Write To Me, I Want
To Hear From You
Q & A
BROTHER MOLESTED HER FOR YEARS
Q: I was molested by my brother for lots of years - since
I can remember until about 13). I lost my virginity by masturbation. I
feel guilty all the time. How does abuse like this effect a woman? Please
A: First of all, please go to the topics listed at my site
under the heading of "Child Abuse."
They are written for everyone who has experienced such horrors, women
primarily but men also.
Secondly, don't expect to handle this all on your own. See a good therapist
about it. It is very, very important that you get help from a good therapist.
Once you find a good therapist, there's a book I'd suggest that you read
and discuss with your therapist. It's title is "The Courage To Heal" and
you can purchase it online.
PERFECTIONISM AND RELIEF
Q: As a probable perfectionist I have a problem with your
self help: Your examples for relief and satisfaction do not give me either
- why is that? E.G. urinating: satisfies a physical need but once done
is just out of the way - no sense of achievement I suppose. So I did not
find an answer to my constant search to achieve more. You seemed to ignore
complex layers of Perfectionism.
A: First of all, "guilty as charged." Perfectionism is more complex than
anything I could write in a few words. So are depression, anxiety, relationship
problems, and everything else at my site.
Secondly, however, I do think you missed the point. Relief is a Physical
You want relief from your perfectionism, I assume, or you wouldn't be
reading about it. But I bet you are defining relief as "freedom from my
thoughts about constantly needing to achieve more"... and I'm wanting
you to realize that you actually have relief already (physically, as with
urination) - and that if you believe you will some day get relief by constantly
achieving more, more, more - you will have to face that this goal is unachievable.
Think of all the people who have achieved less than you have. How do you
feel about the fact that most of them don't have all the anxiety you probably
have on a daily basis? Are you jealous of them? If so, notice Physical
relief... and be glad for it.
There is no relief from perfectionism if you keep believing that you can't
stop picking on yourself unless you get "more" - because there will always
be "more" to achieve. It's the belief that you need to achieve more that
is the problem.
Q: I'm very confused and hurt. I'm dating this guy who has
a major anger management problem. I want him to get help but he believes
that he doesn't need it. We would fight and he would then start to swear
and then throw things either at me or the wall - something always end
up getting damaged. And then he blames it on me and says things like "you
make me this way, you would drive anyone crazy." The worst part is he
has started to tell me that he'll kill me! That's when I get really scared
that he will do it.
So, do you think he needs to get help ASAP? If so, can you help me find
a really good therapist?
PS I just broke up with him yesterday. Is it a good idea that I left?
A: I don't know where you live, so I can't help with a referral
for the man. He definitely needs help.
The ONLY thing that matters is your safety, so of course I am very glad
that you left him!
Let him go completely, and be quick to call 911 if you need to.
Q: My husbands actions come under category Avoidant/antisocial
Personality Disorder. Is this self-cured? He gets irritated by talking
to some people and avoids them altogether as personal rivalry without
reasoning and no forgiveness. He insults guests who come home by ignoring
them and not talking to them. Avoids social gatherings.
A: No, most people don't change this on their own - and since most people
with these traits refuse therapy, they may be this way all their lives.
I suggest you tell him he must get into therapy if his behavior is intolerable
MAY BE HAVING FLASHBACKS
Q: Why do I think I was abused in all ways when I was a
child? Why can't I remember any of my childhood except flashes? Why do
I have to even think of these things or wonder?
Please read everything at my site about childhood abuse. You can find
a list of these topics at http://HelpYourselfTherapy.com/topics/Y_ChildA.html
- Read the topics that are listed in the largest print first, then the
ones listed in slightly smaller print, etc.
Most people who say what you are saying in this letter have been abused
and are suffering from flashbacks. (Forty percent of women were physically
or sexually abused in childhood, and twenty percent of men were also.
So flashbacks of childhood abuse are not at all rare.)
Please let a good therapist who is well-trained in childhood abuse help
you to evaluate what's going on.
ALWAYS COMPARING HERSELF
Q:I constantly compare myself to others. When friends do
well at something I automatically feel inferior rather than glad for them.
I feel guilty because I want to be a good friend but I get hurt by others
successes and cannot control it, though I don't show it. How can I change?
A: The big problem here comes from thinking that you aren't good enough
no matter what you do.
You may have been raised by a parent who was always comparing you to others.
It doesn't matter much if they were saying that you were better than everyone
else or if they were saying that you weren't as good as others. What matters
is that they taught you that your value came from how you compared to
others, rather than from your innate worth as a human being - as someone
they loved regardless of all your strengths and weaknesses.
You're going to have to change this, or expect to feel bad much of your
life! I say this because, of course, you will always be able to find examples
of other people doing better than you in one way or another.
Even the most talented and successful people on the planet are only talented
and successful in a relatively tiny part of life. (Nuclear physicists
might be lousy at relationships, for example.) So no matter how well you
do, you will always feel "less than" others unless you overcome this habit
Ask yourself how much this bothers you. And if it's not a really minor
degree of psychological pain, see a therapist about it.
AFRAID OF BOYFRIEND
Q: I had this dream that my boyfriend was trying to kill
me. Now I feel unsure about him. I felt that the dream was very strong
because when I woke up I was very shaky and couldn't stop thinking about
A: The dream doesn't matter by itself. What matters is whether,
when you are awake, you have reason to be afraid of him.
Our dreams tend to teach us that we are right about something we thought
the day before, even though the events of the day before contradicted
our usual beliefs. So, you must have been wondering for a while how safe
or unsafe your boyfriend is for you. That's extremely important.
Of course you could also be frightened of him for reasons that have nothing
to do with him directly - such as bad experiences with other men in the
Please read "Analyze Your Dreams" and "Who
Do You Trust?" at my site for further ideas.
And don't worry about your dreams - but take your waking
safety, and your own psychological health, seriously.
BIZARRE ATTENTION SEEKING
Q: I am conducting a study on why certain people crave attention.
I am currently enrolled in a Journalism course and I would appreciate
your opinion for an article I am writing. I am wondering why someone would
do something like faking a robbery bust in order to maybe receive attention
from people all over the area. If you could email me back that would be
A: There is a topic at my site on "Getting
Enough Attention." I think it may help you in your research, at least
as background information.
People who get way too much attention in early childhood (before the age
of 2-1/2 or so) AND people who are almost entirely ignored during these
same years, often grow up feeling desperate about getting attention. They
see themselves as infants and toddlers see themselves, as the center of
the universe - and they believe subconsciously that everyone else revolves
around them, as if we are all there only to serve their needs (as their
mother should have been). When frustrated by not getting enough attention,
they can become enraged at the "unfairness" of it all and may take extreme
Of course I don't know this person you are referring to and I can't say
that he has these particular problems, but this is one set of circumstances
that can bring about such behavior. (And this person's parents certainly
wouldn't appreciate this speculation, because no matter what they did
or didn't do, their son made his own behavior choices as an adult.)
HOW MUCH SHOULD HE TELL HIS WIFE?
Q: I've been married for 17 years. Is it necessary to share
everything for a marriage to be fundamentally honest? I have a few little
secrets (the occasional cigar even though she's anti-smoking, etc.) that
my wife doesn't know about. Should I feel guilty? Just how much information
should a married person share with their spouse?
A: Good question, and a complicated one to answer:
1) You are entitled to your privacy - and full and honest communication
is a good thing in a relationship. But nobody is completely honest even
with themselves, so, of course, nobody can be 100% honest with a partner
either. How much you tell your wife and how much you don't tell her is
a matter of whether you are satisfied with the degree to which you are
honest with her, and the consequences you notice (e.g. - feeling distant
from her when you hide information).
2) We are all completely in charge of our own life, and we need to acknowledge
that this is true. So, even if you give in to your wife's wishes sometimes
(like by not smoking that cigar), you need to admit to yourself that you
are choosing to give in to her - and you need to know in your heart that
you aren't going to blame her for losing that smoke! She's not your mother,
and you don't owe her obedience.
3) It is possible that your wife is too controlling, and that you hide
things from her so there won't be a battle of the wills. If that's going
on, I think a battle of the wills would be better. She needs to know that
you make your own decisions, even including those she doesn't like.
4) It is also possible that you aren't telling me about much more serious
things you hide from her. If so, remember that my response here is related
to your example of the occasional cigar. If you have bigger secrets, you
might find that you don't feel "known" or "seen" in your relationship
with her, because there is so much about you she doesn't know. This would
bother you a great deal, especially over time.
5) You might have a guilt or a shame problem. Because of this, you might
not just be avoiding telling her these things, but you might be avoiding
the experience of owning up to your own actions. If you know you have
a lot of guilt or shame (and depression), this is an important personal
issue regardless of how it plays out in your relationship. Bottom line:
You are more important than your relationship - and if you don't love
yourself as you are then you won't be able to feel her love for you either
- regardless of what you choose to tell her about your actions.)
DOESN'T REMEMBER WHO ABUSED HER
Q:I have so many symptoms of sexual abuse in my past, but
I canít remember anything for certain, like who did it. It is driving
me crazy and the older I get the more it bothers me, sexually with my
husband. I am 26. Will I ever remember who did these things?
Example of my symptoms are: I feel very dirty when touched sexually or
have a sexual thought, I have had horrible nightmares of being raped since
age four or five, I was sexually focused at early age, and I have many
A: First of all, yes, your symptoms are certainly suggestive of sexual
abuse. And I'm sorry you ever had to endure something so awful for anyone,
and especially for a young child.
There are various ways people remember sexual abuse incidents that occurred
in childhood. The most common ways the memories come to us are through
visualizations (like your nightmares) and sounds (especially sounds that
unreasonably frighten us).
There are also "body memories," like the way you feel when you are touched
sexually. These memories need to be understood for what what they are,
and for what they are not. For instance, nightmares of being raped might
only contain one or two elements of the actual scene from the abuse, and
all the other elements of the nightmares might be essentially irrelevant.
The same goes for body memories. You might jump a bit when your husband
touches you from behind, for instance - just because you didn't see it
coming. But if you want the sex to go well, and you want to enjoy the
touch, but you still jump when you are touched and you see it coming,
that particular type of touch may be related.
You don't mention therapy, but a good therapist who understands about
sexual abuse issues will be able to help you sort the meaningful elements
of your memories from the less important ones. But it sure does seem to
me that you do have memories.
For the moment, however, why do you need to know who did it? If you never
find out who did it, but you can heal from your related symptoms, wouldn't
that be wonderful?
The person who did it could be a stranger, or it could be someone you
just don't want to think of in such a way. Maybe some day you will feel
safe enough to remember more about who did it, but today you still need
to overcome and heal from the horrible way you were treated by "someone."
Please see a therapist and ask them to help you with your healing, regardless
of the amount of detail in your visualizations, in your reactions to sounds,
and in your body memories.
DREAMS HE WILL DIE
Q: I am 24 years old. I had a dream last night that I was
dead at the age of 25. I was trying to figure out how I died (in my dream)
by interrogating people, but I couldn't figure it out. I am very worried.
A: It must have been a particularly realistic dream!
If you often think that your dreams are prophetic, then I'd suggest that
you remember your dreams better. We all have such strange dreams most
nights that you can tell that dreams aren't prophetic at all.
As a matter of fact, the dreams we remember the next day are usually the
Opposite of what happened the day before - and they are therefore the
opposite of what usually happens most days. (This is only about the "moral"
of the dream, or the meaning we put to it. The actual events we see in
our dreams, how the people in them react to things, etc.... these things
are not even close to reality most of the time. They aren't even "opposites,"
but just sort of random.)
I wonder if you've had teaching in your life - perhaps from new age practitioners
currently or even from the beliefs of adults when you were small - that
taught you to believe dreams are prophetic. If so, reconsider what they
taught you by looking at the hard data and noticing how different your
actual dreams are from what happens each day.
If you have health concerns, get them checked out medically.
If you can't stop worrying about this and it stays with you longer than
a day or so, see a good therapist.
You might want to read the topic "Analyzing your
own dreams" at my site for further insights. You are right to assume
that the dream "means" something, but not to assume that it means you
will die soon. This topic will help you to understand why I say that.
(But beware of self-interpretation of dreams. It's hard to be objective
enough on your own. At least talk your troublesome dreams over with someone
- a friend, relative, or therapist - who knows you well. Otherwise, you
might believe the scariest interpretation you can come up with.)
DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE
Q: The common wisdom for how to deal with poisonous people
is "Don't." I'm inclined to agree, but this answer is simply far too pat
to be terribly applicable to reality. There are a number of times where
interacting with someone who is a control freak or a rageaholic is totally
unavoidable, such as when they are a parent or boss.
A: That's so true, for children. And if it wasn't for kids being stuck
with grownups who mistreat them in childhood them there wouldn't be a
need for therapists.
Adults, however, have choices even about parents and bosses.
Q Even worse is when these people have any measure of authority
they can press. In my situation it is my girlfriend's mother that is really
making our lives pretty difficult. My girlfriend is 20 and still lives
at home for financial reasons. Apparently her mother believes this is
license to be the house dictator (which is difficult to argue against).
This comes packaged with random room searches, constant accusations of
being a "whore" or "drunk" (My GF drinks perhaps once per month, and has
sex about as much), and vitriolic jabs whenever opportunity arises. The
point is there isn't any way for us to avoid interacting with this person
short of her moving out, which is financially impossible at the moment.
I would be very interested in hearing any tips you might have in dealing
with people that are venomous, but unavoidable.
A: Sorry, but "don't" is still my answer.
Tell your girlfriend that I said:
1) "Don't" stay there to maximize your financial situation. If you have
to postpone your education a year, or move in with a friend, or take out
a loan, you can do it. It's a top priority to stop being treated that
way by anyone - and especially by your mother.
2) If you decide to stay, "Don't" interact with your mother. Don't bother
to argue with her about her nasty comments. You know her and you know
how she thinks. You aren't going to change her, so her vile opinions aren't
worth your time and energy.
3) "Don't" think that you need your mother's approval. Actually, since
you are 22, don't think you need your mother at all. You are an adult.
She is an adult. Adults don't need their mothers anymore - although they
do carry memories from childhood of times when they actually did need
them. Remember that these are only memories from the past, not current
reality at all.
4) What matters in life is how we are treated. There are people who treat
us well and people who don't. Adults take full responsibility for who
they choose to spend their time with. Whether it's your mother, or your
boyfriend, or your boss, or somebody on a bus - "don't" give nasty people
a chance. Move away from them physically (by changing seats on the bus,
or by moving to Guam if that's what it takes).
I'd suggest that your girlfriend read these four ideas over at least once
a day for a while - for six weeks or so. When she first reads this, she'll
probably have some quick response such as "I can't do any of this stuff."
But if she thinks if over regularly she'll see that she has many, many
behavioral options in daily life that help her get away from people who
CUTS HERSELF AND WANTS A DIAGNOSIS
Q:I do extreme things to get attention. I always want to
hurt myself so people will notice me. And I actually do bruise and cut
myself so people will notice. I have also found myself lying and exaggerating
to get attention. This is an addiction. I've been struggling with it my
Is there a diagnosis for this kind of behavior? Do I need special help
or can I cure this addiction myself?
A: Yes, it's a behavioral addiction, and yes you definitely need a good
therapist to help you overcome it.
The answer about diagnosis, however, is that there is a diagnosis for
every person and every type of behavior. Diagnoses don't mean much, and
knowing someone's diagnosis doesn't help a therapist much. Diagnoses are
just generalized ways of describing unique individuals. (We are totally
unique "snowflakes" and any diagnosis we get is like saying there is snow
in Alaska... it doesn't relate enough to us as the unique, complex people
we are, and, most importantly, it hides the beautiful detail we see when
we get to know the real person.)
But forget my rant about diagnoses for now.
Just call a good therapist. Anyone who does physically self-destructive
things - cutting, binging on alcohol or drugs, overeating regularly to
the point of causing pain - needs good therapy.
ALONE WITH HER SCARY THOUGHTS
Q: Why would I want certain things so badly, (such as a
private little house or cabin in the mountains where I can go to write/paint
all alone)? Also, I never send in the books I've written in to publishers.
Fear of rejection? I dream about all this constantly and when given a
glimmer of a chance to get it, I run away from it as fast as I can in
fear. I am so tired of all these inner conflicts. Help!
A: Sounds like you could boil down everything you are experiencing into
one word: Fear.
So the question is "Why are you so afraid?"
And the answer is: because you've been in situations in your life that
were so intensely fearful that the feeling has survived for a long time
after the events were over. Basically, you haven't overcome past fearful
Overcoming fearful memories is one of the things therapists work on most
often, and usually with good success.
You don't mention therapy, and you make so many references to your thoughts
that I wonder: "Are you only hoping to change your thoughts on your own,
instead of seeing a good therapist where you'd have to give up your privacy
for a hour each week and examine your thoughts and feelings with someone
Remember that fear is a feeling. Your fears are being created by your
thoughts, that's true. But you have to accept the feeling first, find
a healthy way to express the fear (by talking them out with a therapist),
and only then deciding if you want to use your newfound energy to make
small or big changes in your life (like getting the cabin).
Hope you've read everything at my site about fear, anxiety, fantasy vs.
reality, bad memories, etc. If not, please do. The topics can help you
to understand what's going on and they might even help you to speed up
Don't try to change habitual, long-term thoughts on your own.
Please call a therapist.
Please Tell Your Friends About
Enjoy Your Changes!
Everything here is designed to help you do just that!
Write To Me, I Want To Hear From You!
Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee)
Return to Home Return to Top