A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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Page Contents: Can past sexual abuse affect my current life?                    


. . . my childhood was very dysfunctional—my mother was physically and mentally abusive, and my father died . . . when I was 21. Besides for all of this I was sexually abused (somewhat – not actually raped) by a family teenage friend when I was seven years old. . . . For the most part, I pushed all of this from my mind until I was around 25. I then started having major panic attacks. . . . I started therapy for the panic attacks when I was 26. . . . This failed, mainly because I was not willing to be honest with my psychologist. I hide my feelings and thoughts very well. I stopped therapy and moved on. However in the past year, several bad events have caused more panic attacks and bouts of depression. . . . I have started seeing the same psychologist as before within the past year. I feel that he does a good job of helping me see things more clearly. . . . I decided before starting therapy again to be completely honest so that I can get past all of this pain. . . . However, I have not been completely honest with him about my past sexual abuse. I panicked and could not bring myself to talk about this in the session where it came up. We have talked about other issues in the past few months, and this topic has not came up again. I feel that I am close to being ready to end my therapy. I am not really sure how big of an issue the sexual abuse is for me. I don’t think of it often, but it bothers me that I panicked when it was mentioned. I completely denied anything about the abuse. I’m also not sure that I want to talk about this, since it could just be bringing up old things that need to be put to rest. However, I do not want to end my therapy and still have panic attacks and depression and this be a cause. Do you believe that the sexual abuse could have an impact on my life at this point?

One easy rule to judge such things is this: the more you avoid a topic in psychotherapy, the more important it is. So think of an old trauma as a little child who is too frightened to go to bed; you can’t “put her to rest” until you listen to her fears, wipe her tears, and smooth the hair on her forehead. Then she can sleep peacefully. If you don’t take the time to listen to her, she will just fly into a panic—as you well know by now.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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