I sometimes answer brief questions (50 words or less) at no charge.
Telephone counsling is also sometimes available.
(Write first to ask if I have openings.)
Learn more about these options here:
Write to Tony
Here are some of the brief questions I have received
since “Ask Tony” started in September, 2002.
New letters appear at the top.
Real names and identifying information are never shown.
Otherwise, letters are essentially as written.
HELPS TOO MUCH
Q:I usually try to help other people a lot. I seem to always search for ways to help people. Many times I don’t get much further in a relationship. When the need or crisis is over I don’t know how to proceed very well. Care to point me in a direction?
A: People who help others too much are usually out of touch with their own needs. So when the helping is over they don’t move toward the things they want. It’s as if they just sit there, focus on the other person, and don’t show that they want the other person (except as someone to help).
You need to get in touch with your own emotions. Become an expert at noticing your sadness, anger, fear, joy, and excitement. Know where you feel each of these in your body. You can read about each of these emotions at my site. Pay particular attention to how you find the feelings, and what to do once you’ve found them.
The topics called “The Basics” would also be quite helpful. If you aren’t in therapy now, you might consider going as a way of deciding what you want in life and what to do about going for it.
ABUSED AND HURTS HERSELF Q:
Q: I enjoy your pictures very much. I have a strong feeling you care about every person you meet. I have a question to ask you. I would like to know if you could help me.
I need some advice on the subject child abuse and sexual feelings. I was sexually abused when I was 11. I do not like sex and I do not love myself. I hurt my body. I am 55, and I need help. Can you help me feel better about myself?
A: I sure hope I can help you to feel better about yourself…
The best thing I have to say to you is that since you hurt your own body and since you were sexually abused in childhood, you definitely need to be seeing a therapist. Hurting your own body is an attempt to feel better when you are feeling Extremely bad!
Since you wrote to me, it’s clear that you know you need to talk to a therapist. Please call one right now. If you need more information about this you might want to read “Are You Considering Therapy?” at my site.
Also, since you wrote to me you probably have already read the topics at my site about sexual abuse in childhood. But if you missed them you might want to read them before your appointment with the therapist. But please do see a good local therapist!
Fifty-five years is a long time to wait for the help you DESERVE!… You didn’t ask for the abuse, and you shouldn’t have had to suffer from it without help for so long. (If you’ve been in therapy, remember that you can go back… and if your therapist wasn’t helpful enough remember that there are many other therapists and most of us now have had excellent training about sexual abuse.) Please don’t wait any longer. Call a therapist.
THREE LOST RELATIONSHIPS
Q: I have had 3 big relationships in my life! All 3 (including my marriage) have ended in my partner leaving me for someone else. Am I doing something wrong?
A: My first reaction was to say “Probably”… but let me say a lot more…
When we try to evaluate the loss of a relationship, there are a lot of things to look at:
1) How much time did you spend together?
2) Were you honest with each other?
3) Did you and your partner each get enough physical touch (non-sexual is most important, but sexual touch is a close second)?
4) Why did you pick your partner initially? Why did your partner pick you? (Often the very basis of the relationship holds the seeds to the relationship’s end. For instance, if someone feels like they are “settling,” or if they choose the new partner quickly just to get away from an old partner…)
5) Was there any drug or alcohol addiction going on (which creates chaos)?
6) Did you play together well?
7) Did you think clearly together?
8) When it comes to taking care of each other: Was too much time devoted to this (as opposed to playing together and thinking together)? Did one person take care of the other person most often or was it about equal?
My best suggestion for you is to do the Relationship Analysis at my web site. It measures the amount of the good stuff in a relationship, and points out when there’s enough and not enough of each of ten aspects of a relationship. (Remember to choose a specific time period – like “the last year” or “since we met” – at stick to it throughout the ten questions in the analysis.)
MOTHER ALWAYS CRITICIZES
Q: I enjoyed reading your criticism section but what do you do if the criticizer continually says that you misunderstood them? My mother makes indirect attacks, then when I tell her to stop, she gets very defensive and abruptly hangs up on me! When she eventually speaks to me again, she tells me how insulted she is that I would accuse her of criticizing me and persists that she meant no harm. We just go round in circles this way. Any advice?
A: Critics don’t like to be criticized for criticizing! More to the point: they don’t like to be held accountable for how they mistreat us while they try to run our lives!
My suggestion is that you tell your mother very directly: “From now on, don’t help me with anything at all unless I just asked for the help, OK?” Then make absolutely certain that she acknowledges hearing you say this (whether she likes it or not). She’ll probably keep it up, of course… but when she does you can say, kindly at first: “Mom, I didn’t ask for your help about that… Did I…?” If you keep this up for a few months or so – and don’t let her get by with it at all – she’ll learn that she needs to respect your boundary if she wants to get along.
Know that you are right about this, and stand up for yourself, OK!?
This is a problem most of us face, and people who don’t learn to protect this boundary always end up feeling bad. By the way, people who help when they haven’t been asked tend to have very little else to talk about! So you might have to play a major role in talking about things with your mother from now on. Ask her how she’s doing, tell her the stuff you’ve been enjoying lately, talk about the weather… whatever comes to mind. But take more of the lead when you talk to her for a while.
Q: What do you do when you’ve had the kind of life where almost everybody has hated you and people have told you that your most basic beliefs are worthless and laugh at you and insult you for having them? How do you deal with people’s hate?
A: What you do is: you learn to change the only part of these things that you have any power to change – your self and the things you say and do along the way.
If “everybody” in your adult life dislikes or even hates you, then you are somehow inviting people to treat you this way – possibly by mistreating them.
If it’s not really true the everybody you know dislikes you, then you need to do some “sorting” among all the people in your life, and spend more and more of your time with the people who like you most – and less and less with those who dislike you.
You use the word “hate” twice in your short letter. Do you believe in hate? Do you hate others? Being angry when we are mistreated is normal and healthy. And what we Do when we are angry can also be healthy or not. But hate isn’t normal or healthy – whether it’s something you feel or something others feel about you. Hate is a vow to stay angry. So if you know you have hate yourself, please go back over your own memories and ask yourself if you want to keep that vow to stay angry. And if you decide to stay angry at someone, remember that 99.9% of the time you will be carrying that around inside yourself – and the person you hate may be dead or may be brushing their teeth or watching TV or whatever… The pain of hating will be your own to bear, and you won’t be able to even show the other person that you feel that way very often at all…
And if you have people around you who have vowed to stay angry at you, get away from them and spend your time with people who haven’t made this sick vow about you. Let them sit with all that hate in their hearts, and move on to other people who don’t make that kind of vow.
Therapy can be very helpful for people who have hate in their lives. And the great discomfort they feel every day can often be dealt with comparatively quickly (months rather than years). If you know you hate or you often mistreat people, think about getting into therapy to make the changes you need. And if people you care about are this way, suggest therapy to them (… and check back with them every few months to see if they’ve changed through their therapy).
LOW LEVEL EMPLOYMENT
Q: For 20 years I’ve taken jobs desperately trying to get out of the hell hole I live in and do the job I’m trained for at home. There are no jobs in my field. Last job irreversibly damaged my back. Average wage $10,000, average house $100,000. Need miracles
A: You don’t need a miracle, but you do need professional career guidance, and probably some financial help related to getting additional training. And, sorry to say, that’s not my field.
Check around in your area. Call the local schools to ask about counseling and financial aid. Become your own expert once you gather all the information.
If you don’t know where to start this search, I’d suggest you call a local Family Service Agency. They can help you get started.
Most importantly, stop believing any of this is hopeless. It isn’t. Whenever any of us get discouraged it’s normal to think things might be hopeless, but they never really are.
VERY LOW SEX DRIVE
Q: I am in love with my man. I do not want to cheat on him and I never have, but I will very soon. We almost never have sex. He acts as if its not important. It is. I understand that we may not be able to do it every week, but at least once a month would do. I talk to him about it all the time,. It has not gotten better. I do not think he is cheating or unhappy, just not interested.
A: Your frustration is very understandable, to say the least. But there isn’t much you can do about it, since it’s clearly his problem. (I assume you’ve done all of the playful things hoping to arouse his interest…)
Here are some things to tell him:
1) He must see a medical doctor as a first step to see if he has any physical problems that cause his low sex drive.
2) If he is addicted to alcohol or other drugs, that is part of the problem.
3) If #1 and #2 check out and are not a problem, he should see a good sex therapist. The most common problem they work with is low desire for sex. They have many ways of helping. (Actually, he could just call a good sex therapist as a first step, and they could recommend the MD and check out everything for him.)
The most amazing thing about your letter is that he seems to be willing to stay this way! I wonder if he knows what a good sex life would be like and how much it would improve everything else in his life.