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Tamara, Counselor & Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1073
Experience:  20+ yrs Private Practice; Cert. Master Therapist; National Board Certified; APA Board Certified
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Was driving yesterday with a friend--platonic only. He is

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was driving yesterday with a friend--platonic only. He is exhausted, stressed. Suddenly he starts masturbating in the seat next to me-- I was shocked. Pretended I didn't see what he was doing. Wny would he do this?
He's gay (or bi--as he describes himself)--early on in our friendship I thought he might be sending signals that he was interested, so I asked him. That's when he told me he was gay, and so we've been 'just friends' for a couple of years. He is exhausted and stressed, and is considering taking a new job that would take him to a new location---I know he's really angry at the president of the college where we both work. He was in such a strange mood--almost surly-- very unusual for him--very odd. Wearing pants that had a rip in the crotch--everything visible--no underware-----    I tried to ignore it, as we went for coffee, then to grocery store and finally to a book store to 'hang out'--AS i DROVE HOMe, I saw him actually playing with himself--seemed kind of like he was taunting me. I know that he was recently 'rejected' but a guy he met online--and is feeling a little insecure. Could this be about assertion? He knows that I find him a bit like my father--with which there is a questionable past--not fully clear about this myself--perhaps something like sexual 'abuse'- not sure. Have spent a lot of time in therapy working on this. How odd that my friend, would suddenly 'assult' me in this way. Or perhaps it was a kind of invitation.... I dont know. But I think we should discuss it.
Hi. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm pleased to try to help you today. I'm sorry to hear that you are having to deal with this situation with your friend. I'm sure it was a very uncomfortable situation for you. However, it seems that your friend might be an exhibitionist, and that for some reason, he gets satisfaction (sense of power) by making people uncomfortable. I seriously doubt that this was some sort of come-on or invitation; if it was, it's a disturbing one. My take on it is that he wore those clothes to make you uncomfortable, and when you didn't say anything, he had to up the ante (so to speak). It's an attention/power thing, and I honestly think it is best to just walk away. It was an assault, and it shouldn't be considered otherwise. There really isn't anything to discuss. Your friend has some problems that you need to consider whether or not you want to get further involved with.

Best wishes, and please let me know if I can answer any further questions. Tamara
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Hi Tamara,

Thanks so much for your answer. I find it very helpful. Still--it seems a bit harsh to 'walk away.' We are friends. That is to say, I believe we have a responsitiblity to one another.

In fact, I think you are right about the power play. I have noticed this in other venues. He is extremely bright, creative, and charming. And he sometimes 'plays' with people by giving them false signals/information and then cheerfully reveals their naivite. I have suggested that this is a kind of dishonesty/power play; but people often find this ability (which is often enormously creative) a charming feature about him. Nevertheless it seems odd to me. He also does sudden emotional 'shifts" as if to keep one guessing.

Nevertheless I do cherish this relationship. He is, in many ways, a kind of 'soulmate" (sorry....) But we are both hightly intuitive, and it is fun to play the 'read my mind/symbols' game. Besides, he does seem to have a capacity for empathy that is extraordinary (one that I am almost in awe of, being a strong "T" myself.--and somewhat adverse to [and hungry for] close relationships.) He moves from strong boundaries to no boundaries at all (though not as a needy person, but as one capable of strong identifcation.) I tended to think of this event as a kind of break down in his boundaries under stress. But yes--there is definately the assault quality too--and I think your analysis is correct--that as I failed to respond, he needed to 'up the ante.' In fact, as I was nearing his house, to drop him off, he wanted to extend the drive a bit--not sure why, except that he was enjoying the situation and perhaps was trying to force me to acknowledge his sexual 'presence.'

More disturbing is the fact that he is a pastor--and a damn good one--capable of great community building, theological interpretation, and intellectual inquiry--a fascinating person. How I hate to 'give him up.' And of course there is this odd neediness I bring to our friendship--somehow related to my father's distance (and intimidating intimacy). But of course, his position in this community allows him enormous intimacy with many--and in what seems to be a very supportive sense (at least officially). Still, I am suddenly a bit fearful of his apparent problems regarding power/sexuality/intimacy--fearful that is for the many students he has contact with on a regular basis.

Perhaps I am in no position to 'help' him, being myself, less than fully mature in these matters. Nevertheless he is a person of enormous compassion and with very unusual intellectual gifts--not someone to be discarded easily. And, obviously, I enjoy his company--especially his inclination to 'coach' me into assuming the challenges I face in my own scholarship. (I am ADD, and his ability to focus, and to encourage others in their achievement of goals is enormously helpful.)

So, is there any way to salvage this? I expect confrontation (honesty) is called for if we do eventually meet to 'discuss' the incident. He is also quite sophistocated in his psychological knowledge and is, I suspect, staying away until he manages to understand (or make some sense of) his own behavior to himself--and until he manages to likewise find a coherant way of explaining himself to me. That means that if we meet he will come with a very clear line already prepared. It will be altogether coherant, but probably not fully confessional or one that genuinely places him in a vulnerable state. While he appears vulnerable, and describes himself this way, I think that his vulnerability is always predicated on a larger frame in which he gets to be in control of the situation. Nevertheless, his self-understanding, especially in the present situation, is one in which he feels he is being utterly ravaged by the present stress within the community that he is so identified with.

Perhaps this is a way of pushing me away so that he can leave to go to a new job without feeling that he is pulling support out from beneath me..... Perhaps, I am addicted to interpreting his intentions in the most optimistic sort of way (as I probably did with my father as well....)

Thanks for your ongoing help in understanding this.
Hi again. Well, I have to say that you sound like an intelligent person and that you have a lot of insight into this situation and into your friend. I don't know that I would agree with your conclusions, but you know him and I would encourage you to act from that position - not from one of someone not involved (like me).

If you believe it is the right thing to do, by all means confront him about it. I would be surprised if you get an honest answer, but if the friendship means that much to you then I agree it has to be done.

I do find his behavior disturbing, esp within the larger context of being charming and manipulative. Given that you like to analyze things logically, and not necessarily intuitively, I would encourage you to be open to the possibility that you are giving him too much benefit of the doubt. Not that you are - just be open to it. I know it's fascinating to try to figure people like this out, but it's also easy to miss things you should if you aren't using your intuition also.

Good luck to you. Keep me posted if you like. Tamara
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Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Met him this afternoon. He had to be pushed to 'confess' and even then was not forthcoming. Continued to blame it on exhaustion, etc. This does frighten me a little. I'm inclined to widen the distance between us a bit--to watch. He is most definitely 'manipulating' the situation.; and I lack the ego strength to really spar with him. He assumes now, I believe, that I've been successfully placated. This is not entirely true; but I am wondering what, if anything, I ought to do. Might he be dangerous? Given his close contact with students, should someone else be warned?
Hi again. I'm glad that you were able to talk with him, and that his response is causing you to consider pulling back a bit. I don't think "exhaustion" is even close to a legitimate excuse for his exhibitionistic and manipulative behavior. You don't need to confront him or get into it with him. Just do what you said - sit back and watch and pay attention. You will probably learn a lot that way. I don't know if he could be dangerous, but it is certainly in the range of possibility. He has violated you, and taken advantage of your friendship; that certainly isn't healthy behavior. My concern is that he sounds very charming and intelligent, and that he uses this to manipulate and control people. Those qualities combined are not a good sign. I don't think it would be wise to warn anyone if you don't have any evidence to back you up. But you certainly should stay aware and be open to taking necessary steps to protect others if you feel it necessary. Be careful. He's not an honest, trustworthy person, and you need to put yourself first.

Take care. Tamara
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