3 Reasons Why: Suicide

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I always feel sad, but I hide it. I’m so tired of going through each day. Is this normal for a 16- year old? Or is there something wrong with me?

Why don’t I ever feel the love you give me?

I’m angry- at you, myself, and the world. Why does life have to be this way? I can’t hope for a better tomorrow or think of the future. I don’t want you to be disappointed by all the secrets I keep from you.

I’m scared I’ll do something I regret. I want to feel better.

~ Your son Luke

I wish I had written that letter, but I wrote a different one instead.

I attempted suicide.

By crashing our van into the first object I saw… a passing car.

Head on. At 60 mph. No seat belt. The van rolled.

I should have died. But I was unharmed. The other driver was injured but survived…

I am healing now. Life can be good again.

Because you are loved and able to love.

Your life is precious. You count.

You can’t be erased.

~ Luke D. Maxwell (www.ucantbeerased.com)

According to https://axis.org/ :  “The number of teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and actions has doubled over the last decade. Now, with shows like “13 Reasons Why”, the suicidal teenager has taken center stage in our culture.” [see Conversation Starter Kits on Axis website]

Suicide is a topic that leaves us speechless.

We feel powerless… confused… and perhaps shame in being reminded of our own fear of death or struggles with depression.

In so many ways we spend our lives in numbing activities as a means to escape reality… and especially the reality of death.

Suicide screams in our face, a reality that we can no longer ignore: Pain in this life is REAL and Death is REAL.

I want to suggest 3 topics that may be correlated to suicide and are rarely discussed and perhaps deserve more thought and attention.

(This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a list of perhaps less-talked about areas.)

  • Suicide and Spiritual Warfare
  • Suicide and Sexual Abuse
  • Suicide and Passive Aggressive Anger.

Spiritual Warfare

Ray Comfort describes an encounter in his autobiographical book, “Out of the Comfort Zone:” .

“I had been preaching in the Square in New Zealand. Two girls approached me and said they wanted to talk about something spiritual. I asked if it was about demons. Surprised, they said that it was. One of the girls was having continual blackouts. For no apparent reason, she would black out at various times of the day. The blackouts became so frequent that the girls suspected something spiritual was involved… Besides the blackouts, she was having suicidal thoughts… [I] found her crawling on her hands and knees, groaning, screaming, and making animal-like noises… I commanded the spirit to manifest and name itself, so that i would know how to pray.

“No, no!” it screamed.

I persisted. It shrieked, “Hate, Hate!”

I named the spirit of hate and commanded it to leave. … Another spirit identified itself as “Suicide.”

I said, “Those are personalities- what is your name?”  “Soal,” it screamed.  “

“How long have you been in this person?” … “Twelve years.” …”How did you gain access?” …”Easily!

[I’d encourage you to read the rest of the account in the book!]

I believe that Evil is involved whenever there are thoughts or actions toward suicide. Scripture names Evil as the Liar and Accuser: “he is a liar and the father of lies” (John8:55). It may not be as dramatic as demon possession, but I believe Evil is always present in influence or suggestion to the person’s mind. The beliefs of shame, hopelessness, and worthlessness that cause a person such deep torment and pain that they desire to cause their own death are lies from Evil and Darkness itself.

He {Satan} was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth” (John 8:44)

“To put it in a word, Satan is blood-thirsty. Christ came into the world that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Satan comes that he might destroy life wherever he can and in the end make it eternally miserable.” ~ John Piper “Satan’s 10 Strategies”

Exit: The Appeal of Suicide

Recently Ray Comfort released a documentary, “Exit: The Appeal of Suicide” : {http://www.theexitmovie.com/}

In the documentary he demonstrates HOW to fight the spiritual battle against suicide: Fight Evil and Lies with Truth and Love.

Ray highlights a scene in the classic film Pilgrim’s Progress, in which “Despair” is a large menacing giant, who locks the main character (Christian) into “Doubting Castle.” As he’s sitting in the dungeon, Christian realizes he has the key in his own pocket! The “key” is the Promise of God: “For the wages of sin is Death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:23

We were created for LIFE; each of us has a God-given will to live. Because of the conflict between our desire for life and the looming reality of death, we are a prisoner to the fear of death our whole lives (Hebrews 2:15). This fear leads to despair, and depression… a sense of futility… and hopelessness.

Therefore the solution is HOPE that is not a mere wish, but a true anchor to our souls. Faith that is founded on the truth of Jesus will result in “joy and peace in believing.” (Romans 15:13)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” ~ John 11:25

 

Sexual Abuse

The book, “Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Psychoanalytic Perspective”, contains a table listing the symptoms of sexual abuse. A major category seen in both adolescents and adults is listed as: “Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts.” (pg. 38)

The recent Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, highlights the involvement of sexual harm in leading character Hannah’s suicide.

In the documentary Exit: The Appeal of Suicide, one girl, when asked the reason for her depression and thoughts of suicide, answered, “I was raped…”

While it is difficult to contain in words the damage done to a life through sexual harm, Dr. Dan Allender has summarized it in this way (through his Wounded Heart conference material): there is the ruin of faith through betrayal, there is the stealing of hope through powerlessness, and the ruin of love through darkening the soil of desire. For the victim there is the echo of darkness in all pleasure, a hatred of joy, relief through self-contempt and other-centered contempt.

Clearly this is an area with many compounding factors. I’d encourage *everyone* to read “The Wounded Heart” and “Healing the Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender. (Especially everyone in a ministry leadership role, given the epidemic of sexual harm in our country, I think it’s irresponsible for ministry leaders to be unaware and uneducated in this area)

In “Healing the Wounded Heart”, Dr. Allender discusses “covert sexual abuse”, which broadens our general understanding of abuse to include more subtle, but yet still very damaging, forms: 1) verbal abuse: inappropriate sexual talking, solicitations, coarse jesting, sexual name calling; 2)psychological abuse– triangular relationships, use of a child as a surrogate spouse, over-dependency on a child, and inappropriate role expectations. These can all lead to an underlying sense of anger that a child doesn’t even know where it’s coming from, yet boils over into a desperate despondency and desire for self-harm, which brings us to the idea of “passive aggressive anger.”

Passive Aggressive Anger

Dr. Ross Campbell, M.D discusses passive aggressive anger at length in his book, “How to Really Love Your Angry Child.

Dr. Campbell writes:

“We can define PA behavior, but recognizing it is another matter entirely. Upon learning about this brand of behavior… there’s a tendency to label every act of childish misbehavior as passive-aggression, but that’s a mistake… we can begin for watching out for three distinctives:

1) irrational and illogical… driven by the subconscious mind where logic isn’t the prime mover. The subconscious is driven by feelings, impressions, and powerful emotions;

2) PA’s purpose is primarily to upset the parents or other authority figures;

3) Children ultimately hurt themselves the most by PA behavior… are their own greatest victims… serious kinds of PA behavior through drugs, alcohol… or even suicide, the ultimate passive-aggressive behavior.

In Dr. Campbell’s original book that covers more broad and basic topics, “How to really Love your Child,” he discusses the Scripture verse: “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger…” (Colossians 3:21) I see this as an indication that any time parents have an angry child on their hands, including a child with PA behavior, we need to first evaluate ourselves, and our parenting. Over and over again I come across parents that want to talk about “their child’s behavior issues” and yet it is so clear that often our “child’s issue” has it’s primary root in *our issues*.

We are each so naturally blind to our own issues, tragically unself-aware, predisposed to think of ourselves more highly then we ought (as Scripture points out!). This is why God has given us the “Body” of Christ, and the reason why we “grow together” into Christ= we need others to see in us what we are blind to.

We also need to grow in our understanding of ways that we as parents can unwittingly bring harm into our children’s hearts and lives. A broader definition of harm will include psychological means of harm: triangular relationships, use of a child as a surrogate spouse, over-dependency on a child and inappropriate role expectations. It will also include an understanding of attachment development for infants and the damage that is done through neglect: lack of eye contact, lack of touch, lack of delight toward the child or a parent having a “still face” which results in a lack of mirroring that an infant needs to develop a sense of self.

{Watch “The Still Face Experiment with Dr. Edward Tronick : https://youtu.be/apzXGEbZht0  }

I have several resource suggestions for parents who have a curiosity about themselves and their children, and desiring to learn! While you may not have children who are at risk of suicidal ideation, each our children WILL encounter struggles in life and their own journeys of brokenness, and of course as parents, we want to do all we can to increase their resilience and trajectory of wholeness. Below are some ideas!

1) Don’t try to do life alone! God designed us to *NEED* community. God didn’t design us to do life, marriage or parenting alone. We need the input of wise and responsible people in order to see areas of brokenness that we will never see on our own. We have made it our family culture from the very beginning that we involve Christian professionals in our lives (in terms of individual counseling, marriage counseling, and parenting). Please don’t make the mistake of sending your child off to counseling to deal with “his or her issues.” His/Her issues are FAMILY issues and the whole family needs growth and healing.

2) Two book suggestions: “How to Really Love Your Child” by Ross Campbell; and “How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting” by Milan Yerkovich (this one looks at insecure attachment styles of parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vascillator, Controller and Victim) and how they affect children.

3) Look into a therapist who does “Theraplay.” The therapist will videotape your interactions with your child during a series of activities and then do an assessment in 4 areas: Nurture, Attunement, Challenge, and Structure. However unnerving and humbling this is, I promise, it will be worth reading 20 parenting books with what you will learn about yourself and your child!!

Conclusion

Spiritual, trauma, and anger issues may all weave together in a complex web for a person attempting suicide. We must take the time and effort to look at the whole and ask yourself, “What keeps me from exploring any one of the above areas on behalf of the person I love or on behalf of myself?”

 

 

The Morning Watch

For my first post on prayer, I want to make a simple entreaty: Let us drop the term “Quiet Time.

Doesn’t “quiet time” sound very … soft? A bit too dispensable?

Think this through with me: what images and connotations does “quiet time” conjure up in your mind? Slippers? Coffee? A plush cushy chair?

No wonder we drop it when other things feel more pressing. Morning “quiet time” sounds and feels like a luxury… when we have time. The language we use matters; our choice of words informs our attitudes and actions.

Can you imagine Jesus or the Apostle Paul having “quiet time”? It’s a bit ludicrous, right? Really to the point of being offensive.

My suggestion is that we replace “quiet time” with “The Morning Watch.”

The Morning Watch” brings in the idea of spiritual warfare. This is TRUE prayer. And this is a necessity. We DO have an Enemy. And he is prowling, watching and looking for whom he can devour. We ARE in a war… or we’ve been taken captive.

Are you living in defeat? Anxiety? Addiction? Escaping and numbing? How is your marriage? Are you experiencing “abundant life” and “freedom” that Jesus came to bring?

Perhaps you’ve gone AWOL.

“Prayer is a wartime walkie – talkie for spiritual and missional warfare; Not a domestic intercom to increase the comfort of the saints. And one of the reasons prayer malfunctions in the hands of so many Christian soldiers, is that they have gone AWOL.” ~ John Piper

Are you dressed for war?

Do you have a sword? How sharp? How skilled?

“If you can’t run with horsemen, how can you run with horses?” ( paraphrase Jeremiah 12:5)

“You CAN get better.” ~ Dan Allender

Let’s do it together. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17

 

Storytelling: “Restless in Chicago”

I’d like to welcome *you* into my home. Will you join me?

I’m hosting a brunch with women gathered around my breakfast table. The theme is “Rest” and I’m going to tell a story.

Storytelling: “Restless in Chicago”

It was a beautiful summer night on our little street, over-looking the Chicago River. Our building was a quiet refuge in the city. There was a cozy neighborhood feel of safety in being tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue- just around the corner.

Despite that safety, my heart didn’t feel safe and the journey to refuge was an all-out war.

I have no idea how the turmoil within my heart began on this particular night. I must have felt an offense from my husband; somehow I felt that he wasn’t loving me. This “unloved” experience always came with a sensation of being 11 years old inside. Adult Catherine *was safe and loved* but it was 11 year old Catherine that felt neither and it was her little heart that needed comfort.

It must have been this “11 year old Catherine” inside my adult mind that got angry in response to feeling unloved, ignored, and unwanted. (In fact, it was an inner “little Catherine” that used to ask my husband, Ryan, almost every single day, “Do you love me? …Why? …How do I know? …It wasn’t until I realized years later that these questions were never for him, that my inner little girl was finally quieted and the questions ceased. But that’s another story.)

On this late night, the wounded 11 year old girl inside of me was stomping through the house, and my mind was filled with exhaustion, adrenaline and resolve to leave. As I was lacing up my shoes, my husband, Ryan, sat down on the bed next to me, and said, “You can go if you need to, but let me get you a hotel. And I’ll make you a deal: for every hour that you stay, I’ll upgrade your hotel. And if you stay until midnight, and you still decide to leave, I’ll get you the “W” Hotel.”

A gleeful smile and delighted laughter broke through my anger and tears.

It was a brilliant display of love, humor, and giving of freedom that was enough to melt my heart.

He put his arm around me and I began to sob- full-body sobs, reaching deep down into young Catherine’s heart. He guided me to lay down, and then rubbed my back. He listened to how hurt I had felt, and he apologized. I apologized too.

Ryan prayed over me as he rubbed my back and I fell into a deep and deeply *restful* sleep.

God’s Gift to us is Rest

I once heard Dan Allender say that we each have a war with rest, and this is our war with faith. Now I understand this truth in my experience.

Through the praying, writing, and sharing of this story God began to open my heart to see that my “war with rest” is correlated to “little Catherine’s” struggle in the past. God showed me a young part of my heart that He wanted to heal.

I found several “rest correlations” in my story: 1) Rest and relationship; 2) Rest and being seen and heard; 3) Rest and receiving; 4) Rest and our physical bodies; 5) Rest and repentance and 6) Rest and unconditional love.

I came to a tenacious conviction that “true rest comes *only* through communion: communion with God and with others in a context of unconditional love.”

My story illustrates that this true communion comes through a battle.

I hope you can see that this is your story too. For each person, rest comes through a fight. If you do not find true rest in your life perhaps it’s because you’ve never engaged the war.

Rest, through communion with Himself, is God’s desire and gift to us.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

Past and Present Converge in War

The battle surfaces and rages because there is an Enemy who does not want us to come to Jesus for rest. Our own nature also resists the coming that involves repentance and receiving.

Isaiah 30:15

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

But you were unwilling…”

Are you familiar with the part of your heart that resists rest- that is “unwilling” to come to Jesus? What is your *war* with rest? What does it actually look like in real time and what does it feel like in your body? How can you begin to actually fight this war *for rest*?

We live in a sin-torn world where Evil reigns, if only for its allotted time. Evil wars against life, against communion, and against love… and therefore, against rest; and against us coming to Jesus, where ultimate rest is found. How does Evil wage this war and what are the weapons? Evil always weaves lies in such a crafty manner such that the lies seem to be truth to the very core of our being.

“You will only find rest in solitude.”  Evil whispered this lie in my ear from an early age.

Young 11 year old Catherine desired to be seen and heard, yet she lived in silence, and no rest came. The only “rest” she knew was time alone, with her bedroom door locked shut. However, the “rest” itself was a lie; an illusion. It may have been an escape from the reality outside the bedroom door, and at the time she had no experience of true rest, so how did she even know what rest was? The illusion of rest came through self-destruction. It was behind this locked door that she began to slice her skin open with a knife. Was it through the red, salty blood that “rest” came?

The Battle Won

We can either continue on our own path, which is really no rest at all but only an escape that leads to hurt and destruction or we can follow God’s way to true and lasting rest.

In my teen years, I began to settle in rest when God opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus had died on the cross for me. I had known and believed this since I was a little girl, but as a teenager it became personal to my own struggle.

It was healing balm for my raw heart to know that God saw the worst in me and saw all the things I hated about myself but still loved me: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

His blood paid for all my sin, therefore, I didn’t have to make myself bleed anymore. I found rest in God’s unconditional love for me through Jesus.

My heart found rest and joy in communion with Jesus. Spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture was my delight, and my heart was full.  This was abundant life that I had not known through the false rest of escape.

A Paradox: The Battle is Won yet Keep Fighting

The book of Hebrews sets forth a paradox: we work to rest.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience {unbelief}.” ~ Hebrews 4:11

Jesus was the final sacrifice and offering for sin; therefore, we can accept his gift,  and cease from our own labor of earning merit before God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus in our place, we are reconciled and accepted before God.

Jesus has done all the work on our behalf; now it is our lot to rest in the acceptance Jesus has purchased for us by his own blood, and yet we need to fight to experience in our daily lives the rest he has secured for us eternally.

The fight is to keep coming to Jesus continually and to keep trusting that we are indeed forgiven, loved and accepted by God. The fight is to believe this in every moment of every day.  In my story above, the lie that I was unloved and a second lie offering isolation as a solution both threatened to steal my experience of rest.

In this life we never arrive at perfection, or wholeness or fullness of healing. God always has more for us: more healing, more freedom, more rest. In order to continue into “more” we must say “yes” and follow Jesus as he invites us into exploring our stories, and therefore our hearts and minds.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Each story contains insight as to how Evil has woven lies that we’ve unwittingly or wittingly agreed with. New insight invites us to repent of ways we’ve attempted to find life, healing, or solace apart from God.

In the aftermath of my story work, repentance involved renouncing and turning from the lies that promised safety through escape in solitude, instead of in Jesus. In repentance I turn more fully to Jesus as THE source of life.

Evil still comes to me and whispers the lie of “rest in solitude.”

The settings and circumstances may be very different. Instead of a late night drama, it can be a joyful family afternoon.

I might be out rollerblading with my family in our drive way and suddenly a guttural need to flee will arise. I will find an excuse to go inside and be alone. I was never aware of this pattern until I did this story work. Now can I recognize and name the excuse; previously, the reason to leave felt like a true need.

Now I can hear the invitation of Jesus through Ryan’s gentle voice urging me to stay; telling 11 year old Catherine, “it’s safe, you’re loved and welcome here. You belong with us.”

I am waging war against Evil.

I keep my roller blades on and skate a little longer.

I am staying in communion.

 

drain. the. swamp.

1. Part One

Pussy. Tits. F***.

These are the words of Trump that have caused a national uproar and a torrent of emotion across the country. People were outraged. Shocked. High-profile men and women withdrew their support from Trump.

Social media went wild. People wrote comments such as, “I could never look my daughter in the eye and tell her that I voted for Trump.” … and  “Whoever votes for such a man is humiliating and debasing themselves.”  People are saying that what he did was a sex crime, and by their words convicting him as a criminal.

Clearly what Trump said 11 years ago was wrong, sinful, and encompassed by the work of Darkness.

However, as far as I know, Trump has not been accused, tried or convicted of any crime. Do we really want to revert to the witch hunt tactics of the 1600s?  This was also in the tape: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”  He is not describing an act of rape… seduction and adultery yes, but rape or forced assault- no.

  1. Part Two

My purpose is not to elevate one political party. I want to address the self-righteousness that is rampant. My concern is your heart and my heart.

The question I’d like to ask is: what man out there has not ever talked or thought about a woman in a crude way? How many men out there have not even *once* been a consumer of pornography, which supports sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and a “rape culture”?

The point is, as the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3). I’d like to challenge people to get off their self-righteous high horse and not act like Trump’s sin is worse than ours. (or Hillary’s sin… for some reason Trump’s seems to be more spoken of).

{Jesus} said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone. ~ John 8:7

The self-righteous talk that I am reading and hearing is a severe offense to the Gospel of Jesus.

We ALL need to be saved by the free gift of grace offered by Jesus.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:15

Here’s a story about the political self-righteous rhetoric:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray,… The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: *** ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like [Trump] ***

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, *** ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’*** ~ Luke 18

Are *you* more like the Pharisee or like the tax collector in your words and thoughts?

Be *outraged* at Trump’s sin… and Hillary’s. But are you more outraged at your own sin? Who has the log?? and who has the speck?

You’re either humble or prideful. Your heart is either repentant or self-righteous.

And here is the end of the matter: God gives *grace* to the humble, repentant sinner, but opposes the proud.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18

  1. Part 3

How DO we address the wrongdoings of both political candidates?

Paul uses the two words: *GENTLENESS* and *HUMILITY*

Galations 6:1- Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.

In Matthew 7, Jesus defines true humility with the analogy of the log and speck:

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:3-5

First, you must have the integrity and honesty to take **ownership** of the log in your own eye.

What you see in Trump, or Hillary will fall into the 2 core issues of the human heart: Lust and anger.

Jesus said that those who struggle with lust are adulterers and those who struggle with anger are murderers. (non-sexual lust is idolatry or adultery before God).

Perhaps Trump is the adulterer and Hillary is the murderer.

BUT SO AM I.  Like Trump I am an adulterer and like Hillary I am a murderer. Anything less than this, is *self-righteousness*.

Got it?  (Just to make sure, try saying out loud to your significant other- “Honey, just so you know, I AM an adulterer and a murderer. Seriously.” )

The point is that you never address someone whom you see to be MORE of a murderer or an adulterer than yourself. This is true humility.

As Dr. Dan Allender said in his podcast, “This leavens the playing field. We can say, “In this struggle I have *been there*, I AM there, and I will BE there in some form until the coming of Christ and full redemption in Him.”

4. Conclusion.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

Drain your OWN swamp first!!

“..the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:15

To him {Jesus} all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” ~ Acts 10:43

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. ~ Ezekiel 18:30

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 CHR 7:14

an enemy within: OCD

I will NEVER stop fighting for you”… these are the words that have started my journey against the enemy: OCD.

First of all, I believe that OCD is a very little understood mental illness. Most people think of someone who can’t stop washing their hands. That may be true in some cases, but for many people with OCD you might never see any symptoms.  Instead, the obsessions and compulsions occur within their minds. This is actually the most severe form of OCD, in my opinion.

The way I experienced my friend’s OCD was as an Enemy that took her completely away. She was present physically, but at the same time completely absent.  When the Monster was at its worst we couldn’t have a normal conversation for weeks.

She saw several professionals over a 3 year span, including a counselor, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. There seemed to be a general consensus: It’s a genetic condition in which the wiring of the brain has a malfunction and thoughts get stuck in a highly anxious, obsessive pattern. The person has to perform various compulsions in an attempt to escape the unimaginably high levels of anxiety.  The two treatment options were a medication like Zoloft, or CBT therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy).

She tried both… long story short: neither was very helpful for her. At some level she gave up, and tried to find a comfortable way to live with this unwanted companion in her life. However, it made life hard for her and all who loved her. It was excruciating for her loved ones to watch her suffer. My new approach was to research natural supplements that could help her brain function. I read and researched and made endless phone calls. I told her again and again, “I will NEVER stop fighting for you.”

In 2014 I went to a “Trauma Care” Conference. This changed my entire perspective on OCD.

I was sitting at the conference listening to Gina White speak on “Dissociation”… and I felt like I was hit by a ton of bricks… ***OCD is a very sophisticated, rather ingenious way of dissociating*** is what I realized. Everything she was saying clicked. She said that people who are highly dissociative will say things like “I don’t feel human.” My eyes must have just about popped out of my head. My friend had said that countless times!!

Again, this was a conference about *Trauma.* I began to make connections between events in my friend’s childhood, that now with Dr. Dan Allender’s definition of trauma I could name as *Trauma* and see the connection with her OCD.

In all of her experiences seeking professional help, not one of them had suggested childhood trauma as the fertile ground for the seed of OCD to rise.  I don’t fault them because this is not what is taught.

It is a *FACT* that people with childhood trauma below the age of 4 years old have a hippocampus (the calming center that balances or overrides the amygdala- the danger center) that is 17-20% smaller than the general population. This is supporting evidence for my theory.

If infant and childhood trauma can change the brain in one way that researches have detected, and the intricacy of the brain is akin to the cosmos, doesn’t it make sense that other things about the brain’s networking are also affected?

Here is another premise about childhood trauma: Whether it occurs through childhood sexual abuse, parental divorce, addiction or violence in the home (verbal or physical) there is a common denominator of a severe deficit of attachment for the child.

The child, who has no ability to find resources outside of himself, will find internal mechanisms to bring down cortisol and increase dopamine and serotonin.

The book, How We Love our Kids, discusses 5 insecure attachment types in parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vacillator, Controller and Victim Parents), the effect it has upon the children, and also how these attachment types will develop in growing children.

The chapter entitled, “Controller and Victim Children” opens with an example of a chaotic home in which there is alcohol addiction, verbal violence and fear. In this scenario there are two children, Clare and Caleb. Clare has a more timid disposition and becomes a “victim” in response to the trauma:

She grabbed her bear and wrapped herself in her bedspread, organizing all her other stuffed animals in a protective circle around her. The rest of the evening depended on Dad’s mood. Most likely her parents would fight, and her dad would yell at her mom. Clare’s stomach hurt. She wondered how bad it would be this time. She whispered to her bear, “If Daddy yells, we can put our heads under the pillow and sing. Nobody will find us.” She began to count her animals over and over to distract herself from the ticking time bomb beyond her bedroom door…”

The authors Milan and Kay Yerkovich explain:

This is a chaotic home. {Parents} Leon and Candi attend church, but their difficult upbringings have left scars. Behind their closed door, Mom and Dad switch back and forth between roles of victim and controller…

Since Clare’s personality is more timid, she deals by trying to comply, retreating, numbing her emotions, and creating an imaginary world. She’s learning to surrender, avoid conflict, and dissociate: the traits of a victim. 

Victims deal with high levels of anxiety by freezing and moving into an internal world to escape.

Kids reenact their trauma in play, trying to master and make sense of their experiences. Sometimes they assume the role of powerful perpetrator to feel some sense of relief over their helplessness.

My theory is that for many people, OCD was birthed through childhood trauma. A vast dissociative internal world was created, in which the child could feel safe and in control. Repetitive thoughts or actions became a way of alleviating anxiety. Later in adulthood, there is an aspect of recreating trauma within their mind, so that they can reenact the control and alleviation. OCD becomes an addiction that takes on a life of its own… the drug is the good feeling of mastering the obsession or fear and the alleviation of intense anxiety. It is an addiction to an interplay of control and victimization where roles are played out and conquered all in the individual’s mind.

The “intrusive” thoughts that are talked about in the professional and treatment realms are really not an “Outside Monster” as I once considered OCD to be. Instead, I believe the voice of OCD is an enemy within, akin to DID (dissociative identity disorder). A fragmented “self” that sabotages and becomes the “Controller”, allowing the person to have a target of self-contempt, a source of fear, for reenactment purposes, that can be escaped thus alleviating the fear and giving a sense of power to the previously powerless child within.

How can this addiction of OCD be treated? (Again, it is our theory that OCD is actually an addiction)

I believe that it can be treated through trauma resolution counseling… In which the underlying goal or purpose of the counselor is to create an attachment relationship for the person. In a sense, to re-parent the person through healthy attunement and containment (the two components of attachment).

It has been proven that the hippocampus will actually *grow* in the presence of a long term (3-4 years) relationship of healthy attunement.

I believe that CBT therapy doesn’t actually work. If it gives results for a time, I believe it’s because of the attunement of the therapist… if therapy only lasts a year or so, when it is over, I suspect the OCD will return.

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts that come from my experience with a loved one with OCD… I don’t claim to be a professional expert… These thoughts are my humble perspective, and I wanted to at least offer my ideas that are counter to main-stream approaches to OCD.

 

 

 

 

The truth about triangulation

“The Story of Joseph is YOUR story.” ~ DA

 

There is always a staggering toll initially for telling the truth, especially about family

Every parent needs to be studied. Every marriage must be truthfully pondered. One’s role among siblings needs to be comprehended. This is not being critical; it is studying the landscape to make one’s way through the dark woods of past harm. We are formed in the midst of the crucible of attachment and the tensions of our family of origin. We can’t even begin to understand our character until we better understand the role we played in relationship to every member of our immediate family.

This will unquestionably bring up stories of harm…

The goal is not to tell our stories to get over them, or even to gain insight. Instead, we must enter the stories for the sake of grief, anger and forgiveness. Grief opens the heart to receive comfort. Anger moves the heart to stand against injustice. Forgiveness frees the heart from resentment and the accusations of evil.” ~ Healing the Wounded Heart, pg 224 DA

This is the first blog in a series about how children can be harmed within families. This blog is about the concept of triangulation within a family- what it is and the harm it does.

God designed marriage to be an exclusive relationship, of highest priority and loyalty between a husband and wife, secondary only to their relationship with Him. In fact, the marriage relationship is meant to be an allegory, a living picture, of our relationship with God (see Ephesians 5, Song of Solomon, Hosea, Ezekiel 16, among more!).

There is to be a “leaving” of all others, not just in a sense of location- changing residence, but leaving emotionally, spiritually, and in the sense of loyalty. And then a “cleaving” to the spouse above all others in these same areas.

This reality of mutual giving and receiving of love can be weighed in the question- How much delight does the wife have for her husband? and he for her? Do their eyes light up for each other, and something deep in their soul says “Yes!!” for the other? And secondarily, how much honor is there between husband and wife?

The negative form of assessment might be, instead of this lighting up for the other is there a groan, a rolling of your eyes for the other?

John Gottman, phD studied couples and marriages and found rolling eyes highly predictive of divorce, *because* it is a sign of contempt for the other. (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman)

This assessment is important, because it is here, in this breakdown of love- of honor and delight- there forms a fissure in a marriage.

Whenever there is a fissure in a marriage there will be triangulation with the children in the family. The unmet needs of each parent to delight in another and receive delight don’t just disappear. When those needs are not being met by the spouse, there is a vacuum that MUST and WILL be filled. The desires of the heart will inevitably be redirected, often towards a “chosen” child, resulting in an emotional affair. We use language that makes it palatable and call this the “favorite” child syndrome.

Reread the story of Joseph- see the fissure in his parent’s marriage, how Joseph was the “chosen” of his brothers, the envy, and sabotage… the suffering Joseph endured. And when he said, (Genesis 50:20) “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” He’s talking about FAMILY, not some outside source of evil, but his own family meant him harm!

Here’s the typical triangulation scenario in our day: For whatever reason, distance comes into a marriage between husband and wife. They may still keep proper appearances, but all desire, delight, and true heart to heart intimacy is gone.

The shift of the woman’s heart can be seen in her eyes. While there is an eye-roll or a groan toward the father, the mother’s eyes light up for her son and she has a smile for him that she has never had for her husband. Her husband is not oblivious to this, he knows that her heart has been given to this child in a way that she has not given it to him. What then is human nature? The husband will be filled with envy toward the son. We may call his harsh treatment, cynicism, criticism, and mockery toward the boy “tough love” or laugh it off as “all in good fun”, but in reality it is sabotage and revenge toward his rival- the “surrogate husband” of his wife.

Of course it goes both ways… the husband chooses his “favored” child as well. (either sex, but often a daughter). The same scenario plays out: sabotage from the envious mother, often in the most subtle of ways… a comment about the daughter’s weight, or clothing that “is only meant to help” of course… or can manifest in emotional neglect- lack of protection or guidance that an adolescent girl would need.

Then as well, the son will feel that his sister has a special relationship with the father while at the same time he feels the father’s disdain. Human nature would incite jealousy in his heart toward his sister. And what does he do? Well, he also knows the envy in his mom’s heart- they share this in common. He colludes with her in sabotage of the daughter. He is delighted in handing over his sister to his mother on a silver plater. What does this mean? Anything that will increase the daughter’s shame, alienation, and contempt from the mother.

In his podcast, Dan has said, “When you engage triangulation, you are engaging the Kingdom of Darkness. When you begin to name these dynamics, and stand against it, all Hell will break loose- literally.”

Most families have at least two triangles. It’s so common that we consider it normal. A daughter is described as a “Daddy’s Girl” or a son “Momma’s Boy”… there’s the jokes (and realities) about intrusive mother in laws. Why is that a cultural expectation? Because *often* a mother will turn to her son to meet her emotional needs when her husband is emotionally avoidant or physically absent (workaholic or divorce for example). And then what happens when her son grows up and marries? The new woman isn’t simply her son’s new wife… she is her rival.

And what is the damage done to the “chosen” child?

To be the chosen one is to be the object of a parent’s delight; it is also to feel the shame of arousal, desire, fear, and disgustnone of which can be felt for long without revealing the truth, so it must be wedged into a crack of consciousness and then covered over. The animosity in the family needs to be ignored or explained, so the real issue is obscured and fault is felt as some flaw in the self. Needless to say, the more subtle, crazy-making, shame-inducing, blame-avoiding the harm, the more free Evil is to sow seeds that are actually more difficult to address, at times, than overt abuse.” ~ Healing the Wounded Heart, DA

The damage done can be legion and varied just as the triangulation will be unique in how it plays out in each family culture. The harm can be strictly emotional, but can also involve direct or covert physical and sexual abuse. Even though emotional abuse may seem lesser, each can have a trail of physical effects on a person’s life: chronic depression, anxiety issues and disorders, sexual promiscuity or involvement with abusive partners, self-harm in various addictions or chronic physical ailments such as fibromyalgia. (see book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk)

For more information, see Dan Allender’s new book, Healing the Wounded Heart. There is a chapter called, “The Damage of Covert Abuse.” He outlines 4 types of triangulation and describes the aftereffects:

There are four forms of interaction that are most common for generating emotional incest: critical and/or demeaning, dependent and/or fragile, sensual and/or sexualizing, and infantilizing and/or hyperprotection.”

on forgiveness: Part 1

This two minute video on forgiveness is profound… I hope you will watch it.

Here is a summary of the process Dan describes:

First, let me define “forgiveness” in 2 parts. The first part of forgiveness is canceling the debt some owes you for harm done to you. This is what God’s forgiveness is for us- The cost of our sin to God’s holiness and purity is infinite, therefore, we in turn owe a debt that is that is immeasurable and infinite. This debt demands an eternal, infinite payment… And this is grace: Jesus, being God in the flesh, took our debt upon himself and paid the debt for us. That is the *gift* He offers to us. Freedom from debt. And not only does he remove our punishment, but he *blesses us* with adoption- we are welcomed into God’s family as *sons and daughters*. That is the second part of forgiveness: a desire for goodness to come to the other, and an active movement to bless (Dan’s words).

Forgiveness may seem more clear, when simply defined in the above 2 parts. However the *process* is not simply, or easy, or completed in a moment with mere words, “I forgive you.” (Is that what we teach our children, and we ourselves have believed? One kid pushes another on the playground. An adult steps in, instructs the offending child to say, “I’m sorry” and the offended to say, “I forgive you.” And it’s neat and clean and DONE… then go off to play as before. And then in adulthood, when it doesn’t happen this way, do we question what is wrong with us? Why can’t we forgive, especially when God has forgiven us, instructs us to forgive others, and promises the power of the Spirit to guide us.

I think in the breakdown of the process of forgiveness as DA describes, we’ll see that we often road block at the very first step, and abandon the task altogether, often resorting to a *socially acceptable* form of contempt- *avoidance*. In refusing the painful process of forgiveness, all thoughts of harm are swept under the rug, and as DA says, “Your enemy becomes one you don’t see, and literally you cast them away from your eyes.”

The steps are: 1) Name the Wound; 2) Remember God’s forgiveness toward you; 3) Step into the War. (I will discuss each step in one blog post at a time. Here is part one:

1. Step 1: Name the Wound

The first step in forgiveness may very well be the hardest and most painful. When we’ve been harmed by another, we need to *name the wound*, face the heartache, and understand the particularities of the cost it’s been to us- our bodies, our being, our relationships.

However, we tend to minimize it, over-look it, “sweep it under the rug”, as I described above, and “move on”. This is a not true forgiveness. Can I pose the question- is much of what we consider “forgiveness” merely a counterfeit of what God truly desires from our hearts?

“You cannot forgive what you have not faced. The harm is almost always deeper than you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the consequences of harm done to you?” (DA)

This happens over time.

I recently read a letter that C.S Lewis wrote in 1963, near the end of his life, about the difficulty of forgiveness: “Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realized suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again.”

Sometimes forgiveness is a journey that takes a life time.

If forgiveness, by definition is canceling the debt owed to you… and to forgive you must understand what the debt is, this means you must *enter your own heartache for the wound that was caused you… and you must enter into the anger for this wound… THEN you can cancel the debt in truth. Again, this is not done easily. Clearly, this requires a high degree of felt pain… and this is why it may be a slow journey.

The question may arise- how exactly do we enter into the heartache and pain of the wound? Especially, given that we instinctively, unwittingly shield ourselves from such pain. I personally found that processing in a safe group with other people (specifically at the first group session of the Allender Center counseling certificate in Seattle) was essential.

Sharing our stories of harm in a group setting is helpful because it reveals where our hearts have turned against ourselves with accusations of being “dumb” or “overreacting” or “foolish” or whatever it is we tell ourselves as a reason that the harm is not significant. We can never see our own face, we automatically bring so much judgement… We need other people to see our face… to see the pain, and reflect the truth of the pain back to us. In my own experience, it was revelatory to see the faces of other people in reaction to my own story, and to see their compassion. At first, I could borrow from them that compassion for myself, then make it my own.

It was powerful for people to say, “the cost of the harm done to you has been *high*“... It was in the presence of others that God showed me areas of my heart that held contempt for myself, and then opened my heart in compassion and grief. And finally, I understood, in greater totality, the debt I am called to cancel. As Dan says, this is a high privilege, and in no other arena are we closer to the heart of God.

{if you were intrigued by the first 2 minute video, here is a 14 minute interview discussing forgiveness that fleshes out more of the ideas: “Forgiveness: Unpacking the Confusion }