’t have to limit myself to looking at just the biggest to reach the “right” decision.  Let’s go a step further.  Sometimes you get presented with several good options to a choice.  Or with a few good options all different in mixture of consequences, and a few bad.  And you can pursue any of the several paths, but will have different mixes of consequence. 

What is right and Wrong then?  We are not always in “either or” binary decision.  Sometimes you get 2 scholarship offers.  Or 3 job offers.  All of them good.  Which is right?  Which is wrong?  Job offers could vary in salary, in benefits, in hours worked, in commute time.  There are multiple tradeoffs in what is desirable with once vs. what is desirable with another and what is undesirable with one and what is undesirable with another.  One may have great benefits but lower salary.  The other might have decent salary, decent benefits but an awful commute.  The mixture may not always be EASILY comparable.  But in the end we decide which one is best and call that one the “right” decision because it had the best overall mixture and combinations of outcomes.  Guess what?  Life is like this.  It is rarely the oversimplified right/wrongs.  It is tougher in comparison and usually involves sets and combinations of multiple consequences association with each choice.

I don’t have to oversimplify.  I am good at comparing mixtures.  I can look at the consequences of crossdressing for me and realize that it causes me some feelings I enjoy, others I don’t.  It creates problems with my marriage and family and other aspects of my life.  It has mixed results some I like, some I don’t.  I don’t have to have rose colored glasses and say that there is nothing I like/enjoy/feel/desire about it.  That’s simply not true.  That is denial.  It is suppression and it will sneak up and bite me if I ignore it.  I can look at it and say, yet there are parts of it I like/crave/want/feel/desire/enjoy.  But as a whole there are other options I want more because the mix of consequences and feelings as a whole is something I like more.  Does it mean I stopped wanting/feeling/enjoying the idea of crossdressing?  No.  It just means it is not what I am choosing to do.  I don’t have to go into denial of the wants/feelings/enjoyment just because I choose not to pursue that path.  And now returning to what I said earlier….I can acknowledge that yeah, I like it, want it, it does give some feeling I like, others I don’t.  I can acknowledge that – not suppress or deny – and then make my decision to do something else that I feel is a better mixture, and move my focus to that.  I hope what I am saying makes sense.  You don’t have to oversimplify.  You don’t have to deny that another choice is appealing just because you didn’t choose it.

Now returning a little more to right/wrong.  What makes something right?  Here’s a lot of questions about what it means. 

Right is whatever everyone else believes is the best choice? 

Right is what society tells you is the best choice?

Right is whatever academic “experts” and “scholars” tell you is the best choice?

Right is whatever people who you are closest to and value believe is the best choice? 

Right is what your doctrine tells you is the best choice? 

Right is what God believes is the best choice?

Right is what you believe is the best choice?

Right is what proves in retrospect to have been the best choice?

Don’t look for me to say which one it is.  I’m not always sure myself.  It begs the follow on question of Right for who?  Best for who?  I will openly admit that sometimes others have recommended choices that were better than the ones I made in retrospect.  So I know that there are certainly times when what I believed was the best choice was not.  But there have been other times when I have chosen better than what others said.  I have found many experts and scholars to have great papers on their walls, more ideas and better ideas than some uneducated or inexperienced people.  However my experience has also taught me that they don’t always make the best choices in retrospect either.  Certainly not always, even though perhaps a little more often than others.  Is God’s choice always the best choice?  Some will say yes absolutely!  I often find that those choices often benefit others and not me though, or benefit others and me less.  Sometimes they benefit people I care about, sometimes complete strangers.  I like to believe that God’s is the best choice.  However as with many things in that realm….very often I have to take that on faith….which means quite simply that I don’t know if it is, or I hope that it is but honestly I don’t 100% completely know for sure.  Sometimes God’s will benefits multiple people, but me less than others or less than following other choices.  Is my benefit more or less important than other people’s?  That might seem easy to answer and you’d say you matter first before others.  If you have kids though, or really love someone deeply, you might think harder.  I love my kids and there are many cases where what is best for them matters far more to me than what is best for me.  Sometimes even to me I will take negative consequences to myself because I truly want something better for them.  I believe there are best choices, and I know some ways to not measure it.  I don’t know that I need a full answer to the “right” definition to live my life though.  Isn’t that a recursive loaded question?  The “right” definition of “right”.

How do you know it’s right.  Honestly I often find I don’t get all the information, don’t see all the good and bad results.  It is often hard to know, because perfect information and perfect insight is rare.  Even retrospect often gets clouded and oversimplified.

What I need is a definition that works well enough to get where I am trying to get to.  I know that I don’t have to always make the “right” or best decisions to progress, but it helps when I get better at it.  I know that over time and with experience I am able to get better at making “right” or best choices.  I also know and have been learning that living for guilt/fear/duty about always making the right choice is rather futile and pointless and does not do anything other than make pretend progress for me, but really not move me anywhere, or perhaps move me forward but I can’t tell or benefit from it.  I am not capable of ALWAYS choosing best.  I don’t know anyone who is, or who always does.  Luckily I don’t have to ALWAYS make the best right/best choice.  But I have learned that if I want to progress, I have to ALWAYS TRY TO make the best choice, even if I don’t succeed in actually arriving at the best one.  And I have learned that obsessing about it, or feeling guilty and bad about retrospect does absolutely nothing for me.  I have also learned that in the relationship with me and God things work and feel a lot better if I can myself arrive at the point where I desire/want/and would choose the same choice God would make, rather than forcing myself to submit to something I don’t believe in.  Can I do that and go on faith?  Sure.  Do I benefit if I go on faith?  Sometimes, sometimes no,  hard to tell, perhaps I do and can’t tell, honestly it is often hard to know.  Do I have to ONLY choose to go on faith and refuse and avoid ever trying to learn how to make and arrive at the same decision as God and have the same desires driving the decision on my own?  No.  I don’t have to choose to always be ignorant and reliant.  I think God wants us to go on faith, but also expects us to learn, grow, and figure a lot of things out for ourselves.  I refuse to believe that God wants mindless slaves.  I refuse to believe that God wants his “children” to forever remain incompetent and useless and dependent on him and in a perpetual free handout state of living.  I refuse to believe that a “loving” God wants his children to remain uneducated, to remain forever inexperienced, to remain forever ignorant, to remain forever blind compared to him, or to remain forever incapable of reaching best decisions on their own.  That sounds like a power-hungry prideful supremacist vision of God to me.  I don’t buy that.  I have to believe that God wants us to become more capable, more able to do things on our own, and able to make the “right” decision, see what he sees, understand what he understands, and arrive at the decisions with all the information he has in the same way, even if it takes infinity to reach that point.  Perhaps someday I’ll reach that point or closer to it.  For now, all I can honestly say when I blindly surrender my will, is that I get mixed results, that I don’t often understand, and I remain by definition somewhat blind in my ability to tell if it is/was the best decision, though I hope so.  I hope that changes someday.  I find it much more valuable when he and I are able to arrive at the same decision either for different reasons, or ideally for the same ones.  That’s not an easily repeatable feat.  I don’t have to feel bad about when I don’t reach that point.  I am what I am at any given point in time.  I don’t have to pretend or satisfy others, or be something I’m not.

Sometimes I have reflected back on my life and wondered how it could have been different.  Or choices I might have made differently.  Would I have made the same decisions?  If I had not gotten married and did not have kids, would I have chosen to accept and embrace crossdressing and wherever it led?  If I did not have the religious beliefs and belief in God I do, would I have chosen to live differently?  If I had not been raised in the home I grew up in would I have chosen to embrace crossdressing without the same issues?  I don’t know, but sometimes I really wonder if I would have.  Retrospect is sometimes such a hard thing to look through and derive any value. You can only look back and see what did happen and imagine what would have been different.  The fact is you don’t know what would be different, or all of the information of what did, would, and wouldn’t happen.  If I had been born into different circumstances, physical, family, nurture, upbringing, genetics or whatever would I have even had the same feelings and desires?  How much is part of me, how much became part of me?  Don’t know for sure.  How capable am I at being able to tell?  Don’t know for sure.  Why did I choose to be where I am at?  I was single at one point and did choose to be married and have kids.  Why?  Because I want that.  Is it possible I would choose to be married and have kids and go through the same thing all over again?  Seems very possible, even in different circumstances.  I don’t know.  If I end up alone at some point later in life does that mean I’m destined/doomed to embrace crossdressing?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I would?  Maybe I would remake the same choice I did before and choose not to be alone, and choose to seek out a marriage partner, and choose to pursue the same things I have now and simply choose not to be alone and not to follow that path.  I can learn from retrospect and ponder, but it does not seem to give me sure answers.  It also does not change anything in the life I am now in.

As you can tell I have been trying to rethink a lot of my thinking not just about crossdressing but about life and everything else.  I don’t have to be perfectly successful at rethinking things to get where I am trying to go.  I don’t have to even always know how to do it or what to do.  Another analogy that has come to mind is heroes and what they do.  I enjoy playing The Legend of Zelda with my kids.  Now admittedly it is a simplified game compared to real life.  But I still think there are some things you can learn from it.  When you start the game as the hero you want to be able to win.  My kids of course on day 1 immediately wanted to be able to find and defeat the bad guy immediately right then.  Guess what?  Not possible.  You don’t have the right equipment, don’t know the right moves, techniques, or where to go.  Some things you need are beyond your own power or require help from others.  Some things take timing at the right time, and some things lead to others that finally get there.  I have noticed that sometimes my kids get discouraged when we cannot do what they want to be able to do…like immediately go find and confront the bad guy.  Or even figure out how to get to that treasure chest over there.  Or how to find someone missing.  Or how to beat an enemy that is very hard.  So what do we do?  Give up?  Admit defeat because we can’t even find the enemy let alone have what we need to win, let alone use it right, let alone win?  No.  We do what we are able to do with what we have and see where it leads to.  Does that mean that to get to the “mystic realm” I have to first go to that forest I didn’t plan on, then to the volcano, then to the desert than back to the sky, then back to the forest, then to somewhere random, then help some random person who gives me something unexpected that helps.  Yeah.  It means that.  It means that the path that gets me where I want to go is very odd, windy, back and forth, and hard to see how going here will get me there.  But, for those of you who have played these games you find that gradually with experience you start collecting new items (shields, swords, ropes, horse, jars, secrets, info, etc.) that make you more able, more capable, more knowledgeable, to handle more things.  And while I work on the things I AM able to do, after a very long and circuitous path, gradually I start to find that closer to the end, I do know where the enemy is, but not how to cross that 1000 foot drop to his castle that has no bridge.  Then later, I get new abilities, knowledge, experience and something new becomes possible.  I figure out how,  I get what I need to be able to win,  I am able to use it right, I get to the right place at the right time. And finally we win the game.  It is not a direct path.  It is not a clearly visible path where I know that what I am doing will lead to what I need.  Sometimes there are side quests that are nice but that really don’t get me to the end of the main quest.  sometimes what seemed like a side quest actually turns out to have been critical to me being able to finish the main quest. 

I have decided that I think that is how my crossdressing challenges are going to be in life.  I do not know the full path to get where I want to go.  I don’t completely know how to do it or if I have everything I need to be able to get there yet.  But here is the key.  I am working on what I am able to do with what I have and seeing where it leads to.  I know where I want to get eventually.  So when opportunities or new things that help along the way show up, I am able to recognize them, collect them and add it to my arsenal of knowledge, assets, abilities, and things in general.  Here is another key.  Even though the path my not be visibly direct and is circuitous and takes me back over ways I feel I have crossed before…I am able to see that I am learning things and progressing.  I can tell that I have more things that are helping me towards my long goal than I did 1 year ago or 5 years ago or 20 years ago.  I can see that I am getting more capable.  I would love to be able to stop the desires/feelings as well as the behavior.  I do not completely know how to do that, and especially the first part.  I don’t even know if it is possible in this life to lose those feelings/desires.  But I do know I have been able to see changes in my behavior.  I have been able to see changes in the frequency of feelings/desires.  I have been able to see changes in how often the inner conflict leads to extreme behavior from either side or direction.  I have been able to find support, therapy, and ways to live more manageably and at peace than before.

How well are my results at not having the desires/feelings?  Negligible at best.  While behavior wise I have felt successful in compromising and reducing the extreme warfare actions, the feeling linger.  There are aspects that have not been related to the behavior.  Some feelings enjoy the anticipation or fantasy.  There are more aspects than just wearing clothes to this.  Sometimes I feel that the feelings and desires are more present just less potent at leading to actions.  Sometimes I feel that the feelings and desires go through cycles where they feel even more intense or more fundamental to me as a person that they ever did when I thought it was just part of the behavior.  When you stop doing something, you realize there are feeling/desires that are not just behavior related.  It is tough to deal with.  Why do I feel this way?  Not sure.  Will it ever change?  Don’t know how.  Do I often feel jealous of women.  Absolutely.  Do my own feelings bother me?  Yes and no and both at the same time.  But you know what?  I am doing what I can with what I have.  Seeing where it goes.  Recognizing helps/assets as I encounter them.  Knowing what I am trying to get to.  Realizing what progress I do have and what new abilities I am gaining.  I am not going to let what I am not able to and don’t know how to solve yet get me down.

Other things I have learned.  I need to find more interests and hobbies.  Yeah crossdressing has for much of my life dominated that.  Online strategy games did too.  I have given both up.  Do I miss them?  Sure.  I’m not going to lie and only point out half the truth remember?  I’m going to be honest about the good and bad, the desirable and undesirable in the mixture.  There are aspects but both proved a mixture of good and bad things that I have decided I don’t want in the end in spite of how much the pleasure/enjoyment side had.  The mixture is not one sided – the full honest look at those 2 “hobbies” has led me to look for other things.  It is hard to find them sometimes, which is discouraging.  But at other times it makes me realize how strong a grip those “hobbies” had on my life in terms of keeping me from seeking out other things that interest me as well, and from spending time or developing better and more meaningful relationships with those I love and care about.

I have also learned that feelings matter a lot to me.  Especially feeling close to someone else.  Emotional Intimacy matters much more to me that physical intimacy.  But when I lack emotional intimacy, physical intimacy seems to try and step in to provide validation and “physical confirmation” that I should feel emotional validated, or a physical substitute to try and say since I feel physically validated it must mean I am emotionally validated.  Flawed logic.  But I think it is some kind of defense mechanism/coping mechanism within myself that tries to kick in.  Is that why I create a different me?  Not totally sure.  Does it create a perception of being close to someone else by being someone else?  Not sure, but I have wondered a lot.  I don’t have to let it kick in.  I don’t have to respond to it when it does.  And more importantly, I don’t have to sit back and allow circumstances to proceed to a point where it triggers the perceived need to kick in.  I have been trying to learn how to be more emotionally open with my wife.  I’m not talking about sharing my feeling on crossdressing.  Honestly for her that is not helpful.  I am talking about sharing my feelings about everything else in life.  I am also trying to learn how to deal with my emotions on my own when I am alone or can’t talk with her.  Learning to acknowledge they exist has been a big step…i.e. not going into denial about significance of noncrossdressing feelings from normal life.  Recognizing when I feel sad about other non crossdressing things, or frustrated, or lonely.  Recognizing when I feel crossdressing feelings/thoughts too.  Not going into denial about it.  I can work within things that I acknowledge exist.  If I pretend it does not, then I get blindsided  (amusingly, blindsided by myself, by my own denial).

I feel overall I am succeeding so far.  My life is feeling more manageable.  It is not a “Cure”.  I still struggle often and a lot with my feelings and desires.  But so far I am living in a way I feel good about and that is working with me and those I love.  I still really wish the desires/thoughts/feelings/wants would go away or become a nonissue.  Their ultimate impact has been reconciled in many ways to a way I can live with.  I also feel I am learning to understand myself better, and accept who I am, and not live in denial, or in all out inner conflict/warfare.  But the thoughts/feelings/wants/desires are still a very real and regular presence in my life, even if the actions are not. 

I don’t know if that can change.  And to be honest, I don’t know what it would feel like if they did.  I cannot remember a time other than early childhood when it was not like this.  But early childhood is so different even for people who don’t struggle with crossdressing or my desires that it hardly seem like a valid reference point to look at to think how adult life, sexuality, and feelings would be.  As a teenager and then adult I have to admit I do not know what it would be like to feel differently or never have those thoughts/feelings/wants/desires exist.  In some ways it seems strange to want something that I don’t know what it would be like to actually have or feel like.  Seems very theoretical.  By definition of not having the thoughts/feelings/desires/wants then in theory I wouldn’t even miss them or be able to miss them?  They would not have appeal right?  This theoretical state seems very beyond my understanding of how it works or even how it would be accomplished. 

Perhaps there is a different state that is reachable.  Knowing the feelings/wants/desires/thoughts.  Knowing their appeals.  Comprehending, Knowing, understanding and even remembering how it “felt” (notice the past tense).  But having that comprehension of feeling, even though the feeling is no longer existent or potent like that.  Perhaps the best way to describe this is the idea of “fading”.  Having those feelings/wants/desires/thoughts become faded simply through time and choice and through other desires.  Not becoming ignorant of what it was ever like or what it is like or could be like, but instead becoming immune to the potency because of some sort of change. I would like to believe this is possible.  I remember when I was far younger what some of my interests, hobbies and passions were.  I have mentioned earlier that sports were of great importance to me.  That passion has faded.  I remember how passionate I was about it then though.  I know how that feeling felt, what it was and can recognize how it would feel even now, but it is not the feeling that is in me any more like it was then.  Some people say it’s like riding a bike though and that if you get back into it the feelings and desires I had for sports back then would return.  I am not so sure.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe that is true for some things and maybe others really do permanently change and simply lose interest that will not renew by re-immersion.  Either way, I don’t have to choose to re-immerse myself in sporting competitions even if immersing myself in it would restore the feelings.  So whether it could be re-ignited or not doesn’t really matter so long as it is a choice, and I can decide if I take that choice.  I can always still decide to let sports passion stay faded and not revisit it.  I hope that something is possible like this for crossdressing feelings/passions/wants/desires/thoughts. 

The idea of fading desires/wants/passions/feelings is mystic and hard to grasp to me though.  How does it happen?  Passage of time seems to matter.  Overshadowing of other things seems to matter.  Memory sharpness over time seems to matter.  Involvement in other things seems to matter.  Change of circumstances seems to matter.  The only thing I am sure of is it seems to take a lot of time.  Does trauma or life changing events play into it?  Maybe?  Does it have to have a life changing or traumatic event?  I don’t’ know, in fact I suspect not necessarily.  I would like to learn more how this fading and letting go works.  Of course it would be nice if there was a fast way, but this sound like another one of these things that is not.

Wish I had more insights to share.  For now this is all I can give.  I welcome thoughts and helpful experiences that anyone else can share.

 

Posted in Coping Techniques, Crossdressing, Feelings, Recovery, Spouse, Thought Patterns, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Ideas for Successful Trips

Last week I was on travel for a few days, and I have another trip coming up soon.  I don’t travel often, but I do get a trip or two every couple of months on average for my work.  I have been learning how to prepare and handle trips better.  So, today I will share some things that have worked well for me, and also welcome whatever suggestions anyone else has.  I’m sure that traveling is probably a struggle for people who have many different kinds of addictions or sexual temptations – not just crossdressing.  There are other aspects that are probably more unique to those of us who struggle with crossdressing like for example being aware and choosing locations wisely to avoid easy access to clothing stores – a hotel next to a mall is extra temptation.

Historically, traveling and trips have been very risky for falling into crossdressing habits because I am alone for long periods of time and away from my spouse, family, support, and regular routine.  At least evenings are free, and there are ample opportunities while you are alone to find anything you are looking for – and since you are not at home they also become crossdressing opportunities with near zero risk of being identified by anyone who knows you.  As if increased opportunity were not enough, some of these aspects, especially loneliness and boredom or other feelings that are common on trips can also act as emotional triggers.

I think that the best preparation for a trip comes through the long-term, day-to-day strength to acknowledge temptations and desires, acknowledge that I am being tempted, that it would feel good and even so that I choose not to follow that path.  I am only getting better at this with the passage of time and experience.  But since not everything can be planned, and not every distraction can be avoided, knowing how to handle surprises is important.  I try to have no cash on me.  It might seem strange, but honestly when are you usually ever on travel that you can’t use a card?  And for me cash leaves no record, but debit and credit cards do.  I prefer knowing that there will be a record of what I purchase.

For emergent distractions, trips are also good places to have your cell phone with you.  Never forget the charger.  My lifeline with my wife is critical.  I know that for many addictions, including pornography and others, your phone and an open relationship with your spouse or significant other is important to be able to honestly call and ask for help when you are feeling weak.  This is a good time and place to have the numbers of people from your 12-Step sexual addiction group for backup, and even family or friends that are in your support group.  It is not enough to have 1 “go to” person.  Not everyone will be available when you feel weak.  I need a deep bench of people I can call that I can call on to draw support team reinforcements from.  And for me it is important to realize before any emergent distraction arrives that I must be willing and prepared to call not just one person but a few or several until I can find help if it comes down to it.

But a trip does not have to be all about emergency responses.  And neither do phone calls.  I find that if I wait to call my spouse until I have a problem, I have missed out on a better and easier phone conversations beforehand that prevents temptation and helps me feel close to my wife as well.  Calling before when you don’t need help also seems preferable to having to call when you are tempted, or after falling.  Why wait for a reason? I find there is rarely a bad time to call and talk to my wife.  Before temptation, for no reason at all, if I am feeling out of sorts, or if I can tell my mood is at risk.

In terms of prevention some things I like to do to occupy my time include writing letters or postcards to my wife. I have also thought about writing poetry to her.  I’ve thought about calling when I reach certain checkpoints – the airport, the hotel, back from work etc so that she knows I am thinking of her as I move from place to place.  I like to have the idea of constantly having my eye out for finding a gift for her or for my children, because when I am out and about instead of trying to not notice anything or have the temptation to notice places that will take me from my goals, I don’t have to look around and be in repression mode.  Instead I can be looking around for a toy for my children or something to show my wife I am thinking of here.  Easier to think of something else to do – instead of thinking of what not to do.

Perhaps, someday I will become stronger to where I will not need as much preparation, but for now I try to plan carefully where my hotel will be, where I will eat and how my schedule will be occupied.  For instance, on my last trip, I purposely chose a hotel farther away from my normal work destination to ensure that part of my evening would be occupied in transport.  I also chose a hotel in an area that was less expensive than where I was staying so it could provide financial value in spite of the transportation.  Not hard to do in D.C.  But I have to admit that knowing that I had a commute I had to take and that it would occupy some of my otherwise idle time was useful to me.  I also chose a hotel location far away from malls, shops, or easy access temptations.  It took longer to travel far enough away from the metropolitan area and take a bus to get there, but it helped me feel safer.  Planning things out also includes knowing what you will do each evening.  Are there old friends you can visit in the area?  Can you arrange with associates to have dinner as a group on certain nights?  Is there a local 12-Step group focusing on sexual addiction that you can go to for one or more of the evenings?  Can you arrange to call in to your local 12-Step group meeting?  Can you exercise at the hotel, or does the lobby have safe hotel lobby evening activities (some have movie nights as a group in the lobby)?  Planning ahead for me also involves planning to fly out the same day that work ends, rather than spending an extra night and flying back in the morning.  I also try to fly closer to the meetings’ start rather than flying in early.  I try to plan my arrival and departure to minimize my travel stay time.

Something that helped me with my last trips was having a couple of highly interesting books to read.  Personally, I find that having books to read (literature or religious) does not usually help me when I hit crisis mode and temptation hits.  However, I do find that if I can get interested in a good book (the kind that really won’t let you put it down), and I can get started in it on the flight there, it is easy to want to come back to it while I am on the trip, and to keep occupied enough during down times that I am preoccupied that I will keep reading when I get opportunities.  Then, reading becomes preventative rather than responsive.  If you have other projects you can work on you can bring them as well.  I like web development, and I can do a lot of that offline.  The same goes for writing.

As for access to Internet and television – I prefer to avoid it when I am traveling.  Internet is too easy for me to stray where there are not filters or audit logs that I keep in my wife’s protective hands.  And I don’t have control over what television presents.  Sure, I can pick my show, but what about the previews for the next show?  What about commercials, and the temptation to channel surf when you lose interest in the show?  The safest TV watching I ever remember was watching TV together over the phone with my wife.  We have a mobile to mobile unlimited plan so we could talk as long as we want.  This is probably the only time that TV did not feel like a temptation to me.  But if we’re not watching together, I feel better about turning it off.

Sometimes when I go on a trip I set a goal beforehand to catch up on sleep.  Honestly, I know most people complain about never getting enough.  Well a trip, on your own, is a great chance to get that hour or two nap in that you never have time for, right after work.  Wake eat, and then take a night’s sleep again.  Listening to good music that helps you keep your goals is also useful – my favorites are instrumental but it doesn’t really matter as long as it is safe and keeps you in a healthy mood.  I also find that reading scriptures and spiritual books and praying formally and informally – again especially when I don’t need it rather than when a crisis hits, is very helpful for me.

So, I have touched on things that I find helpful.  Feel free to comment, to add suggestions, or note other ideas that have helped you.

Posted in Coping Techniques, Crossdressing, Recovery, Spouse | 8 Comments

Validation and Intimacy

I have been learning more about validation and intimacy.  When I say intimacy, let me clarify between sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy.  Sexual intimacy is physical.  Emotional intimacy is about feelings, closeness, sharing, not hiding oneself, etc.  What I have been learning is that I need validation.  I have always sought it through sexual intimacy.  But it is the emotional intimacy that the sexual intimacy represents that truly provides the validation.  Emotional intimacy is harder to get than sexual intimacy, and I think that difference explains a lot about sexual addiction, and even my addiction – crossdressing.

In my mind, there has always been a forced separation about what it means to be loved “as a friend” and what it means to be loved as “more than a friend”.  What I believe I am discovering is that to be loved as more than a friend, sexual intimacy and other aspects of physical intimacy is not the only difference.  It is perhaps the most obvious difference and visible form that manifests itself.  However, there is a much deeper emotional intimacy that those physical forms are symbolic of.  I am not discounting the enjoyment, pleasure, and excitement of those physically intimate manifestations – they have value too.  I am simply pointing out that while it is easy to get lost in the enjoyment pleasure and excitement, and I often have, there is something deeper underlying it too.  And while the physical desires push for satisfaction in the short term, I would argue that the longer term deeper emotional desires are even stronger.

I am not advocating for avoidance of forms of physical intimacy nor for avoiding sex.  I believe that physical touch and sex carry with them not just the physical enjoyments but also the emotional validation that they symbolize.  What I am saying is that when you cannot immediately or perhaps for a long term experience the additional enjoyment and additional emotional reinforcement that naturally follow with physical intimacy, it does not mean that you cannot have the emotional intimacy.  Not having sex does not mean you are not loved as more than a friend.  Or, stated differently, you can be loved as more than a friend even if you are not having sex.  I am also saying that the emotional validation that follows for a man as a result of sex can be obtained by pursuing emotional intimacy.  How?  By being honest and open about feelings, telling how you feel, not hiding how you feel even if it hurts or is uncomfortable, giving someone a chance to love you for you even if what is you is imperfect or even scarred by your own past choices.  Giving a chance for the validation to happen is important.  If sex is the only chance you allow, then it is obvious you begin to view it as the only way you receive validation.

This type of validation is a foreign concept from an addiction mindset, which wants to believe that sex is the only form of validation can be received.  The addiction mindset sees it as too difficult, too uncertain in delivering its validation, too vulnerable and unsafe in submitting your inner self, too complicated, too demanding, and potentially humiliating or negative if it goes wrong by being viewed as weak.  The addiction mindset sees sex as the answer.  My addiction thought is like this.  “If someone is willing to have sex with me, then the emotional state has already been achieved in them.  Because I know that sex represents that closeness, I don’t have to invest in it.  I can stay reserved and safe but enjoy the validation.”  The problem with that statement is that it is at best only half true and at worst not true at all.

It may be that your partner is emotionally invested and that her willingness to have sex with you represents that emotional intimacy that she is giving.  This is the “half-true” scenario.  The problem is that only one person is feeling that – her.  The addict is not allowing himself to fully feel it in the giving sense (perhaps out of fear of vulnerability).  So only the receiving aspect is fully experienced.  However, I would add that eventually a partner notices and can tell, and without reciprocating emotional investment even what she can give, compared to what two fully emotionally invested partners can give, becomes diminished.  At best this is “half-true”.  Over time it becomes even less than half, but the addict does not notice because it is the only route that mindset perceives as viable.

However, not all addictions seek a loving partner.  Crossdressing and masturbation for example.  No partner has to be involved for sexual release.  You essentially become the other partner or play the role in your mind.  Or with pornography, the external partner is internally realized.  In both cases it is a fantasy world in the mind of the addict where the partner if at all exists.  A fantasized partner can only deliver fantasy though.  A fantasy can only deliver fantasy.  It can deliver sex, excitement, the physical arousal and physical sensations, but it cannot deliver emotional intimacy. It can try.  It can deliver fantasy temporary sense of it.  But it fades.  And that is why the guilt, or worse yet the loneliness sets back in.  Fantasy cannot deliver reality.  The physical release, physical sensations, and physical aspects can be satisfied because they are short term and short lived.  Fantasy can deal well with the short term.  But emotional validation is a deeper and long term need and feeling.  Fantasy cannot sustain itself long enough to deliver it.  And because validation by definition requires reality, it cannot deliver the profound sense of validation.  A fantasy world cannot by definition have such levity, because it is not built on honestly with oneself and lasting validation demands honesty.

Crossdressing fantasy or masturbation fantasy when it tries to seek real validation arrives at the conclusion that “if you were known for what you are, you would not get the validation”.  This is doubly dangerous, one because it is invalidation and two because it accepts your inner mind as the judge of what others who are external to you are thinking.  You give yourself permission to know better than those people, what they are thinking.  And then you use that permission to think the worst possible of yourself.  Both steps are mistakes.  But they are mistakes that reinforce the cycle of sexual fantasy, by cutting off access or even the idea of appealing to an external source of truth.

My wife has been reading Les Miserables, which I have always loved as a Musical but have never read as a book.  As she is reading, she has been sharing some real gems that she comes across.  Here is one that hits home very deeply and passionately with me about this subject.

“the supreme happiness of life consists in the conviction that one is loved; loved for one’s own sake—let us say rather, loved in spite of one’s self”

I regularly find myself beginning to tear up a little when I read this statement because of how true it feels to me.  This statement does not say I want to be loved because of or together with my failings.  It leaves room for separation, but still allows them to be known, not forgotten – but not used as definition either, put aside, and ultimately potentially changed, discarded or abandoned.  It allows being loved for who you are, and acknowledges the potential for difference in what you did, and what you do and will do and knows who you really are and that it is not evil.

In an earlier post about “Influence, Power and Control“, I talked about the “man test” as described in “the most personal addiction” PDF found at sexualcontrol.com.  I have also talked about the rejection cycle in a past post.  These thoughts today about emotional intimacy also apply to interjecting into and improving outcomes discussed in my post about contrasting aspects of the paths.  For me, with crossdressing addiction there is an acceptance of rejection as a man, an acceptance of failing the “man test” in terms of sexual performance/ability/perception and the emotional validation that sex represents.  The result is seeking sexual validation from another form through crossdressing, in a fantasy mindset, where I can safely play the role of the validator and the validatee.  The point of my post today is that validation can be reached without crossdressing (the alternate or second path).  And validation can even be reached when sex with your partner (the seeming only primary path) is experiencing temporary rejection.  In short, there is a third path to validation.

I believe the third path is more rewarding too.  It takes more work.  It takes more vulnerability.  But it reduces dependency on sexual habits.  The consequences of that last statement are immense.  The first benefit is obvious, not having to rely solely on sex.  The second benefit is more subtle though.  If you don’t have to depend on sex for that validation, then sex can become something different in meaning.  It can become fun, non-pressure, less serious, and more enjoyable I suspect.  Without the pressure from tying self worth to it, it can become more playful, more flexible, more enjoyable, less demanding or tied to pressure for seeking validation, less of a test.  I believe this is a path to something for more beautiful and unrestrained.  The third benefit I see is a positive reinforcement cycle.  Just because the dependency on sex for validation is removed, does not mean that it will cease to provide validation.  It means that it is not relied on as the primary initial or only source.  Being freed up from that responsibility, this changes the role of sex to where it can augment and add to that validation in higher and unexpected, unanticipated and uncharted ways, instead of having to merely use it to satisfy a basic level of validation.  When something is given because it is needed or demanded, it cannot carry the additional surprise, nuance, ability to surpass expectations, power and beauty of something that is given without need or demand.  This third benefit is very interesting to me, and I believe it is because it is partially because the resulting validation is not from dependency that it can create a positive cycle.

So how do I get this validation through emotional intimacy.  I can tell you what I have stumbled onto so far.  The whole concept seemed to come together for me as I have been spending the last couple of weeks trying to explore the feelings I listed in my “Underlying Feelings” post about feeling beautiful, attractive, wanted, etc.  I was trying to figure out, what do I need to do to address those wants/needs/feelings in terms of the model I presented in my post about “In Search of Unification“.  In other words, how can I satisfy those needs without crossdressing?  How can I satisfy those needs as a man?  Not at the left side of the continuum.  But in the merged middle state of the continuum that addresses the needs/wants I have when I want to crossdress but in a way that can merge with my normal non-crossdressing self.  In my thinking, I thought a lot about what makes me feel that way as a man.  An uncomfortable but easy answer I kept running into was “when someone has sex with me.”  I feel beautiful after sex.  It makes me feel attractive.   It makes me feel I am wanted.  My Google searching on male and feel beautiful and similar terms had very few relevant hits, but I found a couple of other posts that indicated the same concept – “after sex”.  At the same time, I had been reading the sexualcontrol.com posts about emotional intimacy being the missing part that addictive sex tries to replace.  The two thoughts came together for me.

Sex provides validation for me of many of the underlying wants and needs and feelings I had addressed.  Since then I have been thinking more about it, and realized that the sex did not provide the validation itself.  It is what sex represents to me.  It is because my mind tells me that for my partner to have sex with me, that means I am attractive.  It means I am beautiful.  It means I am wanted.  It means my level of flirtation is successful.  It means I am not boring or uninteresting.  It means an answer to a lot of the needs/wants listed on the underlying feelings post.  But what captured my thoughts after that, was the realization that it was not the sex itself that satisfied those feelings.  It was “what the sex represented” in terms of what it told me my partner feels about me.  It is clear to me now that that same validation can be reached by talking more often with my partner, by being closer, by saying how I am feeling, both when I don’t feel beautiful or wanted, and when I do.  I am realizing my partner can validate to me when we talk intimately and are emotionally close that she does want me.  She can show me that I am beautiful to her.  She can validate a lot of those feelings.  And she can do it without having to have sex with me.  But for her to do it, I have to give her opportunities.  And I have to talk in a way that is not superficial, and that is focused on feelings.  And, I have to change the level of conversation into something more credible than normal conversation – it has to change in tone to an intimate and feeling conversation.  I have to speak in a different language.  I have to be more vulnerable.  It is a different way to communicating.  And then I need to learn that when I feel the rejection cycle or feelings resurging in me, I need to talk with her, and not just in a business like, friend like, or traditional way, instead I need to talk in a “more than just a friend way”.  I am still learning how to do this.

I have been working on not just saying “fine” when my wife asks me “how are you doing?” or “how are you feeling?”.  I have been working on not just saying “nothing” when my wife asks me “what’s wrong?” or “what’s the matter.  These are good steps.  I also need though to learn to approach her as well, instead of waiting to be noticed.  I don’t think it is a one or the other in terms of wait to be asked or go tell her.  I think I need to develop both habits.

Everyone we meet in our day seems to say things like “How are you?”, “how are you doing?”, “Are you ok?”  “Is something wrong?” “What’s the matter?”.  We learn very quickly that most people do NOT want the real answer.  They use those words as a traditional greeting more like “hi” followed by “oh, hello” from the other person.  And what are the “traditional” greeting like responses we are supposed to give to all of the phrases I listed?  “How are you?”, “Good.  Fine.  Ok.  Great.”  “Are you ok?”  “yeah, I’m fine”.   “What’s the matter?”  “Oh nothing”.

As greetings they are fine.  But the real answers mean, “Good enough for you not to need to do anything”, “Fine, as far as you need to be concerned”, “Nothing, that you can help with” and “Nothing that I want or will allow your help with”, “Nothing we can talk about here or right now”.  These are the longer versions of what the shorter answers really mean.  At least to me, I think one of my problems is that we get so conditioned to these answers and so disgusted at the superficiality of it as a greeting that could really be more, but is never used for more, that we automatically close off to it.  Especially for those of us who don’t like reality, live in our own minds, and are good at fantasy, we become conditioned at wanting to keep our thoughts to ourselves.  I have that problem.  I have been realizing that when my wife asks those same questions, even just in passing conversation, or when it doesn’t seem like a big deal moment, she is not merely doing some traditional greeting.  She does want to know.  I can tell her how I feel.  I don’t have to hide it.  In a loving relationship it is ok not to withhold the real answers to those questions even in seemingly normal day to day conversations and greeting.  To be loved as more than a friend, you have to give access to feelings as more than a friend, and you have to be willing to share what you hide from others even from friends.

I have always known about talking in terms of “I feel” statements.  That does not mean I am good at it.  “I feel” statements are supposed to help focus on feelings about actions instead of on accusing others about their actions.  I think I realized yesterday that when you say “I feel that…”, or “I feel that you”, or “I feel like you…” that is not quite expressing what you feel.  I think I realized that it is still trying to hide, trying to avoid the discomfort of sharing my real feelings, fears, inadequacies.

I decided yesterday after talking with my wife, that I will get more mileage from saying “I feel” and then following it with an adjective.  “I feel + Adjective”.  For example, “I feel ignored when…” (instead of “You are ignoring me”)  “I feel unimportant because” (instead of “You don’t care” or “I feel that you don’t care”)  “I feel angry that” (instead of “You hurt me”).  Saying I feel is not enough.  I have to say WHAT is the feeling I feel.  It’s funny, but I also realized yesterday that this is a form of emotional honesty.  Honesty can be about not directly lying.  It can also be hiding the truth or omitting it.  I suppose it is one thing to be honest about things I have done that hurt others, and it is a different thing to be honest about how I feel and to not omit or hide my feelings.  But they ar both aspects of honesty.  It feel different though being honest about causing pain and offenses vs. being honest about feelings.  For the first time, I have been finding that being honest with myself and with my wife about how I feel, and what my feelings are…can actually be a positive thing.  I feel better being honest with myself about my feelings.  I feel better not hiding them from my spouse.

I have also learned that I need to talk on a deeper more emotionally honest level with my wife often.  Let me emphasize the importance of one key word here – OFTEN.  Why?  Because if I don’t, my mind will try to start speaking on her behalf, it will speak negatively, and it will not speak the truth.  My mind craves an answer, and will supply it on its own if not sought.  I don’t completely understand why.  Perhaps it is the mind’s defense mechanism of “assuming the worst case and preparing”.  I also suspect that the craving to know is fine, it is actually a prompting towards emotional intimacy.  It is what happens if not pursued by asking the real source, i.e. by intead allowing the mental critic to take that role, that becomes the problem.  You would think that with your loved ones it would be easier to fight the mental critic in your head.  It is not.  Precisely because you believe you know them so well, your inner critic also believes that it knows them at least as well as you do – perhaps better.  I find it is often easier to tell my inner critic that it has no idea what a total stranger is thinking, than it is to tell it that it has no right to speak for my wife.

Here are some final thoughts on the subject.  You will NEVER find emotional intimacy nor validation with your inner critic.  By definition, it cannot.  It will not.  It will defiantly refuse.  You cannot find it with a fantasy or illusion either – all you can find there is a temporary state of ignoring of the inner critic.  Your inner critic knows everything you know and knows it is a fantasy.  Your inner critic will berate you even more by pointing out that distinction.  You cannot hide from that critic either if you are in this addiction and rejection cycle.  You can however find emotional intimacy and validation with your spouse/partner.  Why?  Because even your inner critic knows that those words speaking for themselves are more real than the words the critic thinks of for them.  The critic is left with no leg to stand on and has to flat out admit he is WRONG.  After that, the critic doesn’t just get ignored.  Instead, it is absolutely silenced and must withdraw.  When I was talking about my feelings, fears, and the thoughts and doubts I fight in the discussions with my inner critic, I asked my wife some of the questions my inner critic questions me with.  I think she was shocked at how cruel my own thoughts and doubts are both to myself and in misrepresenting her.  I think it not only surprised but hurt her a little.  At one point she asked me what is it I want asking questions from a critic like that.  I answered her that what I desperately want is to be told that the critic is WRONG.  To refuse to have those doubts validated.  I learned just how much my wife cares about me.  If you want real validation, go to the source.  But don’t go there to seek sex for validation.  Go there to talk, to talk real, to be close in feelings.  That is emotional intimacy and it provides real validation.  Sex is not the only way to feel it.  Sex with your partner deserves not to be limited to being a source of validation.  Make sex something else, something more, something special.  I want to learn this and allow physical intimacy to be something even more beautiful.

Posted in Coping Techniques, Crossdressing, Feelings, Recovery, Spouse, Thought Patterns | 4 Comments

Influence, Power, and Control

The last week or so I have been reading the first 48 chapters of “The Most Personal Addiction” from the sexualcontrol.com website.  You can find chapters 1-15 on the website, but 48 are available at a link on the bottom right.  It I regularly follow Dr. Mark Chamberlain’s blog and saw that he had referred to that website as an online source/option for people trying to work through things via online help. I have mentioned before that I am looking for any source of help I can find, and decided that in addition to therapy, marriage counseling, hypnotherapy, 12-Step Group, God, Church, working with my spouse, blogging about my own experience, this might be another source that could help. I’m always looking for another piece to the puzzle, or perhaps more correctly – another piece of the solution to the puzzle.

I felt like I found something the other day, although at first I was very cautious. I was surprised when I went to the site and spent some time reading and realized that the author admittedly has no degree in counseling/therapy, and in fact admittedly dropped out of high school and had to work hard to then get equivalency. This surprised me because the reference to the site came from Dr. Chamberlain who is himself a Ph.D and specializes in helping counsel people with sexual addiction. It seemed odd or at least incongruous. But that incongruity is exactly what made me look a litter deeper. I have had enough education and formal degrees as well as enough business experience to know that not everyone with a paper degree can solve real business problems, and that there are some people who have no academic degree at all but who are extremely skilled at solving real business problems.

So, I wanted to see what the author’s other qualifications were. He had suffered from multiple addictions, including sexual addiction. Major plus. I believe a personal understanding and personal experience with the problem can help, in some cases it adds benefits in addition to academic understanding, and in other cases it provides insight that is more valuable than academic understanding unaided. I saw plenty of explanation that indicated the author has counseled others to successful outcomes. After reading, I could see that the author did indeed have understanding of aspects very unique not just to addiction but to sexual addiction and its variants as well. And importantly, I noticed that the focus of the site did not seem to be…for profit. There is a lot of content there, and I think it would be silly for me who is making a blog about what is helping me to ignore the same efforts of someone else who is or has worked with and gained insight as well.

The site also challenges some of the benefits and points out some potential weaknesses in the 12-Step approach, religious approaches to overcoming sexual addiction, and licensed therapy/counseling approaches. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I am planning on abandoning those approaches – not by a long shot. What I am saying is that I believe you can get even more out of therapy/counseling, more out of 12-Step, more out of religious approaches when you realize what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, what their assumptions are, and what their limitations are. It even gives a very challenging and rigorous set of questions to ask your potential therapist/counselor to ensure that you are getting highly competent help when you seek therapy/counseling. The questions are hard, and fair, and directly applicable. I was also impressed at the understanding and advise in the later of the 48 chapters about not just overcoming addiction, but building emotional intimacy (rather than just physical sex) with one’s wife or partner, even to the point of suggesting that because of the design of our body we need a partner and sex (or more correctly emotional intimacy and the resultant sex that follows) has a purpose in strengthening that relationship. It challenges a lot of assumptions, and presents a lot of what I think of as common sense that sometimes gets ignored in the other approaches. It discusses the two sex drives that addicts have. In the later chapter, it also gives advice on not just how to overcome addiction, but also how to build a healthy relationship instead. It talks about avoiding pitfalls of the “man test” that I often find myself measuring myself against, and using as an excuse to feel inadequate about myself over.

I have to admit, I have been feeling for a few weeks now that the set of approaches I am following so far are helping some but are still missing something and/or were not doing enough to show me or help me understand a clear and long term sustainable path forward. Sure I am doing better on keeping my sobriety, and being honest. But I have been concerned that I might be doing well so far at suppressing my desires and actions, yet in the long run not making much progress at overcoming them in the long run. Sure, I am sober…but am I strong? Sure, I am identifying underlying feelings/needs/wants, but I am not seeing yet how to satisfy them in a different way? Some of them I still question if or how well that can be done. In some cases, I suspect the feelings/wants can be completely satisfied by other actions, some partially, and some not at all. I have also been concerned because I have seen some people in my 12-Step group with years of sobriety fall, and others admit they have been attending for several years, yet still admit that they fall and that they fall often. I get that individual results can vary, but some of these people have also been seeing therapists and counselors for several years and working with their religious leaders for several years as well.

I’m not willing to throw my eggs in one basket yet for recovery. I’m still open and looking for any and all approaches that can help. Sexualcontrol.com presents itself as “The Choice Based Approach to overcoming addiction.” Ok, so for now I am adding that to an arsenal that includes, a 12-Step surrender to a higher power approach, a spiritual approach, a therapy nurture/nature dealing with underlying feelings/wants approach, a hypnotherapy visit your past memories and strengthen your subconscious approach, and others. In addition to the site’s 48 cahpters on “The Most Personal Addiction”, I still intend to read the advisories and the home page topics.

Already, I have also found that after reading what sexualcontrol.com has to say, it has helped me be able to realize more things about myself.  I feel I have been getting insight and recognizing some things at a deeper level, like what does having these feelings say about me (in an honest, not a demeaning way), and why do I feel them. So, what have I been learning about those feelings? The other day I really felt tempted to crossdress. I was feeling very strong feelings, and so I decided to write down what my feelings were. I wrote at the top of the paper “I want to crossdress because I want to feel:” and then I started listed what I wanted to feel like. I wrote a whole page of including “wanting to feel seductive, teasing, looked at, wanted, like I am tempting, etc.”

I had been reading from sexualcontrol.com about, among other things, how some addicts have the need to feel in control. I came to the realization that those feelings I wanted to feel all represent the power, influence, control, and abilities that I feel attractive women have over me when I am in my normal life as a man. Suddenly another part of the picture made a lot more sense to me.

  1. I want to be immune to that power, control, and influence because of how strongly it affects me. It makes me feel susceptible, weak, and not in control, as a man.
  2. Crossdressing allows me to feel like the one instead who wields that very power, control, and influence. Over myself and others – at least in my mind.
  3. When I feel that I am the one who possesses that power, control and influence, I feel immune or at least in control enough to ignore or not feel threatened by others who have that same power, control, and influence. I no longer feel inferior to their power.
  4. By taking on that power, and internalizing it into my own world in my head, I gain full control and influence over how I respond because I control all the roles. I feel safe. Nobody can reject me, or tease me and then ignore me, hurt my feelings, or do or not do anything to me that I don’t want, because I am the one in control of that role.

I suspect this may just be one more piece of the puzzle, but both the feeling of being safe from that power, and the feeling of controlling that power myself seem to be part of the addiction. I guess I need to learn to accept that:

  1. It is ok to feel vulnerable and susceptible.
  2. It is ok to not have to feel that power.
  3. Not having that power does not have to make me feel inferior.
  4. It is ok to be rejected sometimes.
  5. Rejection is not always permanent or as dramatic as imagined.
  6. It is ok, and can in fact be even better, to not have all the control.
Posted in Crossdressing, Feelings, Recovery, Thought Patterns | 4 Comments

Virtues of a Beard

One of the goals of my blog is to try and find ideas, tools, habits etc, that can be combined together to help resist and give up crossdressing as an addiction.  One thing I have been trying for the last 3 weeks is growing a beard.  I can’t remember where I even heard the suggestion anymore, and I remember just dismissing it out of hand, immediately rolling my eyes while sarcastically thinking something like “Oh yeah, and maybe if I start watching football nonstop 24-7, and burping out loud and everything else stereotypical of the ‘manly man’ then I will magically be cured!”  But the thought lingered somehow and I found myself wondering if perhaps it might be worth a try to see if there was any merit to it.

I know in some religious contexts or congregations there is a strong emphasis on presenting a very clean cut appearance, and for that reason the beard sometimes may not get received with open arms.  Seems kind of odd, when you think back to Jesus and the apostles and their appearance…but I can get how trends change over time and people want to encourage a clean image – which in one generation may be bearded and another not. When I attend on Sunday it seems like the overwhelming majority of men there put a lot of value in the clean-shaven appearance, especially the leaders.  I decided to talk with one of my leaders about it, who is aware of my struggle and told him that even though I know our community embraces more of that clean-shaven image, I really thought I might be able to get some value in fighting my temptations through this.  He encouraged me to give it a try.  So for the last few weeks, I have been growing a beard out, and I am committed to try this for a while.

Let me share with you some of the thoughts for reasons and values I have been finding with this idea.

  1. It takes time and symbolizes work. A beard takes a long time to grow out, there are at least 2 short stages of itching I am aware of so far.  After growing it out, there is a sense of work and accomplishment that makes me not want to lose it.  When I am tempted to crossdress, it shows up as this stark reminder that I have spent a good bit of time growing this thing and it would be a lot work to start over and regrow it.
  2. Male confirmation/validation. A beard look dramatically different in the mirror than a shaven face does.  It helps me see and confirm a much more masculine image both when i am not tempted.  A feeling of male confirmation/validation.
  3. Wake up factor. The beard doesn’t really go along with the mental image or real image of wearing women’s clothes when the temptation strikes.  I call this increased mid-temptation wake-up factor.
  4. Making temptation a hassle. Any start down the path to crossdressing, will involve wanting to shave it off.  That is more hassle and time consuming before getting to the crossdressing behavior, so it discourages the behavior.
  5. Accountability. I have been starting to feel this odd sense of accountability through growing a beard, for example, I think if it showed up shaved and missing one day and I had not explained the decision beforehand, I would feel a need to explain the oddity to my wife.  In an odd way, it makes me feel like a am actually wearing a physical manifestation of my commitment to sobriety.
  6. Male aesthetic beauty. There is an aesthetic beauty to a well-trimmed, well-kept beard that is uniquely beautiful in a uniquely male way.  Even some of the hero images that come to mind for me, are heroic and have beards.  Personally, one heroic masculine image that I like is the image of King Aragorn (as portrayed by Viggo Mortenson) from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the king.  Another is Maximus from the movie Gladiator I’ve always thought there was something aesthetically interesting about ancient Rome, etc, but I digress.  Movie’s aside, I think there is something unique about a bearded hero’s image.  Last but certainly not least, without question there is an undeniable heroicly beautiful and pure aesthetic to the images we see of the Savior depicted with a beard, as well as the apostles in many paintings.  The link shows a close up of one of my favorites:  Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann.
  7. A sense of wanting to take care of and preserve my male image. Wearing a beard nicely requires trimming, effort, patience to grow it, and care.  Shaving always seemed to me as more of an inconvenience to remove the hair.  But the idea of maintaining a well kept beard for now at least, seems to have a sense of taking caring for one’s appearance even more.  It also never feels like I am ever trying to remove a masculine aspect of myself each morning.
  8. What the choice says to myself about me. There is nothing feminine about a beard.  And there is a certain feeling about knowing I have consciously made that kind of choice.
  9. A “new start”  image. It gives a different image than the me I have been for most of my life.  Kind of feels symbolic of a “new start” or new me in a way.
  10. A visual reminder of my commitment. It is a visual reminder to me during the day when I see my reflection, of the commitment I am making to changing how I am.
  11. A physically felt reminder of my commitment. If is a reminder via physical touch, grooming, or when the wind blows through it of my commitment.

My wife, at first, was not too fond of the idea of me growing a beard, but after time even she has admitted that the idea of me with a beard has been growing on her (no pun intended) over time.  I also shared with her beforehand my reasons for wanting to do this. Of course, I know she wants me to take good care of how it looks too so I don’t look like a vagabond.  I think though now even she notices that it feels like a slightly different me.

Admittedly, these are probably not the main reasons that a man would typically choose to grow a beard.  I am not sure long term whether this will stick for me as a habit or not, or make a massive difference.  But so far, it seems that there has been and could continue to be some actual value that is not purely anecdotal.  At least for the short-term and perhaps longer term, for someone tempted with crossdressing, a beard might be useful.  I think this might be a small weapon to add to the arsenal.

Posted in Coping Techniques, Crossdressing, Recovery | 8 Comments

In Search of Unification

In my last post, I listed and started to compare the strong underlying feelings I experience through crossdressing as well as the positive and negative feelings I have associated with my non-crossdressing life.  This week I talked more with a friend, and with my therapist, both of whom talked with me more about what to do with these feelings.  Both tried to calm and reassure me that it is ok to have these underlying feelings – I still feel embarrassed by it and even acknowledging they exist is difficult, let alone accepting or embracing.  I remember at one point telling my friend, “I don’t know how to and I am afraid of integrating me and me into me.”  His response was that I already am all of those things whether I realize it or not.  I am still having difficulty but trying to accept that and what it means.

I know that the idea of a separate persona distinct enough at one point to have even taken on a name of its own frightens not only me, but my spouse as well who has asked that I not tell her any names.  She views her as the “other woman”, and wants her to be gone.  That is one fear we share – losing me to that persona.  But there is another fear too, that I thought my wife I and both shared.  The fear of what will happen to me if I try to integrate the two personae into a single unified me, instead of allowing them to be distinct and to fight with each other.  It scares me because I don’t know what that person is like either, and I mentioned in my last posts some of the feelings are directly conflicting opposites not built to coexist, and would either need to diminish, share time, or compromise somehow.

I am afraid that my wife will not like that person.  My wife challenged me on that assumption yesterday, asking me “How do you know there are not also aspects I will like better?”  And there are some aspects of rigidity with the “in control” you that I have always disliked.  Her comments made me think and gave me encouragement.  However, I am also afraid that I won’t feel in control of that person, which my friend reminds me is ok.

I want to remind you that I am talking about feelings/wants/needs, not the crossdressing behaviors they have traditionally manifested themselves through.  The goal is to keep as many of the feelings/needs/wants that can be kept and add value (to that needy part of me), but to satisfy them instead through non-crossdressing behaviors or methods.  An example is my need to feel beautiful.  It is a real need to me.  Perhaps the stereotypical man doesn’t need it.  I do.  The stereotype is not irrevocable law, and my own understanding of what it means to be a man can allow that a man can have the need/want to feel beautiful. That feeling can be kept.  It can be satisfied in other ways than dressing.  By working on understanding how God views me, by working on improving how I view me, and by working with those who love me to understand my need and help reinforce it, rather than using crossdressing as an escapist tool of confirmation.

The following image is one that my therapist started and I have elaborated a little more to describe the current state, which needs to integrate feelings/wants/needs, drop some, and learn how to balance those that are seemingly conflicting or de-exaggerate them, moving more to the center.

On the left is the traditional me, which I will refer to as “Left-side Me” along with a list of positive and negative feelings.  On the right side is the me that has typically satisfied its wants/needs/feelings through crossdressing behavior – I will refer to this me as “Right-side Me”.  When I first drew the picture, I did not place negatives on the right side, but after more thinking, I realized there are some.  For example, the feeling of being wild and crazy is both good but leads to consequences and problems that even that side of me doesn’t like either – it’s just that Right-side me often ignores them because Right-side views them as problems that will be even bigger for Left-side and that will force Left-side me to have deal with the conflict and confront Right-side.  It was harder to find the negatives, because that side of me thinks much more in the moment (here and now), but there are things even that side doesn’t like about itself.  There are certainly positive aspects on each side that can satisfy the negative aspects of the other.  But the hard part is the red line, of conflicting opposite aspects that each side values.  I.e. control, vs spontaneity and wild and crazy freedom.

Left side me is a very strong INTJ personality, whose primary love languages are Acts of Service and Physical Touch, with far less importance on Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, and finally Receiving Gifts (which is nearly non-existent and non-value to this side’s frugality).  Left-side me is the one most often in control, who is pragmatic, logical, etc, and actively fights to suppress right side me through stratagem and intense planning.   In fact, through talking with my therapist and friends, I have come to believe it is actually this side of me that created the persona of the other side, by vehemently refusing to accept the Right-side feelings/wants/needs as part of itself.  Yet because those feelings still exist, Right side me remains, and in an in-your face style uninhibited way reminds Left-side me, that if it were so in control then “why am I still here?”

Right-side me, is either an ENFP or an ESFP; strong in all aspects except Intuition(N) vs. Sensing(S) which seems to go either way.  Right side me’s primary love languages are Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch, followed then by Receiving Gifts, with far less importance on Quality Time and Acts of Service.

The figures at the top represent my wife and what she has been allowed to view in me, and God and that he sees and comprehends it all.

The two sides of me fight and it is a very cruel, ugly, and critical conversation in my head, where guilt and belittling fly against reminders of sadness through suffocation, and accusations of superficiality and denial.  In light of the painful ugly fight that they fight, it is difficult to picture a path to integration, that is until I could separate the feelings from the behaviour.  Left-side me cannot accept the crossdressing behaviors, but seems to be starting to acknowledge that the feelings/wants/needs are real even though they do not and never would come from him.  Right side me uninhibitedly speaks up in defiance and says “They may not be practical, logical, or seem to add big picture or traditional value, but these are important anyway, because they are important and add value TO ME, and it is ok even if all it ever does is add value to me alone!”  The separation of feelings from behavior seems to be the only key I have found so far allowing a start to finding common ground.

This conflict in the past has produced cognitive dissonance (the squiggly lines on the real me).  Notice that the real me is blindfolded and refuses to see the big picture.  It will only look left and block out the right, or look right and block out the left.  It draws a box around itself and chooses which side can enter, until the other side overpowers and reclaims the box again however long or briefly.  My therapist has suggested that we need to work not on choosing what comes in the box, but on expanding the box to encompass all three personae, admit their needs/wants exist and then without denial or forcing and either/or, start working on reconciling some, diminishing others, compromising on some and settling on the middle.  Remember, we are talking about wants/needs in terms of allow consideration for the legitimate and real feelings, we are not saying to keep the behaviors that have been used to satisfy them in the box.  Also, to avoid all out war, he is suggesting to do this one or two aspects at a time.

There are aspects of this framework that seem to align with Carl Jung’s framework for psychology and archetypes, especially the Anima and Animus and to some degree the Shadow.  I believe Jung also suggests a concept of Syzygy which implies an alignment of the Anima and Animus  Other aspects also seem to align well with Freudian structural model, specifically the constructs of Id, Ego, and SuperEgo.  I have given the links for understanding, but there are also other aspects of it that just seem like what goes on inside of me.

The central me, needs to take the blindfold off, and stop acting like a stage.  I do not know what type of personality central me is.  I can only speculate that intuition(N) is probably a common ground to some degree so an ?N?? perhaps.  I also suspect that highly probable strong love languages would include Physical tough (which both sides value), and Words of Affirmation (which falls higher on both sides’ lists).  Below is a picture of what I think a closer integrated me might look like.

In the earlier image, notice that only God could see all aspects, remember that even central me was blindfolded and could see them but not simultaneously.  This also has always made sense to me of how I could feel God loves even at times when I have felt loathsome to myself.  In the earlier image, my (wife top left) was only allowed to see Left-side me.  In this later model, all sides can see.  Some of the negative aspects, of both sides, become diminished, drop out, or fade in compromise for a better unity, perhaps some positives or strengths too must fade some.  Even the left side, has to give some things up, not just the right side.  In other cases, the positives fill and overcome the negatives of each side.  In the opposing feelings, they move more to the center and coexist, as less extreme and dually valued aspects that may be opposing but can but contribute positives.  Left side, which most often dominates the old stage has to surrender some control and even fade, and right side has to find a way to play fair without sticking it to left side me and fade also.  The sides fade, and a central me can re-emerge.

The images look nice and the theory sounds good.  Somehow it also seems to resonate with that inner feeling in me that has never been able to fully commit to the left or the right side permanently.  So, there it is, I am going to pursue this approach for what I can now.  The next step will be working on one feeling/need/want at a time.  My short-term plan is to start on my need to feel beautiful, without the crossdressing behavior, at 3 levels, God, Self, and Others (Spouse).

Posted in Crossdressing, Feelings, Recovery, Spouse, Thought Patterns | 6 Comments

Underlying Feelings – Wants & Needs

I have been working with my therapist and some members of my support group on identifying underlying wants and needs that are satisfied by crossdressing. The first goal is to identify and then understand what they are and accept that they are real to me. A second goal is to understand exactly how crossdressing fulfills them. A third goal is to come up with and then explore ways that these wants and needs can either (a) be redirected to be fulfilled through other thoughts patterns and behaviors (b) be redefined to me personally in their meaning or intensity, and (c) if/where possible for some for some to become allowed to no longer be a want or need.

It would be easy to oversimply and just assume that the wants/needs are only about sexual excitement and sexual release. Admittedly, sexual release and pleasure is one underlying need/want. And during periods of struggle, when my sobriety has been poor, it is easy to feel the intensity of that want/need to the point where it drowns out others. When I have reflected back on prolonged behaviors leading up to and during crossdressed sexual excitement and release though, it has been clear to me that there are other wants/needs involved as well. Also, during my periods of longer sobriety I have noticed that while the need/want for sexual stimulation and release is present and commands center stage for the first days and couple of weeks, there are other deep-seated needs/wants that begin to voice more loudly as time extends beyond that point. I cannot emphasize that last sentence enough. It seems to me that the longer I am sober, the purely sexual need/want remains ever present as a reminder and yet manageable; However, in contrast, the other needs/wants start accumulating and growing more and more each day, getting louder, feeling stronger, hurting more in their silence, and crying out even more desperately and far more often.

This crescendo effect has been frustrating as one would hope that longer sobriety goes it would get easier, not harder. And perhaps it actually does, but I have still not gone long enough. Only time will tell. I know and have a preferred path to take that can help me with the sexual needs/wants – it is through sexual intimacy together with my wife.  Meanwhile, I want to see if there is a way to deal with these other needs/wants better.

Another thing I have learned is that sexual release (in any form), has an ability to temporarily quiet these needs/wants. Emphasis is on temporarily, and emphasis on quiet. I have found that this is true regardless of the path chosen to ultimately pursue sexual release (i.e. crossdressing leading to masturbation, masturbation without crossdressing, or intercourse with my partner), the quieting effect occurs. I refer to this as a temporary quieting effect, not an elimination or fulfillment of the other needs/wants. They are still there, they just seem to quiet down because another very important need is satisfied. The quieting can last anywhere from a day to week on average it seems. I have also noticed that comparatively, the range of the temporary quieting after sex with my spouse usually leans more towards the longer end of that time window, whereas for the other methods it is usually shorter and more volatile in length. This temporary quieting is confusing to me, because I can tell that the other wants/needs are somehow associated with sexual release, yet also very much independent wants and needs of their own. I do not fully understand this, and am simply noting it for the record.

My wife and I are in a period of sexual abstinence.  It was not my choosing, but I understand her need and respect it.  Not that it makes much difference to the situation, since at this point I’m pretty sure it would be this way, whether or not I agreed with the choice or not.  I don’t like that it makes it harder for me to fantasize in a within-marriage way.  For a short while, it felt like fantasizing about my wife was becoming a powerful tool before the timeline of her conditions for returning to a sexual relationship were laid down, but it kind of loses its full potency when you realize that even that fantasy is blocked in reality, at least for a long time ahead.  The truth is simple, and this is not me making up the reasons.  She does not feel safe with me, or that she can trust me, and it is difficult for her to think of sex with me based on what she knows.  I sleep in another room, and even kissing is not on the table.  Cuddling is, spending time together is. Talking is.  Dating is.  We do those things, and I appreciate them.  We spend time together, work through our issues (her depression, my addiction and related issues) and I am trying to find ways for us to draw closer.  In honesty though, in many ways we are practically separated, just living in the same house but I believe we still love each other.  On our last bad day with our marriage counselor, I thought living in the same house might even not last.  She wants me to create a new start, a new wedding, a new everything.  In her defense, I can understand how she would feel that way.  As if finding out after marriage isn’t bad enough to make you view your marriage as a deception, she found out on our anniversary date after being married about 5 years, discovering some small accessories that didn’t belong in my laptop bag and thinking at first I was having an affair, until I told her what I think she now would probably agree feels like the more horrific truth.  So, yes, I understand her feelings of wanting everything about us like our wedding pictures, etc purged from the house, and wanting everything  like dating, courtship, new engagement, new ring, new wedding, new honeymoon, etc done from scratch again.  I get that sex with her should not be my crutch.  And I understand more each day her deep hurt, and longing for renewal and assurance.  I actually really do think all of those elements of a new start would be a beautiful thing too, to make a full ceremonial restart and make something new and special for her like that.  And these at least are now “known” conditions before sex will be allowed to return how they were before.  For a while, I had no idea what she needed.  Sometimes though I’m not sure if it feels better to know, or if it felt better to be left optimistically wondering.  I suppose it is better to know. It feels like it will be a very very long path for me before sex becomes a part of life again with my wife.  I have and live with most wonderful woman and best friend I have ever known, truly a soul mate.  And while I love that, it makes it feel like an even bigger slap in the face to how I feel about myself.  I am also no fool though, it will take a very long time for us to financially even reach those goals – measured in many months or pessimisticly  a couple of years.  Perhaps that is by design too.  I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter anymore.  It hurts.  It hurts like hell.  While, I do not believe it was in her purpose or intent to use this as an opportunity for my insight, it has at least allowed me to feel much more acutely the underlying feelings associated with my addiction, because by hard effort, through support from my support group, and by making phone calls when weak, by pure dumb luck perhaps, and by sheer passage of time one day at a time, I have been keeping good sobriety and because we are in a period of abstinence.  And , that means that the non-sexual feelings/wants/needs start speaking louder.  I don’t like that discouraging fact either, but I can learn from it.

For me, I find it can be hard to identify wants/needs clearly, when there are so many intermixed aspects in the crossdressing process. I have found it useful for me to separate aspects out into different categories. The categories I have used for separation include the following: feelings, physical sensations, behaviors, fantasies, fears, likes/dislikes. At one time, I considered adding “thoughts” to that list, but it became do difficult for me to differentiate between it and other overlapping aspects like feelings/fears etc. Each of these categories might be insightful in and of itself. But for me the key value has been in being able to isolate the feelings from the other aspects. For now, on my first run through this, I am focusing on the feelings and ignoring the other categories because the feelings seem more closely linked to what I can identify as deep wants/needs.

I am not going to list them all here. I don’t claim to even have an exhaustive or perfectly clarified list for myself, some of the phrases may not even make grammatical sense, and both me and other people may have unique customizations for themselves.  I also believe they can change over time. I hope any reader realizes how mortifying uncomfortable and difficult it is for me to share this – I have struggled with the idea of making this post for weeks now, and even more intensely all day today, because sharing this feels totally and utterly humiliating to me. These are feelings that I regularly have found my own merciless and cruel personal inner critic and tormentor within myself ridiculing me over, and already even now I feel belittled and ridiculed by others for sharing at all.  I don’t need extra judgement for them, I can abuse and belittle myself over it just fine and with exceptionally great skill already, thanks. Yes, I realize my reaction may or may not be my own perception in my head, and that my thinking may or may not be healthy, nonetheless the feeling of devastating embarrassment is very real to me.  Say what you want, it still makes me feel like running and hiding. I am pursing and enduring this, only because I believe that being honest about it may lead to helping work through these feelings, and that doing so might help me and others, and I want to be honest with myself too. I am not implying rightness or wrongness for all of these feelings – simply that I acknowledge they exist and they are in the words that first came to my mind.

Strong feelings I notice when crossdressing.

Some strong feelings that I notice when crossdressing include feeling attractive, also sexually attractive, sensual, pretty, beautiful, spontaneous, fun, daring, rebellious, free from crushing responsibility, energetic, uninhibited, provocative, adventurous, silly, creative, cute, amusing, able to laugh smirk, giggle, smile, make faces or taunt, secretive, expressive, looked at, sneaky, vulnerable, sensitive, emotional, emasculated, naughty, safe in my place, escaped, decorated, ornamented, showy, sexually desired and wanted, attention drawing, head turning, special/unique like a crowning jewel, liberated, thrill seeking, forbidden, taboo,  sexual, anxious, giddy, irrational, flirtatious, relieved, free, wild and crazy, free from order and schedule, close and more loving towards women, gentler, safe and able to not just accept but also to be able to thrive through humiliation (and even want it - if for nothing else as a inferior substitute for affectionate attention and acceptance), ability to let worries and troubles go, fragile, open, empathetic, compassionate, liberal, giving, open-minded, etc. These are not in any relative order of significance, and this is language to try to describe feelings – it is not perfect or precise.

I have also found that with this exercise it is useful to compare the feelings associated with crossdressing to the feelings associated with how I perceive the non-crossdressing aspects of my life and how I feel about myself. I have listed out both positive and negative feelings about how I feel the non crossdressing part of my life feels. The comparison was both very insightful and confusing.

Positive feelings from my typical non-crossdressing life.

I value in my normal life feeling peaceful, relaxed, strong, confident, in control, leading, well planned, logic driven, conservative, well thought out, rational, protective, observant, asocial, respected, intelligent, highly capable, loved by my kids, and as much as my wife is able to show me, perfectionist, doing the right things, like a problem solver, a crisis solver, structured, intellectual, accomplished, educated, few key close relationship instead of many friends/acquaintances, like an achiever, like an overacheiver, knowledgeable, pragmatic, organized, in charge, creating an environment that others want, proud, responsible, strategic, reasoned. Again, these don’t all mean I excel at them or am a guru/expert in them, though with some I do have good skill, but they mean that I value them and like what I am able to do along those lines..

Negative feelings in my typical non-crossdressing life.

 I don’t like how I often feel tired, frustrated, lonely – especially lonely, quiet, bored, boring, conflicted, angry, uninterested, uninteresting, sad, hiding/voiding/ignoring feelings, ignored, unnoticed, insignificant, ordinary, common, unattractive or worse yet insulted like the person someone goes to for help but does not love and is not attracted to, always the friend of the interesting people, but never the interesting person, untrusting, skeptic, unadventurous, sad, uncontented, so what/irrelevant in terms of impact, know by others/associated/but feeling just outside the cool people circle, ashamed of origin, ashamed of childhood, needing to prove the world wrong, needing to prove to other people’s face that I can, incomplete, almost but not quite right, dead and dying inside. Again, these are perceptions, some may be reality and others not. But I believe in the realms we are discussing, that perception is just as important as reality.

Analyzing my own feelings.

So, there is some natural comparison that surfaces. First the negative feelings from my typical life vs. strong crossdressing feelings. Some of the negative feelings from my normal life were exact opposites of the feelings I have when crossdressing. For example, feeling boring (not bored – boring), frustrated, unattractive, uninteresting, unnoticed, and unadventurous. It was easy to tell that crossdressing is able to provide feelings that counteract those feelings and fill a need/want, like feeling pretty, sexy, attractive, attention drawing, daring, looked at, adventurous, etc. It is clear to me that the feelings I get are fulfilling a missing or unfulfilled want/need in my normal life.

On to more comparison – Now lets look at the positive feelings from my typical life vs. strong crossdressing feelings. Some of the positive aspects of my normal life seemed directly in conflict with feelings I have when crossdressing. The aspects I value about both seem to be exact opposites. For example, in my typical day-to-day life, I highly value myself as a very well planned, rational, logical, problems solving, organized, responsible, overachieving, well-thought out, in control, kind of person. However some of the feeling I value when crossdressed are feeling spontaneous, expressive, free, wild and crazy, fun, rebellious, free from crushing responsibility, uninhibited, emotional, irrational, unique/special. These valued feelings seem to fly in the wind against the valued feelings when from my day-to-day life. I have tried to speculate as to why and how this can be. I am still not completely sure. My best theory is that I like both, but perhaps because I overcompensate in my normal life too far to one direction, the crossdressing in turn overcompensates by providing an outlet for suppressed feelings. Or perhaps both are possible, in different scenarios within my normal life, but I have not figured out how to live with both in my normal life, or how to feel comfortable living with both in my normal life, and so for convenience it is easier to segregate them into two separate types of living.  I realize a need and even an opportunity and desire to meld these two sets of feelings, I’m just not sure how.  Right now, acknowledgement, and looking for a path is where I am at.

Next steps.

I don’t know if I can translate what I have tried to explain today into a concrete, definitive list of needs/wants, but I think the feelings and the comparison help in getting closer to identifying needs/wants. I still need to get further on my other goals, of understanding why crossdressing fills the needs, and also exploring ways that these wants and needs can either (a) be redirected to be fulfilled through other thoughts patterns and behaviors (b) be redefined to me personally in their meaning or intensity, and (c) if/where possible for some for some to become allowed to no longer be a want or need. There is a lot to take in, and I’m thinking it might be good to focus on just one at a time.

Posted in Crossdressing, Feelings, Recovery, Thought Patterns | 11 Comments

Contrasting Aspects of the Paths

I have been contrasting aspects of the path of pursuing sexual release through crossdressing vs. the path of pursuing sexual intimacy and release with one’s partner.  I want to be clear that the purpose of this is not to judge blame or fault my partner, nor to suggest that she need to change behaviors or take responsibility for me.  I beleive in the sexual arena I need to learn to stand on my own, and to be surprised and thankful whenever there is additional support, but never to demand or expect it.

My goal here is to lay this out and to examine flaws in my thinking, so I can find points where I can interject different behavior or thinking.  I want to get better at sticking on the path I want most (Sexual intimacy and release with my spouse), that matches my core beliefs, and I want to understand why I miss that path and how to avoid and reduce missteps in the future.  I’m going to look at the following key aspects: Probability, Availability, Anticipation, Intensity, Guilt/Closeness/Confirmation.  I am going for full honesty here, and would advise not to pre-judge my comments until reading them all the way through to the end.

Probability.

In my mind there are at least two different types of probability involved.  First, the probability that my advances/efforts will even lead to sexual intimacy/release at all.  (i.e. the probability of joint interest at any given point in time).  This is how how I perceive my odds even before initiating things.  Admittedly, between my partner and myself, I often perceive this as low – because of my own lack of confidence, and skill, because it involves the joint timing and will of not just one, but two people.  The crossdressing path is almost near 100% probability, because I alone control the timing, decisions, etc.

Second the probability that once starting down that path, it will not be interrupted, distracted, or fail to lead to the end.   Again, this is more difficult in a partnership because it requires 2 people’s focus.  For numerous reasons, things can ruin the mood, interrupt the mood, say the wrong words etc.  Not just for me, but for my partner.  It is harder to keep 2 people in sync than one.  Probability on the crossdressing path is near 100% again, because the timing, speed, and everything is solely controlled by me.

Availability

For many of the same reasons as with probability, availability is higher with the crossdressing path.  Both require privacy, but intimacy with a partner requires being physically colocated.  Schedules, biology, and many circumstances sometimes do not make partners highly available to each other.  Contrast to crossdressing which is available even when a partner is busy, at home, at work, on a trip, anywhere that you are.  Sure it requires a little preparation, but in terms of action, a store or other options are never that far away.  Intimacy with a partner also often requires preparation to ensure emotional availability.  Overall, I think it is clear that crossdressing present much more availability.

Anticipation

There is a very powerful causal link between probability and anticipation.  Especially to someone who fears sexual rejection, I believe there is a coping mechanism such that I do not to allow myself to acknowledge of feel anticipation until the probability is very high, or until the fuse is lit and it is clear that the path to sexual release is no longer just probable, it is initiated and moving along.  As noted earlier the probability of actually getting started and then leading to sexual release with crossdressing is very close to 100%.  So it is easy to allow the feelings of anticipation, the feelings of anxiety, the rush before and the excitement to start, and to linger.  This is perhaps one of the most notable differences in the approaches.  The duration of anticipation and pre-release preparatory excitement is far longer in the crossdressing approach not just because it can start earlier (probability), but because of the element of full control by the crossdresser.  The crossdressing approach can allow fantasy and imaginative “foreplay” to continue exactly as long as the crossdresser wants.  Not so long as to lose interest, and not so short as to feel rushed to completion.  For me the latter is the far more common place, i.e. the anticipation and pre-sex excitement can be prolonged very, very long.  Both paths require some preparation, and one could argue that the crossdressing path requires the most preparation,  however, even the preparatory stages, contribute to the anticipation because of the knowledge of extremely high probability that allows anticipation even at such an early preparatory stage.  Sometimes, anticipation or the journey can feel as powerful or significant as the destination.

Intensity

Now here, for me at least, is where the tables start to turn.  Actual sexual release and orgasm through the crossdressing path historically and on average for me has been far far less intense or rewarding.  In fact, it often seems that it requires more and more effort and focus to reach levels that before were common place (i.e. desensitization), which again adds frustration in terms off effort vs. reward.

Contrast this to sexual release and orgasm with my partner, and you would begin to wonder why would there be any competition at all when compared to the extreme intensity experienced on this path.  While I noted earlier that crossdressing release can require more and more effort, the opposite seems to be true with sexual release with my partner.  There is a unique an element of surprise that comes through the unexpected and it is unexpected by virtue of the fact that I cannot control it.  Not the irony that whereas control lends itself as a strength to the crossdressed path, it is lack of control is now playing a itself as a strength on the partner path.

Guilt/Closeness/Confirmation

Here again,  post activity, the table leans far differently than at the beginning.  Release through crossdressing inevitably leads me to guilt, feeling alone, and confirming my sense of inadequacy.  For me, the probability of guilt is 100%.  Release with my partner brings no guilt.  Quite to the contrary it leaves me feeling pure, relaxed, feeling so close physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to her, and feeling the confirmation and “glue” that cements our marriage and love for each other.  It also allows me to feel that I am projecting these feelings outward instead of inwards, another induplicable and validating difference.  When this path reaches release, the probability of these follow on feelings is also 100%.  At this stage there is a night and day difference.

Ideas for Change

So, now having honestly looked at the contrasting aspects of each path so that I can explore ideas for thoughts and behavior to more often take the path I believe in, here are my thoughts ideas for helping me move to and more often adopt that path I am seeking.  Some are my own, ideas, some were my spouse’s.

1.  Schedule a regular recurring day/time for sex.  This does not mean that is the only time you can or will.  But it gives the partner path, more opportunities to feel that the probability is increased and allow for earlier anticipation and preparation and excitement.

2.  Take turns as partners each week, being responsible for planning a special day and special scenario for sexual intimacy.  Again since responsibility is given, and it is known it will happen that week, it allows anticipation.  The unknown date allows surprise, and the “special scenario” allows both.

3.  Do everything you can to reduce availability for the crossdressing path.  For me, an example of this means not carrying money in my wallet, so I can’t buy anything without it going noticed on a card.  There are many preventative measures you can set up for yourself.

4.  Conditioning.  Finding ways to reduce the intensity of release with dressing.  Associating it with negative images, outcomes, visualization of scenarios leading bad etc.  A therapist, or hypnotist can help here.  This is difficult to try alone, because allowing the fantasy or action to start, when you are alone, has a high probability of ultimately not choosing to bring the adverse behavior along at the end.  Too much of a requirement for willpower.  I am trying to learn more about how to work this attack, but right now feel too weak to dare attempt it safely on my own.  And I do not dare, nor would want to ask for help from my wife, because of how I know it would impact her.

5.  Make more attempts at intimacy with your partner.

6.  Communication.  Talk with your partner and let her communicate more about what you can do to make the experience better and more likely to start, as well as more likely to lead to its end goals.

Please feel free to share your suggestions too!

Some additional thoughts.

Control vs. Surprise and lack of full Control.  These are key differences.  In Issac Asimov’s Foundation Series’s second book “Foundation and Empire” there is a character called “the mule”.  He has a unique ability in that he can  penetrate into others’ minds and “adjust” their emotions, and bend their will and actions to his cause.  He was viewed physically as a freak, and was belittled and alienated in his childhood, before he discovered his ability and set out for revenge on humanity.  He is fighting to overcome a long engineered plan that was designed by brilliant projective historians to restore order to the galactic empire and minimize chaos, casualty and war.  He nearly succeeds.  At one point on his quest, he is so skilled that he is able to pass himself off and follow right along as a companion of his oppositions’ researchers who are trying to find this contingency.  He finds a problem though, he finds someone on the way who actually shows love for him and does not treat him as a freak, and he cannot bring himself to “alter” her mind because of the pure innate beauty it has which he has never been able to find in anyone else.  She does not even love him in a sexual way, but simply in a pure non-judgmental loving friendly and compassionate way, but it is something he had never believed possible.

I remember reading and crying at that point in the book, as a youth, and wondering if I would ever meet anyone who could feel that way about me, even knowing the freakishness and ugliness of what underlies my history.  I am learning now that God does.  I believe I am also learning that my spouse does.  They do not love what I have done, but they do love me.

I have often thought of the path to dressing as taking the way of “the mule”.  I control everything, all and everyone involved in pursuit of my pleasure, and I can guarantee it.  But it will never be as beautiful as what can exist with a person who genuinely loves me for me, like me wife.  And when I see glimpses and reassurances of her love, it gives me hope and reminds my just how much I love her.  In the end, something so controlled by me misses the deep and profound level that can only be reached by deliberately allowing surrender of control, and by being allowed to share and be loved by someone other than myself.

Posted in Coping Techniques, Crossdressing, Recovery, Spouse, Thought Patterns | 10 Comments

The Rejection Cycle

As I have been trying to analyze my own thoughts and feelings through my struggles, I sometimes am able to identify thought cycles that reinforce themselves. Thought cycles can be negatively reinforcing or positively reinforcing. Today, I am going to discuss what I think of as my Rejection Cycle, how it contributes to and reinforces my addiction with crossdressing, and thoughts I have on how to attack and break certain parts of the cycle. This cycle may be unique to me, but I share it in case it brings understanding or realization to others.

Stage 1. Rejection / Distance

Fear of sexual or romantic rejection, or possibly experiencing actual sexual or romantic rejection. Looking back at my life, the rejection can be real or perceived, and has usually been about how do I perceive my ability to build a relationship with girls I am attracted to – especially with the girl I am most interested in. These fears of rejection are accompanied by being made distant or making myself distant from the girl I am interested in – i.e. the worshipping or admiring from afar stance because of fear of rejection, or feeling inadequate or unsure about how to build the relationship or come closer. There is a mini-cycle in here, where distancing ones self becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes you distant.

Stage 2. Feelings that follow judgement.

At some point after the fear of rejection, or after the moment of real or perceived rejection (even if issued through self judgement), it results in a set of strong feelings. These feelings include feeling insecure about my self, about my masculinity, feeling that my insecurities are actually confirmed. It is a feeling of being judged, deemed, stamped, confirmed, published to the world, reminded, humiliated and devalued as inadequate or lacking. It is a feeling of being unwanted, undesired, incapable, uninteresting, boring, ignored, not worthwhile, ugly, unattractive, of no value or worth/as a human being, as being an annoyance to the person of interest, and as if even your romantic/sexual or masculine intentions are a living joke.

Stage 3. Acceptance and interpretation of the feelings/events

At this point, the thought process I find myself following, is accepting the thoughts and feelings as truth. This leads to the conclusion that I must be something different, rejecting myself as a worthy or competent male, and embracing and replacing it with my perception of beauty and femininity through crossdressing.

Stage 4. Behavior

At this point by acting out, dressing, and eventual masturbation, it leads to anxiety, excitement, and sensual pleasure, a feeling of being easier to embrace, and a feeling of not being rejected (all of these feelings seem to confirm the interpretation in step 3). In this stage every feeling from Step 2 is reversed or eliminated. These revised feelings include feeling fun, confident, sexy, and playful about my self, even about my lack of masculinity, feeling daring, taboo, and adventurous. It is a feeling of fitting in with how you are judged, deemed, stamped, confirmed, published to the world, reminded, humiliated and devalued as inadequate or lacking. It is a feeling of being wanted, desired, capable, interesting, spontaneous, uninhibited, looked at, noticed, worthwhile, pretty, attractive, of value or worth/as a human being, as a focal point to the person of interest (yourself), and as if even your romantic/sexual intentions are amazing and fantastic.

Stage 5. Guilt and confirmation of original inadequacies/fears.

At some point, guilt follows, and I come out of the solo fantasy world back to reality, where I look very different and the reality is very clear, and I doubt my non-dressed self even more. Because of the outcome of my behavior, I feel that my inadequacies in Step 1 are confirmed as fact, and I now feel additional flaws (i.e. why would anyone want a crossdresser, surely I would be rejected because of what I have done) when going back to stage 1 – i.e. I have proven that I am distant, and have a greater fear of rejection, and view my past performance and record as worse than before, and a confirmation that I cannot build a romantic/sexual relationship with the girl I am interested in. This takes us back to stage 1.

Re-cycling.

I have also found that there is an element of trying to set myself up for failure in this thought process, building impossible standards for myself to meet. The element of self sabotage also involves knowing where the cycle will naturally lead, and that it is pleasurable (at least in Stage 4), and comforting.  It is easier to cycle through all the steps because it leads to the pleasure of stage 4 rather than skipping stage 4 and going straight to guilt or despair.

Break the cycle.

So, how do you attack this cycle?. Some thoughts I have had. Maybe you have others.

1. Stop distancing myself
2. Make more attempts. 0/1 is 100% rejection. 2/6 is only 33% success.
3. Minimize the perception of rejection (ask for and understand the real reasons)
4. accept only partial or 1-time rejection rather than exaggerating any 1 rejection to feel infinite and encompassing of the entire future.
5. Define a longer timescale before passing judgement.
6. Reward yourself in other small ways for trying more often – go to dinner, buy something that you want.
7. Do not “accept” things as true at stage 3. Stop being your worst critic.  Work on positive thinking about self. Challenge the completeness and validity of assumptions.
8. Talk with your spouse, S/O, friends, or support group about the importance of words of affirmation, both for when experiencing rejecting, and even for when you are not.
9. Define on paper what it means to you be masculine. Make your own definition, and record what you do that counts.
10. Call a friend or someone trusted when you are feeling reject or distant, even if just to let them know you are feeling weaker. Recognize this as an early warning sign/trigger.
11. Work with your therapist, support group, on finding other ways to satisfy the underlying feelings that are supplied when dressed, so an alternative path is more visible, and that path is less enticing.
12. Work on building a stronger positive reinforcement cycle based on a pursuing romantic and sexual relationship with the girl you like.
13.  Conditioning.  BioFeedback,  Covert Sensitization, other Aversive Conditioning.  I have heard of hypnosis used to introduce nauseous thoughts right at the pleasure point in Step 4.  I have also heard of hypnosis used to introduce powerful negative reactions, like being put in jails, etc. In essence skipping past Step 4, or trying to introduce step 5 before step 4.

Some articles for #13. I don’t claim to be an expert, and some may be old. There may be better ones, but here the ones I have found.

Transvestism Treatment
http://www.health.am/sex/more/transvestism_treatment/

Shame aversion therapy
http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/0005791670900054

THE APPLICATION OF FARADIC AVERSION CONDITIONING IN A CASE OF TRANSVESTISM
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14156711

Transvestism and Fetishism: Clinical and Psychological Changes during Faradic Aversion
http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/113/500/711

FOLLOW-UP NOTE TO: THE APPLICATION OF FARADIC AVERSION CONDITIONING IN A CASE OF TRANSVESTISM.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14153345

Long term follow-up in two cases of transvestism treated with aversion therapy
http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/0005791677900702

Transvestism – How is it treated?
http://www.forrestgeneral.com/hil/beha3365.htm

Behaviour Therapy for Transvestism
http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/111/472/268

Sex and Sexuality, Volume 1
Page 162

Sexual strands: understanding and treating sexual anomalies in men
Page 227 and 228

Posted in Coping Techniques, Crossdressing, Recovery, Spouse, Thought Patterns | 6 Comments