True Horror

May 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm (By Realpc)

Just recently my nephew Tavor was found by one of his close friends, with his head blown off by a gun. There was no police investigation, since it seemed like an obvious suicide.

Tavor was a straight A student in college, not far from graduating. None of his friends thought he had any special problems.

Tavor was good-looking, popular, talented, athletic and fun to be around. The only thing that seemed a little strange was his secretiveness, the fact that he never talked about his feelings or problems.

His mother Narcy, is my sister. I believe she would have given her own life, if it could have saved his. I believe she loved Tavor as much as any mother could love her son.

Of course I don’t believe this was in any way Narcy’s fault although she is (as her name suggests) a “narcissist.” I really don’t know what a narcissist is, but I guess I know when if I see one.

Narcy brags, a lot, about herself and about her two (now only one) kids. If Narcy ever has a problem with anyone — and that is often — it’s always the other person’s fault, entirely. The other person is mentally ill, and/or evil. Narcy is perfecly sane — those of us who know her are sure of that, because she has told us countless times.

When this happened, needless to say, Narcy was devastated, and could not face life without Tavor. She wondered if she could have helped him somehow, or  if she should have known something was wrong.

A year before he died, Tavor had suddenly become extremely angry at his mother, seemingly for no reason. He cut her, and all relatives, out of his life almost completely.

His death was even more tragic because he left in anger, so he and his mother would never be reconciled on this earth.

Everyone told Narcy she was the best possible mother, and that she should not for one minute take any blame. After giving it a little thought, Narcy agreed. This was not in any way her fault. Her son must have had an undiagnosed mental illness, which he had inherited. Nothing at all could have prevented his suicide — he was genetically programmed for it.

Tavor’s biological father, who died long ago, actually did have a mental illness, which caused him to kill himself slowly with drugs.

Narcy is in no way to blame. That doesn’t make it easy, because Tavor is still gone forever. Narcy was a perfect mother to him, and all the anger he felt towards her was just the raving of a mentally ill young man.

I love Narcy very much, she is my only sister. I am glad she has found a way to place all the blame on the DNA of her poor dead ex.

But on the other hand, I don’t like explanations that are over-simplified. I feel like it has to be more complicated than that.

Not that it matters now, it’s too late for Tavor. But I still can’t help thinking about it and searching for explanations that make sense.


  1. Annie Gottlieb said,

    True. Horror.

    I do know something that might help you make sense of it. This book. I feel so strongly about this that if you don’t have the heart or energy to get it for yourself I will send it to you. You may see Nancy and Tavor in it. I have given it to several people who have someone in their lives who’s never wrong, never at fault and they have said it was an oasis of sanity and clarity for them. (Karen, were you one?)

  2. Donna B. said,

    I read that book years ago after enjoying reading The Road Less Traveled. I cannot remember exactly why, but my reaction to it was to not read anything else by Peck.

    Because it’s been so long and my memory is sketchy about the book, I’m not going to say anything else about it. Maybe with years of living between then and now, I’d react differently.

    I certainly believe in evil and I don’t think it’s a mental illness since almost all of the mentally ill people I’ve known (and because of where I worked for several years, there are more than a few) are not evil but rather confused, deluded, out of touch, etc., but residing comfortably in the good range nowhere close to evil. There may be evil genes that can be inherited. They may be close relations to some of the genes that cause some mental illnesses.

    However, I’m going to look for a physical, biological (OK, materialistic!) explanation first. I do this because I’ve just seen too much odd behavior that is easily explained that way and some of it can be fairly easily ‘corrected’. Examples include normal pressure hydrocephalus, chronic low pressure not induced by extreme physical fitness, strokes, traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors…

    Then I’m going to look at more social causes — abuse, addiction, coping with less than desirable physical defects… there’s a long list and these occurrences do not rule out underlying evil.

    I do think some (very very few) people are born evil — or perhaps without the emotional capacity for good, ie a sympathy that keeps them from inflicting pain willy nilly on others. Is that a reasonable definition of evil? I sure as hell don’t have this figured out and am certainly open to other ideas.

    All that to say that I agree with realpc when she writes that her sister’s current explanation of an inherited mental illness is THE cause of her nephew’s suicide. It’s highly unlikely that it’s that simple. Or rather, that singular.

    I do think that her sister grasping that explanation in a quest for self-preservation makes some sense, especially if her notion of her self-worth is tied up in her children’s accomplishments. I can sorta relate, ya know?

  3. realpc920 said,

    Annie, I read People of the Lie years ago, and I liked it. And it was interesting to me that he believes demonic possession can be real. Not many other psychiatrists would agree.

    As he describes it, an evil person is someone who represses their shadow completely and cannot perceive the evil that is within themselves. They can only perceive it in others.

    I would define it the same way, and I have been thinking a lot about shadow psychology and how it may be relevant to this tragedy.

    I have never been able to get Narcy interested in the 12 Steps, or shadow psychology. Not that I really tried — Narcy seldom listens to anything I say about anything, so it was useless to talk.

    I couldn’t help wondering if Tavor’s suicide represented an explosion of the shadow, which may have been bottled up in that family. Narcy expected her kids to be perfect — and they were. But there is no real perfection in this life, and something just has to explode.

    I don’t know, that’s just a theory. I would like to know what you think Annie.

  4. realpc920 said,

    Donna, I think what we call “evil” is a matter of degree. We all commit tiny evil acts and have tiny evil thoughts every moment of the day (at least, I hope it isn’t just me!) We all have a Shadow, where we shove our unkind thoughts and feelings.

    In order to become a relatively healthy, not-too-evil, member of society, we must be able to see our own imperfections, not just the imperfections of other people.

    The more able we are to admit our own defects, the more can forgive and empathize with others. Instead of always demonizing anyone who opposes us in any way, we can find ways to tolerate and possibly forgive.

    If we grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, we might not be able to accept any imperfections in ourselves, and we might perceive evil only outside ourselves, never within. That is how Peck defines an evil person — someone who completely denies their own shadow.

    The Shadow builds up pressure if it is constantly denied and repressed. That is Jung’s philosophy, and also the philosophy of AA and other 12 step programs.

    Over the years, I have watched Narcy demonize various people, including myself. She is dynamic, charming, and utterly confident, so of course people believe whatever she says.

    The world is probably run mostly by narcissists, since they are the high-energy confident people we like to have as leaders.

    That is one reason I do not trust any government, and have become almost a sort of libertarian. We need governments, but we have to restrict them somehow.

    I believe that Narcy would love to be in charge of the whole world, because she knows exactly how everything should be.

    I have absolutely no idea if Tavor’s death is in any way related to any of this. Maybe he had a brain tumor or some physical disease that made him angry at his mother and eventually made him want to die.

    I posted it here because I want to know all of your opinions. I am at a loss, and have not been able to put it completely out of my mind.

  5. karen said,

    I’ve never read anything by Peck- it sounds interesting and informative. It’s funny, though- that when i think of evil- i think of a particular entity; Satan. And i don’t think of the inward hiding, lurking shadow- i think of the pressures of the outside evils pressuring us into neglecting or forgetting the Truths set out by our Creator.

    I man, i don’t go around analyzing things that way- i just have these core beliefs that i have to be on guard for the snake(s) in the grass. I am terrified by snakes, btw. I even got a nosebleed when i was little, once- because i saw a snake near me and screamed my head off.

    In a world where the value of the individual or the value of the natural Life is at the whim of the gov’t or the strongest voices(VT just passed the assisted suicide Bill)- i just the that the farther we get from our basic respects of/in humanity- the harder it will be to stay on the right path. The one that knows we are valued and loved even when we can’t value and love ourselves.

    I remember another thread once, a yr or 2ago- about this Shadow. It’s a weird topic, one i’m not used to- unless it’s a sin- thing. I GET sin.

  6. realpc920 said,

    karen, I think what is important about the Shadow concept is that it helps us see evil within ourselves, not just in others. We are all sinners — that is a Christian idea, and it also agrees with Shadow psychology. The 12 steps of AA came from Christianity, and also from Jung. If you want to know what my philosophy is, that is it. I got to Christianity via the 12 steps, but it’s a non-dogmatic form of Christianity. (btw, I am not an alcoholic, I got the 12 steps from the families of alcoholics programs. They were started by the wife of the guy who started AA).

  7. realpc920 said,

    And I also have an idea for a future post, called Essential Evil. I want to explain why I think Evil is a natural and normal part of everyday life, and is essential to how the universe functions.

  8. LouiseM said,

    I am at a loss, and have not been able to put it completely out of my mind.

    Yes, to both pieces– to being at a loss and being unable to put “it” (in this situation, Tavor’s life, his death, and the incongruities and questions coming up in regard to both, along with the surrounding family dynamics ) completely out of mind.

    In my experience, the value of moving through and beyond blame, explanations and putting something completely out of mind, resides in the goodness of reaching a place of awareness in which truth and grace are present, openly acknowledged, and realized without an overlay of pretense, denial, lies, intellectualism or gooey/glossy sentimentality obscuring them. Getting there, however, takes considerable time and effort, as doing so requires walking toward and through pain and confusion rather than away from or around it.

    A wise counselor once told me confusion was a good place to start. Another suggested recognition of areas of “intensity” as key. Both validated the place I was at, by affirming what I was experiencing as real and useful for moving forward.

    Whatever might be involved for you, realpc, I appreciate what you’ve shared, along with your willingness to be open and honest about your experience. Right now, I hear you involved in a process of asking, seeking and knocking, acts which I consider life-giving. Anti-death, as it were, the opposite of being locked down, closed off, or unwilling to walk through the door of pain that opens with trauma and loss.

    This week I encountered the term “imaginative gridlock” in a book written by a Jewish rabbi and therapist (Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix) . It captured my attention and I’ve been thinking about it since in regard to my own life and the questions that have come up regarding Tavor’s life and death.

    Friedman lists “three major, interlocking characteristics common to any relationship system that has become imaginatively gridlocked”. They are:

    1. An unending treadmill of trying harder

    2. Looking for answers rather than reframing questions

    3. Either or thinking that creates false dichotomies.

    These attributes are both symptom and cause of a locked-in perspective. All three characterized 15th century civilization. All three describe any similarly stuck relationship system at any time, be it a marriage, a family, an organization, or an entire nation. And all three attributes, while appearing to be cognitive, are symptomatic of surrounding emotional processes rather than matters of the mind…Anyone who has been part of an imaginatively gridlocked relationship system knows that more learning will not, on its own, automatically change the way people see things or think. There must be a shift in the emotional processes of that institution. Imagination and indeed even curiosity are at the root emotional, not cognitive, phenomena. In order to imagine the unimaginable, people must be able to separate themselves from surrounding emotional processes before they can even begin to see (or hear) things differently.

    When I consider “Imagine” being used as one of at your nephew’s funeral songs, and recall the distaste and revulsion you initially expressed realpc, (related at that time to the words) which eventually led to more sharing about his death, what comes up for me is this: If imaginative gridlock was part of Tavor’s family and inner world experiences, then use of that song at his funeral could represent a profound and glossy disconnect, a kind of seemingly naive distortion and twisting of truth often present in people of the lie, bringing deeper awareness to the words, “It’s stupid, and it’s wrong in every way, and it’s a naive expression…”

    It sounds to me as if intuitive awareness may already be at work in you. May God be with you ( in whatever size and portion you need) as you continue in the search for wisdom and understanding


  9. karen said,

    I say ~Amen~ to that. Louise, you write so–
    beautifully instructive:(ly)poetically.

    I think i understand that imaginative gridlock. Friends of mine- a family of 4siblings, to expound- lost their Dad almost 6yrs ago. All had issues w/him- and all think the others are like him. Anyway- long story hopefully shortened- the son that moved away for 13yrs to get out from under the thumb of the father- has been the one to live in the house of the father.

    Very little has changed w/in the home, his things reside in the boxes they were packed into for the move ~home~ and no one seems able to move to clean the home out to put it on the market. It reminds me of the plastic puzzles where a picture is scrambled w/one empty square and, by sliding the pieces up/down/left/right- it will form and make sense.

    Unfortunately, the empty space for the puzzle of my friends– is missing.
    They can’t let go of the gridlock in order to even know what the resulting scene will be. It’s interesting to me that the one who went farthest, longest to escape the shadow(heh)of his dad is the one stuck in the stuff of the dad!!

    Don’t we all suffer somewhat from this imaginative gridlock?
    Aren’t we glad to be, sometimes?

  10. realpc920 said,

    Thank you Louise, that is interestiing. The song Imagine did not seem to fit the situation. But I always hated the song, so it would not fit any situation for me.

    But Imagine is all about some kind of perfectionism or idealism, a denial of how things actually work.

    And I wonder if that kind of idealism may have been, partially, what killed Travor. I wonder if his mother’s perfectionism could have been too much for him to live up to.

    Travor had always been “perfect,” but last he year he seemed to be falling apart. His mother wanted to fix him, but he wouldn’t let her near him. She didn’t want him to be broken and sick, naturally enough. But maybe deep down he was terrified that she would not love him if he could not be fixed?

    Well I just keep speculating wildly.

    We have been reminded, again, that people we love can instantly and unpredicatbly disappear from the world. We can’t really help wanting to understand it.

    I didn’t know Tavor well at all, to me he was mostly just my sister’s pride and joy. It was nice knowing we had such a magnificent young man on our family tree.

    Now I am worried about my sister and whether she can survive this kind of grief. But I am pretty sure she can — she is blaming it all on inherited mental illness. So it’s like he died of natural and inevitable causes.

    I feel that his death expressed the Shadow of his family, and maybe of our whole twisted society.

    But I look at things in certain ways, which could easily be wrong.

  11. lehg said,


  12. lehg said,


  13. lehg said,

    Speaks volumes, that choice of pseudonym you inflicted. And it undercuts and underlines (depending) everything you have written about the death of your nephew.

    Full stop.

  14. lehg said,

    Of course I don’t believe this was in any way Narcy’s fault

    Oh, bullshit. Of course you do believe that. From what I can tell, venting about that has been the majority of the point of your posting about your sister’s son’s suicide on this blog.

    There’s a phrase I’d use in reference to that, but it’s so out of fashion these days that I won’t bother.

    Anyway, done.

  15. karen said,

    In the end- the choice belongs to those who choose to do harm to themselves. Blame has so much to do w/this and nothing whatsoever…
    you do to the least of my brothers…

    ~What difference, @this point, does it make?~

    The difference is peace.

  16. LouiseM said,

    As I’ve mentioned before here, I consider the act of telling someone else what they believe to be a form of boundary crossing.

    As I’ve sorted through the traumas, disappointments and sorrows that have been part of my desolation, along with the joys and mysteries experienced as consolation, I’ve held a number of differing beliefs. Some of them were the outcome of the turmoil and overwhelm I was experiencing at that time and some reflected the remnant of faith that has remained present with me throughout my journey.

    Following my younger brother’s unexpected death from of a condition that hadn’t been openly recognized and discussed, blame was one of the paths I walked down when the confusion, sadness and loss felt overwhelming. Sorting through the denial that was active within the family and identifying my own feelings took time. Reading, writing and talking with others helped me find my way to an awareness beyond blame where truth and grace reside.

    Venting was part of my process, as in providing an outlet, and giving free expression to strong emotion. Thankfully those to whom I vented, helped by listening and providing feedback without shaming me for doing so.

    Going back to the three characteristics of imaginative gridlock, I see blame as a manifestation of all three.

    1 Someone should have tried harder

    2. A closed answer is provided, one which shuts down further questions (and feelings) and prevents reframing. If the husband’s mental illness is solely to “blame” there is no need to consider other factors or put together a more complete picture.

    3 False dichotomies are created.

    While moving through blame can be part of the process leading to peace, staying stuck in it supports and confirms imaginative gridlock.

  17. LouiseM said,

    Sometimes poetry soothes my soul. I found this one tonight, by happenstance, and like it:

    A Ritual To Read To Each Other

    If you don’t know the kind of person I am
    and I don’t know the kind of person you are
    a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
    and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

    For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
    a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
    sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
    storming out to play through the broken dike.

    And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
    but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
    I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
    to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

    And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
    a remote important region in all who talk:
    though we could fool each other, we should consider—
    lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

    For it is important that awake people be awake,
    or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
    the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
    should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

    –William Stafford

  18. karen said,

    ~Ask Me~

    Some time when the river is ice ask me
    mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
    what I have done is my life. Others
    have come in their slow way into
    my thought, and some have tried to help
    or to hurt: ask me what difference
    their strongest love or hate has made.

    I will listen to what you say.
    You and I can turn and look
    at the silent river and wait. We know
    the current is there, hidden; and there
    are comings and goings from miles away
    that hold the stillness exactly before us.
    What the river says, that is what I say.

    William Stafford

    How cool is this guy?

    ps- we could turn over every rock in the Universe searching for the answers to the choices of our loved ones– and we’d never find the answers we are looking for- they are buried w/our dead.

  19. LouiseM said,


    I ordered his biography last night, (Early Morning: Remembering my Father,) written by his son, after reading a review on another blog.

    This, from Slow Muse, His telling of his father’s story is neither chronological nor predictable. The chapters unfold on their own terms, without the imposition of forced structure or inhibiting lineage. It feels organic and intimate…In the spirit of that kind of quiet listening, here is just one passage of many that I long to have others read with me:

    He said at one point, “I don’t want to write good poems. I want to write inevitable poems—to write the things I will write, given who I am.” Again, I am reminded of the Tao Te Ching: “Seeing into darkness is clarity. / Knowing how to yield is strength. / Use your own light / and return to the source of light. / This is called practicing eternity…”

    This way of acknowledging the quiet voice is in keeping with his practice as a writer—accepting the beginning line, the glimmer of an idea, the clumsy opening as a way of honoring “what the world is trying to be.” Someone asked him once what his favorite poem was, out of all he had written. “I love all my children,” he said, “but I would trade everything I have ever written for the next thing.”

    As a writer, he was a mother to beginnings. The “next thing” may be a kind of latent epiphany ready to be born. A friend told me my father’s “imagination was tuned to the moment when epiphanies were just about to come into being.” At such a moment, ambition could be fatal to what we seek. Take a deep breath and wait. What seeks you may then appear.

    According to the Amazon review, the son also “confronts the great paradox at the center of William Stafford’s life. The public man, the poet who was always communicating with warmth and feeling-even with strangers-was capable of profound, and often painful, silence within the family.”

    I’ll have to read the book to see, but it seems to me as if such engaging in such a confrontation would require the willingness to tolerate ambivalent feelings and seemingly contradictory thoughts. Not a comfortable place to be.

    In my situation (high performance “perfect” parents who handled their own unacknowledged pain with denial, rage, addictions, and a thick cover of religiosity) rock turning and searching was helpful, as doing so provided some of what I needed to form a semi-coherent narrative out of the confusion, pretense and rigidity that was part of my upbringing along with the devotion and love. Not so much to blame as to understand, accept and let go of (forgive) that which was transmuted into abuse and misuse. The willingness of several aging aunts and uncles to share parts of their story and perspective in recent years has also helped.

    When I read realpc’s account of true horror, one of the concerns that comes up for me involves the remaining sibling. It’s my hope there will someday be someone in their life willing to move past whatever denial and blame may be involved to attest to some of the paradoxes present in this difficult story.

  20. realpc920 said,

    The family practices denial, a lot of it. They don’t like to acknowledge sadness, and therefore it can be expressed as rage instead. The appearance of happiness and success is important to them. They tend to have very ambitious goals.

    So I am wondering if Tavor expressed the emotions the family tries to deny.

  21. karen said,

    That is a very honest observation, real.

  22. realpc920 said,

    They are blaming it entirely on mental illness, which they believe is caused entirely by physical factors.

    They don’t see any possibility of psychological factors being involved, because that would imply the family isn’t perfect.

    I think that’s unrealistic — even physical diseases are thought to have a psychological component. Why would mental illness have only physical causes?

    I think Narcy’s perfectionism could be a factor, and maybe Tavor learned to be a perfectionist from her. Maybe his whole view of life was distorted and immature. Maybe he got an A minus instead of an A in one class, and could not accept it. I’m just taking wild guesses, I really have no idea what he was thinking.

    It isn’t hard to imagine a person not wanting to live, for all kinds of reasons. But in Tavor’s case, I really can’t imagine why he thought life was so intolerable. Or why he never tried to get any kind of help from anyone.

  23. LouiseM said,

    realpc, a book arrived in the mail this week, a gift from a friend. Tonight as I was writing my thank-you note to her, I opened the book, read the quote below and thought of you. The words seemed to touch not only on whats been discussed in previous threads, but also on the shadow mentioned. Even if what he says isn’t for you, please know you’ll continue to be held in heart and mind.

    “Thomas Merton maintained his integrity by honestly accepting the tension that existed between his ideal self and his actual self. He chose to embrace what his life was telling him. This is how we, like Merton, maintain our integrity. However, we must embrace other tensions beyond the gap between our ideal and actual self if we are to live our lives to the full. We must also embrace our inconsistencies.

    Even the most thoroughly consistent and apparently integrated person has important crosscurrents of inconsistency in his or her life. The attempt to appear consistent is always a project of the false self. However, rather than making us more integral, this attempt just makes us more unbelievable. The truly alive person has parts of self that do not fit easily with other parts of self or with expressed values and commitments. We are always a mixed bag of contradictions that will be a mystery to our selves. But these must be embraced if we are to be fully human. As Jesus said in his parable of the wheat and the weeds, “let them both grow til the harvest.”

    Jesus was generally a loving, gentle person–inclusive, gracious and accepting. But at times he had outbursts of ferocious fury. Think, for example, of his rage at hypocritical religious authorities whom he called blind guides who make others twice as fit for hell as themselves. Or think of the day he went to the temple and was so filled with anger over the commercial activities he found within that he took a whip and drove the merchants from the place. These words and actions were markedly inconsistent with the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” of popular perception. They do not represent character flaws, just interesting dimensions of his self that were not generally obvious. The same is true for each of us…Our personalities are woven from more than a single thread. Not all are of the same color consistency, or material. And there is a tension when the threads pull against each other.

    No one understood this better than Carl Jung, who called the parts of self that do not fit the persona we wish to display our “shadow”. The shadow is the dark part of our personality–dark not because it is evil but because it has been judged unsuitable and has been denied access to the light of consciousness and the embrace of the rest of the family of self. It represents repressed parts of self that need to be integrated in order for us to be whole. This integration does not eliminate tension. Rather, it brings the tension into consciousness, where it can be embraced and managed consciously. Without this step of integration, the tension remains unconscious, and the repressed parts of self are thus much more likely to be expressed by acting out. To deny the existence of inner realities is not to escape their devilish aspects but rather to fall victim to them. To deny inner realities is to fail to truly know one’s self, and to not know one’s self is to risk becoming possessed by that which we have ignored.

    When we truly accept all that we are, all that we have done, and all that has been our history and experience, then and only then can we be–to adopt the phrase of Florida Scott Maxwell–‘fierce with reality.'”

    Soulful Spirituality, by David G Benner

  24. realpc said,

    Yes, Jung’s Shadow psychology is definitely relevant, I feel. Narcissism, perfectionism, they are all about denying and repressing the Shadow.

    Narcy and I took opposite paths through life, in a way. I became aware of the 12 steps many years ago — they were derived from Jung’s Shadow psychology, and from generic mysticism. I have been trying to follow the 12 steps for most of my life.

    I was never good at denial, I have always needed to try to separate fantasy from reality. It is difficult, impossible to do perfectly, but we can at least try. If we are that kind of person, which I am.

    I probably seem much less happy than Narcy used to seem. But I think her happiness was mostly just the positive image she created for the world to see.

    Her daughter has followed her example — denying the sorrows of life and staying positive no matter what.

    I don’t know, but my guess is that these two women seldom or never cry.

    Maybe Tavor was torn between feeling the realities of life and the denial that was practiced in his family.

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