I have become rather troubled with my inability not to see my father as “contaminated”, for lack of a better term. I can’t prepare my meals when he is in the kitchen or drink beverages he stands near for fear he’s breathed near them. I can recall not being able to eat any food he even stood near from adolescence, which meant left-overs or seconds were a no. I can’t enter a room he’s been in without spraying an air freshener and I’ve not sat upon the couch for this very same reason. The thought of using the same utensils, regardless of how thoroughly it’s been washed, is absolutely revolting. If I know he’s used it, I cannot. I feel bad, as it must be heartbreaking for your own child to treat you like some sort of plague-victim, but I can’t help it. I have an extreme dislike of human smell, breath, saliva, and mouths in general-I can’t even watch scenes which incorporate close ups without feeling the need to not breathe or expel the air (exhale forcefully) contaminated by the screen-but it is at its extreme with him. I know it probably has something to do with our rather rocky relationship and the fact that, having grown up around him, I’m privy to his poor hygiene practices. As I’ve stated prior, I’ve felt this way from early adolescence, so perhaps these aspects aggravated an already-existent, admittedly irrational, hatred of the human mouth. I know he gets offended, as he should, but I can’t help it. What on earth should I do? Is there any way I can wean myself off of these irrational precautions without making myself overly uncomfortable? Thank you in advance.
You asked if there was any way to wean yourself from your irrational precautions without making yourself overly uncomfortable. The answer is no. That’s precisely why you engage in these precautions, to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
Something about your father, makes you feel very uncomfortable which is why you react the way you do. You engage in these rituals as a way to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Changing your behavior toward your father will be very uncomfortable at first. Eventually it won’t but in order to change you will have to tolerate being uncomfortable.
Some anxiety disorders, develop because people are not willing to tolerate unpleasant feelings. It’s a form of avoidance. They engage in behaviors that bring them comfort but ultimately they can become trapped into performing unnecessary rituals that do more harm than good.
It was the opinion of M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, that when it comes to problems, most people will do virtually anything to avoid dealing with them. He said that we attempt to avoid them rather than suffer through them. It was his contention that “this tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness…” He quotes the famous psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, who said that “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”
You should deal with this problem, head on, in therapy. It would help you make changes to your behavior as well as correct your irrational thoughts. It could be instrumental in bringing about the change you seek. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle