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Suicide: the lasting pain of judgment

March 24, 2015

Oftentimes when someone attempts or commits suicide the judgments follow. Yet, people want to know about the person who committed suicide or made a serious attempt. Why do people commit suicide? Why is it assumed to be a sign of weakness? Furthermore, why do we judge those who are feeling so destroyed by judgment itself?

 

Let’s begin by looking at the judgment itself! Many people will judge the person who is/was suicidal. That judgment can be heard in the way they describe someone who committed suicide, or the questions they ask about suicide, or their assumptions about suicide. Remember, “We judge only in the way we are fearful of being judged.” So what might this say about those who judge those who commit suicide?

 

In my many years of working with others I have found that just about everyone has thoughts of suicide. Sometimes those thoughts of suicide can be simply a pondering. Other times those thoughts can be fairly detailed. Then there are the times those thoughts can be very serious (3.7%, Emory University). Infrequently, thank goodness, the thoughts turn into successful attempts (0.5%, Emory University). So, using my 30 years in practice, let’s imagine that 90% of the people have a “thought” of suicide at some time in their life. That would suggest that everyone has felt pain at a level that they want to escape this life. This does not mean they were labeled depressed or medicated or anything else. It shows that just about everyone is capable of having the thought but how did they experience the thought(s)? Did those thoughts frighten them? Did they keep it secret because of the fear of the judgment or condemnation if someone found out? How did they handle “the thought”?

 

Most people will not share their brief or isolated, past or present, thoughts of suicide. They appear to experience shame and fear of judgment. It appears to take a good amount of trust that the person who they are telling will not judge them or act upon their thoughts. That experience alone can evoke the very loneliness and/or shame that could have been a part of their thoughts.

 

The emotional pain that is felt from loneliness, hurt, abandonment, or a myriad of other fear-based emotions, leaves us feeling very small, exhausted or weakened. People usually want to withdraw not go toward. They want to be left alone not accompanied.

 

Consequently, often times the person with those emotions are rescued by their anger coming to the foreground to express their needs in one way or another. But many other times that emotional pain leaves a person feeling too exhausted, maybe even beyond exhaustion, and so he or she says nothing. At those times she or he may resort to isolating, staying away from others. Each and every one of you knows that when you feel loneliness (not just alone) you feel like isolating from everyone. Logically that doesn’t seem to make sense but emotionally it is what happens. So, if you imagine a loneliness becoming so intense that you cannot isolate and cannot be with, then you start to understand, through that little thought what can make suicide become more of a reality. The more exhausted a person becomes the less real it seems that he or she can pull their self out of the abyss of emotional pain. If you were stuck in a 100-yd pit with smooth walls and no one knew you were there and although you began screaming out you slowly ran out of voice. Over a short amount of time, with no food and water, you begin to realize you are either going to starve to death, freeze to death, or become prey to another animal who can scale the walls. Whatever your thoughts they are anchored in the helplessness of getting out of the situation you are in that ultimately ends in the absence of life. You may choose to wait as long as possible for a miracle rescue but then choose to kill your Self gently before the suffering becomes too intense. This is similar to the emotional experience inside the suicidal person. They have lost all hope of rescue and life. Suffering has overtaken them. They think giving into the darkness is a gentle passing to peace that can be better than helplessly and hopelessly waiting for the inevitable suffering to continue.

 

Of all of those with whom I have worked who had more serious suicidal thoughts, 99% of them were going through a time in this life that was full of pain. Yet, it was apparent (to me and others on the outside of their abyss) that they were going to be able to heal and get to the other side it. On the other side of the painful time in life, was a life of gifts waiting for them. That being said, if the person contemplating suicide could know that there was another side that was so full of life do you really think they would step off this plane? If the person in the 100-yd pit knew there was a rescue mission coming, would they consider suicide? Usually not. It is rare that a person dies without “reason”.

 

Maybe you fear suicide because you were told by a religion that you would go to hell. That, in turn, may spark feelings that you are bad for even having these thoughts. Then you begin to believe that you are so bad there is no way out because you cannot be loved in this life, or get it right in this life, and, on top of that, your thoughts say you are no longer going to be okay by the very God who is supposed to be unconditionally accepting and loving. Whew! So, when you look at those who actually committed suicide you may not have the understanding to accept their choice because of your fear of the historic learnings based in judgment and not being good.

 

The shame that many feel when someone close to them commits suicide is also a part of all of this perceived and actual judgment. They want to keep the very secret that the person who successfully committed suicide kept. If the person in pain could have felt they could trust someone to help them through their pain without experiencing more shame would they have expressed the thoughts prior to final stages of decision making? We cannot be sure but the odds say probably. Shame of suicide is taught by society and family. The shame is a feeling of bad, a feeling of why do people see me like that when that is not who I am, a feeling of “ucky”. Ask your Self, who around you sees suicide (and, consequentially, thoughts of suicide) as one of those definitions? You can then see how it is kept secret. When already suffering with emotional pain, a person does not want or need to add to that the shame of judgment.

 

A colleague mentioned that many people feel selfish when someone dies because they do not want to deal with the death. I found that an interesting observation. People may talk of themselves or tell the other want to do or stay away from talking about the death as a result of their own discomfort with the idea of death. When that death is a suicide, if that very person experiences much discomfort with the idea or action of suicide, they may further get wrapped within their own self to deal with it.

 

Maybe people want to judge those who commit suicide simply because they’re angry at them for killing themselves. Being angry at someone who kills their self is a very healthy part of dealing with the traumatic loss, a sudden loss, or loss in general. Add to that an understanding that, for most, the only way they know to deal with their anger is to use their anger. What that means is that if they are hurting in their anger they then spew forth words that are hurtful to or about another. If they feel abandoned and small and weak behind their anger then they will spew forth words of abandonment and weakness to the other of the other. To judge the person who committed suicide as weak is to label them as not good enough. The very probable underlying cause of their choice.

 

In conclusion, there are many fears and fears of judgments that lie within an individual who lashes out with judgment of an individual who suffers, or suffered, with such extreme emotional pain that they fold up in the comfort of suicidal thought or action, respectively. If we begin by looking at the judgment of suicide that rests within each person, within their religions, and within their cultures/society, we begin to gain an awareness which is the first step in healing. If we begin healing the judgment that surrounds suicide, it may become much easier for those suffering with such severe pain to speak openly about their thoughts and pain. If they can talk about it openly and safely maybe, just maybe, we can begin to save lives. We will be saving lives by offering understanding, acceptance, and compassion. Those are the very feelings missing inside the darkness of the pain of the suicidal person. Think before you judge, ALWAYS!!!! You never know where that verbal knife will pierce the other.

 

I wish you all a day filled with compassion and acceptance of self and another, one at a time.

 

2 Comments »

  1. Very insightful, thanks for sharing. I dare to say that it is the idea of God that we have created – a judging one – that creates the problem in the first place. Even those who are not religious and even atheists operate in a culture, an “etnosphere” of making this life a “test” which can only be “passed” with hardship, pain and suffering. Who wouldn’t want to escape that? You said it well…. we all do.

    Comment by Andres — March 25, 2015 @ 8:31 am

  2. not good enough…. says it all!

    Comment by 2E — March 25, 2015 @ 8:49 pm

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Kristen Bomas, PA
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