I had so much energy after our talk that I went out for a long walk, processing so much. It felt like such an answer for me that I have been searching…[ Judy W ] >
Terri's Terrible Truth: Sexual Abuse.
FROM JOYWORDS, BY FRANK MOSCA, PH.D
Terri was a slim, attractive professional person in her thirties who came because of marital discords and what she described a really messed up childhood. She had left a therapy where the therapist had embarked upon a full scale search of her past for physical and sexual abuse. Not that Terri had really repressed any of this. She knew about it and was, from society's standpoint, appropriately upset. But somehow, instinctively, she felt that bringing together all the forlorn figures of the past into a therapeutic "court" where the guilty would be charged and the innocent would have a chance to vent their spleen was not going to change anything about what had happened. She had been through several versions of this before without the results she wanted. She wanted to feel better, not to be vindicated and still live out her life with a sense of having been a victim.
What follows is a dialogue, in the course of many weeks of dialogues, that centered around the past and her experience of salient points of this experience.
F: What is there specifically about your past that upsets you?
T: Well, you know, you have heard me speak of it. I had a stepfather who had his hands all over me when I was in my very early teens and this continued till I fled home at sixteen. And, I had a mother who was forever wringing her hands and entering a mental institution when the whole mess would be brought to her attention. So where should I start?
F: Where does it seem best for you to start?
T: Well, I really feel bad about what happened with my stepfather.
F: What do you mean?
T: You know, I felt dirty and ashamed and angry all the time and there didn't seem to be any way of escaping it or him.
F: If you are telling me that you still feel that way now, then which of the feelings you mentioned seem to be most distressing.
T: Yeah, I guess I still do in many ways. And, I guess, the dirty, ashamed feelings are the worst.
F: In what way do you feel dirty and ashamed over what happened to you.
T: Well, I mean, shit, this guy was hitting on me all the time. I couldn't even do my homework for Christsakes. Why the fuck did he have to latch on to me?
F: What about his choosing you as the object of his physical desires is disturbing to you?
T: Well, come on now. Who needs this overweight, drunken jerk putting his hand in your pants, slobbering and feeling insulted when I would tell him to fuck off?
F: I do hear that you did not want his advances to you in any way. Still why do you feel disturbed that he made them?
T: (becoming angry and animated). Listen, you are damn straight I didn't want his advances. And I didn't do anything to egg him on. Get that straight too. Whatever happened came out of his head, not mine, do you understand!
F: Understood quite well, and therefore, why would you feel upset, or dirty and ashamed at the advances of a man whom you had no desire for in any way?
T: Where did he get off pulling that shit with me in the first place?
F: Are you asking why he was the way that he was?
T: Yes (now becoming more sad than angry). Why couldn't he just have left me alone?
F: Are you saying he was being a way he "ought not" to have been?
T: Sure, that much at least.
F: When we had spoken in earlier dialogues about your mother being a way she shouldn't have been, did you not come to feel a different way when you discovered that she was just being the way she knew to be given her own upbringing and beliefs at each moment of her life?
T: Yeah, I know, that was hard enough, but I could see it and feel it in her case, 'cause she went through a lot of shit like this herself as a kid. But somehow it seems different for him.
F: In what way is your mother being exactly who she knows to be any different from your stepfather being the way he knows to be?
T: Yeah, but damn it he was wrong and his being how he was was no excuse.
F: What do you mean "excuse"? Does that mean anything other than you didn't want him to do what he did in any way shape or form?
T: Yeah it means that, okay. But I did not want that to happen; that's what I really mean.
F: Okay, Terri, I understand that, but since it did happen, what about it having happened is so distressing to you?
T: (now sobbing intermittently). I just feel sometimes so to blame as crazy as that sounds for all this having happened, like somehow I should have been more forceful. But, Jesus, things were so chaotic and sometimes even a hug and the promise of affection was better than the uncertainty going on all around, especially when my mother was having one of her "spells" and was so damn unavailable.
F: What about having felt some of his affection to have been comforting is so discomforting to you?
T: Well, it sort of pokes holes in my argument about being so adamant about this guy in the first place.
F: How does liking some of the things that you would like in any event, and not liking the things that you really don't want mean that you really did want what you did not want?
T: (quieter now). Well, I guess it really doesn't have to, but somehow I just can't get past this anger at being stuck with this whole mess.
F: In what way are you stuck?
T: I can't unstick this shit from out of my life. It's like it's just got to go on and on and everyone seems to feel like I've got to be all pissed and agonized over it. I'm just sick and tired of kicking it around again and again.
F: What are you afraid would happen if you were not unhappy about what happened to you with your stepfather?
T: Oh, come on now, how could I do that?
F: I am asking, would it mean anything about you if you were not unhappy about what happened with your stepfather?
T: (silence and a fairly long pause). Hmmm. Would it mean anything about me...Damn, you know, I really truly want to be rid of this thing. But how could it not mean anything about me if I wasn't upset. It would almost seem as if without that upset that I was saying that I didn't have the right to say I didn't want it. Almost like a betrayal of myself somehow. Seems like years and years of investing in the "situation" as we used to call it. Just a lot of people really feeling bad about it, about me, for me. Seems like almost that I would be kind of like "letting them down" you know, as nutty as that sounds when I say it.
F: Do you believe that?
T: I don't want to believe that.
F: Then, what would it be like for you to actually feel okay about what happened, especially knowing you didn't want and didn't like what you didn't want and didn't like.
T: (begins to smile cautiously). I do feel better and I do feel more like it would be okay. Carrying that baggage around hasn't done anything for me. Running from what I thought it meant about me put me through two crazy marriages. No, I say it's okay to stop running. I can feel good and hell, I know what I know about what happened. I don’t have to feel bad just because others think that is the appropriate way for me to feel. Yeah, it feels good just to be rid of it.
F: Can you really feel that in your gut?
T: No, I'm really there, it's clear and I haven't felt this way since, well since never I guess. It's a new feeling.
Once Terri put to rest the sense that her present reality was in any way controlled by some hypothetical entity known as the past, she quickly put aside major unhappy beliefs about herself, many of which have already been and will be further described in this work. Again check the appendix for an outline of the belief paths in this and other dialogues. We can see these beliefs at work controlling us and feel the sense of liberation as we put them aside. Terri moved to another part of the country and began studies in an area that she had long thought she had not enough intelligence to qualify for. Her progress has been very gratifying to her as she looks forward to an exciting existence free of encumbrances of "past" pains and grievances; she is also living without the dubious, useless mantle of victimhood to burden her free explorations of happiness, a mantle our contemporary social mind seems to value so highly.