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Suicide and the agony of seper

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Suicide and the agony of seper

The nature of the forces which motivate a person to take his or her own life usually remain hidden from those who are left behind, for if the suicide has been completed, no further psychological inquiries can be made, and if incomplete, only tentative hypotheses are possible due to the fact that there really was not a suicide. However, there does seem to be a common mental condition which underlies not only suicide

(whether completed, abandoned, or thwarted), but also the loneliness and depression which often lead up to this act. Such a mental condition goes by many names, but I will call it "separateness," or

more accurately, a separative consciousness.

Let us not deceive ourselves by merely pointing to this condition in "others,"

for we all share it to some extent. "Their" agony is our agony, even though it

may now manifest less intensely in us. And to be completely honest, let us

even allow that we are they. A surprisingly large group of our population has

either contemplated or actually attempted suicide at some time or other. For

many of those seemingly happy people we meet on the street or in our jobs, the thought of suicide

has been a more or less silent alternative in the midst of life's reversals. It is not an impulse that people

commonly publicize regarding themselves, hence one naturally imagines that few others experience it.

Sympathetic friends typically regard a suicidal person as being an unfortunate victim--of blind chance,

of other people's thoughtlessness, of an unfair social system--or some combination thereof. While this

impression of a suicidal person as a victim is probably frequently held, there is another view--that an

attempter's "victim psychology" may be the logical outcome of his own subtle but deadly ego trip.

What does it mean to say that suicide can be the result of an "ego trip"? We could define an ego trip

as the separative frame of mind already mentioned, usually accompanied by an inaccurate image of

one's own worth. Careful observation might reveal that feelings of superiority and feelings of

inferiority both spring from separative assumptions, and are therefore both egoistic. One attitude

says, "I am better than you," and the other says, "I am worse than you," but "better" and "worse" are

merely different names for the same imaginary wall between "I" and "you." We sit precariously on this

wall like Humpty Dumpty, trying desperately to balance our egg-like existence amidst the strong

winds of adversity which threaten and discourage us. This is separatism, and it is likely to lead to "a

great fall" because it is based upon illusion or unreality. The inexorable (but in the end, kind) forces of

evolution eventually must topple us off this wall which our minds have built up out of rotted thoughts.

In the following scenario, let's assume for the sake of illustration that you and I have fallen into this

trap (or, perhaps more accurately, never climbed out of it). It is quite easy for us to adopt an attitude

of separateness because we are conditioned into it almost from birth. Most of us have unwittingly

bought into the assumption that we are separate from others. After all, we have separate bodies,

separate homes, separate jobs, and separate ambitions. We want to make money, perhaps more

money that other people make, so that we can indulge our egos a bit by having fancier cars, wearing

more stylish clothes, living in larger homes, or sending our children to more prestigious colleges. Even

if we don't have such tendencies toward conspicuous consumption, we may put ourselves first more

subtly by taking the largest piece of cake on the plate at a party ("I really do deserve it"), by feeling

that our religion is superior to that of others (and generously trying to convince them of it), or by

burdening our friends with long stories about our successful encounters (and blithely ignoring their

yawns). Many of us lack a sense of unity and brotherhood toward our fellow humans, and we instead

view our associates as divided between the "bad guys" (our competitors and enemies) and the "good

guys" (those who serve and comfort us). Our minds whisper to us, "You deserve the best, because

you're number one. Let the others fend for themselves."

The hidden danger in having a separative outlook is that, while it appears to serve our best interests in

the short run, it can eventually lead us into that dreaded and all-too-common ailment, loneliness. The

very attitudes that maximize our own feelings of importance and minimize the roles played by others

are the same attitudes which, when the chips are down, trap us in a cocoon of self-pity or

self-destructive desire for oblivion.

Into a life lived separatively there may come a shocking discovery: "I am not the most important

being in the universe, and never was." This discovery may come suddenly by way of some

devastating personal tragedy or great disappointment, or gradually through a long succession of

smaller eye-openers. We learn that the world can indeed get along without us--that we are

expendable. We then feel cynical like the man who observed, "The graveyards are full of people who

couldn't be replaced." Such an awakening may hit us like a ton of bricks (if suddenly), or like a ton of

feathers (if gradually)--but either way, it's a ton. We feel as if some great weight were pressing down

on us, and we perceive a world inexorably closing in. All hope seems to have fled. Nothing remains

but black despair.

When we do fall off the wall of self, when our ego shatters like the egg that it is, and when we thus

turn our thoughts to suicide in a misguided attempt to ease the resulting emotional pain, we agonize in

guilt and fear. If we are religious, we may worry that suicide will send us straight to hell, or we may

be tortured by concern for those whom we will be leaving behind. However, the overriding mission

remains--to escape from this apparently unfair, hostile, dreary, meaningless life. Typically, we wish to

end the pain by somehow drifting off into a pleasant, nebulous never-never-land where cares and

sorrows are behind us forever. And, by the way, we do want our death to be painless. If we could

handle pain, we wouldn't be suicidal in the first place--hence the popularity of sleeping pills or the

sudden-death methods.

Assuming that our suicidal feelings or attempts do not actually result in our death, how do we heal

ourselves? Slowly. Suicidal depressions are seldom cured quickly, due to the immensity of the task.

Our self-centered thought patterns, established and hardened over many years, can hardly be

reversed in the typical month or two we might spend recuperating in a psychiatric ward. Gradually

we have to reconstruct our broken egos along lines that allow a progressive realization that other

people are our brothers and sisters, and are not almighty "others" to be impressed, coddled, or

feared. After our suicidal ego ...

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