Abuse myself


Abuse myself


your avatar   Marine (17 year-old woman)

I am on an anti-depressant that has proved very effective and changed my life. I saw my father beat on my mother up until I was six years old. I haven't seen my father since.

To everyone I am a kind and sweet, imaginative teenager. And I love to be around other people. Some of the closer ones know about my painful past with a violent father (no longer in the picture) and my recent clinical depression (which has been fixed with medication), but something is still wrong. Everything should be good, but I still hurt myself. Every once in a while, I think of myself as bad and sick and think I should be punished for it. It doesn't really take much, just a thought that I think I might like it if I could make some one I love hurt just because I care about them, then I hate myself. I secretly beat and bruise myself just because I want to and think I deserve it. To be more specific, this is embarrassing to say, I spank myself very severely. I think I'm sick! What can I do? Please help!


    Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC

Dear Marine,

It sounds as if the anti-depressant you are using has done a lot of good and that in general your life is happier. It is also a very good sign that you have many friends and are social. Many people who come from abusive families do not feel comfortable being around others. I cannot really tell by your email if you are receiving ongoing psychotherapy in addition to the medication. Anti-depressants are often prescribed by general family physicians. This is often appropriate if the problem is mild to medium depression. However, medication is not usually enough to take care of severe depression or problems related to abusive backgrounds. Face-to-face psychotherapy is an essential ingredient for the type of problem you are experiencing. It is also imperative that you tell the therapist everything you are feeling and doing even if there is shame about it. It is the only way to get better.

It does not surprise me to hear of how you are feeling and what you are doing at times. You describe the family you came from as violent. This is certainly one of the characteristics of an abusive or dysfunctional family. That does not mean that everyone was abusive or that they were abusive all of the time. It doesn't even mean that they were not good or loving people. Abusive means NOT USEFUL and dysfunctional means not helpful to a significant degree. Think of abusive or dysfunctional on a continuum. However, violence is on the far end of this line.

Whenever someone comes from an abusive family they feel confused, scared, hurt, and angry. They cannot express those feelings, however, because it would be dangerous. Therefore, they have to repress or push those feelings down, which causes depression and Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. To paraphrase both Robert Firestone and John Bradshaw, that throws a child into a shame-binding predicament. Either your parents were erratic, unloving in action, or imperfect; or you the child are those things. For a child to believe that parents are not perfect is too scary. Therefore, they decide they themselves are shameful, which means bad deep inside, and unlovable.

We then develop the Fantasy Bond, which is the belief that if we punish ourselves sufficiently and become perfect enough our parents will then love and accept us. We also deep down believe that then we will not die. This problem blocks our growth and maturation. We do not really become true individuals until we solve this problem. Later in life we find lovers who we can project these feelings onto and repeat what happened to us as children in our adult life.

Another way this repetition compulsion works its way out is to do to ourselves what was done to us before, or in your situation, what was done to your mother by your father. You have been taught that people hurt those that they love. There are periodic thoughts that you have to hurt the people you love and then you punish yourself so you won't do it. The problem is that the pain won't go away doing that. It is understandable because of what happened to you to feel those things, and the anger is a stuck feeling that needs to be expressed. However, it should be expressed towards those who were abusive to you and your mother. That does not mean call dad. This should be done symbolically with your therapist, but it is important to get these feelings out. To state it simply, Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder or PTSD is just stuck feelings because they were not expressed at the time of the trauma. Therefore, they get bigger.

The good news is that this is fixable with treatment. Take care.

Jef Gazley

This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit: http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/


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