Ask Amy: Therapist's advice should include 'why?'

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • July 24, 2013 - 2:18 PM

Dear Amy: I’m in therapy learning to deal with the fallout from being raised by parents who belittled, bullied, and verbally and emotionally abused me for most of my life.

They have never admitted doing anything wrong, insisting that they were great parents and I was too weak or too immature to see that they were only doing “what was best for me.”

Before I started to see a psychiatrist, I planned to write my parents a long letter telling them how they had hurt me and how it has affected every aspect of my life. I also considered telling my concerned family and friends via social media what they did to me and how much it hurt.

I was very surprised when my therapist told me not to post anything. He said many libel and character defamation lawsuits have resulted from such revelations, and he advised me not to say anything unless it was face to face, so as to not leave any paper trail.

Amy, all I’d be doing is telling the truth about the horrible way they chose to raise me. Why would it be wrong?

Amy says: Your therapist seems to be offering legal advice, and while he may be right (I don’t know), your therapist would do best to ask you a question: “Why?”

Exploring your motivations is a function of therapy, and answering the question “why?” might lead you to insight and closure, without the inevitable personal mess that would result from public postings.

I completely agree with your therapist that making these postings is unwise, though for different reasons. When you post something deeply personal online, you immediately lose control of the information. This text can fly through cyberspace and land anywhere; it can be altered, made fun of, or invite commentary that would be hurtful to you or others.

Furthermore, this would not cause your parents to admit their wrongdoing because they would see a public airing of their failings as further proof that you (not they) are flawed.

Consoling a friend

Dear Amy: I have a long-distance friend who canceled her wedding two weeks before the wedding date.

I am relieved that she escaped what was sounding to be a dangerous marriage. Her parents sent out an appropriate, well-thought-out, handwritten postcard to relay the “wedding canceled” message. They asked that we keep the individuals involved in our thoughts and prayers.

I would like to send a card and perhaps a small, thoughtful gift to my friend. Is a card and small gift appropriate?

Amy says: This is not necessarily a gift-giving occasion, but I appreciate your desire to reach out in supportive friendship during what might be a confusing and difficult time.

You don’t describe your friend, but I think a book would be the right gift. Poetry is the right genre, because you can keep a book of poetry next to your bed and visit and revisit the work, the way you do a favorite song.

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