Saturday, 10 January 2009

More misconceptions, some thoughts about delusions, suicide, and about true suicide prevention

The following are two, slightly edited, replies to a discussion at Beyond Meds. - You have to be a member to view the discussion, so, join! - Gianna suggested, I should post here too, and I decided to post both replies.

1. There's this (mis-)conception, that, whenever it just gets "weird" enough, i.e. no longer easy to get, there must be something really really wrong with a person's head, in a biological way. That idea serves as some kind of "explanation" whenever someone's behavior no longer can be understood and explained without effort in relation to the at any time adopted idea of "normal" human behavior as such. It's not an explanation, though. It's explaining away. What we don't understand, we fear. "Beware of the unknown" is a natural reaction/defence and survival mechanism. Especially of prey animals. And humans are both, predators and prey animals. So, we prefer to explain the unknown away, in order to keep it at a safe distance. One of several reasons why the biological model is so attractive to the majority.

The suffering that people in distress experience is caused by a lack of understanding, a lack of self-/consciousness. Partly the suffering is caused by a lack of understanding of themselves, or of what is happening to them, and partly by a lack of understanding from their surroundings. The fact, that people who receive understanding, empathetic, support, that focusses on helping them to understand their experiences while going through a crisis, usually don't suffer to the same extent as those who don't, who only receive drugs to get numbed out on, and maybe even traumatizing, coercive, "treatment" into the bargain, and that the former fare remarkably better in the long run than the latter, proves this.

Somehow, this is where I see a connection to what you say in your post here. Explaining away seems the safest and easiest way out. But it leads inevitably to more and more suffering. In a qualitative as well as in a quantitative sense. We want perfection. We want to be able to (and we are expected to) perfectly fit the mould. And whenever we don't, we panic. And/or those around us do. Something must be profoundly wrong with us. Let's get it fixed, so we can, perfectly, fit the mould again. What we miss in our tireless struggle to be "perfect" - perfect according to the cultural norms and values of our time (!), that is - is that our imperfection is just perfect. In its imperfection. We are not meant to fit a certain mould. We are meant to just be. Real perfection isn't something that can be defined in terms of "different from". Real perfection is the unity of all dualities. Thus, our culture, while desperately chasing what it supposes to be "perfection", actually loses the real perfection more and more out of sight.

2. Whenever you want to die, if it's that you think the thought, or if it expresses itself as a voice, telling you to kill yourself (hearing voices is nothing but thinking aloud), you don't want to end being as such. You want to end what is, and make something else be. Death is a symbol for transformation. And the language of the unconscious is pure symbol language.

I don't know if you're familiar with it, but the Delphic Oracle from the Greek mythology for instance never answered any question other than in a more or less symbolic way. You got an answer to whatever your question, but you had to figure out the meaning of the answer yourself. Or: you actually gave the answer to your question yourself. Your unconscious, your intuition, did. The Delphic Oracle is the unconscious projected into the world.

Today, we live in a culture that isn't especially conscious of the unconscious. We are not conscious of symbolism in the same way other cultures are/were. What counts is the literal, the hard facts, science, "rational" thought (with "rational thought" being the kind of thought that is easy to get for everyone else, because everyone else thinks in the same, normative, way). Well, and things like traffic signs. But if I were an adviser, let's say of the Danish Prime Minister, he came to ask me my opinion about his campaign for the next election, and I'd say: "Make your own nature, not the advice of others, your guide in life," I'd probably lose my job, and be regarded, at least, a weirdo.

So, the question always is whom or what you really want to die when you contemplate suicide. One thing is for sure: it is not yourself. Your self (it's not a typo) is who/what you really are, and that is being, life. Life can't die. Death is a part of life, not the opposite. And life is transformation: something ends, "dies", something else begins. Every moment. Life is constant arrival and departure. Nothing actually is stable. There can be balance, but not stability. Total stability (like in "mood-stabilizer"), total unchangeableness and predictability, is a myth. And our culture confuses it with "perfection" - and chases it.

Some people want their outer form, i.e. their body, to die. People who suffer from a terminal illness, for instance. What most people in an existential crisis want to die though, is not the outer form either. It's their ego, i.e. who they think they are, and who they think, others think they are. Nevertheless, the ego partly manifests itself in the outer form of someone. That is, the body becomes a symbol for the ego. There you are: instead of letting go of your ego, and become who/what you really are, you interpret a symbol literally and consequently "let go" of your body, and,voilĂ : suicide. Literally. And since our culture is as unaware of symbolism as it is, chances are, that you won't find much help among this culture's members (in the mh system) to figure it out. Because everybody probably will interpret in the same literal way as your own thoughts do.

I eventually figured it out, because of the "delusion" that the real me wasn't a human being, but, well, something along the lines of a dryade, i.e. a spirit, nameless, ageless, without a history (all that ever had happened in my life, hadn't happened to me but to the body, the true me was caught in), immaterial, although caught in a - material - body. And what the real me wanted, wasn't to die, but to become free - of this body that represented an ego, a self-image, I've never felt less connected to than during crises.

Another aspect of this are "out-of-body-experiences", that usually also just are explained away as meaningless symptom of a brain disease.

Now, it's characteristic for our culture that people identify with their body, their thoughts, their mind, their life-story, their ego. Our culture teaches us to do so. In eastern philosophy though, there's another dimension beyond this formal, material one: the space wherein the formal, material expresses itself. Who/what you really are, your "true self" with Laing, is this space. So, the "delusion" actually wasn't a delusion, but the very truth.

Eventually, I figured, that letting go of the identification with my body, my ego, my thoughts, etc., meant the freedom, I'd thought, I only could gain through letting go of my body itself. A symbolic suicide, not a literal one. Or: an "egocide", not a suicide. That is the end of suffering. - That is not to say, that I don't suffer anymore. Nothing is forever. "Enlightenment" neither. It is extremely tempting to identify with the ego. Especially in a culture that worships the ego as our culture does. I yield to this temptation, time and again, and then I suffer. But existential suffering is human. It's not an illness. On the contrary, the way to "redemption" often goes through an awful lot of suffering. Without suffering, there would be no need to change anything, no need to develop and grow. Thus, existential suffering actually is more like a blessing than the curse, our culture wants to make it be.

As mentioned, usually people don't get any real help. (Since the "helpers" don't have a clue themselves, how could they help anyone to understand, what they haven't even understood themselves?*) The idea, that existential crises would be brain diseases prevents understanding just as the drugs do, whose prescription and administration only and solely is justifiable when what really is a wake-up call is defined a biological illness of the brain.

The trouble is, that the more your true self has been oppressed, the more you've been asked to identify with and as a false self (who/what others want you to be, but who/what you are not), the deeper the split between who/what you really are and this false ego-identification obviously becomes. The deeper the split becomes, the more you will suffer, and the more you suffer, the louder the wake-up calls will be. Whether you get a label of "OCD", "depression", or "schizophrenia" is not a question of suffering from distinctly different conditions. It's a question of the extent to which someone suffers, and the volume of the wake-up calls, they consequently receive. So-called "psychosis" being the loudest possible wake-up call. And they won't cease coming in, the wake-up calls, before you actually listen to them, and do wake up. This is why the drugs have a chronifying effect on crisis. It will inevitably happen again and again, until the day, you understand. And there is no drug strong enough to silence the unconscious. Drugs can't even target the unconscious. All they do is reducing consciousness. The unconscious is almighty and unassailable. You can't fight it and win. All you can do is turning it from being your master into being a tool of yours, by becoming conscious of it.

* It's actually quite funny, that a lack of ability to interpret things in a symbolic way is listed as a "symptom" of "schizophrenia", while the "experts' " ability to recognize a symbol as a symbol when it's staring them right in the face, equals to zero...

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