Angst: Expert advice on your problems

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I went into therapy because I was very depressed after my husband's death. I had a terrible time with a therapist who initiated a sexual relationship with me, and it took a long time for me to manage to leave. Since then I have become full of terrifying uncontrolled feelings which centre on hurting children, and I am very afraid this is what I may do. The other day, out shopping, I saw a child and had this terrible fear that I would harm her. I had to get on the Tube immediately as the feeling was very strong. I am very frightened and I feel I need some help in dealing with this.

What you describe is not terribly uncommon and it seems very understandable that, when people have their trust broken as badly as you have, they feel they cannot trust even themselves to behave as they want to. It's important to recognise that what you did in looking after yourself and knowing you could prevent trouble by getting on the Tube was right. It is most unlikely that you would have done anything to a child, but this way you limited the fearsome feelings. One of the things that happens when people have been grossly stressed, as is the case when therapy goes wrong, is that they become scared of what they think and feel. You may feel anxious about finding a new therapist. If you would like to contact us we may be able to help.

Popan (Prevention of Professional Abuse Network), Flat 1, 20 Daleham Gardens, London NW3 5DA.

I am a 71-year-old man and for some years I have had a problem which concerns me a great deal. I do not know the reason for my unpopularity and I cannot get people who were once friends to talk to me about what has gone wrong. I belong to some cultural and historical organisations and have met people through these as well as through work, but people appear friendly for a time and then distance themselves. I have tried to work out what goes wrong. I am fairly blunt and analytical in what I say, and I sometimes expound my ideas at length. Recently someone said

to me: 'People are human beings, not audiences for

monologues.' I have tried to find out what is going

wrong, approaching the topic gently, but the response has

merely been an embarrassed silence.

You appear to have few friends at present, so it is all the more important to listen to what people are saying to you. Your letter offers two clues. You say you are blunt and expound your ideas 'at length' and a friend says you treat people merely as 'audiences'. Dialogue requires a lot of listening, not parallel monologues. One place to practise might be in a group as offered, for example, by the Westminster Pastoral Foundation or the Pastoral Foundation in Edinburgh (Tel: 031-447 0876). It is important that you are asking fundamental questions about yourself, however. So don't give up]

Dr Tim Woolmer, director, Westminster Pastoral Foundation, 23 Kensington Square, London W8 5HN. Tel: 071-937 6956.

I have been married for two years and in the past six months my husband and I seem to be arguing all the time over little things. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that sex, which was passionate for the first year, has become much less thrilling - not least because we are working hard. After the last few rows I have tried saying we should discuss things, but he says there's nothing to discuss. When I suggested joint counselling he said emphatically, 'No way'. Is there another approach I could try?

In the first year of marriage most couples have very high levels of sexual desire, but you cannot expect things to be like that throughout your marriage. Adjusting to this feels disappointing, or rejecting. Often, if you say to a man that you want to discuss what is going on, you will get resistance because he feels threatened or criticised. Instead, start by explaining how you feel; praise, never attack. For example, try: 'I loved how we used to make love but I think maybe because I am working so hard I am sometimes too tired when we make love at the end of the day.' Then ask him how he feels. Spend some time together sharing a meal and a bottle of wine, talk about things that create intimacy, take time over making love. If he refuses to talk, say how unhappy you are and remind him that lack of communication is the biggest wrecker of marriage.

Zelda West-Meads, counsellor, Relate, Herbert Gray College, Little Church Street, Rugby CV21 3AP. Tel: 0788 573241.

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