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Intrusive Thoughts: Body Issues/Anger with family for teasing

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  anita 1 month, 4 weeks ago.

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  • #154014

    Nick
    Participant

    Hi Everyone,

    I am a 23 year old male, and for quite some time now I have been having some really intrusive thoughts that relate to body image/being teased about my body when I was younger. There is nothing wrong with my body really, I don’t have a ton of muscle, but I’m not overweight either. However, these intrusive thoughts have been quite bothersome. For example, I remember when I was 10, I was walking around in a towel and my mom kept on saying “Ooh, I want to see you naked!” I didn’t let her, and showed her I was wearing underwear underneath, but it still bothered me. I also remember a time my sister lifted up my shirt when I was 14 and said “I saw your belly button!”, another time my mom and dad made fun of me for walking around in a towel when I was maybe 11, and one time when I was 10 and we were going swimming and my dad jokingly said something about taking photos of me when I change. There have also been a few times (maybe 2-3) when I was accidentally walked in on after or during a shower in my teens.

    I have been trying to just let this go for quite some time, but it just isn’t working. Note that I was not abused/assaulted or anything, just teased. Nonetheless, these incidents really bother me, these thoughts are incredibly intrusive and can easily take up all of my mental attention at times. I find my self connecting the most unrelated scenarios to these incidents (like someone saying ooh, as my mom did once).

    My family is nice and supportive, and we get along fine. I am the youngest, and all of these family members (and others, for that matter) have seen me nude at some point or another. The teasing was when I was a kid mainly, not so much an older teenager.

    I want to ask, firstly, is it normal/not unusual for some level of teasing or incidents like this? And how do I let this go completely? It takes up my mental attention when I really have other more important things to focus on. Occasionally, I will think of an incident or two like this and then get frustrated with my family in present day, unrelated situations as kind of a means of “getting even.” There are other times I feel like I am close to moving on, but then I get upset with myself for having spent so much time over the years thinking about this. I honestly just don’t want to think about this anymore/almost erase it from memory…any help would be appreciated!

    Thank you!

    #154258

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    Of the examples you gave, I found the following being inappropriate:

    1. “I remember when I was 10, I was walking around in a towel and my mom kept on saying ‘Ooh, I want to see you naked!’”  inappropriate because it was said by an adult to a child and because it was said by a mother to her son. What did that statement mean? The “Ooh” part of the statement expresses some kind of excitement. Suggesting to see you naked does mean seeing your private part, as that is what naked is. What is the nature of the excitement she did express, I don’t know. Could be a curiosity of sorts, but excitement it is. Not a good idea, to say the least, for a mother to express excitement over the idea of seeing her son’s private parts.

    2. “my mom and dad made fun of me for walking around in a towel when I was maybe 11”- inappropriate because it is inappropriate to make fun of a person for any reason. Because it is two adults making fun of a child and because the two adults are the child’s parents. And because the topic of the fun, the teasing, is a child’s naked body (underneath the towel).

    3. “my dad jokingly said something about taking photos of me when I change”- inappropriate because his statement is about taking lightly the threat in that statement, the threat of violating your privacy. And because the privacy here is again.. your naked body.

    To me, your anxiety around these comments I listed is understandable. It doesn’t surprise me that you are still bothered by these. Perhaps talking to your parents, together or separately, about these very comments can help- since you wrote that they are nice and supportive. If they discuss the matter with a serious attitude, respecting your feelings, considering their comments to be inappropriate, understanding the harm it caused you… and then asking your forgiveness and offer amends, maybe there will be a resolution in your mind and heart regarding these.

    anita

    #154272

    Nick
    Participant

    Thank you for your thoughts Anita. My parents are not from the US originally, and where they come from nudity within the family might be a bit more acceptable. Therefore, perhaps they did not realize the teasing, at my expense, was not appreciated. After all, they have seen me naked in my early life more than anybody else has…who knows, maybe that teasing reminded them of those young childhood days, memories of bath time. I think I was fine with being nude in front of them when I was 8, maybe even 9. But 10-11 seemed a bit too old from my perspective…maybe they just didn’t realize that. For example, once we were visiting a relative, after coming out of the bath I needed the room to change, my mom said it would be fine if she stayed she was just in the room getting some stuff together, but I insisted she leave too (and she did along with the others). I honestly don’t think they had any negative attentions.

    I do remember a time when I was 14 or 15 on a hot day when my sister was almost insisting that I take my shirt off to prove that I don’t get embarrassed, my mom was the first person to defend me/lecture her on where I am in life right now with regards to my body, and why I am not comfortable with that. We recently took a beach vacation, I didn’t want to go to the pool. While my sister was insisting, my mom again told her it is fine if I don’t want to take my shirt off. Also, in incident #1 that you mentioned, she didn’t actually see me nude.

    It’s strange, I go through periods of time where the above really really bothers me and I just wish they hadn’t done that at all and I think about other people who were “lucky” to not have that. Then there other times where I am personally bothered by the things I did or said to my family in my teens that wasn’t nice (unrelated to the above, not revengeful behavior), and I don’t think about these incidents at all. I developed some body issues in my teens, but I don’t think that was related to the teasing. During those years with the teasing, I had no issue taking my shirt off at the pool/going swimming. I feel like I didn’t actually think too much of the teasing when it was going on, but a couple of times when I was walked in on in the bathroom in my teens oddly reminded me of those times…and then it made me upset.

    Would you happen to have any other ideas on how to deal with this, other than directly talking to them about it? I almost feel that would just be better to somehow manage to put this away, instead of bringing it up with them and further driving it into consciousness.

    Much appreciated Anita! I have seen how much you help other people on this website, and I must say that you are absolutely awesome!

    #154280

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    Thank you for your words of appreciation and kindness.

    You bring up a good point: it is possible that these incidents bothered you more looking back at them from a later point, with other influences happening since, but not so much at the time they happened. Also, your mother’s input later on, to your sister, and the cultural perspective makes me feel more comfortable with her intentions in making comment #1 and #2, and leads me to think that a talk with her will not be helpful.

    I need to be away from the computer for abut 7-8 hours. Will be back to re-read your posts and reply further. If you’d like to add anything before then, anything you think may be relevant, please do.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  anita.
    #154296

    Nick
    Participant

    Thanks again, there is nothing else I can think of at this time.

    #154332

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    Postponing re-reading and replying to tomorrow morning, about ten hours from now.

    anita

    #154336

    Nick
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    If I may add, there was a period about 5 years ago when the above really bothered me. I managed to work through it on my own (forgive, forget and move on). However, in recent months it has crept back into consciousness.

    Thanks!

    #154370

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    The first definition of “to tease” I come across online: “To make fun of (someone) playfully”, meaning it is fun for the one doing the teasing.

    Often enough, it is not fun for the one being teased. It is, like you wrote: “they did not realize the teasing, at my expense, was not appreciated.” It is having fun at someone else’s expense.

    A child, especially a young child, is very sensitive, his brain is still forming, many neuropathways are being created daily. If an adult being teased is able to shrug it off (IF), a child is not able to shrug it off. It sticks (in those pathways being formed).

    A person intending to tease in a playful way needs to stop for a moment and think: how is this teasing going to affect the recipient of my teasing? A parent should never make fun of their child, no matter what the culture and intent.

    In your examples in the first two posts, your mother, father and sister were paying attention to your naked body: to your belly button, chest, and to what is under the towel (whether they saw it at the moment of attention or not). What was the nature of that attention, I ask myself as I re-examine the examples:

    “Ooh, I want to see you naked!” – the attention here involves excitement. I am not suggesting sexual excitement, but excitement nonetheless. The excitement is evident in the “ooh” and in the exclamation mark at the end. Now, the child will learn something from such a teasing (learning, as in forming those pathways). What is the child going to learn? My naked body is exciting my mother is one possibility. This can stick in the brain and if when that sentence was said you didn’t hit puberty yet, the sentence was likely magnified once you did hit puberty.

    If your mother stopped to think before impulsively teasing you that way, she wouldn’t have proceeded. Regardless of culture, really, it is inappropriate.

    When your sister lifted your shirt and said: “I saw your belly button!” – one more exciting response. And a violation of privacy: she lifted your shirt. This behavior is very common between children, but what is very common is often enough, unfortunately, hurtful or very hurtful as well.

    Your father suggesting taking photos of you when you change, besides the violation of privacy, why did he suggest it? Again: what is so exciting and memorable about your naked body that requires a photo shoot?

    Clearly you were negatively affected by these teasing incidents and you were distressed at being seen naked by your family, from one point on. You were even teased about the affect of previous teasing: your sister “insisting that I take my shirt off to prove that I don’t get embarrassed”- teasing you for being embarrassed, ashamed.

    It is a good thing that at one point your mother noticed your embarrassment and expressed empathy for you, defending you against the teasing by your sister.

    You wrote: “I was not abused/assaulted or anything, just teased. Nonetheless, these incidents really bother me, these thoughts are incredibly intrusive and can easily take up all of my mental attention at times… It takes up my mental attention when I really have other more important things to focus on”- clearly, teasing was enough to cause you significant distress. It may be an unintentional, non-physical/sexual assault, but it is an assault nonetheless, evaluated by the affect it had on you.

    You wrote: “I want to ask, firstly, is it normal/not unusual for some level of teasing or incidents like this?”- I think it is not unusual or abnormal but a whole lot of what is usual and normal is hurtful to children. This is why people have so many problems and dysfunctions, so very many… because hurting children (intentionally and unintentionally) is so very usual, common and … normal. It being common doesn’t make it easier for the individual being hurt.

    You wrote: “I honestly just don’t want to think about this anymore/almost erase it from memory”, and you asked: “how do I let this go completely?  …Would you happen to have any other ideas on how to deal with this, other than directly talking to them about it? I almost feel that would just be better to somehow manage to put this away, instead of bringing it up with them and further driving it into consciousness”-

    It is too late, Nick, to worry about “further driving it into consciousness” because it is already there (those neuropathways)- it is already as deep in your consciousness as it can be. Because you feel anger at your family members for teasing you and because it is understandable and valid that you do (they shouldn’t have teased you), maybe asserting yourself with them, telling them your naked body was none of their business to comment on, will give your hurt, shame, anger feelings the voice they need in the process of being released from that tight hold in your consciousness. Maybe there are questions you want to ask them about the teasing…?

    The goal is to release those feelings (hurt, shame, anger… maybe you can clarify more what your feelings are), so they stop fueling those intrusive thoughts, and so they stop disturbing your body image. The goal is that you will be okay with your body.

    Your thoughts/ feelings?

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  anita.
    #154488

    Nick
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thank you for this thoughtful and honest analysis. I think you are spot on. I am not entirely sure of the steps I should take from here, though. Upon further reflection, the truth is, that my family did not have any intention to hurt me through all of this. They also stopped (except for maybe my sister) after I had clearly crossed the childhood stage into adolescence and puberty. I think what I find upsetting in trying to let this go, is the amount of time I have spent thinking about it over the years (thereby spending even more time thinking about it and continuing to feel regretful). There are times where I basically think “ugh just this one thing that keeps bothering me, no one else has to go through this, things would be just perfect in my life if it wasn’t for these incident(s).” On further analysis, I am actually pretty sure all of that is false…

    I don’t think there are any questions I have about the teasing. I think it might have made me more uncomfortable because it was family teasing me, even though they probably didn’t mean anything by it. There were times I have been teased by others as well, like in the locker room in PE class. Being a person of color has also contributed to my body issues (to some extent). I remember being 7-8 old and thinking about how I could maybe make my skin lighter with some type of special cream; I would wear long sleeves even when it was hot out as an attempt to cover up my dark-skinned arms, because most of the kids in my class were fair-skinned caucasians or asians. I also developed body hair on my arms and legs much earlier than others, and remember being teased about this on the playground. I would again wear long sleeves/pants on hot days to cover this up. I’m not as tall as I would like to be, and I think this contributes negatively to my self image. I say this to give you an idea of what other influences (subconscious, or conscious) there may be on my body image.

    My family has done some really amazing things for me over the years, so this may be why I am confused about the teasing because of the contrast between these two behaviors. I am not entirely certain that I will indeed discuss this with them, as I almost feel like that would make the same discomfort fresh again. What do you think?

    One thought I did have was to bring it up casually. I have been considering for quite some time to join a gym, so perhaps I could begin by telling my parents about this, and explain why I want to (to get fit). I have tried to get started with gyms in the past, but it doesn’t tend to become a habit. I could ask for their support/encouragement in this process, and maybe talk about how/why I have had body issues in the past (explain the teasing, both from them, and otherwise).

    Thank you again Anita. I will also say that just talking with you about this on this forum has helped clear my head a lot.

    Enjoy your evening!

    Nick

    #154498

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    You are welcome and yes, it is a nice late evening. Once again, I would like to write to you in the morning when I am able to be more attentive and clear. Be back here in about nine hours from now.

    anita

    #154520

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    There are three issues that I see in your thread:

    Issue #1: Poor Body Image

    You experience dissatisfaction, embarrassment, distress over perceived faults about your body, some of which are: not tall enough, not muscular enough, too dark, too hairy. It is very common for people to be dissatisfied with their bodies. When you look at men who have what you perceive to be perfect bodies, they themselves may perceive their bodies to be faulty, and therefore have a poor body image. Or if they are satisfied, they may be terrified to lose their perceived perfection,  ad so, they are distressed while possessing that perceived perfection.

    Through evolution bodies evolved in different regions of the world to adapt to different environments, different climates, topographies, food supplies. Different skin colors, density of body hair and different heights are different adaptations to different environments through the process of evolution. This means that dark skin is advantageous for an individual in a particular climate, and light skin is advantageous for an individual in a different climate.

    One is not superior to the other; they are both of equal biological value in their respective climate. This is not my opinion, this is objective reality.

    When you look at your body in the mirror, take deep breaths and form the intent to accept the looks of your body the way it is with peace of mind. This is your body, the result of successful evolution, the result of thousands of amazing processes that make it possible for it to function as well as it does. Take good care of your body so that it serves you well. Do this repeatedly, look at your body, take deep breaths, form the intent. Remind yourself of the objective reality I mentioned above.

    Issue #2: Intrusive thoughts

    You wrote on this thread: “I have been having some really intrusive thoughts….I have been trying to just let this go for quite some time, but it just isn’t working… these thoughts are incredibly intrusive and can easily take up all of my mental attention at times… how do I let this go completely? It takes up my mental attention when I really have other more important things to focus on… I get upset with myself for having spent so much time over the years thinking about this. I honestly just don’t want to think about this anymore/almost erase it from memory…… I think what I find upsetting in trying to let this go, is the amount of time I have spent thinking about it over the years ”

    Issue #3: A False Core Belief

    You wrote: “There are times where I basically think “ugh just this one thing that keeps bothering me, no one else has to go through this, things would be just perfect in my life if it wasn’t for these incident(s).”

    The false core belief is that life can be perfect. You seem to believe that your life could have been perfect if only those incidents didn’t happen, no concerns, no worries, perfect well-being.

    Connecting issue #2 and #3:

    When you are not bothered by the teasing incidents you are bothered by other things: “Then there other times where I am personally bothered by the things I did or said to my family in my teens that wasn’t nice (unrelated to the above, not revengeful behavior), and I don’t think about these (teasing) incidents at all.”

    I am thinking that anxiety is what is fueling these intrusive thoughts about the teasing incidents. As unfortunate as it is that these incidents happened, I think that your focus on them is fueled by anxiety. If these incidents didn’t happen, your anxiety would focus on something else, as it already does (latter quote).

    There will always be something wrong, something imperfect. There is no way to  have life be otherwise. We have, as humans, living our very imperfect lives, to be able to tolerate, to endure the distress that comes with living. The term for tolerating distress is Distress Tolerance. We have to develop this skill.

    We have to live our lives as effectively as we can, as congruent with reality as possible, expecting distress as an inevitable part of it, accept what we cannot change, change what we can. Move on.

    Let me know of your thoughts/ feelings so far about my input here, will you?

    anita

     

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by  anita.
    #154620

    Nick
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    I agree with your thoughts above, that it very well may be anxiety that is fueling my intrusive thoughts. It’s interesting, because I am well aware that my life would NOT be perfect in the absence of these thoughts, and that life is never perfect for anyone ever. But nonetheless, those are the thoughts that still run through my head. I will say the thoughts about body image, perhaps because it is a bit more of a sensitive issue, feel to be more intrusive than others (or at least they feel more intrusive at the moment). To give you an example of other intrusive thoughts, I spent about a week thinking about how I wish I had applied to X, Y, and Z for college (when I was applying to college about six years ago) or how I wish I hadn’t done various minor actions years ago. One practice that has worked well for the latter intrusive thoughts is to repeatedly tell myself “that ship has sailed, no use thinking of the past now.” That doesn’t seem to help as much for the body issue thoughts though.

    For moving ahead, what would you suggest I start doing? I had started the practice of meditation about three years ago, but have lost the habit completely. I think starting that up again is a great idea. Any other thoughts on the anxiety in general/body issues and the thoughts of the related incidents?

    As always, you are amazing Anita. Thank you!

    #154656

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Nick:

    You are welcome. My thoughts and suggestions: no use trying to not think about your body and the teasing incidents and whatever other thoughts you have, after all, this is why you termed them “intrusive thoughts”- intrusive means unwelcomed and uninvited.

    Instead, of disinviting those thoughts, invite other thoughts into your awareness. As I suggested, looking at yourself in the mirror or looking at your arm (which you used to cover because of the perceived fault of it), think new thoughts that are true to reality, thoughts that are appreciative of your body/ arm, for example, how your skin, being darker, protects you from the harm of intense sun, and how your not so tall stature makes it easier on your heart, and how your body overall serves you, takes you places, how good it feels when it feels good. A mindful (slow, attentive, patient) physical activity like yoga and tai chi can help you FEEL your body in new ways and get a new appreciation for it.

    New thoughts and practices can help take the focus away from these intrusive thoughts. Meditation is fine, but since your issues are with your physical body, a mindful physical practice will be better.

    Overall, to deal with anxiety, focus best you can on the here-and-now. When you are troubled by something you cannot change, something that already happened, or something that could happen but you cannot prevent, think to yourself: there will always be problems. And so, one problem at a time. I will deal with the problem here-and-now, and take breaks from it to relax.

    And post anytime you have more thoughts and feelings on the topic, as I may have more as well.

    anita

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