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Trying to see past abusive images as a fifteen-year-old, feeling fear but not thinking irrationally. Thoughts?

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Practicing since : 2000
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Dear Dr. Abijeet Deshmud, All day long I have been thinking about what you said. First of all my councellor has told that when I look back at those abusive times - I should look at them through the eyes of the 15 year old that I was at the time. He says she is not capable of seeing ahead in time but I can certainly go back and reassure her and tell her what it has been like afterwards. So I can modify the thoughts in this way by telling her that we will survive this and maybe more in a few days time.
So first of all - if the image is not true I would be afraid to tell or implant something into the minds of others an exaggeration of the truth. I do not want to keep something that is not true for myself either because I feel I would betray my own healing and being honest is so important to me now. So I will not reveal this image in it's entirety and may just keep it a secret for a while.
If the image is true, my greatest fear is that some other children out there could be experiencing the same thing and that would make me really sad from an adult's perspective. Trying then to see this image through the eyes of a 15 year old has to be terrifying for that age group. It couldn't be anything else and there is an amount of disgust in that image. I also see capture, being treated awfully roughly and a fear of being killed in that image. The fear of being killed is heightened because the part that I know to be definately true is there - the realisation that someone else is inside in the car too and the other part is - when it is all over and I am lying in the back-seat of the car - I can see myself listening intently but not being able to hear what is being said. At the moment I feel frustrated because I can't hear the conversation and the exact same thing happened when the doctor hit me and shouted abuse at me. I can't hear what he said either.
While I do feel fear in my body over this time Dr. Abijeet, I don't think I am thinking irrationally though. I am concerned only with the truth and if I know it I think I can work through the fear especailly with the people I am with at the moment. Can you give me some of your thoughts on this please? Thank you.
Posted Sun, 30 Sep 2012 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Abhijeet Deshmukh 14 hours later

It seems like the counseling going on with your counselor is on the lines of what is called as Re-evaluation Counseling. I may be wrong, but whatever the technique is, there's a difference in the approach, between your counseling and our discussion here. In other words, there are two different platforms of ways of thinking. And that's why I may not be in a position to comment much on the approach used in your counseling. I do have a few thoughts, though.

In my approach, 'modifying thoughts' is effective when you are able to identify the disturbing thoughts and realize that thinking that particular way is not helping you. It's then that we are able to identify the underlying beliefs which are not helping either. Once we acknowledge that the thinking pattern / beliefs / inferences are not helping, we are at a better place to modify them, minimal emotional disturbance being the goal.

Standing from my thinking platform, I may not be able to fully relate to the technique of going back in time and modifying thoughts. But there's something that I couldn't quite fit in with the description. Your fear that some other children out there could be experiencing the same thing is still an adult perspective. If the 15 year old girl did not have this perspective, why does she have to be terrified to see the image that you are talking about? Once again, since I am not completely aware of the technique you are using with the counseling, I may not have understood parts of what you wrote here.

If there is a way for you to find out about the truth (or otherwise) in the image, it might help you move ahead. The irrational thinking I refer to has aspects to it such as activating triggers for inferences, interpretations and meanings. It also involves the areas such as self-defeating thinking in the form of generalizations or over-emphasizing a certain thought in the mind. But it won't be appropriate for you to try to work on both the platforms, as I mentioned earlier. Different individuals have different and unique frameworks of thinking, problem solving, etc. They might be solving the same problem, but may work differently, via different techniques to ultimately reach the same result, earlier or later. Our interaction here has been a mix of two different ways of thinking. And finding a common interface might be difficult. But I suppose there are common goals such as reducing the disturbances in spite of the situations and triggering events in life being the same.

There are parts in the image that you are sure are true. And there are parts, it seems, that you are not sure if they are true. And knowing what the truth is will help you work through the fear. I would like to add to this by saying that you may also want to work towards reducing your current disturbance "in spite of knot knowing the truth at all". This is again probably an aspect not included in your counseling, but you can certainly try that.

I hope what I wrote makes sense. I have a couple of questions just in case I haven't understood some part.

Are you sure the image that you saw is indeed what the 15 year old saw? Or do you think there was some influence of the adult perspective?

Take care.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Trying to see past abusive images as a fifteen-year-old, feeling fear but not thinking irrationally. Thoughts? 24 hours later
That was a very thought provoking post Dr. Abhijeet. Since you have mentioned about discovering our underlying beliefs it is like discovering something new for me. In fact, after seeing that image I made a remark in my pub to a customer that referred to a belief I never thought I had. In one way, it felt that the belief had been hidden underneath this image and came up after seeing it. This is now what I want to know an awful lot of. I'd like to know what my beliefs are, how they got there, can I understand or change them, how can I form better and newer beliefs for the future ect. I'd also like to know if some of my beliefs have gotton mixed in with all the memories of the abuse and if I can separate them now or in the future. I find it a very new way of self-discovery and I thank you so much for pointing it out to me.
What I liked most about how the councellor told me that a 15 year old cannot see in front of her and only knows herself at that stage got rid of one way I was looking at the abuse. All along I had been critical of her and often referred to her as being weak, afraid to stand up for herself, calling her stupid, becoming impatient with her constant moaning ect. But this view made it seem that I was totally wrong in my approach and all my criticism and impatient went. Now I talk to her a lot in my mind and I 'take' her shopping and ask her opinion and lots of other things. She used always be in this jail before when I'd look back at her and she wouldn't eat her food but now I have her out of the jail, inside in a lovely bedroom and she eats very healthily. I really hope this will continue. All that came about by what that councellor said.
With regards to this particular image - I find looking back one definately looks on it from an adult perspective. I seem to be standing next to her from the right-hand side and cannot get around to the left side. I also seem to be looking down at the image. But when it comes to what way I'm feeling during the image, I can't seem to identify with that. I cannot describe the fear because I can't feel it now but I do see something in her eyes but I can't really put that into words. To me, it looks like she is more afraid of being killed than anything else and then of course from an adult's perspective it is vile what is being done. The image of her listening intently in the back seat of the car confirms to me that she is listening in case they want to get rid of her and their is a deadly serious look on her face. What I have found throughout all of those rapes Dr. Abhijeet is that my greatest fear during all of them is that I would be killed and I often wonder if my suicidal thoughts are coming from this. Somehow the sexual aspect of it all doesn't seem to be disturbing me as much. Can you make any sense of that for me? Thank you.
Answered by Dr. Abhijeet Deshmukh 1 hour later

The way to finding out underlying beliefs is to question each and every thought that comes to mind about a particular event/incidence. The Event acts as a trigger and the thoughts usually are a chain that leads to the underlying beliefs. Though it's not very easy to reach the core beliefs without professional help, you can certainly do so with practice and persistence. This technique is on the lines of what we call Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

The problem usually lies with the core beliefs that are "musts" in our minds. They are in the form of demands from the self/others/life. If we can identify those, we can modify them into "preferences" instead of rigid demands. An example of a demanding core belief would be - XXXXXXX .. I must be assured of a safe and secured life.. XXXXXXX You can see how such a rigid inner demand can create problems / disturbances in real life where we get enough evidences that safety and security are not guaranteed. This is a simple explanation, though. The process is usually much more detailed and deeper.

Now about the suicidal thoughts. I do not see a logical connection between – (a) the fear of getting killed and (b) the suicidal thoughts. The first one is a clearly defined situation where you are genuinely afraid you would be killed. It's was real life threatening situation. And your instincts would've prompted you to save your own life. But the current suicidal thoughts are a result of a chain or thoughts in your mind, triggered by certain images and memories. The memories, per se, are not directly responsible for the suicidal thoughts. But as I mentioned in one of the earliest replies, the suicidal ideas can arise from thinking "helplessness/guilt/etc XXXXXXX You will be able to figure it out.

The question to ask could be, "why do I want to die"/"what will be taken care of if I die"/"what is it that I can avoid by ending life"? Answers will start coming to you. The next step is to trace the chain of thoughts backwards to the images. Usually this has to be done in a structured therapy session(s). But we can still utilize this forum as much as we can.

I have this much for now. Please let me know more of your thoughts after reading my reply.

Take care.

Abhijeet Deshmukh, MD
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Trying to see past abusive images as a fifteen-year-old, feeling fear but not thinking irrationally. Thoughts? 21 hours later
Dear Dr. Abhijeet, Yes, it doesn't make sense alright that I valued my life so much at the time and really didn't want to die. I know that when I was listening in the back seat of the car that I was probably planning what I could do if they decided to kill me and my mind was probably racing. I know that the beating and the smothering from the Dr. was before this image and I had been unprepared for that and that is another reason I would have listening intently.
I had quite a few suicidal thoughts yesterday. I had thoughts like, "What's the use", I'm tired from life, I don't feel I have made a success of life and reality doesn't match the good pictures I have in my mind at all. It also felt like I needed an awful lot of energy to keep going ( which I feel I haven't got at the moment) and I don't seem to have the time just to do nothing for a while. So if I was to leave or die it would mean I don't have to work hard any longer and I could hopefully have some real rest. These are just the surface thoughts I think at the moment and they are referring to life as it is at the moment rather than in the past. On the one hand I love thinking about things but on the other hand I wish my thoughts would stop and I could just think of nothing at all for a while. I have no problems with my physical body - all that seems to be working fine but my mind just keeps going non-stop and I do feel exhausted from it a lot.
Answered by Dr. Abhijeet Deshmukh 4 hours later
It can really be exhausting when you have a lot of thoughts circling endlessly. Forced 'thought vacations' might help, where you can decide you want to think about something other than the usual.

"What's the use" doesn't have to logically proceed to a suicidal thought. Although it does seem to be related, but that's where you may need to dispute your thoughts. Similar is the case with the other thoughts such as "I don't feel I have made a success.. XXXXXXX

Constant, persistent disputing of these thoughts is needed. We are not disputing the feelings of sadness or helplessness. But we are disputing the thoughts behind those feelings.

Hope this helps a bit.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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