True Names

by Dr Peggy on September 12, 2012

There is nothing easy about the topic of Teen Suicide. In fact, I am sure that some of you are wondering why I have chosen such a difficult subject to discuss on this blog. Others of you may wish we would take on more upbeat topics, like family activities and ways to stay healthy. Me too. I could think of six or seven other topics I could take on for this blog post that would be a whole lot easier to write – to talk about – and to get you to read. But, this matters.

Partly this series about teen suicide is motivated by Suicide Prevention Day. Partly it is motivated by the increasing number of suicides we see in our country, particularly among teens. But it is also motivated by a desire to encourage us to face the hard stuff, to tackle the unspoken, to bring the difficult conversations out to the kitchen table. Those of you who have spent any time at all on this blog know that we rarely take the easy way out. It is only by speaking what seems unspeakable that we can truly take control over it.

“A true name is a name of a thing or being that expresses, or is somehow identical with, its true nature. (Wikipedia)”

I read a science fiction novel when I was young by an author named Ursula Le Guin called A Wizard of Earthsea. It was the first book of the Earthsea series, published in 1968, long before anyone had heard of Harry Potter. I have many memories of the stories, but one particular part has stayed with me as I moved into my life as a social worker and started working with people. Ged is a young boy with a little bit of skill in magic and a whole lot of attitude. He finds his way to a “wise Gontish mage, Ogion the Silent” where he begins his training as a wizard. One of the first things he must learn is the “true name” for things. This perplexes him, as to him a chair is a chair and what else could there be? The “wise mage” tells him that it is only by learning the true name for things that we can take back the power that thing has over us. I have used this story in virtually every presentation and workshop I have ever done. And it comes right back to my belief that if we know the true name for things we can dimish their power.

So for the next few posts, we will talk of teen suicide. We will use the true name and try to siphon off the power of depression, hopelessness and despair. The result may be that a few more teens will come to the kitchen table and talk the true names in real conversations rather than thinking there is no hope and no one to listen.

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