In my book, Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change the Way You Think Forever, I’ve created a method for transforming negative and fear-based thoughts that cause emotional turmoil, such as anxiety or depression.
For many years as a young actress, I experienced severe anxiety. It wasn’t until I went into Jungian analysis that I came face to face with a deep-seated, fear-based thought that I’d buried deep in my subconscious. By unburying it, I was able to realize how it was the direct cause of my emotional unrest and suffering.
As I wrote in Says Who?, “Our negative thoughts have something important to tell us.” If we pay attention to what they’re saying without reacting to them, we can understand what I call the “side effects” or “symptoms” of a thought that’s troubling to us, but that we haven’t wanted to face.
Suicidal thoughts are usually brought on by major depression. A person considering ending his or her life is in agonizing, intolerable pain. The person simply can’t imagine how to stop it, so considers choosing death over life. This torment and loss of hope is so acute, it’s all the person can focus on. It seems that there’s no viable future ahead. What that means is that his or her mind is completely devoid of any thoughts other than the ones asserting that life isn’t worth living and it’s time to end it.
When we have thoughts that cause us pain and suffering, we must know how to work with them and change them so they won’t pull us into a downward spiral of anxiety or depression. The Says Who? Method questions and challenges negative and fear-based thoughts. When we challenge them, we’re preparing ourselves to know what to do when the horrible thoughts occur. If we don’t question the thoughts that want to sabotage us, we more readily accept them, and this is when thoughts of suicide can take hold.
The Says Who? Method emphasizes how we are the creator and master of our internal dialogue, which creates our reality. The choice of life over death is a reality every person deserves, but if we don’t know how to transcend the thoughts that tell us death is the better option, we stand a greater chance of giving into a very dark, grim reality.
Most people don’t have the proper skills to face their pain. Instead of choosing to understand their suffering and work through the thoughts causing it, they’re more inclined to want to stop their agony at all costs. Whether it’s through self-medicating to numb the pain, or literally giving into it through suicide, their goal is to end the pain, not learn how to work through it. A person who hasn’t worked with their pain, or questioned the thoughts causing it, is more likely to let the despair become all-encompassing. But it’s our thoughts that create what we feel, and if we aren’t clear what those thoughts are and where they’ve originated, we’ll allow them to dominate us, and we will be at their mercy.
What we know about pain is that it comes in waves. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.” A person who is contemplating suicide is so stuck in their pain that they’re unable to entertain the possibility of a better future, which requires thoughts of hopefulness and optimism. Sadly, they haven’t given themselves the opportunity to think differently, which must happen to drive out suicidal thoughts.
Using the question “Says Who?” — in essence asking, “Who is saying this thought in my mind?” — someone who’s ready to work with their suicidal thought would answer, “I am,” and go on to admit, “I’m telling myself I want to die.” Being cognizant of their suicidal thought and admitting to themselves they’re having it, helps them to become brave enough to face it and to change it. This is the most important step a person can take to choosing a different “reality” of life over death.
It’s important that we own our thoughts — all of them, and not just the pretty ones. Suicidal thoughts are anything but pretty, but they’re thoughts that can be changed to ones that are hopeful rather than filled with despair. Changing a thought from “this pain will last forever” to “pain comes and goes,” or from “there’s nothing I can do about this pain” to “I can help my pain by understanding it better,” can actually change the chemicals in our brains. Thoughts of distress and anguish produce neurochemicals that create more distress and anguish, whereas positive thoughts of hopefulness create an increase in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which create feelings of wellbeing.
When one reaches a state of wellbeing, suicide is the furthest thought from his or her mind. Let’s keep it that way.
Originally published at psychcentral.com