“Dr. Carlisle, I feel like killing myself, but I want your advice: should I go to the police first?”
She paused, head hanging down.
“Francine my dear, please call me Sue. Everybody does.” Then I allowed the continuing silence.
The referral stated that she was nineteen years old, and her GP had diagnosed her as severely depressed. She came from perhaps half an hour’s drive out of my area, which was surprising.
At last she lifted her head. “I… did an internet search for ‘I deserve to die,’ and your blog came up on the first page. And three of your answers at Queendom.com. That’s why I asked Dr. Jimson to send me to you.”
“Thank you. That’s an honor.”
She did look pretty when she smiled, despite being slightly overweight. Still I waited.
“I feel I can trust you.”
“Francine, you can trust any psychologist. We work under a very strict set of ethical guidelines.”
“Yeah, but, sitting here, I can feel it. You care. It’s not just a job for you, is it?”
Very perceptive. “I don’t yet know what your problem is” — hint, hint — “but when I was your age, I suffered lots, too. No doubt the issues were different, but perhaps similar pain. So, I am not some expert to fix you, but a guide showing you a path out of your hell.”
She took a deep breath. “I am a sexual abuser. A pedophile.” Then she shuddered with self-revulsion.
Her very attitude told me that she was not, but I needed to join her reality to start with. “Tell me about it, please.”
Naturally, that got another silence, head hanging down. At last, she looked me in the eyes. “My little brother, half-brother actually, is ten years younger. I sexually abused him until I was twelve and he was two. Then I… realized what I was doing, and have hated myself since.”
“Does he remember any of it? What’s his attitude to you now?”
She gave a little laugh. “Our mother is the Mom for discipline. I am the Mom for kissing hurts better. No, thank God, he knows nothing about it.”
A reassuring smile, and I said, “I’d like us to do three things. First, a ceremony, then I’d like to slip into teacher mode and explain the general situation, and finally, possibly today, possibly next session, dealing with your suffering. I can tell you with certainty, you can sort all this out. I know, because I’ve guided dozens of people with similar feelings of terrible guilt, and they managed to climb out of darkness into light. OK?”
“Uh… sounds good. What’s the ceremony?”
I asked if she’d ever told anyone else about this. No, I was the first. “Good,” I told her. Your little brother — oh, what’s his name?”
“Lenny has not been traumatized. The two of you have a loving relationship. Disclosing within the family could wreck all that. Nevertheless, you’ve had a seven-year sentence in a jail of your own making, right?”
“If you’d assaulted someone in the street and got put in jail, you’d be out by now. So, it’s time to end your jail sentence. You have kept your secret inside, in the dark. Now my dear, look out the window.”
She did, at bright sunshine, a few fluffy white clouds floating in the blue, crimson rosellas swooping, the riot of color in my garden. I have my office specially designed so clients get this view.
“Francine, allow this sunlight to burn away the darkness. When you go home, plant something beautiful. Feed it with sunshine. Water it with love. And every time you look at it, see it as the symbol of your liberation, the end of your sentence.”
“Oh… I feel like hugging you.”
We both stood from our armchairs, and I held this barely grown child. After maybe ten seconds, I let go and gently shooed her back into her chair.
“Right, Francine, now the second part: some instruction. I once supervised a younger colleague who had a placement in a jail as part of his training. He now specializes in working with sexual abusers. So, I know what I am talking about. Let me tell you, you are not a pedophile.”
Pedophiles don’t feel guilt or shame. What they feel is pleasure, and pride. The fact of disapproval from society and the law adds a spice of danger, but they’re inevitably arrogant, and are sure they’re too smart to be caught. For sexual predators, the lives they may have destroyed don’t matter, but are tokens to be scored up, the subject of secret bragging, or of real bragging to others with this monstrous attitude.”
She looked dubious and questioning.
“The very fact that you feel guilt shows you are not a predator. Guilt is a wonderful motivator. It can set people on the right path, for life. It is the realization that you have done wrong, and makes sure you won’t do it again. It is a sign of maturity, and of spiritual growth. Congratulations.”
She did light up. Good. “But… I did do wrong.”
“Are you willing to describe a typical action?”
“When he was born, I helped Mom lots in caring for him. I’d never seen a penis till then, and when the two of us were alone, I…” she blushed, “played with it. And I found that it felt nice, down there, you know, if I laid him on top of me in a special way, oh, with clothes on, so his little bum rubbed against me. When he was a toddler, I sang a song and got him to dance with him on top, and that uh, stimulated me.”
Lucky there was no hole in the floor to crawl into.
“And when you were twelve, you stopped. You know, that’s a young age to realize that using a little child for sexual stimulation is wrong. Many kids carry on with it till about fourteen, to sixteen even.”
She looked surprised. “How common is it?”
“Very. Children are curious, and are programmed to explore. Sexual issues are no exception. A very high proportion of boys and girls engage in sexual play like masturbation, looking at and touching other children, playing games with a sexual motive. But also, can a twelve-year-old sign a contract? Vote? Drive a car?”
She shook her head slightly, and sat up straighter.
“Now you’re an adult.” (To herself, not to me!) “Let’s use some more of that light.” I waved toward the window. “From the light of your current way of seeing the world, how would you help a little girl who had engaged in sexual play with her little brother? Would you see her as evil, or as someone who needs to be gently led to more appropriate behavior?”
Seeing her face light up and become calm, I said, “Right. Now you’ve got it in the head. The next step is to move it from there, into your heart. The best way is for you-now to visit yourself when you were that ten-year-old girl, give her love, and explain to her that she should avoid this activity. So, think a moment, and get the words right so she’ll understand.”
Francine looked confused. “But… can I undo what I did then?”
I laughed. “No, of course not. History is fixed. But your inside reality is here-now, and that’s what we can change.”
“How?” I could see on her face that she was intrigued, and preparing her speech to her younger self, with lips almost moving, eyes fixed slightly to my right rather than at my face. Good. She was almost in a hypnotic trance already.
“We can use hypnosis. It’s—”
“No way!” Rapport lost, she looked ready to walk out.
“All right, Francine, please explain why not.”
She looked down again for a while.” When… when bloody Tom barged into our life, he got Mom smoking both cigarettes and dope. Five years later, they broke up and she wanted to quit. Went to this hypnotist who tried to get her to have sex with him!”
I felt my hands twitch, wanting to strangle the fellow. “Did she report him?”
“Uh… I don’t think so.”
“When you see her this evening, get the man’s name. I’ll deal with him!” But we needed to process this. “Francine, you said he’d TRIED TO get her to have sex with him. So, what happened?”
“She told me, she opened her eyes, gave him a backhander across the face and stormed out!”
“Good for her. That was a great first step. Reporting him is also necessary. Leave that to me. But look, this shows why you needn’t fear hypnosis. The hypnotist makes suggestions, but it’s the client who does the actual work. If the suggestions are objectionable, the client snaps out of it, like your mom did. And you can be sure, I don’t want to have sex with you.”
Excellent. That got a laugh.
“Here is how I like to do it. The suggestions I make, and you follow if they suit you, is first, to get relaxed, then second, vividly imagine going for a walk to a safe space of your own design. Everyone’s safe space is different, and you can vary it from one occasion to another. Finally, I’ll help you to imagine going back in time, and you can talk to young Francine, give her a hug, and tell her she is forgiven. If you like, we can do this next session, after you’ve talked with your mother. You can even bring her along to witness it. We can do it so she doesn’t find out what the memory is, so you’re safe.”
“Uh… she’s want to know.”
“All right, my dear. With your new knowledge, suppose you were your mother and you found out that when your daughter was twelve, she’d played with Lenny in that way. What’s your attitude? Will you consider your daughter to have been a little silly and curious seven years ago, or would you consider her to be a criminal?”
She looked confused. “But didn’t you say we have to keep it a secret?”
“From Lenny, certainly. From your mother only if the relationship between the two of you would be damaged.”
“Oh, let’s just do it now!”
I looked at the clock. We still had time.
She quickly attained a deep trance, then I sent her back on a train from Station 19 to Station 10.
Tears glistened on the lashes of her closed eyes as she cuddled her younger self.
Seven years of misery fixed in one session. I am good at my job, even if I say so myself.
Sue has explained it all, hasn’t she?
I do have a confession to make. If you inspect the page for people like Francine at my psychology website,
you will see that Sue Carlisle has written the text for it.
Yes, Sue is great at her job, and no, I am not the young psychologist she’d supervised. After all, I was already an old fellow when she formed herself out of a virtual cloud of electrons.