Monday, March 8, 2021

Excellent Quote By April Foreman, PhD, American Association of Suicidology

... regarding Meghan's suicidality ... 


"They were letting these invalidating things happen to her even when she was compliant, which makes you think it's your fault, makes you think if you just act differently you can protect yourself - but both Harry and Meghan said nothing they did made it better or worse, except when she broke the environmental rules to save herself. When you have to break the social system's rules to be safe and well and healthy, something is wrong with the environment."

- April Foreman, PhD, American Association of Suicidality


This is what I was saying about things changing in the last 20 years, since Diana, looking at suicidality more from a group-dynamic/environmental perspective rather than personal flaw  - including group scapegoating. 

Also, until within the last decade, therapy was focused on the previous wrongful assumption that if the suicidal person (sometimes the target or victim) just learned better coping skills, they could better tolerate, even change a group dynamic, instead of teaching them how to better recognize, avoid, and even escape a truly toxic environment (even if it's just toxic to that person) that will never change (because it benefits those at the top of it), regardless of what they do or don't do.

In other words, as I said a few posts below, the field of psychology has learned, since the days of Diana, that once the person is completely removed from a truly toxic environment - intense stress, abuse, bullying and/or trauma - with time to heal and a healthy support system, you will often see those behaviors dissipate and/or disappear.  

Give them time - the longer they're in the situation, the longer it may take them to heal - and they may still experience "flashback" triggers temporarily to the same types of thoughts with contact with the original stress, abuse, or trauma - or something similar to the stress, abuse, or trauma.

Additionally, family scapegoats tend to become scapegoats again in new dysfunctional groups - this is NOT "proof" that they're "the problem."

It means a pattern is repeating, likely due to a combination of the person being drawn to new dysfunctional groups out of familiarity and the scapegoat still being who they are - having the same features for which they were scapegoated initially (see previous posts on reasons for scapegoating).  

You see this in that Meghan was scapegoated in her own family (father, half-sister), then again in Harry's, and Britain as a whole.

In Meghan's case, she hits all top 5 reasons people become scapegoats - she's the newest, she's different than the others (half-black, plus American), she's sensitive, she's outspoken, and just plain old jealousy (which particularly happens in groups of women).

Additionally, although suicidality can be manipulative and a sign of a personality disorder, it's important to note that those types of suicidal behaviors are typically associated with that person frantically trying to avoid abandonment.

In Meghan's situation - and my own prior situation (obviously, I was the scapegoat for different reasons) - the suicidal thoughts were never associated with abandonment.

Like Meghan, mine, too, were associated with genuinely being trapped in a toxic/bullying group-scapegoat situation, too (for different reasons), and genuinely believing that everyone would be better off without me, too.

I'm happy to say that once I completely removed myself from any and all contact with that toxic-group environment - one in which I, too, was the scapegoat - I have not had a single suicidal thought enter my head, ever again :) 

And had I known I'd have the life I have now, with my amazing husband, and healthier, supportive, group of people around me, I never would have had those thoughts to begin with :).

But you can't see that, when you're literally trapped in toxicity - and by "trapped," I mean due to financial reasons, guilt trips, manipulation, or actual fear of leaving, because someone is threatening or preventing you from leaving.

Don't forget, as much bullying goes on in groups that scapegoat, they need you as their scapegoat, or they won't have anyone to blame - they don't want you to learn new coping skills or change - so they will do lots of things to actually prevent it. And if you do finally distance yourself or leave, they'll just find another and another and another, rather than re-evaluating the system.

Regardless, don't assume people are trying to manipulate you with expressing suicidal feelings, rather than trying to tell you their coping skills are tapped out - especially if they're expressing them in a situation where there has been no abandonment or threat of abandonment made, and the person is just overwhelmed, unable to cope, and blaming themselves - because if you're wrong, you will only make it worse/re-traumatize them. 

Developing new coping skills is always beneficial; however, again, if an environment is truly toxic, you can learn and develop all of the new coping skills that exist, but the toxic environment is still toxic (and some people are more "allergic" to this type of toxicity than others due to personal history) - and the environment is not going to change, no matter what you do - you're not powerful enough to control the entire group dynamic and behavior of other people and shouldn't try, lest you be no different than the people in power trying to control you.

Trying new coping skills and looking at things from different perspectives is always worth a try first, though - but don't be surprised if in a truly toxic environment, the more you change for the better, the worse things get and it gets flipped back on you :)

Regardless, at least try a little empathy and kindness first, before judging them?

Or at least give them a referral to a professional who can help teach them better coping skills and boundaries, at the very least?

HOWEVER - as Dr. Foreman said, in groups that are truly toxic (even if just to that person), new coping skills an individual has learned, or what they do or don't do, won't change the truly toxic group dynamic or system, which will likely never change.

Thus, it's time to distance yourself from it or cut your losses and leave, for your health, and work on how to better protect yourself and recognize toxic situations in the future - and this is the situation most of us believe that Meghan was in.

*** However, a warning   ... *** 

"Shop around" for a therapist first, asking many questions and for references (and not just from professional colleagues - see below). 

Don't assume, as I did years ago, that just because someone has a license and a degree on their wall, that means they are up to date  and trained with the latest studies; more importantly, don't assume they are any saner than you or the person you're referring lol.

This may surprise you, but despite the well-known problem of many therapists getting into therapy for the wrong reasons/out of their own unhealthy issues, many universities still do not require clinicians to have therapy themselves before they practice therapy on others.

After both professional and personal experience, I believe that there should be a legally-mandated federal requirement for all clinicians to have at least 1 year of therapy themselves, before practicing therapy - and to not be cleared to practice therapy until their personal therapist approves them as being ready to practice. 

Additionally, I believe all therapists - even those in solo private practices - should have either a supervising therapist on staff or personal therapist on standby for themselves, for any cases which "trigger" their own issues.

Additionally, as a social work student myself, once upon a time, headed to becoming a therapist (for the wrong reasons), I can tell you I've been taught by or met a few brilliant psychology and social work academia, both staff and guest speakers, who were great researchers, but had extremely poor interpersonal skills and self-awareness; thus, though they had a great reputation with academia, they had a horrible reputation with their patients.

In particular, I had one professor who wrote a very famous book in the 1990s for a certain type of therapy that is still being used today, and I can honestly say was one of the best instructors I ever had.  

However,  I noticed she had terrible interpersonal skills, was very abrupt with people asking questions.  Like most clinicians at that level, she had stopped giving therapy herself years ago, so I didn't think that was unusual, at the time.  

I later learned that the clinicians who trained under for their practicums complained of her being a control freak and bullying them, and ultimately making all of the decisions for their patients, never having actually seen them herself ;).  

Since her retirement, both former clinicians under her training and former patients have come forward, saying that they believed in her philosophy and therapy, but not as her personally as a practitioner of it - that she personally did not practice what she preached, and often did them more harm than good, when personally involved.

This is why I say when you ask them for references, ask for references not only from professional colleagues and academia, but from current or former patients themselves, if they're willing to give them, even anonymously ;)

The ideal clinician should be not only properly educated, but trained and up to date on the latest studies on trauma and suicidality; particularly on the recent information we've gleaned on how much environmental factors play a role in suicidality versus presumption of chronic personality flaw. 

Also - and I cannot stress this enough - you want to be sure that person is at least as sane as the person you're referring to therapy lol - so don't be afraid to ask them tough questions.   

Also, the clinician shouldn't just talk the talk, but personally walks the walk themselves - someone with enough humility to admit any mistakes and transparent, but who also has good personal boundaries and doesn't overshare, to the point you wonder who is leading whom and where the boundaries are.  

In other words, the ideal clinician is actually not someone who is perfect - the ideal clinician is someone who is self-aware of their own issues and triggers (as none of us is perfect) and is willing to admit their mistakes, but without oversharing, who establishes clear personal boundaries (as the personal nature of the information being shared can lead to blurred boundaries).  

Failure to find a therapist with the above requirements can, and likely will, result in re-traumatizing the person and making them worse, rather than helping them. 

Also remember that suicidal thoughts are not uncommon, even normal, in situations where where a person is genuinely trapped, with no way out - and that actually, only the most narcissistic/sociopathic/psychopathic people wouldn't weigh that as an option.

So let's at least try a little more kindness and empathy, and to "do unto others as you would have them to do you onto you," shall we?  :)

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