Anyone who angers you conquers you

Charles Klein

Clinical diagnoses are often relativized – spontaneous healing and change of symptoms occur rather frequently. “It is as you tell it.” (Heinz von Foerster). As professional helpers, we want neither to stigmatize nor to provoke iatrogenic neuroses.

Statement of a 17-year-old suicidal patient: “I am a borderliner, that is why I made so many suicide attempts.” It means: I assume no responsibility, I am a victim of my illness/diagnosis/childhood.

In logotherapy and existential analysis, we see the existential outcome.

“Not what life has given me -
but who I HAVE BECOME”.
(Elisabeth Lukas)

“What matters is not what our childhood made of us,
but what we do with what it made of us.”
(Jean Paul Sartre)

But we do not forget that suppressed traumatizations can be passed on through many generations. The example of 15-year-old Ali: a presenting symptom and a trigger of a suicide attempt – he jumped out of the 4th floor of the family-run hotel after his father had tried to force him against his will to take part in a one-week school event. Ali was an outsider in his class community, neither was he as a perpetrator of violence a teachers' favourite. He felt safe only in the vicinity of his mother. He suffered very much from the emotional inaccessibility of his mother, she was constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and depressive. As Ali's nightmares showed, he was extensively occupied with the traumatic past of his family. His mother together with his grandmother fled during Yugoslav war, and both suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which at that time had not been treated “because other people had felt much worse in the war”. They did not want to be regarded insane as they already suffered from unaccountable fear symptoms and unexpected aggression outbreaks. The mother's information about PTSD symptoms made it possible to open to a psychotherapeutic treatment by colleagues-logotherapists.

Indications of psychosocial crises of young people

Psychosocial crises of young persons are similar to those of adults, however, there are certain peculiarities (according to Gernot Sonneck):

  • in almost all crises, physical complaints such as sleep disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders, headaches, flaccidity, tiredness appeared to be the only manifestation of the occurring crisis.
  • behavioural disorders are often observable: changes in eating behaviour (lack of appetite in connection with weight loss or vice versa, immoderate eating often in the form of attacks), concentration difficulties, performance fluctuations or complete failure at school or work, avoiding old friends, family and interests, isolation, escape into an imaginary world, alcohol, drugs, medicine abuse etc.
  • regression to a childish behaviour, e.g. sucking fingers, biting nails.

The crises which have not been mastered appear in diverse disease patterns (e.g. depression), panic or aggressive actions, e.g. running away from home, vandalism as well as suicidal actions.

Carina, a 17-year -old, has survived after a suicide attempt only by chance. She lay down with her veins cut open on the railway of an international train route. But she didn't know that the route was replaced by other transportation means as it was still closed because of the ongoing clean-up operations after the night storm. A dog found her late at night, and the dog owner called the ambulance. It is true: Chance is a place where wonder nests (Viktor E. Frankl). Due to her melancholy she has been unable to achieve anything in her life for a long time. Carina wasn't taken as an apprentice to a flower shop after probation, because in her absent-mindedness she was constantly forgetting things. And then it seemed to her that a possible “escape” through irreversible suicide which she had been thinking over for a long time could become her liberation and bring her the desired peace.