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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5132
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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Childhood Sexuality

Customer Question

As a child I molested by several boys and men. I also acted out sexually with other children... one of the children was about 3 years younger than me his mother was a friend of the family. He would come to my house everyday for pretty much our entire childhood through his high school years. This event occurred only once and it was just touching... I don't remember details. I remember being under a bed. I was 7-8 ish and he was 5 or so... I don't remember... I just know he was very very young) As a teenager, I heard he molested girls one including my little cousin who is very dear to me. I feel somehow responsible for what he did. How do I get past this guilt?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 2 years ago.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how distressing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a very sensitive woman and the molestation has shaped your life and your sense of who you are.

Acting out sexually with other children is one of the classic symptoms in childhood molestation. When we as psychologists see a child who is acting out sexually, the first thing we look for is to assess if there is sexual abuse occurring in his/her life.

If you think about it, it makes sense:

A child does not know how to separate the healthy parts of adults' power and authority from the unhealthy parts. Children are not built to make those distinctions. Children are built for safe environments. So when a child is forced into unhealthy relationships with adults because of their abuse of their power and authority as adults, children have to normalize their experience in SOME way. Acting out sexually with other children is one of the few ways children have of mimicking the experience the adults have forced on them in some way where they the children have some power and authority. It makes what's happening to them a part of the natural world, so to speak.

Are they then the guilty parties when the other children continue this chain of improper sexuality?

Of course they are not. They are all struggling to make sense out of a world that has been made unsafe and chaotic by adults who are disordered. Are we clear about this? Because this is so important. Let me just repeat it:

Of course these children are not guilty of making the other children act out in whatever way they act out. They are all struggling to make sense out of a world that has been made unsafe and chaotic by adults who are disordered.

I want to bring up a simple word, but that one word has, in psychological terms, can come to dominate your sense of self and your behavior in relationships. That word is shame. I don't know if you are suffering from this in a clinically significant enough way to require professional help with it. But I want to point out to you that the pathology of guilt really is shame.

I want to share with you some characteristics of shame-based behavior in relationships from a book I am recommending to you. See how much of yourself and your behavior you will recognize in these characteristics. The book is Shame and Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middleton-Moz. There are other books on shame you might look up and decide if they are helpful for you. Here's the Amazon page for it:

http://www.amazon.com/Shame-Guilt-Disguise-Jane-Middelton-Moz/dp/1558740724/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318214381&sr=1-1

And here are the characteristics:


Characteristics Of Shame-Based Adults In Relationships:

  1. We lose ourselves in love.
  2. When we argue, we fight for our lives.
  3. We expend a great deal of energy in mind-reading. We frequently talk to ourselves about what our partners are feeling and needing more than to our partners.
  4. We pay a high price for those few good times.
  5. We often sign two contracts upon commitment, one conscious and another which is unconscious.
  6. We blame and are blamed.
  7. We want them gone, then fight to get them back.
  8. We know it will be different but expect it to be the same.
  9. We often feel that our partners are controlling our behavior.
  10. We are frequently attracted to the emotional qualities in another that we have disowned in ourselves.
  11. We often create triangles in relationships.
  12. We seek the unconditional love from our partners that we didn't receive adequately in a shaming childhood.

I mean this sincerely: you seem like a fine young person who has done a good job of trying to put the abuse you suffered in your past. But there is no added shame in getting help.

Here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (because they seem smart and not so easily manipulatable!) look at the listing and see if they list psychodynamic therapy in their orientations. If they also work with CBT therapy, which is more action oriented, that would be a good mix for you. You want to interview the therapist or psychologist and make sure he/she is someone who you feel confident in and comfortable with. You might also want to take your question and my answer in with you and use it as a platform for a first session to see how the two of you might work together.

http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/

Good Therapy is a non profit directory. Same idea as the one above:

http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

Okay, I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button because: even though you have made a deposit, I do not get paid for my time unless you press ACCEPT. Feel free to continue the discussion as my goal is to get you the best answer possible. You can continue the discussion even after pressing ACCEPT. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you, Dr. Mark

I will read that book recommendation, do you have any more related to my question: overcoming guilt, shame or sexual abuse? I am a huge book reader, but have never read any on the topic of shame.

I also would appreciate any further info you had on releasing the resentment that I have for the adults that weren't watching me when the events with me took place.

Also, I feel like I need to do something. I've told my mom about what happened, but I don't think she understood it or didn't want to understand it. I just feel like I have to do something to get over it, I'm not sure what that means? Like I need to suffer or pay some sort of debt to release the shame/guilt.

I'd really just know practical steps on how to get over it... I would like to accelerate the process and besides the help of a doctors and the books that you recommend... are there any practical DYI action steps that I can take to heal this shame starting tonight?

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 2 years ago.
I would like you not to try to overwhelm yourself with books all at once. For the same reason as there is no self help technique for working on shame and guilt. Let me explain.


Shame is a result of thinking on one's own. The work that needs to be done needs to be with someone who is able to guide you through those parts of you that are not so accessible to you emotionally. Like your anger at your mom, which is such a frequent problem kids of molestation have. Because moms should protect their daughters and instead they act like they can't see what's in front of them.


So, please, consider working with a competent psychologist or psychotherapist because this is not just a little problem. It's very basic to one's emotional makeup.


I wish you the very best!


Please remember to click the green accept button because: even though you have made a deposit, I do not get paid for my time unless you press ACCEPT. Feel free to continue the discussion as my goal is to get you the best answer possible. You can continue the discussion even after pressing ACCEPT. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, Dr. Mark

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