What was this reluctance to drop a deuce?
November 14, 2009 9:12 AM   Subscribe

What was this reluctance to drop a deuce?

As a child I experienced a lot of trauma - dad beating up mom, and lots of screaming matches/broken furniture between my parents. I was never physically or emotionally abused by either of them. I had a habit up to about the age of 9 where I would hold back bowel movements as long as I possibly could, for days or maybe over a week. It would get to the point where everything would get compacted and would hurt like hell when I finally did go, and I would experience some light bleeding - I assume due to tissue tearing from trying to pass a boulder. I remember kneeling down on my heel to keep it in, and I remember it feeling very unpleasant. But I do remember being aware that I should just go sit on the toilet and let it out, I just didn't *want* to. I was properly toilet trained, so it's not like I didn't know what I was supposed to do, I just chose to hold it in. I was scared that it would hurt or kill me, but I kept doing it. I am 40 now and everything is normal, I go when I need to and have no bowel/gut dysfunction at all. I think it stopped when I was around 12 but don't remember what made me stop.

Now that I've been through a ton of therapy, I wonder why I did this. I assume it was due to the insanity I was dealing with, but I don't understand *why*. A means to have control over my body when nothing else was in control? A way of expressing the emotional pain physically like 'cutters' do? Is this a known phenomenon? I'm a guy, if that makes any difference.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Freudian psychosexual stages explanation (I'd like to add that you can take this however you like, salted or unsalted) would be that your child self was trying to maintain control over an environment that you otherwise could not control. Parents having screaming matches and physical fights in front of a child is considered by many (including state/county child protective services) to be emotional abuse.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:19 AM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Without more specific information than that you presented (such as evidence of a specific trauma that may have triggered the behavior in the first place, about which you might not even be aware), I would also understand it as an attempt to assert control.
posted by OmieWise at 9:59 AM on November 14, 2009

Freud's point about the anal stage was that it's the first time that a child can consciously control their body in a way that is, for the most part, inviolate. You can ignore or remove from the scene a crying child, but it's really tough to make a recalcitrant child shit.
posted by OmieWise at 10:01 AM on November 14, 2009

You're never going to know.

You were a kid; kids do all kinds of weird things for no reason.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:03 AM on November 14, 2009

I was never physically or emotionally abused by either of them

Yes you were, actually. Being exposed to that environment is legally considered abuse.

In my opinion, what you describe would be simply a reaction to the stress you were under. Children express their stress in different ways, and I don't think that is too uncommon a way, actually.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:39 AM on November 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Childhood constipation is pretty common and may be completely unrelated to your family's problems. I would guess that, having had a painful bowel movement, you became afraid to have further bowel movements, thus starting a cycle.

A study published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, titled "Precipitants of Constipation During Early Childhood" has this conclusion: "Painful defecation is the primary precipitant of constipation during early childhood."
posted by Houstonian at 10:40 AM on November 14, 2009

I'd pay close attention to anything you might be thinking about prior to or after dropping a bomb.

Also, perhaps something particularly bad happened when you happened to be in there when you were a kid. So not having a BM would in a kid mind, protect you from that.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:51 AM on November 14, 2009

You know, I have a close friend who suffered abuse and an intense and abusive home who had exactly the same issues with bowel movements. Some of this, if I remember correctly, was related to this persons desire to hide (in their room). All centering around the need to not make themselves visible in any way in order to avoid having the negative attention focused on them.

I am sure there was more to it, but it's been about 10 years or so since I spoke about this with said person.
posted by sundri at 11:14 AM on November 14, 2009

Could also be more along the lines of being so assaulted by the negative vibe in the air, that you did what you could to create feelings that were your own. Not so much the resultant difficult pooping, but the feelings when you were stifling it. Possibly the same motivation pathway as people who turn to cutting.

Beyond that, I can see where the anal-retentive Freudian analysis (pun intended) would see a "willful" child trying to control his environment, when all the child was trying to do was not accidentally get pulled into the chaos when walking to the bathroom.

I actually find myself doing a similar thing (on a much lesser scale) with laundry. I dislike my most of my nosy neighbors, I really don't want to be assaulted by their desire to complain about their lives at me, and I really don't like it when I go down to the laundry room only to find that one of them has decided to wash diapers or other filthy crap. So I don't do laundry until the last possible second, until the stress of NOT doing laundry can override the stress of dealing with these jerks getting all up in my business.

And heck, it could be a completely different thing- possibly having learned a diet from your family that isn't fibery enough, and the existential discomfort of a loose BM is less preferable to powering through and waiting for something a little more predictable...?
posted by gjc at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2009

A friend's child did this during a period of turmoil in her home. The cycle was perpetuated by the pain of the first #2 after an episode of constipation.

I wonder if it starts because sitting on the toilet is a vulnerable place to be, and one is reluctant to put themselves in that position when things around them are unpredictable. Animals won't go to the bathroom either if they feel uneasy about their surroundings.
posted by lunaazul at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2009

If you haven't already, do some googling around the term "encopresis"
posted by gnutron at 4:40 PM on November 14, 2009

I had this exact same issue when I was a kid, and I'm 90% sure that one of my childhood friends did, too. Neither of us had happy home lives. I think, like others have suggested, it's a reaction to stress at home and a desire to have control over something. And once the habit was established, I think maybe I continued it out of habit as much as anything.

I stopped in my teens, and like you I can't remember exactly when, how or why I stopped, but I think it was around the time my relationships with friends became the primary relationships in my life... so maybe I stopped because I finally felt like I had more control over my life.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:42 PM on November 14, 2009

I've worked with a lot of kids with fecal related issues. Some are smear-ers, some are hold-backers, some like to poop in the pool, etc.

In those cases, for the vast majority of kids, I think it came down to control. We like to have some control over our lives, even if our method of control is handing off all decision making to someone else---we like to control. So kids especially, who don't have excellent coping mechanisms and/or means to escape, will control what they can. Sometimes it's poop and sometimes it's the teachers attention.

You were able to micromanage your evacuation, your pain, your comfortability, and you could do it all privately without anyone knowing, and nobody could take it away from you.
posted by TomMelee at 7:24 AM on November 15, 2009

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