In light of recent events in the news and some of the lovely
stuff that Jimmy and Steve posted here recently, I thought it might be
appropriate to talk a little about suicide. First of all, if you are
thinking about killing yourself or are having thoughts about harming
yourself that are scaring you, pick up the phone and call
Suicide prevention 1-800-273-8255
right away for a sympathetic ear and someone who can
help you gain some perspective about your situation and point you to some
resources. I reckon that over the years, Suicide Prevention has saved
many lives, and helped many people begin the process of turning a hopeless
situation toward hope. I worked as a counselor for Crisis Intervention
Hotline at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles many years ago and know
first-hand how helpful these services can be.
No matter what problems you are dealing with, we
want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling
1-800-273-TALK (8255) youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be connected to a skilled, trained
counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
While suicide is a complex, nuanced issue, people make it
more complex than it needs to be by dragging the argument out into the
weeds, trying to make some personal-political-libertarian case: “It’s my
body and I can snuff it if I want to, and don’t you damn well tell me what
to do!” People who want to make this point probably express it more
eloquently than I just did, but still is a basically a juvenile,
oppositional sort of thing, and moreover, it is mostly irrelevant. So, let
us put it to rest and stipulate right at the beginning that in terms of
“civil liberties” probably everyone does have the right to suicide, assuming
they are clever enough to get away with it, and not wake up in the veggie
ward for the rest of their lives after a botched attempt.
Until proven otherwise, it is safest and most helpful, me
thinks, to regard suicide as a psychiatric medical emergency, as a symptom
of profound, extreme, desperate depression. Fortunately, it is something
that is very amenable to treatment assuming the individual is willing to
accept help, and is capable of and willing to think rationally, and willing
to tolerate a little egg on their face once they see how they have bought
into their own distorted, nutty thinking. Some–but not necessary all–of
the distortions may include:
1. Musterbation and Awfulizing
and LFT: These
difficult circumstances are awful
I can’t stand
it. And as I can’t stand it, they
absolutely must not be happening, and I
must not be made to experiences that which I
cannot stand. So, the only out is to kill myself.
The fact is that humans are very resilient and can
stand the most gawd awful stuff. It’s true. Life can be and is often full
of pain and adversity, sometimes extreme adversity, and can feel
overwhelming when one adversity leads to another before the previous
adversity has been processed. Yet look at war, a situation which most
people probably agree is as awful as it gets. Some people survive, recover
and go on to prosper. Others, never recover and remain dysfunctional and
traumatized indefinitely. Some suicide or become antisocial and violent
over it. The question that screams to be asked, however, is what’s the
difference? Why do some survive adversity while others succumb? It is
complicated, but the REBT position is that much of it has to do with they
way people think about such experiences. Many events are beyond our ability
to control or even to effect to any extent, but we always have the choice of
how we think about them, how we respond to them, how we process them. And
how we think about them determines how we experiences them, which determines
how we behave, which determines what kinds of experiences we my have
If you want to have a humbling-but-uplifting experience,
read Viktor Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning”
I spent two years attending Alcoholics Anonymous and
Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Personally, I am not a big fan of
“testimonials” and “inspirational stories,” however, and one of the things
that is helpful about attending AA meetings (for awhile) is listening to
people’s stories who have gone through the most horrendous shit in their
lives, and come out the other end, to survive and even thrive in many cases.
Although I have never had a serious illness or injury or been in prison
(jail a couple of times), or gone to war, some of the stuff that I have gone
through and survived and overcome would curl your hair. Even just the act
of remaining clean and sober for 30 years (June 27th this year, thank you
very much!) has in many ways been heroic. Although I was clean and sober
for five years before I discovered REBT-CBT, those were very dark,
depressing years and REBT helped me to turn a corner and continues to be a
major philosophy and tool and “force for good” in my life. More recently,
mindfulness has added a new and complimentary and broadening perspective to
the whole thing. I hope that my study and practice of neurofeedback will
make for a stable “triad” that will allow me to “make a difference” in the
final chapters of my life. Shit, I do hope they are lengthy chapters!
2. Fortune Telling, Over-generalization and All-or-Nothing
in CBT is the nutty belief that we can see into
the future and to stupidly, adamantly and stubbornly believe the predictions
of certain doom and gloom we have cooked up.
is similar to fortune telling;
sees a single event or situation as a never-ending
serious of misfortunes and miseries.
All-or-Nothing Thinking and it’s cousin,
Disqualifying the Positive
see situations as totally bad, and take a single
negative and expand it so that it crowds out anything positive, thus making
the entire world seem “black,” hopeless, helpless, unchangeable, unmovable.
It is this hopelessness and helplessness that is one of the defining
characteristics of depression, making it so painful and desperate.
Add “It’s terrible” to “and it will never get better”
creates a vortex of negativity which invites and attracts suicidal thoughts.
3. Rating :
or (self) downing is the
other defining characteristic of depression. It always comes in the form of
name-calling in one way or the other: “I am a no good shit!” Substitute any
other negative adjective that people use to brand or rate or define their
essence, their essential self. “I am a shit, and that is who I am.” One of
the antidotes to this is to stubbornly refuse and refuse and refuse to call
yourself names when you have the urge. Much better, me thinks, to stick to
the credo of that brilliant 20th Century Philosopher, Popeye the Sailor who
said “I yam what I yam and dat’s all what I yam!” Meaning, you simply choose
a concept of self which is resistant to or cannot be rated. This is
something you decide to do and then do it. That makes it much easier to
practice Unconditional Self
Acceptance. In terms of suicide, one of the
serious problems with rating is that is leads to conclusions of:
4. Deserving & Un-deserving :
As I am
an unworthy shit, I don’t deserve to live, so I might as well “off” myself.
As one of my teachers used to quip “Whatever you do, don’t
pray for what you deserve . . . because you just might get it!”
This was a jest, of course, but the point being that
deservingness is a juvenile fantasy. You get what you get, whether you
deserve it or not. You get a life for some unspecified number of years,
whether you deserve it or not, and at some point, it ends, whether you
deserve it or not. So, you might as well do what you can with it while you
have got it, work hard, do what you can, and leave concepts of deservedness
to the sophomores. Similarly, life is sometimes fair and sometimes unfair,
sometimes seriously unfair. Those are facts. But to approach life with
expectations and demands of fairness and that you will get what you deserve
is an unhelpful, unproductive fantasy.
The problem is that this distorted thinking, these
irrational beliefs, this automatic, destructive self-talk is mostly
unconscious, skittering by very quickly just below the surface of conscious
awareness. Fortunately is not too difficult to tune into, like learning to
pick up distant radio stations on an old fashioned short wave radio. You get
better at it with practice, and it really puts the lie to Freud’s theory
that the unconscious is deep and dark and very difficult to access,
requiring years of free association, dream analysis and yakity, yakity, yak
for $120 per hour! The other problem is that while it is fairly easy to put
the lie to these distortions in a venue such as this one, if you are in the
grip of them, they can seem very real and very compelling indeed, so that
you very well may need someone to help you defeat and ultimately
relinquish them. It is also why I get a little impatient with people
filling out their nice little forums, putting a nice, pretty period at the
end of the sentence and expect to be healed. It is necessary to bring some
physical movement (get up and storm around), passion and genuine
combativeness in order to identify, uproot, argue with, dispute and
ultimately to relinquish distorted thinking. Once you identify a distorted
thought as distorted–once you really “get it,” really convince yourself
that it is indeed distorted–the relinquishing part and the replacing with
rational part almost does it self.
5. “The world would be better off without me.”
This one isn’t even a distortion, it is just a fat ass lie.
It simply isn’t true. And unless someone is doing a “revenge” suicide, they
are probably not in touch with the profound (and I mean profound) distress
and disturbance that this causes the survivors who will suffer and struggle
with the pain for years, and very likely may never get over it.
As we said, as a “civil liberties matter” probably people have the right to
kill themselves. However it may be no different legally and morally than
murder is, except that if you are successful, you cannot be prosecuted
legally. And in some rare cases such as a catastrophic, terminal illness or
injury which precludes the possibility of any sort of quality of life, it
may be a rational act. But other than those limited and exceptional cases,
suicide is the tragic result of compelling delusions and distortions, which
all the more tragically, can be sorted with the right help and in the right
Khon Kaen, Thailand
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Originally posted 2014-08-14 03:09:37.
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Quotes That MatterThis is not to say that external circumstances don't matter, but it is your mind rather than the circumstances themselves that determines the quality of your life. ~The Waking Up Course. Lesson 1, The Logic of PracticeSam Harris
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