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?”

 

 

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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.”