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Emotional Castration

5 things to do if you are an emotional castrator.

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Most people think of castration as the physical destruction of testes or ovaries. But there is a much wider and more disastrous behavioral definition that occurs within intimate relationships.

When one partner uses words or phrases that are intended to invalidate and destroy the other partner’s pride in his or her gender identification, it is equivalent to emotional castration. Exempting physical abuse, it is the most destructive behavior that one person can do to the other’s core sense of self.

Emotionally castrating statements most often occur during angry disputes, but I have also seen them exchanged during other times as well. When they have become an integral part of a relationship’s emotional landscape, they can emerge at any time as snide or snarky bank-shots. In whatever way they are expressed, the intent is clear: to figuratively “hit as far below the belt as possible.”

Any gender can express these mean-spirited phrases to any other gender. Whether they happen between men, between women, or from one gender to another, they are just as denigrating and destructive.

The following examples may not be easy to read, whether you are a perpetrator or a victim of emotional castrating comments, or both. Yet, you will not be able to eradicate them from your relationship if you do not see how much power these words have to harm:

  • “You call yourself a man? You’re a f---ing wimp. No one takes you seriously.”

  • “Don’t pull that “poor me, long-suffering” expression on me. You’re just trying to manipulate me by acting like the victimized underling. It’s bullshit, and you know it. You’re trying to manipulate me and it’s not going to work.”

  • “Oh, using the power play number again as if you could run anything without messing things up.”

  • “I stopped being attracted to you years ago. All the expensive body alterations don’t alter the picture, baby. You just don’t have it anymore, so why don’t you just face it.”

  • “That’s all you got? Better peddle it somewhere else.”

  • “You think you should run the show? Who would come, big shot?”

  • “Whining again? Do you seriously think that will get you what you want?”

  • “Are you too afraid to be a real woman?

  • “Acting like you’re cornered or bullied is so damn manipulative. You’re not a victim and I’m not buying it that I’m responsible for your misery.”

  • “If you had a bull horn, no one would pay attention to you.”

  • “You’ll never measure up to my past lovers. Just stop trying.”

  • “Lipstick on a pig doesn’t change who you really are.”

  • “Maybe you can stop pretending to be a real man. That would help. At least you’d be honest.”

  • “You think I hate women. Maybe you should try being one.”

Reading the ugly tone and the destructive impact of these kinds of phrases, it might be hard to understand how anyone would stay in a relationship with an emotional castrator, or why anyone would express them to another. Yet, it is far more important to understand why these interactions even occur, and if they can be changed.

The only chance a couple has to reverse this tragic course is for them to recognize what they are doing to each other before it is too late, and do everything they can to end these kinds of interactions.

Caveat: There are people who have certain kinds of personality disorders that make them more likely to debase, destroy, and exploit others for their own advantages. They express fury in whatever way will make them cause the most damage, and ten to attract partners who were victims of the same debasing in their early lives.

Most all perpetrators of emotional castration were traumatized in the same way at an earlier time in their own lives. They often have suppressed the distresses that accompanied them, then prone to projecting them on to their current partners.

Often those internal traumas have emerged from their own gender-identification being mocked and humiliated. However they have occurred, they must be identified and dealt with, or these people will be doomed to continue behaving that way and never know sustaining love.

Most perpetrators of emotional castration have behaved the way they do in all of their past relationships. But those that feel badly about how they’ve acted can learn to change those behaviors. If it is early enough in the damage cycle for me to help them heal themselves and their partners, I can change the direction of the relationship.

If, sadly, the relationship is in too much trouble at the time I see a couple, I most often choose to put the partnership counseling on hold until I can treat the perpetrator in his or her own individual therapy. If their partners still want the relationship to work, they need to take a back seat for a while, even if it means temporary separation.

If both partners are willing and able to handle the interaction at the same time, they can work together to stop the negativity between them and heal at the same time. It is a more arduous task, but possible if there is enough love left between them to sustain the process.

What to Do if You Are an Emotional Castrator: 5 Steps

1. Look in the Mirror. I have often told people that one of the most legitimate reasons to leave a relationship is whether they like who they’ve become within it. So, the first step to possible healing for you is to agree that you do not like who you have become or how you are behaving in your relationship.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you regret the things you’ve said to your partners, regardless of why you said them?

  • Would you be embarrassed if others observed you when you were making those denigrating statements?

  • How do you feel about others who behave as you do?

2. Where Does Your Behavior Come From? Go over all of their intimate relationships from childhood to the one you are currently experiencing. What caused the wounds that now propel you to undermine and mock another’s gender identification.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you behaved the same way in other relationships?

  • What did you observe in childhood that you believe are contributing?

  • Who has hurt you by treating you the way you now treat your partner?

  • What triggers you in your current relationship to behave the way you do?

  • What could your partner do differently to help?

3. Stop the Behavior at Any Cost. You must move to prevention and away from damage control as soon as possible, by stopping any castrating expressions before you say them. If you feel the need to express these mean-spirited comments, tell your partner what you are feeling, what triggered those emotions, and what your partner could do to help you in the moment.

To successively do that, you’ll need to identify the physical feelings in your body when you are in attack mode, and quiet them down before they overtake you.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you experience in your body just before, and then during, the times that you lash out?

  • What do you think happened between you and your partner that proceeded those physical feelings?

  • Do you feel safe enough to tell your partner what you are feeling and thinking about him or her before you erupt?

  • Can you find a way to be more self-reflective before you act?

4. How Do You Want to Be Different? After you feel you have a handle on stopping the runaway train before it gets out of control, your next step is to choose who kind of a relationship you want to be in the future what you will need from your partner to help make that happen.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are the role models you admire and respect who know what their balance of masculinity and femininity is and are totally comfortable within it?

  • What kind of interactions with your partner would you be proud to have others witness?

  • What attitudes, biases, or prejudices would you have to toss to keep them from pulling you back into old behaviors?

  • What kind of behavioral changes would you need from your partner to get the help you need to change?

5. Faith That You Can Change. The last step is, perhaps, the most important. You’ll need to practice self-forgiveness and faith that you can and will change. Long-term patterns that have been established from childhood have created deep grooves in your psyche that make it hard to choose different reactions.

It is often easier to see emotionally castrating behaviors in others than to see them in yourself. You may have just found it easier to rationalize that your behaviors are not that bad, or that your partner is too sensitive.

Try to remember times in your life where you have seen these behaviors. Many movies have very similar scenes and you may have actually found yourself cringing when you’ve witnessed them. If you can, instead, let yourself identify with both the perpetrator and the victim, it will help you. Begin the process of transformation. What you cannot see, you cannot change. What you are willing to face, you can.

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