You stated that you’re feeling “incredibly guilty and gross” thinking about what may have happened. The operative word being what “may” have happened. You don’t know what happened. It’s irrational to feel a particular way when you don’t even know if what you think happened, did happen. You should only have a reaction about something you know is true. You don’t know if any of those moments are true. You said so yourself.
Let’s say that they are true. What would it mean? You’re taking it to mean that you are a bad person and you did something abusive. By extension, in your mind, you seem to be considering yourself an abuser. That would explain why you are feeling “guilty and gross.”
Even if what you think happened, did happen (and you will likely never know if it’s true), you were a child. Children are still in development. They’re not held legally responsible for their behavior because their minds are still developing. They often don’t know what they’re doing because they don’t know any better. This is especially true if they don’t have good role models or any role models at all. In those cases, they are left to fend for themselves. Perhaps that was the case for you.
In addition, it’s normal for children to explore in the manner that you described. According to research, children have sexual behaviors that begin as early as infancy. At the toddler age, they articulate curiosity and have questions related to their bodies and sexual functioning. The American Association of Pediatrics considers the following behaviors normative for children five years and below: showing their genitals to others, standing too close, trying to look at nude people, and masturbating.
The following behaviors are considered highly abnormal for children ages six years and older: putting their mouths on genitals, asking others to engage in specific sexual acts, initiating intercourse, inserting objects into the vagina or anus or touching animal genitals.
It does not seem that you engaged in any harmful behavior regarding sexuality.
Regarding your being “abusive,” that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Again, it’s difficult to know because so much of what you’re recalling may not be true. These may only be fears and not the truth.
If I could interview you in person, I would want to know more about what may be causing you to have these thoughts. I hesitate to call them memories because they may not be memories at all. I would want to also know if you are under any undue stress. It could be that you are experiencing anxiety and it’s causing you to focus on some earlier time in your childhood.
In reality, you do not know if any of this is true. As I mentioned earlier, it’s irrational to have a reaction to something that you don’t know to be true. You seem to be making assumptions, all of which are negative. It’s causing you to feel bad when there may be no reason for you to be feeling this way. Even, if some of what you thought to be true is true, you were a child and didn’t know any better.
If this continues to be an issue, or if there are other problems with which you are struggling, I would highly recommend consulting a therapist. A therapist can help you to determine what may or may not be true and how to respond. Thank you for your question. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle