Whether a random, passing thought or a desperate plan to avoid a painful situation, contemplating ending your life is a serious matter.
As horrendous as the number of homicides (18,830) is, there are two and a half times more suicides (48,344), and the problem is only getting worse. Over the last 20 years, the suicide rate has increased by 35 percent.
While the causes of suicide are complex and unique to each individual, there is a general pattern—the understanding of which could save many lives. If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, this is written for you.
Suicidal ideation is a wake-up call from the universe that you have reached the end of your rope and it’s time to let go—not of your physical life, but of your metaphysical life.
You see, the universe is intelligent and so are we because we are a product of the universe. This natural intelligence is always operating, only sometimes, we like what it is telling us and sometimes we don’t. When we like it, we feel happy, light, and strong—our life has meaning and purpose. And when we don’t, we feel sad, lost, disconnected, and beneath our despair may lie anger and bitterness.
It’s frightening when your own natural intelligence is telling you to die, but it’s not abandoning you and you’re not going crazy. Your deep mind is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s telling you your approach to life is no longer working.
Who you think you are—your ego-identity—is based on the experiences you had growing up—the way people treated you, the stories you read, and the stories you told yourself. From this, you formed a concept of yourself and the world. You fashioned dreams, ambitions, and hopes for the kind of life you wanted and imagined how happy you’d be once you reached your goals. But all of this is merely your socially constructed self—your imagined, metaphysical self. It’s not who you really are; it’s not your true self.
Your true self is what remains after you strip away your name, beliefs, and possessions. It is who you are before words, images, and stories.
Normally, these two views—what you imagine and what is—overlap and you can live in the overlap. Things aren’t perfect, but you get by and may even thrive.
However, there are times in life when these two views are widely apart, separated by an existential abyss. Your ideas about yourself and the world no longer jive—no longer make sense, and that’s when self-destructive thoughts appear.
To go through an ego-death can be the most intense, emotionally painful experience you will ever endure. It requires giving up your beautiful dreams. However, your ego is a tyrant and will not let go easily, even if it means taking you down with it out of pride, guilt, shame, fear, or bitterness. It will try to convince you that a life without your precious dreams is more than you can bear and that such a life is not worth living.
You have arrived at an existential impasse: do you cling to your dreams and physically end your life, or do you let go of your dreams and cling to reality?
Trust in life. Trust in your natural intelligence. Hold fast to reality and let your ego-self die in service to life—in service to a bigger, more beautiful version of yourself.
It’s frightening to fall into the abyss, to fall apart and let life take you apart. You could end up a sobbing heap on the floor, gasping for breath between gut-wrenching tears. But you can’t cry forever. You’ll eventually get exhausted and need to rest.
The torment can go on for weeks, months. You may find yourself wandering in a wasteland of grief and despair not knowing who you are. I once cried hard every day for a year. But there will be moments of relief. Work can provide a reprieve, as can reaching out to friends and family. You don’t have to go through it alone. Professional help is available. You need only to ask.
During this time, it’s important to take care of the basics: eat nourishing food, tend to your personal hygiene, and exercise to keep the energy moving.
Still, the goal is not to get out of the pain but to take as much as you can and allow the metamorphosis to do its work. (Snakes rub up against rocks to shed their old skin.)
Keeping an open heart in the midst of pain is a sure-fire way to grow.
And please, don’t take it personally. The experience of dissolution, death, and rebirth are a natural part of living. Spiritual death and rebirth is the oldest medicine on the planet, practiced by shamans for more than 40,000 years. Life wants to live and you are nothing other than life itself, which is your true identity and is far greater, far more miraculous, and far more magical than you imagine. If it’s your time, let it happen.
As the Zen poem goes:
“Die, die, die, and then live as you like a free person.”
Or, as I like to say:
“Trust in the cosmos.
Trust in life.
Trust in yourself.
(They’re the same thing).”
Please share widely and let me know your thoughts: [email protected].