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I am writing to you because I believe you may be able to help me, and I am very grateful for the advice you provide the people who write to you.

I feel incredibly guilty about a sexual experience I remember having as a child, where I encouraged my family dog to lick my genitals when I was masturbating.

I repressed this memory for a long time and since remembering that I did this I feel absolutely disgusted and ashamed with myself. It is not something I can even imagine doing and the thought that as a child I did such a thing is very hard to deal with. It has made me feel I am not a worthy person and do not deserve happiness in my life because of what I did. In a way I wish I had never remembered what had happened but at the same time I can now see where a lot of the guilt and shame I have felt for many years has come from. I can’t remember exactly how old I was but I was old enough to know I should not have done it.

I realize children make mistakes but I can’t seem to reconcile the fact that this was a mistake I made. I feel as though I am an animal abuser, and I know what I did was abuse. I love animals and have always been disgusted by people who hurt them so to realize I once did that makes me feel worthless and horrible.

Why would I have done this? I don’t think it can be normal childhood behavior and it makes me wonder what may have happened in my childhood for me to act in this way. I don’t feel as though this is something I can speak about with my family or anyone as it is such a horrible thing to have done and I am afraid people would never be able to forgive me.

Sometimes I feel I can forgive myself and accept that as a child at the time I didn’t realize what I was doing was wrong, and can see that I am not that person today. But then I feel that because this is such a disgusting thing what right do I have to feel ok, and I must repent and be sorry for the rest of my life.

Do all children make mistakes they later remember and feel shame over? How can I cope with this memory and stop it effecting my life as a young adult? Do I have the right to forgive myself, and could others ever forgive me?

Any advice you could email me would be greatly appreciated, and thank you again for the work you are doing.

--Name withheld

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman


First, thanks for your kind remarks about my work on this site. I do appreciate hearing that my replies are helpful, and I hope to keep going with "ask the psychologist."

As I wrote in reply to the woman who attempted to get her dog to give her oral sex , "you did not abuse your dog." Since dogs, unlike humans, have no guilty feelings about their sexuality (just watch them doing it in the road with no concern at all for passersby), your dog thought nothing of your actions, and was not hurt by them in any way. If you had hurt your dog physically, that would have been abuse, but short of that, for the dog it was just another kind of playtime. So at least you can drop the guilt on that account.

In fact, I suggest you forgive yourself immediately, because childhood sexual experimentation, including experimenting as you did with animals, foreign objects, etc. is normal behavior, and quite common. Read the link above, to see more on this, and then let it go.

If you are not able to drop the guilt on your own, get some psychotherapeutic help. Probably a few sessions would do the trick.

Be well.

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page last modified October 28, 2006

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