Reflections on Death Wishes: Did Whitney Houston Want to die?

Muddling through

I agree with my colleague in some respects. We can kill ourselves in the quest for pleasure — witness heart-stopping doses of cocaine. I am partial to the idea that addictive drugs “hijack” the normal brain reward systems. And there is no reward greater than escape from unbearable pain. Karl Menninger viewed nonsuicidal self-injury as “anti-suicidal” behavior. Cutting, banging or burning oneself can reduce emotional distress dramatically. Such behavior appears “self-destructive” only to the outside observer; to the person engaging in the behavior, it is self-preservative, a way of muddling through to live another day. The same might be said of addiction.

Penchant for self-destruction

I am less sanguine than my colleague about a thoroughgoing constructive orientation in human nature. He writes, “…All of us have the same basic agenda to find happiness and manage physical and psychic pain the best we can.” I find myself more sympathetic than he with Freud’s view of divided forces in our nature, constructive and destructive. Freud gave us a naturalized version of the age-old battle between good and evil, an enduring contest. I find ample evidence that destructiveness can be self-directed.

by JON G. ALLEN, PHD at Say No To Stigma blog at the Menninger Clinic

BS-ing in Psychotherapy

“How long will it take me to pull out of this depression?”

“Should I go through with the divorce?”

“Should I give up on reconciling with my mother?”

“Do these images that keep coming to mind mean that I was really sexually abused, even though I can’t remember it?”

Therapists who strive to answer such questions with any sense of certainty put themselves at risk for bullshitting.

But patients as well as therapists are liable to bullshit in psychotherapy—to their own detriment. For example, avoiding painful experiences and conflicts, patients may talk in elaborate detail about relatively minor or peripheral concerns. Or they may gloss over serious problems such as self-destructive behavior with flippant remarks. More rarely, patients may strive to entertain therapists with their exploits.

by JON G. ALLEN, PHD at Say No To Stigma Blog by the Menninger Clinic

Equine Therapy: Unplugged

When people connect through a device, like a phone, several things that accompany a face-to-face interaction are missing. Primarily, the emotional exchange that occurs when two people experience each others’ facial expressions and body language is missing. Otherwise known as “emotional contagion” this syncing of expressed emotion has been demonstrated to have a calming effect on a person’s physiology.


And the very same thing happens when we interact with a horse. After all, a horse’s language is both 100% expressed through his body language, but also 100% not able to be disguised in any way. So a horse is also not able to buffer himself from our emotions in the way a person can distract — or be distracted — from another’s emotions. And because a horse is a large and imposing animal — with inherent danger to us — we are compelled to address his behavior, and consequently, our own.


When people don’t communicate in person, vulnerability, another aspect of communication is lost. To be vulnerable to another person is to be exposed to that person, and in doing so, subject oneself to any number of judgements from. But it is also in allowing ourself to be vulnerable that we also allow ourself to be understood. And without being understood, connection becomes nothing more than a fantasy.