We are beginning to learn about what are productive and what are unproductive coping strategies for men who have been sexually abused in childhood to get on in their lives. We know also that every man will have their own life journey and priorities and that what works will depend on his particular experiences, circumstances, interests and the resources available to him.
In relation to long term well-being, the following coping strategies have been identified as productive:
- Accessing supportive, relevant, targeted information that speaks directly to you and assists in reducing the sense of isolation and self-blame.
- Practical assistance. Working to develop concrete life skills that address the impact of sexual abuse, in particular learning to self calm and tolerate emotional distress.
- Talking with someone who is supportive, a worker, health care practitioner, partner or friend.
- Talking with someone who has encountered a similar traumatic event.
- Actively, joining with, supporting and helping others.
- Developing a sense of hope, positive re-interpretation and growth. Practicing optimism and self understanding, viewing your survival and life accomplishments in a positive way.
In relation to long term well-being, the following coping strategies have been identified as unproductive:
- Suppression: stuffing it down and trying not to think about it;
- Withdrawal: withdrawing and distancing yourself from the world and those around you;
- Denial; denying it even happened;
- Internalisation; keeping it all inside, not expressing yourself or letting people know how you are feeling
- Anger: constantly stewing and holding on to anger, being locked into anger as the only emotion;
- Acceptance that this is my lot in life’. This a tricky one in that it is different from ‘accepting that it happened’. It is not helpful to accept that you ‘deserved’ it or that there is chance of change.
These strategies can sometimes work in the short term, but if locked in as the only way of operating, they do not produce positive outcomesl.
Questions to consider
- What has been useful and helped to sustain you during tough times?
- Have there been particular people who you have appreciated being around or been supportive?
- What words of encouragement and support would you like to share with others who have been through abuse and tough times and how might you pass these on?
- What random act of kindness or generosity migh you participate in today or tomorrow?