OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
The issue of suicide tends to be relegated to psychiatric publications, films, and fiction. Interestingly enough, it has recently attracted the interest of statisticians. Still, there does not seem to be full awareness that it involves real people, and that neither those who are grappling with the idea nor those who have put it into practice are insane. The only undeniable truth is that they suffer.
I do realize how disturbing it may be to think of suicide as yet another fact of life. Ever since our species was Judeo-christianized, even those of us who have embraced agnosticism keep a salutary? dread of death. Call it what you will: the unpalatable thought that the end is definitive, the grief of our beloved ones, the feeling that it cannot be that easy to just let go. If this is what we experience when confronted with ‘natural’ death, the notion of becoming our own executioners is beyond endurance. Thus we segregate suicides and potential suicides to the pages of the DSM IV and move on without further consideration, as it would really be in bad taste to bring up the subject in the course of a conversation, don’t you think?
In 1940, Albert Camus, one of the most lucid thinkers of the times, reflected upon suicide in The Myth of Sisyphus, although this was not the central point he intended to address.
According to Camus, suicide is the only serious philosophical problem, one that is inextricably attached to the question about whether life is worth living. All other questions take second place. Apparently, since many people die because they do not believe that life is worth living, while others get themselves killed for the opposite reason, it would seem as if a good reason for living might be an equally good reason for dying.
In his view, the most obvious causes of suicide are not necessarily the most powerful ones, and it is practically impossible to determine what triggers the decision.
Taking the argument one step forward, perhaps it would be best to define ‘life’. Apart from the obvious biological implications, we humans make extraordinary efforts at keeping some kind of balance between external circumstances and our inner world. The everyday events outside find their way into our psyche, and are sometimes blown out of proportion by the unconscious areas of the apparatus. The ways in which we perceive the world are necessarily subjective, modify our perception of ourselves in the world, and may lead us to conclude that life –such as we perceive it –is not worth living.
Two popular theories have preyed on the minds of the non-suicides or anti-suicides. One is that, unable to direct her rage and/or frustration to the one/ones whom she blames for her despair, she turns to suicide as a means to ‘punish’ the would-be culprits, anticipating their regret for wrongs real or imaginary, and haunting them for the rest of their lives. This punitive analysis in fact relieves those ‘others’ of whatever guilty feelings, as they usually deny the list of wrongs attributed to them. And they are right. Even if they have actively contributed to the suicide’s unhappiness, a different process by another apparatus would have led to another decision.
The second theory dubs the suicide an egoist. She should go through hell on earth to spare others distress. One could wonder on whose side egoism lies.
Then there is the ‘bravery v. cowardice’ version. Some non-suicides acknowledge that bravery is indeed needed to take the leap into death, while others insist that anyone who opts for the ‘easy way’ (!!) is shunning the daily struggle they themselves fearlessly engage in.
All in all, everyone passes judgment, but few make the effort to understand, though paradoxically enough, the whys keep going on forever.
Having said this much, perhaps I should warn the reader that I am not advocating suicide, but simply defending free will as well as trying to convey the notion that suicide is not taken lightly by the victim-executioner, nor is it carried out on an impulse. It takes an unimaginable accumulation of suffering over time, and a slow but steady disattachment from all things dear. Make no mistake about it: a suicide has not been drained of love, but she cannot bear the burden of life such as it is processed in her inner self.
Can suicides be stopped? Sometimes. Yet before the resolve is made, they tend to go through phases of depression and despair that those around them are not willing or ready to live. They have their own problems to attend to. One day, they are greatly relieved to find that the one who has been oozing bitterness and expressing a death wish in word and action has ‘calmed down’. The phase is over, they think. It is, for sure. The inner struggle in the devastated battlefield of the mind is over, because the decision has been made.So much for suicide that is clearly read as such