‘I was spoken to in a sexually explicit way, why can’t I get over it?’
From workplace harassment to other vexing issues of a personal nature, clinical psychologist Jo Lamble answers questions from readers looking for expert advice on social dilemmas and relationship problems.
Something happened at work recently that left me feeling very uncomfortable. A visitor came to our workplace and made inappropriate remarks towards me when we were alone.
I told my manager and the man has been banned from ever coming into our office again. It’s been a few weeks and I’m still upset about it. He didn’t touch me physically – it was only words and innuendo. Why can’t I move past it?
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How horrible that anyone would make inappropriate remarks to you. The fact that he waited until you were alone would have made you feel even more unsafe. And that’s what you’re reacting to so strongly – feeling unsafe.
Our mind and body remembers when we have felt in danger. How were you to know for sure that he wasn’t going to touch you? Words and innuendo are bad enough. I’m so glad you reported him, and that your manager listened to your complaint and took action. Now it’s time to help you to feel comfortable again.
Try to think of a time when you have felt completely safe. Imagine everything you can about this scene. Who else was there? What can you see and hear? The more detail you can envisage, the better. Then whenever you’re thinking about this creep who came into the office, try to redirect your mind to this safe image.
It’s OK if your mind keeps switching between the two images, but try to focus as much as you can on the safe one. Over time, your mind will start to favour the nicer image over the unpleasant one. Also try some soothing breathing while enjoying the memory of feeling safe and you should start to feel calmer for longer periods.
I have recently turned 60 and retired, and now with COVID restrictions I feel I have nothing to get out of bed for. This year has seen my birthday celebration scrapped, my cruise trip cancelled, and I have lost my son due to conflict with his father (my husband) and have had to take out a DVO against him.
I live in a small town where nothing happens. The only friends I have are my husband’s two sisters, but he doesn’t like me spending time with them. He plans everything – where we go, who we go with, what we do, even what we eat. When I show unhappiness, my husband tells me to “cheer up”. Don’t tell me to leave him as I have nowhere else to go, but what else can I do?
I’m so very sorry to hear how bad things have been. I can understand why you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. It sounds like your world has totally shrunk and you feel there is nothing to look forward to.
Has your husband’s behaviour changed in any way? Has he always been controlling? I’m wondering if there is something going on with him, either physically or psychologically.
There are medical and psychiatric conditions that could cause personality changes. If you feel that’s the case, perhaps you could talk to your GP.
If this behaviour is nothing new and you don’t feel like leaving is an option right now, then it’s important for you to have more support.
Would you be comfortable and have the privacy to talk to a psychologist online or reach out to Beyond Blue (1300 22 46 36) or Lifeline (13 11 14)? Do you have a good GP where you live? Are they a potential source of support? I don’t like the idea of you continuing this way without some help. You’re in danger of becoming depressed, if you’re not already. Please reach out to someone. Don’t try to get through this alone.
Got an issue for Jo to tackle? Send your question to [email protected]