Let me begin by stating that I am not a professional psychologist, nor am I professionally trained in suicide prevention. In this essay I’ll offer some of my subjective thoughts on the issue of suicide from personal experience of observing my own psyche.
Psychologists always want to know whether you’ve had suicidal ideas. They call this suicide ideation. Based on my experiences, I would say that such ideas are fairly common among modern human beings. The question really is whether you would ever take action on such an idea.
When the Crash of 2008 came, many people around the world lost all or most of their life’s savings. I was no exception. Losing the money you saved for four decades in one financial shock is definitely a stunning event for the psyche. I rate it right up there with the shocks of castration or a mastectomy because of breast cancer. It means that the personal image of yourself has been severely disrupted.
Now I can’t say all of the reasons someone kills themselves, but it seems to me that the loss of meaning in one’s life is one of the major causes. We humans are meaning making creatures, and when we are cut off from a meaning we have relied upon for decades, it can seem irretrievable.
But, the saving grace is that we are meaning making creatures. This means that we can find new meaning in our lives, possibly entirely unrelated to the original meaning we relied upon. And, we can very possibly assign new meaning to very serious tragedies in our lives. Our psyches have that power. The excellent 2015 movie, Welcome to Happiness, provides an excellent example of what I am talking about, and I urge you to find it on Netflix™ or On Demand.
When things were really bad for my finances after the Crash of 2008, my psyche was in a very dark place. At about the same time, a neighbor, who had the reputation of a very successful and happy businessman, did commit suicide. This obviously shocked many of us. I pondered his decision for a couple of weeks, but I concluded that I really wanted to see how everything comes out.
I remembered that during the Great Depression, many people suffered through very tough economic times. My Grandfather lost his business, and my Mother-in-Law still talks about surviving on potatoes and love. Fortunately, she was young enough so she really didn’t have to know how much her parents had to struggle during those years. And then there was World War II, which began on her 11th birthday, Pearl Harbor Day. Anxiety must have been palpable. But the meaning of her life became her family, and I’m still living into the meaning of my Grandfather’s life.
My Father told me before his death that when he was seven years old his family had to move out of their home in the dark of night. My Aunt, who is still living, was a babe in arms at that time, and gratefully has no recollection of those times. Obviously, the family was foreclosed. This is why one part of my ongoing meanings, and that of my Grandfather, is to fight back against the usurious banksters, who crushed the economy, while they reaped fraudulent excess riches by hiding their behavior from the public.
In this century, the banks managed to get themselves paid double on all defaulted mortgages, and I’ve taken exception to that. Fortunately, my Grandfather had his wits about him, and made it possible for my Father to enter the United States Naval Academy in 1942, thereby missing most of World War II, and my experiences with my Father and his naval career gave me the gumption to become a lawyer, among many other hats I’ve warn.
But my legal fight, which is now entering its seventh year, has had many colossal ups and downs. So I have needed more meaning, in order to hold my psyche together. In my case, I have been blessed to find the writings of Dr. Carl G. Jung, and applying the meaning of his life to our 21st century politics, has given me another meaning to my life. Since 2010, I have curated the Archetype in Action™ website http://archetypeinaction.com, and I’ve written a book about political psychology called Political Psychology: New Ideas for Activists, which is based on my Jungian studies.
One other point worth mentioning is that if you have someone in your life, who has returned from service in a war theatre, please DO pay attention to their state of mind. PTSD is real, and our military and national government pays practically no attention to mental health. Sadly, 22 military men and women commit suicide every day.
In my case, I have an extremely mild form of PTSD, based on a relatively mild experience in Vietnam. I was no hero, and want no thanks for my service. But, whenever I hear fireworks or a helicopter, I immediately flash back to experiences in Vietnam. I literally cannot stand to sit and watch the fireworks displays on the 4th of July, and I left Vietnam 45 years ago.
If I have those experiences, I can tell you that PTSD is real, and it is very likely that your service member is suffering in some way, perhaps silently and maybe in an unexpected way. It is important to get them to a therapist, if they show any signs of problems. I have never gone myself, but I also have been studying the work of the leading psychologist of the 20th century for 29 years, so I am familiar with my psychic content.
So yes, I do have a suicidal thought from time to time, but I feel strongly that as long as I have meaning in my life, including my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my fight against greed on Wall Street, and my writing and social networking, I will never act on those thoughts.
If you don’t know what to do to find meaning in your life, simply start doing something you like, without any particular objective, even if it’s nothing more than reading a book, going to a movie, or scribbling in a coloring book. Don’t burn the midnight oil thinking about it. Gradually, your own unconscious psyche, yes I mean the one that also sends the suicidal ideation, will provide the answer. Then you will have something to live for--for the rest of your natural life. All human beings were put here for a purpose. What’s yours?