Interior Integration for Catholics

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Through poetry, stories, quotes, theory, research and clinical experience, Dr. Peter invites you into the dire, terrible world of suicidality. He makes the case that almost no one, including therapists and those who have attempted suicide understand suicide very well. And he brings in perspectives from Internal Family Systems to clarify how different parts of us have different beliefs, attitudes, feelings and desires about suicide, leading to inner conflict and turmoil.

Show Notes

  1. Lead-in
    1. Almost no one understands suicide very well.  Almost no one.  

    1. Some of you might say -- but Dr. Peter, I've been really down and out.  I've been really suicidal.  I've been there.  I lived it.  
      1. Not gonna argue with you about having been suicidal. But having intense feelings, almost irresistible impulses toward suicide, constant suicidal thoughts
      2.  -- that doesn't mean you understand suicide.  Not at all.

    1. I don't think most people who have attempted suicide really understand their experience.  

    1. I don't think most therapists really understand suicide.    

    1. Why ?
    1. Because we're afraid to really enter into what is behind suicide.  We don't want to go there.  We're terrified of what lurks underneath.  We have parts of us that don't want to understand.  
      1.  Lauren Oliver, Delirium “Suicide. A sideways word, a word that people whisper and mutter and cough: a word that must be squeezed out behind cupped palms or murmured behind closed doors. It was only in dreams that I heard the word shouted, screamed."

    1. And I'll go further than that.  And it's not so much because we're afraid of what we'll find in another person, a friend or relative or colleague.  It's because we are terrified that finding the darkness inside of others will wake up our own sleeping giants of darkness.  The darkness inside us.  The terror inside us.  That's why we avoid, why we distract, why we skirt the edges of this topic. 

    1. Benjamin Franklin knew this:  Nine men in ten are would-be suicides   -Poor Richard's Almanack.  

    1. Freud popularized it in 1920 -- book the Pleasure Principle.   -- he discussed the death drive: the drive toward death and destruction, often expressed through behaviors such as aggression, repetition compulsion, and self-destructiveness.  Death drive or drives went by the name Thanatos -- the Greek god personified death.
      1. Caught a lot of flak for it, then and now.  Not really widely accepted.  I think he was on to something.  Something we don't want to think about others -- that they have drives toward self-destruction.  It's something that we don't want to admit about ourselves.  

    1. If we are really honest with ourselves in looking at suicide
      1. we would realize, with John Bradford There but for the grace of God go I. We would give up our false presumptions about our own strength and our own natural resiliency.  

      1. We would realize, with Shakespeare's Lord Chancellor in Henry VIII “We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.” ― Lord Chancellor William Shakespeare, Henry VIII 

      1. We would understand Mahatma Ghandi when he said: “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.”
      1. We would have a lot less judgement about the souls and experience of those who killed themselves.  Yes, the action of suicide is wrong, gravely wrong, and we'll discuss that in next week's episode.  We're not minimizing the gravity of the act -- I'm talking here about the phenomenological experience of those on the brink of self-destruction and why they are there.  

      1. And we would understand something about the spiritual dimensions, the dark spiritual powers at work in suicide as well.   

    1. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think you really have any accurate idea about suicide.  Suicide is one of the most misunderstood of human actions.  
      1. Because we want to avoid the churning darkness, the despair, the hopelessness, the alienation, the trauma within us, we don’t want to see it in others.  And if someone near is suicidal, we know, we know instinctively that he is tapping into his despair, his hopelessness, his alienation.  We know that our suicidal is really in the grip of her trauma and her isolation, and her excruciating pain.  
      2. And our natural response -- is to flee.  To get out of dodge.  To protect ourselves.  
        1. We rationalize it -- I'm not a professional, I'm not a counselor, I don't know what to do with all of this intensity
      3. Or we stay in there, we force ourselves to stay in relationship, feeling really inadequate, not wanting to go too deep, not wanting to screw it up -- and in our timidity and fear, we actually aren't very helpful. 
      4. OK --  I will grant you that you don't really know what to do.  
      5. And I get it that you're afraid -- maybe terrified.  OK.  
      6. This is a tough issue.  Suicide is a tough issue.  And tough issues are what we specialize in here.  [Cue music]

  3. Intro
    1. Welcome to the podcast Interior Integration for Catholics, thank you for being here with me, thank you for making it through the lead in and not fleeing from this episode.  I'm glad you and I are in this together.  And it's going to be OK.  By God's grace, together we can handle, we can work with, we can work through this topic of suicide.  We'll do it together.  

    1. I am clinical psychological Peter Malinoski and you are listening to the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, where we take on the toughest topics, the ones others don't want to touch, and we go really deep with them.  Why?  Not out of some kind of idle curiosity.  Not out of disorder curiosity, out of some kind of psychological voyeurism.  No.  We go there in this podcast because we are working on ourselves.  On our own human formation, shoring up the natural foundation for our spiritual lives, so that we can enter into loving union with God.  That's why.  It's about removing the psychological barriers you have to a much deeper intimacy with God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother.
    1. In the last episode we looked at specific cases of suicide in Sacred Scripture.  This is episode number 78, released on July 26, 2021, entitled The Desperate Inner Experience of Suicidality.  We are going to enter into the phenomenological world of the suicidal person.  

  5. Why?  Why do we do that?  Why do that?
    1. Two answers.  The second answer is for going into all of this depth on suicide is so that you and I can love.  
      1. So that we can love others who are struggling with this -- and there are so many. 
        1.  Franklin estimated 90%.  Nine men in ten are would-be suicides.  I think he's right, even though the vast majority of those don't even know there's a struggle going on inside them.  I think Benjamin Franklin knew about the latent potential in most people.
        2. Freud:  Thanatos.  The Death Drives.  Freud knew.  For all his faults and follies, Freud knew something about the depth of pain in people's souls.  The pain that lives in the unconscious.  Locked away, at least for a time.  Unnoticed, at least for a time.  

    1. The first answer:  Is so that we can be known and loved.  That we can accept others knowing us, and us knowing ourselves.  
      1. 1 John 4:19  We love, because he first loved us.  
        1. He first loved us.  We need to let God love us.  We need to let our Lady, our Mother love us
        2. In our woundedness.  In our suffering.  In our shame, in our pain, in our fear, in our sadness, however our darkness is for us.  Whatever our darkness is.  
      2. Isaiah 9:2  The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
        1. Not just about the external world, but also our internal world.  

  6. The Pain
    1. Caveats -- Difficult topic. 

    1. “The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
    1. “Nobody has ever killed themselves over a broken arm. But every day, thousands of people kill themselves because of a broken heart. Why? Because emotional pain hurts much worse than physical pain.”        ― Oliver Markus Malloy, Bad Choices Make Good Stories  

    1. “When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide 
  1. ““Suicidal pain includes the feeling that one has lost all capacity to effect emotional change. The agony is excruciating and looks as if it will never end. There is the feeling of having been beaten down for a very long time. There are feelings of agitation, emptiness, and incoherence. 'Snap out of it and get on with your life,' sounds like a demand to high jump ten feet.”        ― David L. Conroy, Out of the Nightmare: Recovery from Depression and Suicidal Pain 
  2. Suicide is best understood not so much as a movement toward death as it is a movement away from something and that something is always the same: intolerable emotion, unendurable pain, or unacceptable anguish.  Maurizio Pompili & Roberto Tatarelli
  3. Parts and Suicide
    1. So helpful to think of suicide in terms of parts.  

    1. A phenomenon that a number of people have noted while in deep depression is the sense of being accompanied by a second self — a wraithlike observer who, not sharing the dementia of his double, is able to watch with dispassionate curiosity as his companion struggles against the oncoming disaster, or decides to embrace it. There is a theatrical quality about all this, and during the next several days, as I went about stolidly preparing for extinction, I couldn't shake off a sense of melodrama — a melodrama in which I, the victim-to-be of self-murder, was both the solitary actor and lone member of the audience.”
― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness 
  1. Definition of Parts:  Separate, independently operating personalities within us, each with own unique prominent needs, roles in our lives, emotions, body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, typical thoughts, intentions, desires, attitudes, impulses, interpersonal style, and world view.  Each part also has an image of God and also its own approach to sexuality.  Robert Falconer calls them insiders.  
  2. Each part has
    1. Personality style
    1. Needs -- Episode 62
      1. Attachment needs
      1. Integrity needs

    1. Emotions
    1. Body sensation.  

    1. Belief.  

    1. Thought
    1. Intentions 

    1. Desires
    1. Attitudes
    1. Impulses.
    1. Interpersonal style
    1. World view
    1. Often have burdens
    1. Ways of coping
  12. Review of Parts
    1. Exiles -- 
      1. most sensitive -- these exiles have been exploited, rejected, abandoned in external relationships
      2. They have suffered relational traumas or attachment injuries
      3. They hold the painful experiences that have been isolated from conscious awareness to protect the person from being overwhelmed with the intensity.
      4. They desperately want to be seen and known, to be safe and secure, to be comforted and soothed, to be cared for and loved
      5. They want rescue, redemption, healing
      6. And in the intensity of their needs and emotions, they threaten to take over and destabilize the person's whole being, the person's whole system -- they want to take over the raft to be seen and heard, to be known, to be understood.  But they can flood us with the intensity of their experience
      7. And that threatens to harm external relationships
      8. Burdens they carry:  Shame, dependency, worthlessness, Fear/Terror, Grief/Loss, Loneliness, Neediness, Pain, lack of meaning or purpose, a sense of being unloved and unlovable, inadequate, abandoned
      9. Exiles' Role in Suicide
        1. Furnishing the intolerable pain.  

        1. Exiles bring the intensity. The fuel
      11. Description of the pain of suicide -- Quotes
        1. Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to a friend and protégé, encouraging him to make peace with his inner demons. 

        1. “Actually, it was only part of myself I wanted to kill: the part that wanted to kill herself, that dragged me into the suicide debate and made every window, kitchen implement, and subway station a rehearsal for tragedy.”― Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted 1993 memoir of being in a mental hospital for 18 months in the late 1960s. 

    1. Managers
      1. These are the proactive protector parts.  They work strategically, with forethought and planning to keep in control of situations and relationships to minimize the likelihood of you being hurt.  They work really hard to keep you safe.
      1. "Never again" attitude toward the exiles.  

      1. Very much about reducing risk of overwhelm.  

      1. controlling, striving, planning, caretaking, judging, 

      1. Can be pessimistic, self-critical, very demanding.  

    1. Firefighters
      1. When exiles break through and threaten to take over the system, this is terrifying.  The consequences of exile taking over could be disastrous.  So when these exiles are about the break out, the firefighters leap into action.
      1. It's an emergency situation, a crisis, like a fire raging in a house.
      1. Firefighters are focused on rescuing us from a terrible situation.  

      1. No concern for niceties, for propriety, for etiquette, for little details like that.  

      1. Firefighter take bold, drastic actions to stifle, numb or distract from the intensity of the exile's experiences.  They break down the door and spray water over everything, trying to calm the raging flames.  

      1. No concern for consequences -- don't you get it, we are in a crisis, 

      1. All kinds of addictions -- alcohol use, binge eating, shopping, sleeping, dieting, excessive working or exercise, suicidal actions, self-harm, violence, dissociation, distractions, obsessions, compulsions, escapes into fantasy, and raging.  

      1. Parts can take over the person

  13. Firefighters' role in Suicide 
    1. Serious suicidal impulses can be driven by firefighters:
      1. Just make the pain of the exiles stop. 

      1. Suicidal firefighters are filled with hopelessness -- they don't know of another way to protect you.  

      1. They have been beaten down, sometimes literally, always figuratively.  

    2. Desperation of firefighters
      1. If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

      1. “In my view, suicide is not really a wish for life to end.'
What is it then?'
It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide.”
― Orson Scott Card, Ender's Shadow 
  1. “I am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.”― David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson 
  2. “The man who kills a man kills a man. The man who kills himself kills all men. As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.”― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy 
  3. Rapid Shifts among parts
    1. The man, who in a fit of melancholy, kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week.  Voltaire
    1. When you're young and healthy you can plan on Monday to commit suicide, and by Wednesday you're laughing again.  Marilyn Monroe  who died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1962 at age 36 -- ruled a probable suicide by the county coroner.
    1. “The Suicide, as she is falling, Illuminated by the moon, Regrets her act, and finds appalling The thought she will be dead so soon.”        ― Edward Gorey 

  6. Impulse driven suicide
    1. 2015 Study in South Korea -- Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience  
      1. 87% of suicide attempts were impulsive 
        1. Most common trigger was interpersonal conflict
        2. Most common diagnosis was major depression.  
      2. Often poorly planned
      3. Replicated a previous 2011 in South Korea study where 85% were impulsive

    1. 2016 South Korean Study in Psychiatry Investigation
      1. 48% of 269 suicide attempters brought to ERs were clearly impulsive, very sudden
        1. No Plan
        1. No previous suicidal ideation.  They weren't thinking about it.   

        1. Came out of the blue

    1. 1997 Study from Sweden 44% of suicide attempts were radically impulsive.  

  7. Approach:  
    1. Always reassure dangerous firefighters that you do not aim to get rid of them. 
    2. Treat them with respect and appreciation; they have only been trying to help. 
    3. They are trying to help,  trying to protect you from misery. 
    4. If dangerous firefighters think there is an effective alternative, they are often
game to try that new way
  1. They need to experience hope.  
    1. Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse. Karl A. Menninger
  2. It is critically important to present them other options for safety, that they can be safe without needing suicide.  
  3. We will get into how to work with them in the next episode.  
  4. Managers' role in suicide
    1. Remember, managers are more proactive.  

    1. Managers still can be very intense, and also in a lot of pain, but they are not so reactive.  

    1. Planned Suicide
      1. Suicide seriously considered.  Suicide as a "comforting" option.  
        1. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, writer, and philologist whose work has exerted a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy.  The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.”

      1. prepared a will, decided upon a method in advance, and planned the date of the attempt.
      1. Repeated suicidal impulses from firefighter can be taken up by managers
        1. Or firefighters can take on a more managerial role
        1. And use contemplation of suicide as a role.  

      1. “The thought that I might kill myself formed in my mind coolly as a tree or a flower.” Sylvia Plath American poet, novelist, and short-story writer -- attempted suicide several times by several means.  Succeeded at age 31, after experiencing major depression for most of her adult life.  1963.  

      1. “There are people who fantasize about suicide, and paradoxically, these fantasies can be soothing because they usually involve either fantasizing about others' reactions to one's suicide or imagining how death would be a relief from life's travails. In both cases, an aspect of the fantasy is to exert control, either over others' views or toward life's difficulties. The writer A. Alvarez stated, " There people ... for whom the mere idea of suicide is enough; they can continue to function efficiently and even happily provided they know they have their own, specially chosen means of escape always ready..." In her riveting 2008 memoir of bipolar disorder, Manic, Terri Cheney opened the book by stating, "People... don't understand that when you're seriously depressed, suicidal ideation can be the only thing that keeps you alive. Just knowing there's an out--even if it's bloody, even if it's permanent--makes the pain bearable for one more day."

This strategy appears to be effective for some people, but only for a while. Over longer periods, fantasizing about death leaves people more depressed and thus at higher risk for suicide, as Eddie Selby, Mike Amestis, and I recently showed in a study on violent daydreaming. A strategy geared toward increased feelings of self-control (fantasizing about the effects of one's suicide) "works" momentarily, but ultimately backfires by undermining feelings of genuine self-control in the long run.― Thomas Joiner, Myths About Suicide 
  1. Like a drug.
  2. Battling among Parts
    1. “The debate was wearing me out. Once you've posed that question, it won't go away. I think many people kill themselves simply to stop the debate about whether they will or they won't. Anything I thought or did was immediately drawn into the debate. Made a stupid remark—why not kill myself? Missed the bus—better put an end to it all. Even the good got in there. I liked that movie—maybe I shouldn’t kill myself.”        ― Susanna Kaysen  

    1. If a person with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is that considered a hostage situation?  Comedian Steven Wright
  4. Reasons for Suicide
    1. Suicide is complex
      1. Suicide is complex, there's never a single reason why a person contemplates taking their own life, and there are no absolute indicators that a person could be in that state. Steve Crisp

    1. Superficial ones -- see IIC 76 section VII. 

    1. Illusory Ones
      1. You didn't love me enough
        1. “A lot of you cared, just not enough.” ― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why -- young adult novel
        1. “Some people are just not meant to be in this world. It's just too much for them.” ― Phoebe Stone, The Boy on Cinnamon Street 

        1. Vincent:  Don McLean 1971 Vincent Van Gogh

You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you
  1. Deeper, more primary causes  -- unmet needs with despair that those needs will ever be met.  
    1. Attachment Needs
      1. A felt sense of safety and protection, deep sense of security felt in the bones  No parts feel this.
      1. Feeling seen and known heard and understood -- felt attunement  Parts Isolated
      1. Felt comfort, reassurance
      1. Feeling valued, delighted in, cherished by the attachment figure
      1. Felt support for the best self
      1. When attachment needs are not met, who comes in?  Satan.   

    7. Integrity Needs
      1. All of the above.  Each one of us needs help to develop our sense of self, our identity
      1. I exist 

      1. my existence is separate from others --  I exist in my own right, a separate person. bounded, has boundaries
      1. My identity is stable over time and across different situations -- there is a continuity -- hard when parts are all over the place.  

      1. I can regulate myself -- I have some self-control.  

      1. Is integrated -- coherent interconnections inside between aspects of experience -- self-cohesion
      1. Is active, with agency, can effectively function in the world
      1. Is morally good -- ontologically or essentially good and thus has intrinsic value and worth, apart from others' opinions.  

      1. I can make sense of my experience and the world around me
      1. Mission and Purpose in life
      1. We also need to make good choices -- seek what is good, true and beautiful in lif
  2. Compassionate responses
    1. When a famous person dies by suicide, we "remind" people to pick up the phone and call a hotline. "If he'd only reached out for help because help was available," is a frequent refrain, as if people who suffer don't know that and the disease doesn't disable cognitive function. We need to do more than give out phone numbers.  Bob Collins
    1. We will be doing so much more.  Through little things and big things.  Next episode.  

  4. Action Items
    1. If you are having suicidal thoughts or know of someone who is, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. 

    1. Resilient Catholics Community.  

    1. Catholic's Guide to Choosing a Therapist
    1. Catholic Journeymen -- Dr. Gerry Crete community of faithful Catholic men seeking to renew their lives through prayer, personal growth, healing, and brotherhood!
    1. Conversation hours T, R 317.567.9594  Not July 27 and July 29.  

    1. Pray for me and for the other listeners
  8. Patronness and patron

What is Interior Integration for Catholics?

In the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, together, we seek fundamental transformation in our lives through human formation, via Internal Family Systems approaches grounded in a Catholic worldview. Join us as we sail through uncharted waters, seizing the opportunities for psychological and spiritual growth and increasing resilience in the natural and spiritual realms. With a clear takeaway message and one action in each weekly episode, you can move from dreading what is happening to you to rising above it. Join us on Mondays for new episodes. You can also check out the Resilient Catholics Community which grew up around this podcast at