Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Haunting childhood memories


QUESTION: I am a straight male. I remember that when i was a child, i sometimes masturbated to tickle torture. I imagined a scenario where a thief was caught somewhere and bound. And some kids who he would easily punish were tickling his helpless feet, and thus torturing him with seemingly such effortless thing. I do NOT do that. However, now I frequently think it meant something or turned me into something. I am scared that I am not normal because of this. I understand that your answer does not constitute face to face meeting, but I would be very much relieved if you would reassure me that this is normal, other people have done it too, and it doesn't mean I am not normal. Thank you very much!

ANSWER: Everyone is somewhat unique in some ways Damian. Even identical twins. That's what makes us individuals. And that also means that, by one criterion or another, we're all abnormal!

So yes, your childhood fantasies make you abnormal. Along with what you last dreamed about, how many peas you arranged on your fork, and the number of hairs on your head.

Individual differences are of consequence only insofar as they imply danger (you weren't planning on kidnapping a tickle victim, were you?) -- or they cause distress. And that's for you to decide.  

If you find that these thoughts or memories or interpretations of them continue to bother you (and hearing that there's no  logical reason to be upset doesn't always work), I suggest you find a mental-health professional (such as a clinical psychologist) to share some face-time.

But if reading my advice to forget about it is all that it takes, FORGET ABOUT IT.

Hope that helps, you're most welcome, and thanks for asking us.


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QUESTION: i also want to ask something. I experience intrusive thoughts. These are very inappropriate thoughts. The harder i try not to think the more they intensify. Sometimes involving images, impulses of Religious, sexual and violent content. The most inappropriate things i can imagine at the time. They cause me great concern.
and cause me to question why they occur to me? Then i try to look inside me and see if i like these thoughts. I think about wether i have acted on them before and not remember. And then i begin to worry that i will never be certain about these. In your experience, are these common? Does it mean much that they occur?

Good to hear from you again.

Why does that happen? Like dream content, there are all sorts of theories but zero scientific evidence to support any of them. How the brain works at that level is not yet understood so there is no valid answer to that question. But as far as is known, no, there is no meaning to them whatsoever.

Are they common?  Damian, there are various degrees but they are almost universal.

What to do about them?  One option is to just go with them. Find them interesting and amusing, like going to the movies so let them come and go as they will. If that doesn't work and you're still uncomfortable, the other is, again, to get some guidance from a professional as to how to handle, cope with, interpret, and/or maybe deflect these intrusive thoughts. That's what psychologists do.

All the best,

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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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