Sunday 15 November 2020

A Suicidal Bias

by Tessa den Uyl

‘With men came suicide’ could have flown out of Pandora’s box, as well as, ‘I think therefore I suffer’. Even when our agonising states might seem incredibly real—just like the joyful ones—we might be slightly mistaking our perceptions. Once we recognise how we have become enslaved to believe in a cultural heritage, we also comprehend that our life is nourished by a language-shared involvement. Though this language might not hold (at) all what we are. If suicide could be archived as ‘an urgent need that once involved humankind’, we have to start to think in a different way. After all, to kill oneself out of despair, nobody was born.

What humankind has passed on for centuries eludes us all in who we are. The fashionable expression that there is just the now (or actually, no time at all) is plausible when we turn to quantum physics, biocentrism and ancient spirituality that envision the whole of reality as one single movement. Though emotionally speaking, to experience this oneness would mean to have burned the whole past within us. To put it briefly: on an emotional and intellectual level, unless one were unable to live a life in which memory has no decisive input on our emotions, thus our thoughts, each of us is intrinsic to ‘the reality’ of society rather than the ‘one Self” of the cosmos. If so, our daily reality is elusive in the face of the cosmos and real towards society.

Where does this leave us?

Society demands a certain attachment to those thoughts that fulfill specific images about life. How many are the thoughts which others think for you and you think others think? This is a forest where not everybody will walk quietly. People think and therefore have opinions, which serves communication. Though once people believe in their thoughts, as if they are the words they pronounce, life seemingly has a great deal to do with the submission to, and the manipulation of, other people’s requests. Not unpredictably, when life means a jar filled with expectations to be fulfilled, that jar is not unbreakable under its own pressure. Like stalkers in a spider’s web where thoughts continue a never-ending communication, most of all within ourselves, should one in this realm trace a self?

When the initial information which is handed one in life is to erect an idea of self with a tiny bag of thoughts as the available tools, to understand the boundaries of where your life starts and the requests of others end, is extremely difficult. Not uncommonly, the encounter with discrepancy in society is of no surprise. Especially when one comprehends that society itself is established in divergence, and each of us is therefore raised in conflict. A communication, which serves its own contraries, can only hand one to struggle as the outcome. And in such societies, to think that problems can end is nothing but a mediocre generalisation. Simultaneously thought-induced reality cannot be denied, it serves to stop in front of a stop sign or to pass the salad. Though if suicide is on one’s schedule, one has to be aware that killing oneself is as justified as not, like everything else, only in the barrel of thought that we have learned to think.

When we profoundly understand that nothing can ever be fixed in how our societies work today, until we continue to think the way we do, (cut everything into pieces as if division is truly possible) we can all comprehend that nobody will ever allow us to become who we are. Though what we are is exactly the same for every other being, which is a part of life and of this universe, in which no being is more or less important. Being foremost bundles of energy, when we make ourselves more important than something else, we have divided ourselves from everything else solely by ideas. We thus prefer thoughts above the energetic form of life itself. Without the latter, thoughts cannot be. Still, we are drilled to believe that thoughts (thus emotions) rule our reality.

Thought is a human social fiction, which is rather significant as a confirmation of our identity and completely insignificant to all else. Not being able to get rid of your-self is the same as trying to maintain that idea of self. In both cases there is a refusal to let go of what one thinks. Whether the package is pleasant or unpleasant, it satisfies the same mechanism. Though the problem is not about who one is, as a form of energy, we never can be a problem. Socially accepted ideas raise the illusion of hope to become what one is not yet or to lose what one thinks one is. If the tadpole announces that it will be an elephant tomorrow, we might have some doubts. Though only when there is hope attached to that exclamation, to fulfill a self in the face of society, language offers the unpleasant thought that hope equals suicide. Either as a tadpole or an elephant, for the tadpole this is the same. It is what it is. It cannot be more, nor less.

Embracing the thinking patterns that are bound to social logic, a state of being can easily switch and eventually become a fixation. Ideas intermingle with emotions and knowledge, social status; an incredible pressure of images bombards people daily. Embarrassment, lack, fulfillment, desire, humankind has made an incredible effort to narrow our perceptions. This makes the structure of the social illusion fragile, and meanwhile we were not raised to doubt its utilisation. Though what has not happened yet may certainly happen. Not in the affirmation of one’s identity, not in the utilisation of language to enhance oneself in front of society. This is the main point, to let go of which seems so implausible.

Once thoughts can be seen as a tool to not identify with, and to exploit one’s feelings continuously, there is some space to acknowledge that our consciousness surpasses all the social learned perceptions we’ve put into that feeling of ‘Me’. And this is the blind spot on which so many of us erect their convictions, on which societies build their bricks. At the same time it is this ‘Me’ which enfolds in everything. If there is a way to a more pleasant state of living for all of us, and everything that immeasurably surrounds us, this can be found in unfolding our illusions. We cannot truly get in or out, as is the case at the metro stop. We’re always in. Until and unless human beings profoundly understand that one for all and all for one is not just bound to three musketeers, suicide will only be one of the bigger outcomes of a dysfunctional humanity.

Talking about suicide is not about whether or not it is justified. The question is really how it got there in the first place, to occupy a person with such a thought. In the face of an immortal cosmos, understanding that we cannot truly set ourselves free, the question of being free is erased from the mind. We are more than what we’ve learned to be and less than what we think we are.


Martin Cohen said...

Yes, animals that kill themselves is a sort of contradiction in nature - although not perhaps as significant as this article supposes. What I mean is, from the perspective of a species, whites surely what is pointed at here: "After all, to kill oneself out of despair, nobody was born…" - suicide might be seen as like an illness or injury that afflict some people - but not so many.

Then again, suicide is an event that might cover several really quite different cases. There are people who might wish to end their lives out of despair, perhaps having a physical illness, or perhaps having insurmountable life problems including of course debts. Then there are people who might do it as 'revenge' - against a particular person or society… then there are those occasions noted by Émile Durkheim, where social and collective forces seem to create waves of suicides. In these last cases, it could be argued that suicide is a tragedy for an individual but a positive feature for society.

For me though, and I think of people I have known who did kill themeselves too here, it always seems to be deeply personal, and tragic. Durkheim has an apposite title for this kind of event: “Melancholy suicide".

He adds: "This is connected with a general state of extreme depression and exaggerated sadness, causing the patient no longer to realize sanely the bonds which connect him with people and things about him. Pleasures no longer attract;”

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Martin, thank you.

Autothysis, my guess is that the ‘me’ of f.e. an ant is distinct from the human ‘me’ perceived by the analog ‘I’. This makes me draw a distinction between animal suicide and (animal) human suicide. Not many people commit suicide to preserve their social group, they kill themselves out of isolation. The ant in that sense is coherent to its group, human being is not. But to say that the percentage of human suicides is small and does not afflict so many, I do not agree. Then people in detention camps or starving is rather small, and like this we can make a very long list of small groups that can be overlooked? They are all in those situations due to a certain policy, of which we are all part. How personal something is, is to be investigated. To quote Jaynes: "Looking back into memory…is a great deal invention, seeing yourself as others see you."

Who is out there seriously considering to end one’s life, surely doesn’t have a problem of being convinced about the reason why doing so. And most likely, reaching that stand, one would read a manual about the effectiveness of methods rather than folding Durkheim’s research. Not ignoring his significant work, psychologists often name and make boxes in which to fit behaviour while we have never gotten to the roots of what consciousness actually is. What occurs is division. Language expresses concepts, not therefor it has anything to do with consciousness.

Take an example of being diagnosed bi-polar and to take medication to move on. (Or not). The concept allows the behaviour both for the patient and the society. Though reflecting on a scheme of concepts that a majority has chosen to follow, avoids facing the contingencies that the identity which we ascribe to ourselves is a fiction. It is not just the ‘outcast’ that can face that we are not our concepts, it is up to a majority to do so. Turning to (your) quoting Durkheim:
"This is connected with a general state of extreme depression and exaggerated sadness, causing the patient no longer to realise sanely the bonds which connect him with people and things about him.” The question is what these sane bonds are based upon to create dissimilarity that mostly provide a reason for people to commit suicide.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

I found this an interesting and original post. It is about social causes of suicide, but not what one usually thinks, such as social norms, social change, social support, and so on. Rather this is about 'How many are the thoughts which others think for you and you think others think?' We are very dependent on this interaction, in many and often subtle ways, and it can kill us. Perhaps individualism has too much dominated our understanding of suicide.

What is the meaning of the image? Is it tied to the subject?

Interesting, behind the scenes, viewers are landing on this post every five minutes.

Keith said...

For those who regard suicide their sole recourse, the allure to quell suffering — emotional, physical, or both — seems to overpower humanity’s otherwise instinctual fear of dying, as well as fear of the potential nothingness of death itself. To no longer experience consciousness — the seat of suffering — may well be inviting to those already predisposed.

To these extents, one might regard suicide as the unconditional leveler of humankind. Yet, simplistic appearances to the contrary, the choice of suicide is arguably not made freely, driven as it so often is by deep angst or physical pain or both; in actuality there is an absence of sovereignty — that is to say, the total privation of self-dominion.

Some rationalizations about death, spirituality, and the pursuit of life’s meaning might nourish some people’s urge to live. For others, these same notions amount to deceptively lyrical, exulted, otherworldly explanations of life; they might in despair respond accordingly. There is in these measures an inseparability from one’s sense of personhood and identity, and from what might otherwise be the natural forces of self-preservation. For them, the supposed sanctity of life isn’t.

After all words are spoken, all ideas woven, and all myths spun, for some the allure of suicide remains bound to things temporal and impermanent, anyway. Life popping up and almost instantaneously vanishing like energy fluctuations in the universe. Perhaps one way to view the larger subject is captured by Lao Tzu in these spare but poignant words: ‘Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from two sides’.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Thank you gentlemen,

The image Thomas, is that nothing is where we presume to find it. If the character is upon an eye, the eye sees what it believes to perceive. If that eye is a continent instead, (for me the continent of Africa), the territory is not the appropriated domain one might believe. If the territory is the globe, the space beyond is a consciousness not bound to language. The tree shows itself as the whole of space where thoughts appear useless, there is nothing left to ‘hang those thoughts’.

It’s not that rational, bit hard to explain!

For Keith, I’m not sure we have an instinctual fear of dying. We know linguistically fear. This is why if our use of language transforms, the way we live transforms. F.e. guilt seems a rather recent emotion, ( approximately 2 millennium) and if so this has come out of the use of social language. Then guilt builds anxiety and so on. We have these chains of emotional charged rituals and to unfold them is very difficult, which does not mean they are justified. There is a lot we take for granted because our language makes us do so. Our cure is in language, but the way we are using it, is perhaps not a prosperous one. To interpret Lao Tzu's quote you mention: Death is not a problem for anybody, as life should not be too.

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