Self-Reproach

7 Nov

Dear LetterBalm: An older man at my job was being a creep. He was always rubbing up against me, trying to touch me or grabbing me. I tried to sidestep him, or laugh about it or, finally, push him away. But he didn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do until my boss came to me and asked me if my co-worker had behaved improperly with me. I said yes, and he was fired. It turned out that he had bothered another woman, and she had complained to human resources. But now I feel guilty about him losing his job because of me. I’m sad, and I don’t want to date or go out with my friends. My best friend says I need therapy, but I’m ashamed to talk to a shrink. What can I say?

–Guilt-Ridden

Ms. L.B. reassures you that it was not your fault that your colleague was fired. He sexually harassed you and your co-worker, and your company was perfectly justified in letting him go. It was his problem, and he caused it. Clearly, his odious behavior has made you feel powerless, guilty and ashamed, and your friend is absolutely right to recommend therapy. Perhaps you’ve felt abused at other times in your life, and this event has triggered old feelings, too. Please don’t waste time. Ask your doctor or a trusted friend for a referral. A reputable therapist will arrange a consulting session with you to see what your problem might be and if you and he or she want to proceed. (If you’re not comfortable with the person, you have every right to seek another therapist.) And, try not to be uncomfortable talking about your problem – shrinks are trained to be objective and listen non-judgmentally. Just tell your story naturally:

An older colleague sexually harassed me at work. He wouldn’t stop, even after I pushed him away. He was fired because he also harassed another woman at work. Since then, I can’t get rid of the guilt – I feel ashamed about what he did and guilty about causing him to be fired. These feelings aren’t going away. I’m sad all the time and don’t want to hang out with friends. When guys ask me out, I say no. I’m always on the verge of crying, and many mornings I don’t even want to get out of bed. All this isn’t like me. I need help.

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