Hi, Dr. Robert,
Thanks for your helpful website. Now, down to my question, and its background:
I am a 31 year old man, married with two children. My father, an alcoholic, died when I was 2 years old. I don't have any memories before the age of 7. I believe I was molested by a babysitter for several years during the period of my memory loss. I was always a straight A student, and I excelled and led in every activity I participated in. I recognize that I am codependent and am reading a book titled "Love is a Choice" to help me recover from my codependency. (My wife and I are reading it together :)
I have always had a fondness for snuggling my face into bath towels. I never thought much of it until recently, when I was feeling alone and a bit insecure, I snuggled my face into a towel after bathing, fell to the floor and stayed there several minutes. I didn't want to move. I felt safe in the towel, almost like being hugged by someone with whom I am secure.
Do you have any insights as to why the towel makes me feel safe?
Thanks so much,
Without speaking with you personally, it is difficult to offer any kind of explanation, other than a kind of educated guess, for your finding comfort in the act of snuggling into a towel. If forced to guess, and presuming accurate your belief that you were abused sexually by the babysitter over an extended time, I would say that a bath towel somehow was involved in the molestation, and was comforting to you at the time. For example, perhaps while the babysitter was molesting you, you hid your face in a towel, and found some measure of relief. If this were the case, a bath towel now might feel as if imbued with a charge of emotional energy, technically called cathexis, which could be used to achieve a kind of magical calming in the same way that a baby can be calmed by an old teddy bear or favorite blanket. However, this really is no more than a guess.
Normally, a course of psychotherapy is advisable when memories of molestation begin to surface, particularly if there is a blank space in your recollection of childhood. I suggest that you consider discussing this matter with a psychotherapist trained in treating adults with history of sexual abuse.
By the way, I very much dislike the term "co-dependent," and also do not trust that people will achieve useful emotional growth by reading any kind of self-help book.
The term "co-dependent" seems to me to be confusing at best, and often demeaning of our innate human needs and tendencies to be interdependent. Normal people become naturally dependent on one another when married or involved in any other kind of deep, committed relationship such as a business partnership. This kind of interdependence is is not an illness or problem that needs curing.
If you really lack independence in life to the extent that this lack constitutes a personality disorder, no book in the world will help; to grow beyond that kind of situation would require a serious and sustained psychotherapeutic treatment conducted by an expert.
If you are not suffering from such a personality disorder, I would suggest working toward understanding that we all need someone or something to lean on, and that you work on accepting that you and your wife are in this life together for better or worse, including some measure of dependence which sometimes might seem childish or excessive.
Again, books will not help with this kind of work--only love will, including, if necessary, the kind of impersonal love that a good therapist can offer his or her patient. Not to put too fine a point on this, I have met the writers of some of these so-called "self-help" books, and in my experience they all seemed to have one overriding motive in writing them: not to help anyone but themselves by selling books. Also, I have looked at dozens of these books, brought to me by patients who insisted that I check them out, and have yet to see one which did not smell to me of ignorant and shallow pop-psychologizing at best, or, even worse, frank scam.
The life of each of us constitutes a complex and unique universe. Generalizations are useless if one wants to go deep. If you need help, please stop reading this junk and find a real human being with whom you can speak.
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