Natural Mind Magic

Suicidal thoughts

Kalden and Samten
Kalden and Samten

Acknowledging how you feel is the first step in dealing with it. Sometimes we need to recognise that we're nearing the end of our tether in order to be motivated to resolve a problem. And while it is not always possible to change external situations, it is always possible to change our response to them, and reverse a downward spiral of despair.

Suicidal thoughts are experienced by many people at some times in their lives. Such thoughts may arise in response to a situation perceived as unbearable. The underlying wish may not necessarily be for death in the sense of putting an end to oneself, it may actually be for putting an end to unbearable suffering. Let me say that again – it's a vital distinction! When we think we are wishing for death, we may really be wishing to put an end to suffering. If that's the case, then what we need to do is to be a bit more imaginative and creative as to how we are going to put an end to our suffering – and still be around to enjoy the achievement.

Violent thoughts about harming ourselves or others may accompany the despair of feeling trapped and caught up in a situation or sequence of events over which we have no control. There may be intense misery, grief, loneliness, and anger. There is often also a distorted sense of time, giving the impression of this unbearable anguish stretching out ahead of us into a bleak future.

It may seem a tough assignment, but we need to find the inner strength to deal with whatever difficulties we are facing; we need to reassert our confidence and find a way forward. It's vitally important to regain a proper sense of balance and perspective. Firstly, give yourself some mental and emotional space: step back from your thoughts. Thoughts and impulses arise all the time, but there is no need to act on them. They are only thoughts; they have no substance, no power; they just come and go like clouds in the sky, or like writing in water. Secondly, remember that however bleak things may appear to be now, if there is one constant law in this universe, it is that of impermanence: everything changes. Thirdly, know that there is no situation, however solid it may seem, that can't be softened and transformed by bringing in some compassion and kindness to everyone involved, including ourselves.

Reflecting on these ideas will start you on the process of reclaiming control of your life. Let's look at some other steps you can take.

Learn how to ask yourself constructive questions, such as: 'What could I be happy about, right now, if I wanted to be?' This is clever language – it gets round the critical part of the mind! Try it now. What could you be happy about, right now, if you wanted to be? This sends your mind on a search for the positive. It immediately reverses any downward spiral. Start actively noticing whatever is positive in your life, and in life in general. We are bombarded with tales of disaster in the media: it takes effort to counter the distorted view of the world presented in the news. Re-establishing a balanced perspective can mean actively seeking the opposite extreme to begin with; it doesn't mean turning yourself into some sort of happy idiot – it's redressing an imbalance, correcting an over-swing of the pendulum, so you can re-establish yourself with a healthier perspective.

Another example of constructive questioning is to ask yourself: 'What do I want, right now?' Then, whatever answer you get, ask yourself: 'And if I get that, or do that, what do I want through that? What do I want to experience? How do I want to feel?' Keep going with this questioning process, staying focused on your immediate present-moment experience, and let it take you to a feeling of peace or fulfilment. This is a simple and effective process that gets you to focus on what you want, rather than what you don't want. It also puts you in touch with your feelings, and enables you to find an emotional wellbeing and stability inside, whatever is going on outside. And if you can learn how to find your own inner wellbeing, then you are well on the way to reclaiming control over your life.

Reversing any tendency to a downward spiral is essential, and constructive questioning is just one way to do it. You can also interrupt a build up of negative thoughts by physical movement, whether as slight as just shifting your position and looking up, or as vigorous as going out for a walk or jumping about.

Imagination is a wonderful, powerful tool; but it can be destructive as well as constructive. Notice what's going on in your imagination: do you imagine a bright future, or a dark one? You can use the natural creativity of your mind constructively in the following exercise. Imagine your past as though it were a line going out behind you, and your future as though it were a line going out ahead of you. Imagine you are on the line at the present moment, the past behind you, going away over the horizon, and the future ahead of you, going away over the horizon. Now, as the past is behind you, just leave it there. Direct your attention to the future. Imagine your future as a line of brightly coloured light – perhaps a golden light. Notice how it goes all the way to the horizon, and away over the horizon. Now imagine what it would be like to place some plans or goals along that bright golden line. If you like, you can even imagine floating up above the line, and out into the future, dropping some of these goals or plans onto the line at suitable places, suitable times at which you'd like to achieve them. You might like to imagine the goals or plans as glowing balls, like bright embers. Now return to the present moment, and look out into your future; notice all the glowing balls, your goals and plans, just waiting for you to come along at the right time to find them there.

Here is another way to make good use of the natural creativity of your mind. Take a couple of minutes to sit quietly and bring your attention to your own present moment of being, becoming aware of your breathing. After a few moments, begin to allow to arise, very gently, as though arising in your heart, a sense of wishing that you could find peace and fulfilment. Imagine that wish arising in your heart, and let it take the form of a light, perhaps a golden light, or a white light. Imagine that light expanding to fill your body, and then spreading out around you, out into the world. Imagine that light touching others, who, just like you, also wish to find peace and fulfilment. Let the light go on out into the sky, out into the universe, out across all of space and time, touching all beings. All are touched by the light from your heart, the light that is in your heart, the light that is in the hearts of all beings, and as you see that everyone is touched by that light, so you feel that they find the peace and fulfilment they seek.

This is a particularly powerful practice, and the more often you do it, the more effective it is. The sense of a wider connection with others also brings a different perspective to personal issues.

These are just some suggestions for ways to let go of despair, and move on. Bear in mind that the anguish you were feeling may have been some kind of wake up call, prompting you to make some changes in your life: you might like to experiment with making some small changes, and then consider if you may need to make some bigger ones. You may find it useful to talk things over with a trusted friend or even to consult a professional: employing professional assistance is not a sign of weakness, rather a matter of taking responsibility for seeking skilled and experienced help when you need it. A good counsellor or therapist doesn't tell you what to do; he or she helps you to find the strength and wisdom already there within yourself.

Meanwhile, may I leave you with a reminder: you already have within your heart all the strength you need; underlying any fleeting destructive thoughts is a deeper wisdom, love, and well being, that you can reach at any time.

I hope you've found this short article useful. Thank you for reading it. I wish you well on your journey.