Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

Practical Alternatives
to Suicide

Real Sources of Hope

by Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

  The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/suicide.htm

Updated 12-10-2014

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      I'm grateful to Angels Angles Camprubi for suggesting this article. It is one of a series in self-improvement Lesson 1 - reduce inherited psychological wounds and unawareness and free your wise true Self to guide you.

"Three grand essentials for happiness are something to love,
something to do, and something to hope for
" - Joseph Addison

      This brief YouTube video summarizes what you'll find in this article:

      This article describes 16 practical alternatives for people considering suicide, and 13 options for others who care about a suicidal person. The article assumes you're familiar with...

  Learn something about yourself with this anonymous 1-question poll.

.colorbutton.gif Perspective

      Have you ever seriously considered ending your life? Despite the primal urge to survive and the universal fear of pain and the unknown, people in every age and culture have killed themselves. Seeing death as the "only way out" of an intolerable situation is stark evidence of not having learned how to manage life's inevitable problems and pain.

      How do you view people who attempt or commit suicide? Do you see them with compassion or pity, or as weak, cowardly, quitters, selfish, and perhaps "sinners"? How did the adults who raised you feel about suicidal people? Some cultures like Japan have condoned and even expected ritual suicide after dishonoring family, ancestors, and/or societal beliefs.

      The media conditions us to associate "suicide" with single lethal events like shooting, hanging, poisoning, jumping, and drowning. An unremarked type of suicide in our Western culture is epidemic, occurring quietly over years. It is psychologically-wounded people neglecting their personal health for decades, and dying prematurely.

      One of many symptoms of this is the growing American trend toward obesity in average adults and kids. Other symptoms are the prevalence of "clinical depression'' and the four types of addiction.

      Many suicidal people often feel deep shame about themselves and their situation, so they mask their misery and thoughts. They may also feel intense guilt about "burdening" others with their despair and/or about abandoning loved ones, so they remain isolated and mute rather than appearing weak, needy, and troubled,  and seeking help.

Warning Signs

      People who are seriously considering ending their life, vs. acting impulsively,  often display observable behaviors. These can include a mix of depression; talking a lot about death, dying, hell, and heaven; unusual cynicism and pessimism; quitting therapy; excessive sighing; giving away prize possessions; updating estate plans; withdrawing emotionally and socially; crying episodes; and perhaps apologizing to people they feel they hurt. For more comprehensive information,  search the Web on "warning signs of suicide" or equivalent. 

Assisted Suicide and the Right to Die

       People are divided on whether it is morally acceptable to help self-aware people relieve unbearable psychological and/or physical pain by suicide. The norm in America (and other countries?) is that assisting suicide ("euthanasia," or "mercy killing") - no matter how compassionate and/or justified - is immoral and criminal.

      The justification for this tragic norm is the deep personal and cultural repugnance against killing someone intentionally, regardless of their circumstances and wishes. Paradoxically, killing is popularly justified in wars, some legal punishments, and in self defense. So is putting impaired, and fatally ill and injured animals "out of their misery."

      A growing global minority of people dispute the prohibition of assisted suicide and are lobbying to reverse it. Several nonprofit U.S. organizations are dedicated to this goal, including Compassion and Choices and Final Exit. Several European countries - like Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland - have legalized assisted suicide under controlled conditions. The prevailing European opinion now is that it should be illegal.

      Proponents of this view apparently feel that it is morally right to force someone to endure unbearable pain and hopelessness rather than die. This view denies such sufferers the right to self-determination. It arrogantly implies "We law-makers and enforcers control your life (and death) - not you."

      By definition, suicidal people want to die (i.e. end their agony). Murder is morally unacceptable and criminal because typical victims do not want to die. People who are insecure and/or uncomfortable with their own conflict over this dilemma may adopt someone else's decrees, as in a Holy book

      Nursing homes are filled with terminally old or ill, disabled people who are kept alive at great expense because of fear of legal, professional, and religious penalties and family selfishness and denial. I believe this is cruel, socially-sanctioned "elder abuse." What do you think?

Suicide Prevention

      Our society tries to prevent suicide by offering specialized counseling and education - e.g. "suicide hotlines," and civil, pastoral, and military professionals with special training. Their common quest is trying to offer credible new options and hope to suicidal people to revive their will to live. Most of these well-intentioned people and concerned others have never seen what you're about to read.

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      Premise - Humans and other animals are "needy" critters. Needs are local and chronic emotional, physical, and spiritual discomforts. Most (or all?) human behavior is driven by "surface" needs and underlying primary needs. Typical people - specially kids - are unaware of their primary needs, and focus only on reducing surface discomforts. Does this make sense to you? If so, then consider these...

.colorbutton.gif Surface Causes of Suicidal Thoughts

      Answer this question out loud now: "Adults and teens kill themselves because ..." See how your answer compares to these common ideas:

      "People end their lives because they...

  • are in unbearable physical pain, and have no accessible remedies;"

  • feel trapped in unbearable emotional pain [e.g. shame + guilt + fear + regret + sadness + overwhelm ('despair')] and see no way to reduce it;" and/or they...

  • fear unavoidable, unbearable future pain;" and/or they feel...

  • trapped in an agonizing environmental situation they cannot affect or leave;"

    And/or "suicidal people...

  • succumb to overwhelming emotional exhaustion - bearing too much stress for too long, without respite or meaningful support."

      Can you think of other reasons for suicidal thoughts and actions? The core element in each of these surface reasons is despair - feeling powerless and without any realistic hope for relief. 

      After 36 years of professional study, reflection, and clinical experience; I propose that NONE of these are...

.colorbutton.gif The Real Causes of Suicidal Thoughts

      Premise - typical people who survive early-childhood abandonment, abuse, and neglect ("trauma") develop personalities composed of specialized "parts" or "subselves." Each subself is like a talented player in an orchestra or sports team. It brings one or more special abilities or traits to the host person, and aims to help the person survive. If you're skeptical about this, read this perspective, and try this interesting, safe exercise after you finish reading this article.

       A subself we all (you) have can be called the ''true Self'' (capital "S"). Its talent is effective leadership of all subselves in all situations, like an expert musical conductor, head coach, military commander, or business CEO. If other subselves usually trust and follow the Self's lead, the host teen or adult is "well adjusted" and can adapt to most life stresses well enough. Such people can have "low moments," but rarely experience major or chronic despair, overwhelm, and serious thoughts of suicide.

      One normal group of subselves is composed of developmentally-young Inner Children (plural). Another group can be called Guardians, which exist solely to comfort and protect the Inner Kids and the host person. When Inner Kids and Guardians trust the third group of resident subselves to protect them (''Managers''), the host person usually feels grounded, calm, and reasonably confident and optimistic as life challenges appear.

      Most people seem to have some "standard" subselves, including Shamed, Lost, Guilty, Needy, and Scared Inner Kids, and Worrier, Pessimistic, Critical, Perfectionist, and Cynical Guardian subselves. If such Guardians and young subselves don't trust the resident true Self and other Managers to handle life problems, they can disable the Self and dominate the host person with their thoughts and feelings. They become a well-intentioned, narrow-visioned ''false self.'' The extreme case of this dominance causes chronic thoughts and feelings of overwhelm and despair.

      When this happens, a Guardian subself who can be called the ''Suicider'' may activate. It is solely dedicated to ending Inner Kids' agony permanently by creating thoughts and images of self-destruction.

      When the Suicider activates, other Guardian and Manager subselves try to negate this self-destruction plan. Their internal conflict can rage for moments or many months. It can cause "suicidal gestures" where the host person tries to die, but "fails." This is often labeled an inarticulate "cry for help."

colorbutton.gif Implications

       From this view, the real cause of suicide begins with significant early-childhood trauma.- e.g. parental abandonment, neglect, and abuse. That promotes the formation of protective false selves (dominant Inner Kids + their Guardian subselves), possibly including a ''Suicider.'' When people's resident true Self is disabled and they weren't taught how to manage life problems effectively, they may "become hopeless and suicidal."

      Note the undeniable ability of the human mind-body-spirit system to convert persistent psychological stress into biological symptoms ("psychosomatic illness"). I suspect that well-intentioned subselves can influence bodily functioning in ways we don't understand. If so, some "incurable" illnesses may be reduced or healed by intentionally freeing a person's wise resident true Self to guide them.   

      The ideas above imply that a despairing person's focus can shift from "killing myself" to "learning how to free my true Self to guide my personality and to discover new hope for lasting relief." Note your reaction to this idea. Who's causing your thoughts and feelings now - your wise true Self or ''someone else''? How do you know?

       Accepting the concept of normal personality subselves opens up some powerful new...

.colorbutton.gif Options if You Feel Suicidal

      If you live in unbearable agony and despair from an incurable medical condition, review your personal rights, and learn the options provided by nonprofit legal organizations like Compassion & Choices and Final Exit Network after you're done here. An increasing number countries and U.S. states (like Oregon) are legalizing assisted suicide under controlled conditions. You are NOT alone!

      If your anguish is psychological and/or psychosomatic (not organic), steps like these can bring you new options, hope, and purpose:

  1. Commit to studying this free online Lesson. It will teach you about your talented personality subselves and how to free your wise true Self to manage your "inner family" and your life effectively. Consider using informed professional help to patiently...

    *  convert shame  into stable self respect and self confidence;

    *  eliminate unwarranted guilts; .

    *  reduce excessive fears to normal; and to...

    *  reduce reality distortions and unwarranted distrusts.

    Each of these options is best done when your true Self is guiding you.

  2. Adapt these wound-reduction guidelines to fit your personality and situation. Refer to them any time you feel stuck, overwhelmed, discouraged, depressed, and/or confused.

  3. If your agony is related to one or more significant losses, it may be normal grief. If so, it will subside if you and people around you permit yourself to grieve. If psychological wounds and a low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") social environment hinder your grief, see the many practical options in Lessons 1 and 3 in this Web site. This also applies if you feel chronically ''depressed.''

  4. Draft and use a Bill of Personal Rights like this example. No matter what your age, gender, race, religion, color, or status, your human dignity, worth, and rights are equal to every other person's. Use your Bill to firmly assert your current needs and boundaries to other people without guilt or shame.

  5. Honor your own boundaries and limits, and give other adults full responsibility for managing their own problems and lives. Let go of the illusion that you are responsible for their feelings and welfare. You may provide help, but ultimately they - like you - must take charge of their own wholistic health and situation.

  6. Inventory and appreciate your personal intangible assets, and these ideas for improving your self-respect and self-love. Discuss these with people who know and care for you. Don't listen to your well-intentioned Inner Critic, Cynic, and Perfectionist subselves as you do this

  7. If you feel you have no one to talk to who will listen with compassion and respect, try calling one or more suicide hot lines. Churches, mental-health agencies, hospitals, police, phone directories, and the Web can refer you to them. Usually, they can refer you to other accessible resources.

  8. Review these inspirations often, and use any you find meaningful. Collect  your own inspirations as you go. Use parts work (Lesson 1) to retrain any well-intentioned Cynic or Pessamistic subselves who try to discount or ignore your affirmations.

  9. Review the difference between religion and personal spirituality, and consider developing the latter. Options - read "Conversations with God,": by Neale Walsch, and view the brief inspiring non-religious video called "The Dash."

    More alternatives to suicide...

  10. If you're a dependent teen or a disabled person and you feel chronically neglected, abused, or abandoned, you have a right to ask for help. Ask your doctor, clergy person, school counselor or coach, the nearest mental health agency, a hospital social-work department, or police for referrals to service providers. Scan your local phone directory for "Social Services."

  11. Search the Web for "suicide prevention resources." There's a LOT of knowledgeable help available!

  12. Learn how to distinguish surface problems from underlying primary needs. Then identify your current unmet primary needs and prioritize them. Then use the Serenity Prayer to identify problems that you can affect, and brainstorm effective solutions one at a time. This works best with your true Self guiding you (option 1 above).

  13. Patiently study self-improvement Lesson 2. It will teach you effective ways to think and  communicate, and give you some powerful new social (relationship) problem-solving options. 

  14. When you're minimally distracted, try this safe interesting exercise: interview your Future Self and ask her or his advice on how to manage your problems.

  15. If an addiction is part of your despair, read this (after finishing this) and consider attending a local or online 12-step group to see what that feels like. There are many useful free addiction-management resources on the Web, like Hazelden.org.

  16. If you have adult kids and/or work with a counselor, therapist, and/or other supporters, show them this article and ask their help in tailoring and taking  steps like these.

  17. (Add your own options)

      Pause and reflect - what do you notice about these choices? Did you realize how many you have? This is not a complete list!

 colorbutton.gif If You Care About a Suicidal Person

      People who want to help a despairing person can often feel helpless. If you're such a person, you have many options:

  1. Use Lesson 1 to assess yourself for inherited psychological wounds - specially if the troubled person is your child, mate, sibling, or parent. If you're controlled by a protective false self, you risk catastrophizing, distorting reality, feeling over-responsible, and/or taking on too much of their burden and losing sight of your own needs, boundaries, and welfare. Balance your concern for yourself and them without guilt.

  2. Keep these ageless guidelines in mind as you decide what to do;

  3. Give the suicidal person the priceless gift of empathic listening when you can - without lecturing, moralizing, minimizing, arguing, or giving advice. Avoid saying "I know just how you feel." No you don't, because your life experiences and personality (subself mix) are different..

  4. If concern for the person's welfare dominates your life now, learn about  the widespread condition of codependence, and assess yourself for it. It's a common symptom of inherited psychological wounds and "false self" dominance. Option - use a professional counselor or therapist to help you do this.

  5. Ask the person to review this article and discuss it with you. Avoid lecturing, preaching, moralizing, pleading, catastrophizing, or demanding. Use any of the options that apply to your situation. Options - ask the person to read this and this and discuss them with you.

  6. If appropriate, refer selected family members to this article or give them a copy.

  7. If the suicidal person is in unbearable pain from incurable illness and/or old age, learn about the aims and services of Compassion & Choices and Final Exit Network. Contact them as appropriate for help and support.

  8. If the person has suffered one or more major losses, (e.g. of security, a relationship, health, opportunity, faith, hope, assets, etc) read and discuss this with her or him. If appropriate, invite the person to study this free online Lesson  on healthy grieving, ideally with empathic supporters.

  9. If the person seems seriously depressed, study this and consider having him or her read and discuss it with you and other supporters.

  10. If someone's addiction is contributing to the person's despair, read and discuss this with them, and search the Web for "addiction resources." In particular, learn about "family interventions."

  11. If the suicidal person is a teen, read this and this, and urge their parents to get family therapy immediatelyOne or both parents have probably inherited significant psychological wounds and unawareness, and they don't know this or what it means.

  12. Contact available suicide hot lines and support groups, and ask for resources and options. Ask local mental-health centers and churches for referrals and advice

  13. Scan the Web for "suicide prevention" resources that apply to your situation.

       These options for concerned people can be summarized as:

  • Help within your limits without neglecting your own needs, boundaries,  and welfare; and...

  • Identify relevant resources and tell the person about them. Then...

  • Use the Serenity Prayer and avoid feeling responsible for the troubled person's choices.

colorbutton.gif Recap

      This is one of a series of Web articles in self-improvement Lesson 1 - free your true Self to guide you, and reduce inherited psychological wounds. This article provides perspective on suicide for people considering intentional death and people who care about a suicidal person. It illustrates common surface reasons for suicide, and proposes the real reason: a "false self" dedicated to ending Inner Kids' unbearable pain, weariness, and despair.

      The article builds on this proposal to summarize 16 practical alternatives to suicide, and 13 related options for people who care about a suicidal person. 

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      Pause, breathe, and reflect: why did you read this? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise resident true Self, or 'someone else'?

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