Wednesday, November 23, 2016

An escape from the self

The great psychologist Roy Baumeister defined the six stages of suicidal ideation in a now-classic 1990 paper called "Suicide As An Escape From The Self."

  1. Falling short of standards: The pain of living a life that is below one's own expectations, or expectations that others have.
  2. Attribution of self: The recent realisation that one's difficulties are the result of one's own deficiencies
  3. High self-awareness: Suicide notes typically have a high usage of singular pronouns. Lots of "I", no "us" or "we". The psychology literature tells us that this is a high correlate with self-awareness, or at the very least, with the ability to take responsibility for oneself.
  4. Negative affect: Feeling acute negative emotions like anxiety and shame in sharp bursts 
  5. Cognitive deconstruction: Thinking is broken down into concrete thoughts about the immediate present - the past and the future bring too much anxiety. The first thing that dissolves is a sense of time. Interestingly (to me), there is often an significant increase in reading books, as this helps in efficiently replacing one's own real world with the author's.
  6. Disinhibition: The actual act requires a reduced sensitivity towards pain - both the physical pain one inflicts on oneself and the pain that loved ones (if any) will feel at one's loss.
When laid out so starkly, it is quite clear to me that I have point #6 to thank for my continuing existence. Thankfully, my own exposure to death and violence has been rather limited, and my fear of bodily injury is very high. I suppose there is an upside after all to fainting in the clinic during a routine blood test. 

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About Me

a recluse waiting for salvation