Saturday, September 08, 2018


This "comment" came to me in response to the blog post I called "The Helper of Suicides" which I meant to criticize the "shrinks" and so on who are often the recipients of referrals from people who have been asked to help, but don't feel they CAN.  My point is that anyone can, but that many therapists, clergy, medical docs and so on really don't know how, and feel safe only if they are remote and "scientific."

Hi, Mary. I would rather not have this comment published, it is just to you. I hope you will expand on this article. You introduce many ideas in it and but I often can understand the connections you clearly perceive between them. This sentence jumped out at me:  "Extending or receiving that [true intimacy] is very hard and messes up any pre-existing life."  What does that mean?  This: "They all deserve acknowledgement without having to compromise who they are".  Is the lack of acknowledgement (which I am reading as similar to true intimacy) what can drive people to suicide? You say, "When a person is a helper, they feel it, too. That's what they do -- get close enough to feel it."  Is the need for intimate acknowledgment, or the suicidal person's lack of it? Suicide is an important topic for me and I would love to understand your thinking better. on THE HELPER OF SUICIDES

I'll lift out the issues.

1.  I can't always understand the connections you clearly perceive among ideas.  For instance, "extending or receiving true intimacy is very hard and messes up any pre-existing life."

2.  "They (people?) all deserve acknowledgement without having to compromise who they are."  Is the lack of acknowledgement (which I am reading as similar to true intimacy) what can drive people to suicide?"

3.  You say, "When a person is a helper, they feel it, too.  That's what they do -- get close enough to feel it."  Is it the need for intimate acknowledgement or the suicidal person's lack of it?

Probably the best way to explain my thinking is to describe incidents and understandings from my past.  One was in college (NU, '61)  My roommate, a cop's daughter, came in all excited.  She said,  "I was talking to a black guy."  (I'm not sure black was the word she used -- he was one of a dozen African Americans who had been accepted to be on the football team.)  "And I forgot he was black!  I just was talking to someone who really paid attention to what I said so I did the same and I entirely forgot he was so different."  The prejudice she got from her father, who dealt almost entirely with black criminals, finally had a crack in it that allowed her to see a real person.

Parallel is the complaint of many Native American people that they feel like ghosts.  People don't know how to relate to them, so whites pretend they don't see anyone.  Almost worse is being seen as a stereotype from the movies.  When I taught in Browning in the Sixties when all the teachers were white and all the students were "red," the teachers used to say about troubled kids that "they just want attention."  The counselor who changed a lot of lives said,  "It's little enough to offer.  Why not just give it to them?  If it will save a life?"  His marriage broke up.

During the strife of trying to preserve my marriage (early '70s) we (mostly me) went to a psychiatrist for help.  He was a nice guy and tried, but had no grasp of what the problem was, why I wouldn't just conform like a "good" wife.  It distressed him that I was so emotional and when suicide came up, he asked me to leave. 

Entering ministry means a lot of self-examination and when I had a female counselor about my age, things came untangled a little better.  Even a big black Baptist male could put his finger on dynamics because he was attuned to the emotional, not just trying to enforce some body of rules from a rational theory.  The worst was a fellow UU minister who wanted control and loved gas-lighting.  I turned the tables on him out of self-preservation.  He lost his job. 

Maybe the harder concept is the "therapist" or helper trying to handle his or her own feelings aroused by the person needing help.  I had a young relative, very sexy and alcoholic.  She repeatedly got pregnant and had to have abortions, but refused to use contraception because she believed they had killed her mother.  So she said.  I think the real cause was that she wanted a baby to love because she believed no one loved her.

As far as I know, I was the only "helper" she had, but I was insufficient because of my phobia about getting pregnant and also about abortion.  She heard me say that abortion was murder, which was a rational, technical opinion and not at all about the emotional reality, partly the death of a dream and partly a sharp shock to physiology.  Nevertheless, I took her for the procedure and got her safely home until the fourth time, which I couldn't stand it anymore.

What I ought to have done was to have taken her home, made her a daughter, helped her raise the baby, and been vulnerable to all the attachments and dangers of allowing hostages to fortune.  I was about to enter seminary and would have had to give that up.  No one at seminary ever asked me about her life, never suspected anything about it or the impact on me.  She died in a car accident from not paying attention; the event coincided with the explosion of Mount St Helens, a previously serene mountain I had seen from my Portland bedroom window all my young life.  Most of her life she was emotionally numb. She never saw the eruption. 

Only one person has ever known what writing has meant to me and why I give up everything else.  I cannot be a therapist, even if I can make a solid intimate connection with someone, because they would demand that I give up writing  -- at least about them -- and that would mean giving up part of my identity.  I wouldn't be me anymore.  People do it all the time, but I don't want to, couldn't do it even for marriage and it was a sincere marriage.  There are many kinds of suicide.

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