Once of my readers, J.J, has posted a lengthy comment that I feel is worth addressing as an entire post. Here is my reply. J.J’s comment can be found at the very bottom of this post.
Thanks for posting. I know little about the human mind, especially the subconscious mind. For one thing, I know how powerful it is. Women who murder their own children have something in them that is causing them to want to harm the child, whether or not it is a conscious or subconscious drive, or a combination of both, there is an underlying reason. Often it is that the mother felt trapped with kids, overwhelmed and tired of being a mother. Sometimes she has such a hatred for the spouse that she wants to kill the children in order to punish –to cause the most severe harm on the spouse.
The human soul nurtures itself for good or destroys itself with evil. Brain chemistry can be altered by one’s own consciousness; this has been proven scientifically and through the use of hypnoanalysis.
There is always a seed of some kind; the seed is nurtured with good thoughts or poisoned with bad thoughts, and the seed grows into love or evil. If a woman has any resentment for her children or her children’s father and the mother’s resentment, stress, or anger is triggered, she might very well take that rage out on the child when she comes to a point of desperation.
The human soul has the ability to lean towards love or self with their daily choices, thoughts, feelings, actions and words. When a person nurtures the love side of their soul, they will not come to a point of feeling a need to take the life of a child. If they nurture the self, the ego –their mind will have the potential to lean towards violence and murder. Thus, the chemicals in the brain will alter. Mental health experts call it mental illness, and they are correct that it is an illness, but with possibly the exception of Schizophrenia, it is an illness that was brought on by the person themselves.
There are of course people with true mental illness where they are not responsible for their actions, but I think that the legal system has a very good way of judging that. If a person is in the middle of a raging crime and they stop for a moment and walk two feet down a hallway and think about what they are doing but still choose to turn back around and do it anyway –that is premeditation. If they plan the acts ahead of time, that is pre-meditation, and if they commit the crime in a way that covers up what they have done, or implicates someone else, or if they carry out the crime when no one can stop them –then they consciously and willingly know they are doing wrong. I don’t care if a woman thinks she is doing her children a favor, if she knows that she will get caught or be stopped while killing the child then she is committing a crime that she knows she will be punished for. She has made a conscious choice to accept the consequences. However, I do not believe the women who claim their children would be better off dead. This is what ‘the self’ tells them.
Andrea Yates made a choice to have five children, and in that choice, she gave away all rights to claim that she was overwhelmed and felt trapped in a situation. She was told not to have several children, and even after being cautioned not to, she chose to have sex with her husband. If Ironside is correct and Andrea Yates was diagnosed prior to her 16th birthday with schizophrenia, then she had some serious issues to begin with and as I understand it, Schizophrenia can be inherited. She had no business having children (knowing that she could pass it along to them). However, some people who are Bipolar are mis-diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and Bipolar is not a mental health problem that can excuse a person for child murder.
If Michelle Kehoe was a long term Meth user, then she made that choice. She CHOSE to use that drug. Any contribution of that drug to slashing her boy’s throats is her own fault.
I didn’t say that you don’t have empathy for the victims, but I was trying to make a point. Be prudent in what you call “judgmental” because what you consider someone “judging” another person is often someone just using their God-given intelligence to call it like it is.
If I had gotten pregnant at the time that I was sick and in one of my deep clinical depressions (I have had a number of them), it would have been my fault for having sex when I had no business bringing a child into this world. If my mind altered my hormones into what you call a “psychotic episode” then any thought of harming my children would be rooted in some deep-seated anger for them or resentment over having become pregnant. Otherwise, I would direct my “psychotic episode” onto myself and only myself, or onto some adult that triggered my inner rage. Humans take their violence out on who or what triggers them.
There are clearly people with paranoid schizophrenia who are out of touch with reality, but if they commit a murder on a child and do so with forethought, and in a way that they won’t get caught, then their conscious mind is functioning and they have made a conscious choice.
You are lucky that you had a loving grandmother. I, on the other hand, was like Kehoe, I had NO one who loved me. Every single member of my family either abused, betrayed, or abandoned me. My childhood does not sound much different from Michelle’s in that my father rapist was protected by my mother who silenced me with her fist and with her hands around my neck. I was also sexually abused by a female family member, threatened with death with a knife, and suffered other trauma that I cannot speak of in public. Yes, Michelle and I are two different souls but something inside of her nurtured the part of her mind that craved violence against an innocent being.
You quoted William Sloane Coffin, “Evil is a lack of imaginative sympathy.” Evil is the absence of love, and love does not take a hunting knife to a child’s throat.
God Bless the Angels and the Angels who watch over them.
Submitted by J.J. on 2009/11/09 at 12:06pm
“I too am an incest survivor and I too have not considered harming children.
I volunteered 4 hrs. week for 15 years as a co-facilitator working with a large number of men and women who were victims of incest as children.
I spent 20 years working in the admission wards of a state mental hospital with children, teens as well as adult men and women on the locked wards.
Since 1992 I have been totally disabled as the outcome of being assaulted on the ward by a mentally ill man. I have seen, if not it all, pretty darned close.
Because you or I did not have the same outcome of repetitive trauma as did others does not mean it’s not possible for brain chemistry to alter to the point that one becomes so severely mentally ill that to them it seems a loving thing to end their child’s life rather than have them experience the tortures of the world they are sure (delusional thinking, yes) is ahead for them. It does not make sense because it is not rational.
To allege that the fact that I have empathy for Michelle Kehoe equates that I do not have empathy for both of her sons is sadly misinterpreting my heart.
It sounds like a symptom of the effects of being raised in dysfunction: black or white/all or nothing thinking. A strong desire to make sense and order (have control) when there are things out of ones control. I worked long and hard in therapy and in life to deprogram myself from that kind of judgmental thought process I learned at a young age. (This IS an almost universal issue for survivors..perhaps it’s some sense of safety in believing ones always right).
What I would like to know is who decided how ‘insanity’ is to be defined in a legal sense? Lawyers, not doctors? Legislators? Who? AND when? 1800’s?
1930, 1940, 1959, 1960? Has not our understanding of repetitive childhood trauma and its effects on brain chemistry not evolved since then?
I do not dispute that Michelle Kehoe performed terrible acts. I dispute the system that puts her away for life in a prison cell rather than a state mental hospital where she has some chance of receiving proper medication for a brain chemistry disorder.
Imagine if you will, as a survivor, you had been in a deep clinical depression and had not gotten adequate treatment to help your condition. Suppose you’d gotten pregnant, your hormones changed, and you crossed the line into psychotic episodes (I’ve seen it many times). Meds that were tried on you didn’t help you sufficiently; maybe someone missed finding the right one to prescribe…you feel yourself slipping further away into thoughts that seem imaginable… you even submit to 40 some shock treatments and you were still feeling hopelessness and out of control.
You’ve asked for help repeatedly and nothing works; you’ve tried to will yourself better, prayed to God to become well and you sink deeper. You
have thoughts about harming yourself, maybe even your kids. You may even begin to have fears you may do to them what your stepfather did to you for years and years. Or that what your stepfather did and your mother denied and abandoned you for was your fault, not his. Maybe you were just a bad seed after all. And now you’ve passed that seed on and they will grow up to be like you and cause abuse to happen. Not rational thinking…confused, fear driven obsessive thinking…I’ve seen it over and over.
In this case, the laws for committal to a mental hospital in this and most states makes it very difficult to happen (I’ve done it once for a group member who was in danger from programming from a Satanic cult as well as cult members themselves as I was helping her extract herself from it…it was tough to get her hospitalized, even to save her life). I do not know what was or was not done by Michelle’s family or doctors.
When Michelle’s sick thinking led her to drive into the lake, where was the Dept. of Human Services/child welfare? Overloaded w/caseload. The State of Iowa has slashed funding in this area for years, giving caseworkers impossible work loads (I’ve seen this)…and more slashes are underway.
I’ve seen patients admitted to the wards so delusional, so paranoid, or so psychotically depressed (this is VERY different from what most experience as clinical depression) who, after adequate treatment are totally different people.
I and many friends/coworkers were physically assaulted by patients in this state who, when stabilized, would never dream of harming anyone. I’ve also known patients with paranoid schizophrenia who are clearly out of touch with reality (i.e. getting messages from God in their fillings telling them that they are the Virgin Mary; i.e. that they are Jesus Christ and that they should walk down a major highway naked so that the world can know Jesus and be healed, etc., etc….who in the hospital proceeded to plot and plan how to time an attack on a fellow patient or staff member, some successful, some interrupted.
Premeditated, yes…sane, maybe legally, but if it were your son or daughter would you believe that to be rational, sane, healthy behavior? Don’t think so.
My friend, Rosie, was attacked by a female patient who left bruises on Rosie’s throat. The patient was a pretty, young woman who had small children at home. She was psychotic upon admission and had only been on meds a few days when she attacked Rosie. On a day almost a week past that, the young woman came to the door of the med. room for her morning meds, which Rosie was dispensing. The young woman saw the marks and asked Rosie what had happened to her. She did not know. She was not evil, she was ill and she needed medical help and counseling.
For people who have not had this kind of life experience, I can imagine the challenge of understanding the ways severe mental illness can manifest. Each case is individual just as genuinely as each cancer patient is individual.
While I can imagine that challenge and appreciate the difficulty, I also feel troubled that judgments are so easily made despite a lack of information and understanding of mental illness, which, though too common, could be interpretted as a lack of imaginative sympathy.
Although my career ended with my having severe pain on a daily basis, what I gained in understanding the human condition of mental illness and what I’ve learned about the ability of repetitive childhood trauma to change brain chemistry leading to mental illness deepened me as a human being.
And what I’ve seen in the dismantling of our mental health system, beginning under the Reagan administration, sending ill humans to try to survive in doorways, alleys and parks, jails and prisons instead of treating their brains (last I checked a body part) in a hospital or mental health facility
is enough to make me ashamed of this country and the apathetic citizens who allow it. Dorothea Dix must be crying in her grave.
I don’t know whether I’m happy or sad for you that you have such quick judgment about another person based on what you did or did not do in your life based on the trauma history in your life.
Maybe, like me, the difference between ending up as you or I did instead of like Michelle is that, speaking for myself, I had 1 person in my life that I was certain loved me: my grandmother.
If not for her, I am certain, I would not have survived into adulthood. Even with her there were many times I was very close to ending my life.
Michelle’s father died in a car accident of, in part, THROAT LACERATIONS, when she was only 6. He was her knight. Her mother was an alcoholic/her stepfather a child rapist–still free– (who knows how many others drunk mom dragged home before she married that gem?). When she told her ‘mother’, her ‘mother’ sided w/the rapist and threw Michelle away. What does a kid tell themselves when that happens? It must be me. I do not know what life was like for Michelle with the relatives she was sent away to live with.
No dad, tortured by stepdad, thrown away by mom, puberty..drifting, lost, confused…living with the fear the rapist could come back at any time…all this in a young mind..and this is all we know through court records, there could well be more. If this isn’t a set up for instability…and if she did not have the 1 adult to let her know she was loved, was going to be okay, was going to be safe…think from the standpoint of the needs of a child, not with a judgmental adult mind and imagine how the road just might go in mental health/ mental illness….(not even including the hormonal upheaval of childbearing).
“Evil is a lack of imaginative sympathy.” -William Sloane Coffin”