Guilt From Childhood Incident

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m a single gay man, age 40. When I was in my early teens, my father (who is a drinker) used to pass out in front of the tv at night, and I would molest him.

I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. Now, I’m feeling tremendous guilt about it, and I feel like it’s ruining my life. I have never had a serious romantic relationship, I lack confidence in myself (both emotionally and sexually), I’m depressed more often than not, I binge drink on weekends, and I have suicidal thoughts occasionally (though I don’t think I would ever go through with it).

It’s obvious that I need to get some help, but what bugs me even more is not understanding why I molested my father in the first place. I’ve tried to find similar stories and google and keep coming up empty. Why would a child do that to his father? I feel like a freak.

A. You use the term ‘molest’ but did not specify what you meant by this word. It would’ve been helpful to know precisely what you meant.

Teenagers are often struggling with strong, newly emerged sexual feelings. They have the hormones of an adult but the judgment of a child. Recent research has shown that the teenage brain may not be fully developed until an individual has reached his or her early 20s. The teenage brain is simply not mature enough to make fully rational and well thought out decisions.

In each case, it is important to consider the environment. Your father drank until he was unconscious. This is not indicative of a well functioning home environment. In addition, research has shown that individuals who are sexually inappropriate with others as children or as teenagers may have themselves been the victims of sexual abuse. You did not mention whether or not you are a victim of sexual abuse. Even if you have no recollection of having been sexually abused, it’s still possible that it has happened. Painful and traumatic memories can be erased by a powerful unconscious defense mechanism called repression.

Don’t blame yourself. It is important to understand that the teenage years for most individuals can be a very turbulent time, especially for gay youth. In recent months there have been multiple high-profile cases in which teens who are gay have committed suicide, possibly due to ridicule by their peers because of their sexuality. Bullying by peers can be relentless. This realization has motivated some to develop campaigns to address the difficulty of being a gay youth. One in particular that has recently gained national attention is the ‘It Gets Better’ project. The ‘It Gets Better’ project was developed by syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage. The project features thousands of videos from individuals attempting to send a message to gay youths that suicide is not the answer and that life can improve. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as many celebrities have contributed to the project but most of the videos are from ordinary people. It is a great grassroots project that offers hope to gay youths who may inaccurately believe that their lives will never improve.

If this is an issue that you continue to struggle with, strongly consider therapy. You did the right thing by asking for help from us from Psych Central but it’s important that you follow up with counseling. I would highly recommend therapy primarily because this is a long-running problem and it has significantly interfered with your ability to have relationships and to be happy in life. Depression, suicidal thinking, lack of confidence, an inability to connect with others and binge drinking are signs of an individual who is suffering. You could greatly benefit from counseling. You deserve help. Please click on the find help tab at the top of this page to locate a therapist. Please take care. I wish you well.

Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Dec 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Guilt From Childhood Incident. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/12/07/guilt-from-childhood-incident/

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