Mechanisms of psychological adaptation to sexual dysfunction
There are five types of defense mechanisms that are activated during the psychological processing of problems in sexual relations:
1. Energy type – the removal of energy from the “painful object”:
a) decrease in sexual motives – oppression of a libido;
b) the discharge of energy – response;
c) the transfer of energy – for example, the transformation of feelings of guilt into aggression, which is expressed, for example, in hypersexuality during adultery;
d) giving energy – the introduction of a new motive, for example, the extramarital sexual activity of a wife, as an act of revenge on her husband for disharmonious intimate relationships.
2. Spatial type – a change in the content or the formal-tonic space of an object that caused mental discomfort:
a) translation of a personal conflict with a partner into a psychosomatic disorder (premature ejaculation, etc.);
b) ousting impulses or sexual standards unacceptable for a person;
c) expansion or limitation of partners in connection with sexual disorder;
d) closing your inner world from your partner;
d) the removal of internal conflict outside and explanation of its external causes.
3. Time type – a shift in time of both the problem itself and the possible way to solve it:
a) the transfer of a long “dumb” conflict with a sexual partner in the near future – “everything was fine before, and only now it became bad”;
b) postponement of possible sexual intercourse for the future; multiple promises in the near future to seek professional help; the illusory hope that soon all problems will be resolved by themselves.
4. Genetic type – independent search for the causes that led to sexual dysfunction, and attempts to eliminate them:
a) the use of false explanations of the origin of sexual dysfunctions supporting the illusion of intellectual control;
b) attempts to eliminate dysfunction, based on their own ideas.
5. Cognitive type – avoiding an adequate assessment of an unpleasant phenomenon or distorting its meaning:
a) rationalization – justification of the adequacy of a decrease in libido by a man engaged in intensive intellectual work;
b) a change in the personal meaning of the disorder — for example, the depreciation by a woman suffering from anorgasmia, the meaning of orgasm for personal and family life.
As indicated by V.V. Krishtal and B.L. Gulman (1997), psychological adaptation to sexual dysfunctions can be achieved through compensation, pseudo-compensation and over-compensation.
When compensating, the preservation of sexual functions at a sufficient level is supported by the inclusion of additional mental functions. For example, with insufficient brightness of the orgasmic experiences of one of the spouses, they are attracted to the imaginary image of the other partner, thus achieving a full orgasm. At the same time, adaptive mechanisms of fantasy, ideal identification with an imaginary partner, perceptual protection from the actual partner, suppression of slight aversion tendencies to it, dissociation of the partner’s personal and physiological characteristics, partial depersonalization of the partner (like refusing him full erotic attractiveness), egocentrism with a focus on achieving only individual enjoyment and a system of rationalizing one’s own behavior.
Multi-component provision of the sexual sphere determines the possibility of using a variety of ways to compensate. For example, the failure of an erection in a man can be compensated not only by an adequate technique of sexual intercourse, but also due to personal identification with the spouse, introjection of her inner world, shifting the value of sexual relations from a purely physiological to an intimate-personal plan. Psychological mechanisms such as positive transference, idealizing relationships, evoking sympathy for oneself and redefining the current situation, using euphemisms that soften the severity of the problem may also be involved.
Pseudocompensation helps only to preserve the individual components of sexual function or to imitate it. For pseudo-compensation, the use of a protective mask “sexually strong male” is typical, which manifests itself in active flirting “on people” or boasting with imaginary numerous sexual connections. The mechanism of the formation of contrast reactions by the type of confident, domineering in dealing with women, men with their simultaneous discrediting as immoral beings, as well as the demonstration of misogynistism and socially deviating behavior, which makes it possible to leave the game, is also used. Pseudo-compensation is always unproductive and requires correction, since it “preserves” or even aggravates the existing sexual problems.
Hypercompensation consists in forcing the natural rhythm of sexual life. At the same time, protective identification with sexual models existing at the level of everyday consciousness is used: possession of particularly sophisticated sex techniques, idealization of their sexual qualities, egoism, denial of the partner’s reaction, transformation of one’s own emotional reactions — for example, fear into aggression. Hypercompensation can perform various adaptive functions: from redemptive to autorehabilitation, which especially complicates therapy.
In the case when a person is resigned to the presence of sexual dysfunction, mental adaptation (addiction) occurs – the last stage of mental adaptation, which ensures minimal preservation of sexual function or state of personal balance. The addiction is characteristic of pronounced sexual disorders, replacing other, unsuccessful types of psychological protection. Manifested in the depreciation, and sometimes active discrediting of sex life, emphasizing their achievements in other areas. There is also an idealization of a partner with his (her) positive desexualization or the assumption of the role of a person in need of care – weak, loser, patient.
The above-described adaptive tactics practically do not occur in their pure form, forming combinations in which one of them prevails.
Psychological protection in patients with sexual dysfunctions can manifest itself in an active defensive and passive defensive form.
Actively-defensive protection is expressed, for example, with impotence in charges of the spouse of improper sexual behavior, reproaches about the loss of sexual attractiveness, idealization of former sexual partners. There are fantasies of revenge, verbal and behavioral aggression, which can turn into auto-aggression. There is also an active search for “true” causes of dysfunction using popular literature, this information is used to substantiate its position.
Passive-defensive protection is characterized by the avoidance of sexual relations under the pretext of the need for rest. The feeling of depression due to frustrated sexual needs is regarded as fatigue. The physiological and emotional importance of sex is denied, the dissatisfaction of the spouse is not noticed, his recognition and self-esteem are caused by a business or material contribution to the relationship, separation of hobbies, and friendly support. As a rule, this form of protection causes an increasing sexual aversion of the partner.
Quite often sexual dysfunction, especially in the early stages of its development, is observed only in the married couple, normalizing in extramarital relations. It is possible and the opposite option, when in marriage a man has no obvious violations of sexual function, but they arise when trying to enter into extramarital sexual relationship with a new partner. Thus, the very nature of the sexual function, its involvement in intimate-personal relationships makes it necessary to apply a systematic approach in an attempt to understand the origin of sexual disorders and identify the most appropriate ways to correct them.