Today is ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’. The fact that we have a day dedicated to preventing suicide is an indication that as a society, we still have far too many misunderstandings when it comes to discussions around death, suicide and living. Whilst many will be working hard today, posting and writing about how to spot the signs in someone who is feeling suicidal, I’m going to suggest that no signs truly exist. I wanted to commit suicide for several years and yet here I am. Many people go through life with suicidal thoughts running through their mind and many people don’t. It isn’t whats running through our mind that is the distinguishing factor in whether we succeed in ending our own life, its how seriously we are taking whats running through our mind in any given moment. Suicidal ideation is pretty common.
Combined with our own obsession of keeping our loved ones alive, suicidal ideation can hang around and it simply takes one more thought to make the difference, to tip the scales of life and death either way. When a loved one, friend or professional is constantly on watch to make sure one doesn’t commit suicide, it can innocently compound the suicidal thinking. An example? – It’s vital that you don’t think of red lorries today. Thinking of red lorries is VERY bad and will hurt my feelings. Please don’t do it!
So, how is suicide prevention best tackled? Well, it’s a complex topic for a blog post and you might still have lots of questions at the end. I would encourage you to come back to me with those questions though, they’re important ones and the answers are far simpler than we imagine. My own question though is never ‘how can I prevent suicide’? Instead, I am curious about whether or not someone understands who they really are. It is so easy to feel insignificant, unimportant, lonely, irrelevant and no matter how many times a friend or loved one tells you that you’re wrong, the very resistance to that thinking can keep us hanging on to spotting red lorries, or in this case, dying. Coupled with the fact that in the west, we are also obsessed with changing our thoughts and feelings, we end up spending a lot of time working on our thoughts and feelings and so don’t get to notice that what we are doing, is keeping those thoughts and feelings alive.
A question we often hear in the personal development arena is ‘what is my purpose’. It used to be a question that emerged for me too from time to time, especially when I was stressed and anxious and had those moments of wondering just what is the point of my existence. Nowadays, I have a different take on it and rarely ponder the purpose of existence for me or anyone else. I sway towards the view that the purpose of life is life itself and that I don’t have to make meaning of it. I see that the only time that I try to find a meaning for my personal existence is when I’m feeling lost, separate and insignificant.
Imagine that you and 2.5 million other fellow humans are standing in a field, pondering the purpose of life and wondering why you were born. There must be some reason surely, you say? The group all agree. I have been striving all of my life to find out, says one man. I am so sick of not discovering the truth, of searching and meeting with dead ends. I have set up businesses, made millions of pounds, travelled the world, fell in and out of love and now, I have simply had enough, I am exhausted and don’t feel I can go on anymore. What am I going to do next if nothing I have done so far has bought me satisfaction? If nothing quells this anxiety and makes my life satisfactory and meaningful.
The man, feeling despairing and beaten, quietens and sits on the floor. The rest of the group follow, sitting on the ground and with nothing else to do, they swap their stories about what they have done with their lives so far, the conquests, their failures, their unmet dreams and desires, their fears and hopes. They talk of the drugs they have taken, the alcohol they’ve drunk, the food they’ve consumed. Some tell about the the beatings they have both given and received, others, the murders they have committed. Some make mention of the love they lost and others the love they found. After several hours of swapping these stories, the first man gets up and says ‘I’m going home to kill myself. There is nothing left for me here. Listening to myself and all of you, it doesn’t seem that anything any of us do will be good enough. Whether we do good or bad, nothing seems to make any difference’. Murmurs and whispers of agreement rippled through the group as they decided that they too would give up and go home.
Just as the crowd were about to leave the field, a voice came out of nowhere. It was a young girl who had accompanied her mother to the field and had sat listening to those around her, telling their stories of woe. What she had heard though, was different than what the rest of the crowd seem to have heard. She spoke to the first man and asked him where his millions of pounds had gone? I gave it all away to charity he says and now, I have nothing left for myself. The young girl smiled. My mother, she says, has never even made one million, but she made me.
So what? Says the man. Your mother is like the rest of us, she just didn’t make it, didn’t work hard enough, if you is all she made, for what have you achieved? The young girl stopped for a moment, deep in thought. She then set about, giving each member of the the two million strong crowd, a trillion sided dice. Everyone looked at the curious object in their hand which seemed to have no purpose whatsoever and wondered what the girl was doing. ‘I want you to take that die’ she said, and throw it up in the air. Reluctantly, each human threw up the die and let it land in front of them. ‘Now’ says the young girl, ‘I want you to look at the number that the die has landed on and compare it to the person next to you. As the crowd did this, everyone in the crowd confirmed that the the die had landed on a different side to that of their neighbour.
‘Well’ she went on, the chances of all two million of you getting the same number on one throw of a trillion sided die is pretty slim isn’t it? Absolutely, the whole crowd agreed. ’That would take an absolute miracle” says the first man, ’So, what is your point’ he said, growing impatient and yet a little curious. ‘Imagine if you had all thrown that die ten times into the air’ she said ‘and that each of those ten times, it landed on the same side for all of you’ she smiled softly into the crowd. ‘You would then have discovered the odds, the chances of you being born as you, to your parents, on that date, as who you are’. The crowd silenced as the enormity of these odds dawned on them. Each human is a miracle and yet, the majority of people do not realise that and they set about their life, trying to perfect what already is.
It is so easy, to seek and search for a purpose for our existence and to miss the miracle of life itself. Life is in fact a miracle that no one has of yet discovered the answer to or the beginnings of and miracles seem to produce miracles. Miracles seem to involve very little planning and a lot of chance encounters and happenings and the only purpose they seem to have is to multiply, continue and grow. You are not only a result of that miracle, you are that still that miracle.
So it seems, the purpose of life is to really continue onwards, in various shapes, forms and guises. Life is impersonal, neutral and absolutely magical in its capabilities to find ways to continue. It found you didn’t it? It gave rise to you, sitting here, reading this, waking up to your uniqueness, your magnificence! And if you are reading this, it is likely that somewhere along the way, you have spent many moments talking your way out of it, forgetting that you are life itself and believing that you are insignificant. Maybe you forget that for others too? – Excerpt taken from my upcoming book, How not to die before your’e dead
To spend time trying to convince others not to die is perfectly understandable. Losing people we care deeply about is painful. Consider this though, when someone is considering whether or how to end their life, their pain is so severe that they can’t see any alternative way to end the pain. Their pain is caused by layers of thought that just won’t seem to go away, no matter how much they try to make it disappear. Do your best not to add to their pain by asking them to live. Someone living for the sake of others is not living at all, it’s existing. Instead, listen to them, without judgment, with complete acceptance and allow them to not talk too, allow the silence. Be gentle with them and with yourself too. Notice your fear of them dying and ask yourself if thats the emotion that your’e reaching out with or are you reaching out with love, for love holds no fear. They have to be the one who see’s the infinite value of their life. They cannot find that value through your own eyes, only theirs and we lessen the chance of them finding it when we are showing them the value that we hold for them. The added burden of shame, blame and guilt for the pain we are putting on others makes for a heavy veil, that hides our true value out of sight.
Does this mean that we have to have less conversations about suicide? No, we shouldn’t be waiting to have these conversations at all. But when we are having conversations about suicide, remember to have conversations about living, really living and stay curious. Resist the urge to put words into the mouth of the other. The transference of our own thoughts is unhelpful. What someone suffering is looking for is not more thought, but a rest from thought, a quieter mind and that cannot be found by giving them your thoughts to consider too. A sense of ease and peace cannot be found in a busy mind, it can only be found in silence. Giving another more to think about, more to consider with their painful thinking, is the least helpful thing we can do and comes from our own insecurity, for our own seeking to quieten our own mind.
If you or someone you know would like to find a quieter mind, please get in touch. It’s only one thought away. There are reasons to be hopeful