rea.son.able (adj) governed by or being in accordance with sound thinking; not extreme or excessive
I was in 6th grade and I had to interview my uncle, a psychologist, about his career. It was a science project.
I’m not sure why I was so nervous because I saw Uncle Alvin nearly monthly at family holiday gatherings. He was cool and laidback and lead what I deduced was an interesting life: girlfriends, travel to exotic places, guest commentary in Jet, and a motorcycle. At Christmas he gave our family bags of foods with stuff like real maple syrup and Belgian chocolate, and one year, even, my first Victoria’s Secret bath gel (before bath gel took over the soap market—and before ol’ girl’s secret was no longer secret thanks to mass marketing).
I equated psychology with Uncle Alvin’s lifestyle and took a not-so-passing interest in psychology partly because of all that.
But the reason the occasion stands out so clearly in my mind is because it was one of the first times I consciously remember considering suicide.
I couldn’t think of any “reasonable” way to get out of the interview. It had been scheduled weeks in advance, the tape recorder borrowed and the cassette tape—which I kept for years after—purchased, the questions scribbled and re-written neatly on yellow steno paper with space between each to “take notes.”
I was so-o-o-o nervous.
To try to understand my sixth grade anxiety is to try to understand the very cogent fear my niece, a 6th grader, expressed last week regarding a chain email she received that instructed her to forward it to 10 people or expect a visit at 10:22 p.m. by a one armed, one-eyed dead girl.
To understand suicidal thoughts one must understand the very tangible fears from which they come.
Often, maybe too often, it’s not clear from the outside looking in why there seems no other way out for the suicidal; no “reasonable” alternative. Even if there are other, “reasonable,” alternatives.
“Reasonable,” you already know, is relative. So is fear. While a chain letter would not scare me, my niece was visibly shaken and no efforts at humoring her out of it or presenting logical arguments as to why the letter wasn’t worth her fear would work.
A reason that counselors and the otherwise well meaning often cite to discourage the suicidal is that the passage of time will clarify the muddled, maybe even rash, reaction that suicide seems.
Let me tell you that the passage of time has not diminished how palpable is that Sunday, heck the entire weekend, all those many years ago. When I think about it, even as I write this, I can feel that heart pounding anxiety I felt that day.
And rash? I was a praying girl, had gone to church, eaten dinner, watched t.v., gone about the entire day with a very clear vision of my way out of the feeling. Right up until my uncle knocked on the door.
Whatever your religious belief system instructs regarding suicide, you might consider these five reasons many suicidal people do NOT commit suicide:
1. They have low self esteem and are unable to take a definitive stand on their own behalf.
2. Their Judeo-Christian socialization—even if they do not practice an organized religion in that tradition—guilts them into believing that to do so would be wrong.
3. They are not convinced that they will succeed in their efforts and fear living with trauma in addition to or worse than that which has led them to consider the act in the first place.
4. They have not been convinced that the experience on the opposite side of life (death/afterlife/reincarnation) is any better than what they currently experience.
5. They are more interested in the romanticism of the act than in its reality.
Which is to say there are a lot of suicidal people walking among us. NOT to justify or defend nor—and I’ll probably earn slack for this—criticize or attack the act.
I think the list also underscores that the ways in which we are most accustomed to watching it committed are limited and as a result give us limited, if not selfish, ammunition with which to discourage the suicidal from their act. There are, if you pay attention, people who commit suicide as deliberately but yet over time, rather than in one fell swoop.
If there is a bottom line to this discussion I admit I don’t know for sure what it is. Other than to rethink what you consider “reasonable.” I think options exist just because reasonable, like so many things in life, is relative–selfish in that it uses the self/personal as a gauge for normalcy. Imagine that. Suicide is generally condemned as a selfish solution. I, for one, am not convinced it always is.
Look for more rethink blogs in the coming months including rethink: Freak and rethink: Good Girl!