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August 18, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Hard Knocks

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How can I be happy when I hate myself?

Question:

My sister's step-dad abused me and my sister for nearly 11 years until my mom finally left him. At night I used to cry myself to sleep all the time. While I was in that state I started thinking bad things like "I want to die." Even though we have left him I still get those thoughts late at night. To deal with it I go out for a walk - and sometimes I fight. My arms and part of my leg are covered in scars.

I just want to be happy. How do I become happy when I hate myself?

Sophie, 14 years old

Answer:

Sophie my dear,

I used to hate myself when I was your age too, and for a long time after. Gradually, over the years, I have developed self-respect. I made sense of my suffering as a child and teenager by giving back: by working to relieve suffering by others, and by doing my best to prevent the causes of suffering.

You are now free of that man, but you still carry him around with you. In your head, you know that what HE did was wrong, and you and your sister are not to blame. As children, you were innocent, because you had no power in the situation. Trouble is, in your heart, you don't feel like that, do you? You feel damaged, and hateful and perhaps dirty.

None of that is true. You know that. The first step is to act on that knowledge.

You experience self-hating thoughts, ideas that you'd be better off dead, and urges to harm yourself and get into dangerous situations. These are with you because they have become habits. Habits can be broken. Here is how:

When you experience a thought, emotion or urge, it only becomes true if you buy into it. Until then, it is only noise.

So, you have a thought, "I can't sleep anyway. I'll sneak out and maybe I can attack someone and they'll kill me." (I am only guessing of course.)

Then you can say to yourself, "Right, I've had one of those urges, so what. It's only noise, just a habit I've developed. I'm allowed to have stupid thoughts like that, but of course I don't do those things anymore."

It's like, you're in a room with a TV on, and your sister comes in and asks what the show is, and you have to say, "I don't know, I haven't been paying attention." The show in your mind is the same. It may be there, but you don't need to pay attention to it.

Another thing: where you live, there is free psychological help available to everyone. Ask your mother to arrange sessions for all three of you, because I suspect that if you've been so badly affected, then your mother and sister will have been too.

And you're welcome to write back to me, and join my worldwide family of grandchildren.

Love,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

For more information visit the site or contact information page on QueenDom.

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