Ask The Therapist: “I discovered my father watches porn…his presence disgusts me, but I can’t tell anyone about this. What do I do?”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“6 months ago, I discovered my father watches porn. I was devastated to know this and couldn’t digest it. It has caused me to go through a lot of emotional trauma and I’m still trying to deal with it. His presence disgusts me, but I can’t tell anyone about this, not my mother nor my sisters. Lately my parents have been having fights and when we shifted to Pakistan from abroad, we had been having financial troubles. But Alhumdullilah we got over this phase of financial instability. I just don’t want to tell my mother or my sisters about this because I don’t want them to feel the same way. I’ve started distancing myself from him. Please help me with this situation – I don’t know what to do!”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

It really sounds like you’re facing a lot of emotional distress after making the discovery about your father. I sense that there is quite a lot that you’re carrying with you, let’s try to explore what’s happening for you.

Pornography and Shame

Finding out that your father is watching porn can be distressing for a number of reasons. Culturally speaking, there is a lot of shame associated with the idea of pornography – in fact, you cannot access most pornographic websites from Pakistan. Because of this, there are several unconscious associations that are formed: bad, illegal, shameful, and anything and everything in between those definitions and judgements. Add onto this the fact that topics pertaining to sexuality are rarely (if at all) spoken about in most households, and this just adds onto the idea that it is wrong. Couple this with the idea that most people tend to dissociate from the idea of sexuality and parents. All things considered, Anon, I can only imagine what kind of impact this incident must have had on you, and I truly feel for you right now. 

What Are YOU Experiencing?

Anon, you mentioned that there was a great deal of emotional trauma, and I imagine that there are a lot of messages associated with the idea of sexuality and pornography. Incidents like this change our perception of someone we once knew, and it’s possible that there might be some grief associated with the person you knew (your father) then and the one you know now. In either case, it’s okay to take your time and to stay with whatever you’re feeling at this time. A few questions that might help you reflect on your experience would be:

  • What am I feeling? (Name as many emotions as you can)
  • What can I offer myself right now? 
  • What has this changed for me in terms of how I see my father?
  • What is it about him that disgusts me?
  • What have I learnt about myself after this experience?

This Is Your Experience To Share Or Not Share

Accidentally stumbling upon pornographic content on our parents’ devices is something that I have heard of, and generally it tends to be an extremely uncomfortable topic for others to bring up in most scenarios, so you’re not alone there Anon. That being said, I would remind you that this is your experience, and you have a right to share that experience, and alternatively, you also have a right to keep that experience to yourself. There is no right or wrong way to go about this. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of sharing this with your mother and sister, perhaps you could share it with someone else who you feel safe or comfortable around. Just remember: this is YOUR truth and you are allowed to do with it as you choose.

If you need a safe space to talk about this outside the realm of people you know and associate yourself with, I would always recommend seeing a mental health counsellor for as long as you need. They will be able to provide you with the space to talk about your experience safely, and in a non-judgmental manner.

Anon, sometimes situations like this can be confusing, difficult and emotionally heavy. Allow yourself to experience these emotions and thoughts the way that you’re meant to – as I’ve said in many of my previous articles: there is no wrong way to feel. Tune into your curiosity and explore what might be going on for you. I hope that you find the resolve and grounding that you’re looking for and more. Best of luck and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *