There is power in understanding the journey of others to help create your own-unknownn
The journey of understanding can be a long intense journey. The main reason it is a lengthy journey is because of the lack of being able to relate to someone else’s situation. It’s hard to understand something that you are not standing in. For this reason, more often than not, you must have some level of empathy and sympathy to reach understanding.
Now, the old saying goes, walk a mile in my shoes. This is sympathy at its finest but, this is not an action that I would suggest. As life is all about balance, you need some level of empathy to go along with that sympathy. It’s one thing to experience something similar on your own journey but, purposefully putting yourself in someone’s situation is not always the answer. Putting on someone else’s shoes may be easy but, walking their journey can be dangerous especially if that journey leads to self-destructive behavior such as suicide. The act of suicide is very hard to understand but, with patience, understanding and/or empathy with sympathy, you can find understanding.
Lack of empathy and sympathy for my mother caused my journey to understanding to be one long journey. Initially, I was too young to have the mental capacity to evoke the necessary empathy to understand her mindset or the act of suicide. It wasn’t until I became an adult and heard her story, that I was able to feel some empathy for her. Then, I found myself staring down the same gloomy tunnel of heartbreak, disappointment, and despair. It was then that I was able to feel sympathy along with that empathy to gain my understanding.
With suicide, each person has different reasons for wanting to or going through with that act of suicide. According to Clinical Psychologist Edwin Sheridman (the leading authority on suicide), there are 10 basic reasons why someone may seek suicide:
- Solution: answer to an insoluble or unbearable dilemma that they fear more than death
- Cessation of consciousness: to end the conscious experience
- Intolerable psychological pain: excruciating negative emotions that serve as a foundation for self-destructive behavior.
- Frustrated psychological needs: attribute failure or disappointment to their own shortcomings
- Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness: pessimistic expectations about the future
- Ambivalence: sincere in their desire to die but, simultaneously wish they could find another way out.
- The cognitive state is construction: tunnel vision unable or willing to engage in effective problem-solving behaviors
- Escape: a definitive way to escape
- Communication on intention: 80% who completed the act of suicide provide verbal or behavioral clues that clearly indicate their lethal intentions.
- Life-long coping patterns: people who refuse to ask for help in the past are likely to increase their sense of isolation.
In reflecting on my mother’s journey, I definitely see Dr. Shredman’s described reasonings in my mother’s actions. I also saw some of them in myself. What made a difference and how I was able to overcome is being able to know her journey and how it left those around her feeling. Also, that fact that what she did had no real effect on the situation. My brother was still born, and My Dad, Glenn, and Jim continued to live their lives. As a matter of fact, they all went on to marry new partners and have more children. It is my understanding that helps me to know that what she did was not to affect their lives but, to stop the excruciating pain inside her life.
I have to be honest with you, although I now have the understanding I so desperately needed, this has and will be the hardest journey I will ever share with you. Understanding does not take away the hurt of loss nor does it mean you accept it. I cried all the way through this but, I feel that it is important for me to share because somewhere there is someone out there contemplating suicide. There is also someone out there trying to understand a loved one’s decision or situation. And then, there is someone out there trying to understand themselves.
-Unless you really understand others, you can hardly attain your own self-understanding-Miyamoto Musashi
Your Turn To Reflect
- Have you ever experienced a difficult relationship due to a lack of understanding
- Have you or someone you know ever contemplated suicide? If so, do you understand how you/they reached that point?
- Have you ever had a hard time understanding your own decisions?
Source: Thomas F. Oltmanns, Robert E. Emery University Of Virginia, and Survivors Of Suicide