"When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you. "
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Reflecting upon the recent news of Chris Cornell and discovering that three people I know commited suicide in the past month I have been pondering my journey and the years of struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. What have I learned that I couldn’t see in the past, and what those who commit the ultimate act of self-centeredness don’t have the opportunity to learn, you have to surrender to life.
I looked deep into the abyss
For decades I struggled with depression. The thought of ending this existence was something I lived with for many years. I half-heartedly attempted suicide about 25 years ago. It is a painful incident to relive, but it happened. The last couple of years during the final descent into the abyss I would wake up, almost every morning, and I would think about it, it would ooze up from my unconscious, and take over my thought patterns. I would think, “is today the day I finally put an end to this misery.” How I survived myself I am not quite sure. I was so self-consumed that perhaps it was a twisted form of narcissism that kept me going. Or maybe the Catholic guilt that would accompany those thoughts kept me going. Although I look back on the heavy-handed Catholic upbringing with much disdain, it might have saved me. What if they were right? What if I take my life and end up in hell? Now I don’t believe there is a heaven or hell except for the one you may be living in now, but it certainly played a role in keeping me from descending into total selfishness. Let’s be honest. There is much pain that comes with those thoughts, but committing suicide is the most selfish thing you could do. You have no regard for those who deal with the aftermath. You just want the pain to stop for you, but you don’t think about the pain you will create for others.
When you surrender you live again
Apparently, what helps us get the most from life is when we begin to surrender to life. What does it mean to surrender to life? To start with, you let go of what you think life is supposed to be and start living it. Who you are and how you think how your life is supposed to happen are stories we tell ourselves. Contemplate that for a moment. Almost everything we deal with in our lives; social structures, religion, philosophy, worldviews, politics, the government is all just stuff we, homo sapiens, made up. They are stories we tell ourselves. If you get enough people to believe the same story you form a mass belief. Let’s take money for example. The greatest story ever told. Why, because everyone believes it. Even gold having value is something that is just a made up belief. Gold in and of itself is a worthless metal. You can’t eat it for nourishment. It is too soft to make tools or weapons out it. What good is it except for making jewelry. Yet we have been told and we accept it on a mass level that it contains “value.”
Surrender to the idea that all of what you think of life as far as how your suppose to live and what is acceptable and isn’t as being nothing but a widely held belief. You can begin to gain some liberation from it. If you want a different life or you desire a new goal then change the story you tell yourself. New goal, new story. Give it a try and see what happens.
Too dark to see any light
Having been in that deep well of despair I understand that when you're there it is hard to see this and to think differently. I still have moments when those old thinking patterns reappear. Now I have the tools to redirect those thoughts and get my head in a different space. This is the key. Change your thought patterns. If you are polluting yourself with drugs and alcohol find the place within you where you can finally stop, then stop. Deal with the garbage of your past, come to grips with it. Realize you aren’t perfect. Perfect is just a belief, a fable, a story we tell ourselves. Spend some quiet time with yourself. Practice meditation daily and how to live mindfully. It will physically change the structure of your brain. Learn to let go. It is not easy. The mind loves to cling. Its main preoccupation next to survival is to cling. You can learn to let go. You can finally stop clenching your fist trying to hold on to something that isn’t there. You can surrender to life and begin to live instead of just surviving and struggling. You can smell the roses while on the journey. It's all right there right now. You just have to change the filter with which you view yourself. Start telling yourself a new story.