Rachel's Vineyard - Men and Abortion
 

Men and Abortion

Some short Excerpts from Forbidden Grief - The Unspoken Pain of Abortion
By Theresa Burke with David Reardon

This section is from Chapter 10 - which explores the subject of Traumatic Re-enactment

The Mystery, the Drama, the Reenactment of Trauma

Since sex and abortion are intimately connected, it is not uncommon for both women and men to act out abortion related trauma through real or imagined sexual encounters.

As an example of the latter, Rowena became addicted to "cyber affairs" on the internet after a traumatic abortion experience. For Rowena, cyber-sex was "safe," since it did not expose her to another pregnancy and abortion. Moreover, through these chat room driven fantasies, which involved heavy doses of sexual oppression, bondage and humiliation, she was able to recreate themes that echoed her abortion related trauma. Rowena's obsession with cyber-sex served as an outlet for unresolved tensions related to her abortion, while providing a "safe" framework for her to revisit and explore her feelings about being manipulated, humiliated and treated as a sex object.

Men are also vulnerable. Peter was 17 when his girlfriend had an abortion against his will. This experience left him feeling shamed and powerless. When he later married, he kept the abortion a secret from his wife. Although he loved his wife very much, the added burden of keeping his feelings secret created additional tension in his life. In an unconscious effort to act out his feelings of anger, shame, and powerlessness in private, Peter became highly addicted to cyber-sex and obsessed with pornography. A major theme of his fantasies was female domination and abuse; this reflected an unconscious need to explore and master his own sense of shame and impotency.

Peter came from marriage counseling and eventually shared his sad secret with his wife. Together they attended a Rachel's Vineyard retreat where he finally allowed her to comfort and support him. Peter's addiction to online pornography was resolved as he went through the process of dismantling his secret and grieving the loss of his aborted child. By sharing this healing journey with his wife, Peter discovered a new intimacy and trust with her which eliminated his dependence on deceit and pornography.

  Crisis Invention

Another common way in which trauma victims subconsciously seek release from their deadened emotional state is by provoking conflicts at work or at home. A depressed person may invite crisis into his or her life on a daily basis, then wonder helplessly, "Why did I do that?" or "Whatever possessed me to allow this to happen?" For the post-abortive woman or man, these questions echo the ones that haunt their abortion experience.

In addition, by provoking crises, the trauma victim is forced to concentrate on solving the crisis at hand. This distracts the individual from the self-examination and grief work necessary for healing. I'm reminded of Roberta, who was caught stealing from the cash register where she worked. She denied her employer's suspicions for six months until they installed a video camera to catch the thief. When confronted with the evidence, Roberta broke down and explained that she felt she deserved the money for all she had been through.

Roberta's traumatic abortion had left her with the feeling that her child had been unjustly taken from her. This is the theme of reenactment that encouraged thoughts of theft. Since her child of inestimable value had been "stolen" from her, she reasoned, why was it wrong for her to steal something of much less value from her employer--after all, she "deserved" compensation for her loss. In a vague way, she felt that other people owed her something to fill the emptiness in her heart.

One obvious way in which people can provoke crisis is by creating conflict in their personal relationships. For example, several years after her abortion, Doris began to avoid her husband even though she insisted she loved him very much. She would call her husband and tell him she was working late and would be home shortly after picking up a bite to eat.

Hours would pass before she would return home. Sometimes she would simply spend the time driving around in her car, or going to visit a good friend. Then Doris would secretly sneak into her home, frequently after midnight.

The predictable result was that her husband soon began to experience feelings of mistrust and a deepening rage about her behavior. Soon he began to suspect that she was having an affair. Doris insisted that she was only at work and offered regular alibis with witness testimony. Although she persisted in pledging her love and fidelity to him, her actions continued to provoke his jealousy and feelings of abandonment. Doris was bewildered and grief-stricken when he eventually moved out.

On one level, Doris was recreating the same dynamics that had traumatized her five years earlier at the time of her abortion. In this case, Doris was forcing her husband to go through the same emotions that she had gone through after her abortion when her former boyfriend began to avoid her. Then when her husband did move out, her own feelings of abandonment were reenacted and she experienced a double dose of grief.

I loved my husband, I really did. He was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I wanted to have children with him because I thought he would be a good father. Looking back, I suppose I did not feel worthy of his love, and I felt unsure and fearful of children. I sabotaged the relationship . . . it's not like I wanted to set him up to leave me . . . but that was the consequence of my stupid behavior. So many incredible things are linked to the pain of my abortion. I never understood it while I was going through it, but it is crystal clear to me now.

Doris's acting out served to create an emotional distance with her husband. This was an effective way to avoid the pregnancy which she feared. Her routine of coming home late left little room for a romantic sex life. Their time together as a couple was consumed by spats, arguments, and insecurities, thereby killing any possibilities to have a child.

This is just one example of many ways in which people create crises in their lives to distract them from their grief or fears. Jenny's crises, for example, were always work-related.

After my abortion, I began to fall apart at work. I felt guilty that my performance was not up to standards. I began taking work home, and I stayed up the whole night trying to finish it. They kept giving me more and more work. Out of guilt, I obliged.

Few people I know would expect themselves or others to carry on the tasks of a demanding job right after the loss of someone close to them. Jenny shouldered impossible tasks because they kept her from facing her own pain. Each midnight crisis and encroaching deadline released a surge of adrenaline that enabled her to finish her projects and stave off dealing with her loss. She became a workaholic, which provided a temporary relief from depression.

For many post-abortive women, workaholic tendencies and an obsession with their careers also reflect the fact that they gave up their children for their professions. Since their careers were bought at such a high price, they become obsessed with succeeding in order to prove to themselves that their choice to abort was not a mistake.

The effects of a workaholic lifestyle over time, however, can leave one emotionally and physically depleted. Jenny's career controlled her, rather than giving her a sense of control and balance in her life.

 
 
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