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Psychosexual Infantilism in Adults: The eroticization of regression Part 6

Section 6 of Thomas John Speaker's Doctoral dissertation "Psychosexual Infantilism in Adults: The eroticization of regression"

Psychotherapy can be helpful in minimizing the possible harmful 'side-effects' of engaging in infantilism. These negative consequences can include damaged relationships, isolation, guilt or sexual addiction.

The desire to be dominated by a spouse or lover is strong in most infantilists, as previously stated, and inclusion of a partner requires communication and, most likely, change:

"There is no such thing", wrote Masters and Johnson (1970), "as an uninvolved partner in any marriage in which there is some form of sexual inadequacy." Substitute "relationship" for "marriage" and "variancy" for "inadequacy", and you would probably have the view of a very large proportion of our subjects, even though some of them would perhaps be indulging in wishful thinking. However, since female partners do not come to therapists to acquire a variant behavior, we cannot say whether behavior modification works as well on women under those conditions.

Nevertheless, a fair proportion of our subjects' partners know of, tolerate and even in some measure understand their man's sexual position, a number of these accepting women cooperate in playing out his special sexual pleasure by participating. And since constitutionally primed female variants are so rare, it seems likely that some women can and do learn to like these variations later in life (Gosselin & Wilson, p. 175).

Very often when a variant man wishes to incorporate his partner into a dramatic scenario he finds her either unwilling as actress or as audience. In our experience, a woman can seldom immediately accept variant behavior from a man even if she herself has the seeds of it. If she can and does, of course, there is no problem; if she cannot, however, then, if the matter is not to be sidestepped altogether (as does sometimes occur, though not always with happy results), the script of one partner or the other may need to be changed (Ibid., p. 171).

Yet while we have on many occasions discussed the matter with variants and their partners, we still find ourselves somewhat at a loss in attempting to advise any variant who asks us how he should go about helping a partner to understand, tolerate, cooperate with or actively enjoy his own particular sexual script. Certain of the difficulties in even beginning communication on the subject are themselves due to upbringing and are very difficult to change. The man may find it too anxiety- provoking even to tell his partner of his variant pattern, and, if he does manage to do so, his partner may find it too anxiety-provoking to continue the discussion (Ibid., p. 176).

Inherent in the development of a fetish are likely to be barriers to communication such as guilt, anger, low self-esteem and defensiveness. Psychotherapy may aid in the improvement of communication skills essential to development and maintenance of relationships. Communication skills do not guarantee the fulfillment of variant fantasies but is the only way a non-variant partner can understand and not feel threatened by this new sexual script. There are no guarantees, but communication offers to best chance to maintain parallel conventional sexual scripts and minimize the pathological aspects of variant arousal.

Discussion of sexual variancy between partners should not, therefore, need to be accompanied by tension and rejection on one side nor by defensiveness and resentment, if discussion is rejected, on the other. The point is made simply because we believe from interviews and conversations with variants and their partners that the freedom to discuss feelings, to tease one another, to puzzle over individual differences and to accept the existence of the other's sexual preference without rancor is worth more to the couple than any subsequent "cooperation", without internal motivation, on the nonvariant partner's part.

Such a discussion of variant behavior may, if either partner prefers, be initiated on the neutral ground of a counseling center, but perhaps should not be subsequently confined to that situation.

For some, mutual enjoyment of a variant activity will probably never be possible or even desirable. ?The switch that turns him on is precisely the one that turns me off", one woman told us without emotion. The conditioning model which rewards variant behavior with increased sexual pleasure, as often happens, may become a two-edged sword in the hand of any man whose partner equates the mode of variant behavior with her man's sexual excitement. With such a final reckoning she may not unjustifiably conclude that her man is in love with the variant activity and not with her. Over and over again, couples who both enjoy a variant activity (the woman having learned the behavior from the man and found it rewarding) have stressed the necessity of creating an ambiance of love, trust and desire to please rather than be pleased, in order to allow "variations on a theme of love" to flourish. The occasions on which such a technique was found repeatedly to fail are never cited, yet from private communications we have realized that, for some women, the creation of such an atmosphere is merely regarded by them as "an attempt to soften me up, a trick to con me into something just don't like doing".

Should persuasion, then, ever take place? We do not know, for here is an area where the psychologistis generalization should yield to the feelings of the individual couple. Perhaps, though, a little persuasion and a similar degree of cooperation should be undertaken, for it might help to develop a line of communication between lovers which compensates for any weakness induced either by personality predisposition or upbringing and environment (Ibid., pp. 177-178).

Alteration or elimination of a fetish is a procedure fraught with difficulties; success rates are not high. But this type of change becomes increasingly necessary as negative consequences for fetish behavior becomes more likely and such sanctions become more severe. As noted above, for some the answer is to open up the availability of more conventional scripts through communication. For others, for whom control of their behavior is slipping away, behaviorally-oriented therapies are preferred (Speaker, 1980, pp. 76-87). Carnes (1983) has proposed the "12 step" approach to sexual addictions, a methodology similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (see Appendix C). Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) differs from AA in some ways (for logical reasons: sexuality is an essential part of personal identity and total abstinence is not usually healthy. Abstinence from alcohol is viewed as a necessity for the alcoholic - once control is lost it is seldom regained. Control of sexuality, channeling the sex drive into conventional scripts or at least less obsessive variants, is quite likely given ,everyone?s tendency toward multiple scripts. SAA encourages the alteration of negative beliefs about one's self (cognitive change) and increased behavior control (behavioral change) (Carnes, pp. 141-171).

Not all psychotherapy is designed to reduce or eliminate infantile behavior. Some therapists use regression as a theraputic tool to eliminate psychic blocks and "reparent" persons into emotional and psychological health. The most radical use of regression as a psychotherapeutic technique is the Schiff's reparenting of "hebephrenic schizophrenics":

From the hebephrenic babies and Shirley we learned how real a regression has to be, that a baby must be a baby, can't be expected to think like a university student, and should not have to use his Adult.*

* See also Berne, 1974.

Now we put all our babies in diapers and feed them from bottles and let them sleep as much as they like. When they are hungry they cry; both Elizabeth and Eric had trouble learning to do that. When they are older they chew on teething rings and pretzels and start eating traditional baby foods. Eventually they learn to crawl, to talk, and begin to feed themselves. The two-year old negativistic stage is always a problem; for a while I thought Eric might never get toilet trained.

If we meet the child's needs during the regression, the need for therapy is almost completely eliminated.... (Schiff & Day, 1976, p. 219).

One must also remember that psychosexual infantilists seldom seek treatment (8 of 27 subjects) and that treatment is seldom (1 of 8) targeted toward fetish reduction. (One other subject was interested in fetish reduction but has not sought therapy "only because I don't know where to start looking (Matt, personal correspondence, April 28, 1985). Howard, a 34 year old bisexual living with a lover said:

...diapers, infantilism and regressive desires are parts of a fundamental aspect of my inner life. Regression is a path I chose so along ago in my life that it wasn't particularly regression but more a freezing of things as they were (or as I envisioned they should have been). Over the years I failed to find answers to my early and on-going unhappiness. For about 5 years in my mid-20's, I spent several hours each week talking with various psychotherapists. Each of them tried to direct me toward an understanding of the background, experiences and forces that set off and continue to drive my unhappiness (Howard).

He is no longer trying to eliminate his fetish but will occasionally use psychotherapy to treat affective disorders such as recurrent depression. Six of 8 survey subjects sought psychotherapy or counseling for this purpose: to lower negative side-effects such as guilt, poor self-esteem and depression, without disturbing the variant script. For some psychotherapy provides symptom relief; for others it is ineffective but success rates are probably comparable to other groups.

A small group of infantilists seek to increase infantile behaviors through psychotherapy. Peter, 39 and gay, said he was seeing "a regular hypnotist to start bedwetting again" (Peter). Indeed, "hypnotherapy tapes to turn you into a bedwetter or a helpless baby" are sold by at least 3 companies in the U.S. (Chesher, p. M6; Holistic Hypnosis). The tapes are so popular that one fetish monthly wrote a 4 page editorial providing "helpful information about hypnosis and the 'usage of the hypnotic tapes that you have" (L'lemart, #1, pp. 1-4).

The goal of any type of psychotherapy should be to open options from which the client can choose. In psychosexual infantilism, psychotherapy can serve to remove blocks to conventional scripts, to increase control over variant behaviors (so that acting out of the fantasy is by conscious and informed choice, not irrational compulsion) and to heal the emotional side-effects of having a variant script (guilt, anxiety, depression). Psychotherapy does not enhance an infantilist's ability to coerce a partner into participation in the fetish, but can point out the importance of communication in maintaining a relationship between variant and non-variant partners. In the counseling relationship one can sharpen communication skills, improve self-knowledge and self-esteem and develop more adaptive coping skills. To achieve these things requires a sensitive and knowledgeable therapist and an active and motivated client.

Dissertation: 1986| HTML conversion: 16 August 2010

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