Practicing Without Knowing It
During this past Sunday’s meeting [of the San Francisco support group], I mentioned that in the past I had many misconceptions about public bathrooms (and peeing in them) and I thought I would share some of them with you in case they might help you with your journey. These misconceptions stemmed from my avoidance of discussing my paruresis when I was younger, as well as my avoidance of using public bathrooms and truly understanding what that environment looked like. The following is a list of the most important misconceptions I held prior to starting my journey to recovery.
Initially, before my discovery of the IPA
• I am the only one who has this challenge – Not true – 7% of the population has some form of paruresis, on a spectrum from mild to extreme. It is much more common than we think.
Subsequently, after 2008 IPA workshop and attempting recovery multiple times
• Family members/friends will be critical of me if I tell them about my paruresis – Not true – everyone has been very understanding and responded with the following range of messages:
o I have this challenge myself
o I have a friend/family member who has this challenge
o I totally get it, who likes using public bathrooms anyways?
o I would always use a private bathroom, if one was available
o I don’t have this challenge but I have this other challenge/social anxiety
o I am sorry to hear you have this condition. Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.
• People in public bathrooms are observing me – Not true – in my extensive practice experience, men enter and exit bathrooms as quickly as possible without making any eye contact or observing others. No one is watching you to see how fast or slow you are peeing. No one cares about you. You could stand at a urinal for an entire SF Giants baseball game and no one would even notice.
• You can always hear someone peeing and they can hear you – Not true – very often, I have peed, at a urinal, next to another man/men and cannot hear him/them, at all. Peeing can be a silent process, depending on what the person is aiming at. Personally, I now prefer to pee as loudly as possible. I know that no one else is really listening or cares but it is important to me, to not be afraid to be heard.
• People without paruresis can pee anywhere – Not true – a close friend, who does not have paruresis, admitted that 30% of the time when he enters a new bathroom, he is not sure he will be able to go. Another friend, who does not have paruresis, can only pee in a stall if there are no partitions between urinals. During my practice, I have witnessed men enter bathrooms and turn around without having relieved themselves as they apparently did not feel comfortable.
• People without paruresis can pee easily – Not true – yet another close friend, who does not have paruresis, often needs 30 seconds to relax enough, in crowded bathrooms, for the first drop of urine to leave his body and even longer before he can relax enough to pee freely. He does not give up, he takes the necessary time and could care less what anything sees or thinks.
For the past two years, I have been peeing in as many different and new bathrooms as possible, in shopping malls, public parks, big box stores, sporting events, airports, airplanes, i.e. any location which can challenge me. I wish I could say that I was an expert by now but I am not. I have made enormous progress because I practice most days and have made this my top priority in life. Some of you will find recovery much faster than me while others may even take longer. Everyone is different. Every recovery path is different.
During this time of practice, I have peed many thousands of times and have come to realize that public bathrooms are a necessary part of living in an urban environment. 93% of humankind does not have paruresis and has been using public bathrooms for their entire lives, from grammar school through university and then in offices/workplaces during their professional careers. These 93% have been practicing daily without knowing they were practicing. They were just living their lives and when it was time to pee, they peed. I have spoken to many people on this topic, over many years, and not a single person has ever admitted to any enjoyment when using a public bathroom. It is clear to me that everyone would prefer to relieve themselves in private, if it were possible.
The 7% of humankind, including us, which has paruresis, has been practicing every day too. We have been practicing avoidance! Now we have this opportunity and knowledge to change our behavior and our lives for the better.
I wish us all the best of luck on this journey!
– PF, San Francisco – October 4, 2023
Photo Credit: John Hain (Pixabay)
INTERNATIONAL PARURESIS ASSOCIATION
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This website is NOT a substitute for medical or legal advice and does not constitute the practice of law, medicine, psychiatry, clinical psychology, clinical social work, or any other mental health profession. If you are having trouble urinating, you should always contact a physician since difficulty with voiding can be a symptom of a serious medical condition. We are a group of professional people and people who have suffered with paruresis. We have assembled a board and a board of advisors to help people cope with urinary dysfunction that has a psychological or social origin. On this website, we are NOT practicing medicine, psychiatry, clinical psychology, clinical social work or any other mental health profession. You should have your doctor evaluate your condition before diagnosing yourself, and seek the appropriate necessary mental health counseling if warranted. IPA, Inc. disclaims any and all legal liability whatsoever.