The suicide paradox

A recent conversation got me thinking about the suicide paradox. A remarkably amusing piece of given that when explicated makes suicide a viable option for those instances in which the paradox does not exist such as suicide after a long and painful deathbed, or in order to guarantee your family a financial security that you could not possibly offer them while alive (put more consicely, the rational suicide rather than the emotional suicide).

The emotional-inspired suicide paradox stems from the fact that this type of suicide is commited as a "way out" of the torment that is life. The paradox is found in the fact that once a person has made the choice to commit suicide, he or she has actually created an emotional environment that is free of any mental restraint, as the prospect of death relinquishes the hold they have on the person. However, once this has happened, there is actually no reason to commit suicide anymore - freedom has already been attained without death being required. The paradox is that the promise of being set free, already sets one free.

Of course, a paradox is an apparent contradiction - only a contradiction from certain (established) points of view, and the trick is to find the point of view reasoning from which there is no paradox at all. In this case the paradoxal point of view is the one that considers killing oneself to be the goal when commiting to suicide. This is of course not the case at all. The real reason suicide is considered is because one wants to be freed from the problems that one imposes upon oneself by living every day life.

Note "imposes upon oneself". This is not a trivial statement, but one of the core pivots of emotional hardship; problems only exist for as long as they are considered problems. This is a very simple truth, and a very hard reality - most problems are of one's own making, having been raised in someone's mind from merely the way things are, to the way things should not be. This is where the problems that might lead to suicide start: when someone considers reality something that should not be, they are rejecting the only given that reality has to offer.

Another non-trivial statement, the fact that reality is a given. Most people consider the way things are changable. While a case can be made for the future being influencable, why would the present be? The way things are now, is the way things are now, you cannot change the way they are because you do not have the ability to change reality without doing this while time flows. Thinking "this is not the way things should be" effectively means that you mistake the given that reality is for something that could somehow be different, right now. However, this would only be possible if one were able to affect the past by ones current actions, something which, whether possible or not, still results in THIS reality, because you are in it right now. (The metaphysical explanation for this is rather complex, and while highly interesting would somewhat sidetrack the suicide paradox entirely =)

So the reason that suicide is considered, is because it offers an escape from a seemingly insurmountable problem. A problem that is perpetuated by no one but oneself. It is important that this comment is not interpreted as an accusation, because that is simply not what the words read. What they read is that the problem one is trying to escape by suicide (for the emotional suicide case) is one that only a problem to the person considering suicide, and is one only because said person considers it one. To said person's credit, suicide is actually a really good solution to the problem, if you insist on finding a solution, rather than nullifying the problem. By opting for suicide, one solves the problem of reality being different from what it should be by ceasing participation in reality. For a brief period one sets oneself free with this.

But of course after this brief period everything just stops.

The typical flaw in reasoning about suicide (and no, people who claim suicide is irrational are great fools and should be educated) is that "being dead" doesn't make things easier; the promise of dying in the nearby future makes life, *now*, easier. This is something that most people who consider suicide try to ignore, because it confronts them with the suicide paradox. By committing to suicide the need to actually go through with it is gone, becausefor a brief moment in their life reality has become acceptable again.

The more effective solution, which doesn't require dying, is to come to terms with the fact that reality is something the way things are, and that any thought that it should for some reason be otherwise is without meaning. As a simple example, if one violently hopes for a raise because one is sure of the fact that one has performed well that year and the raise does not go through, then this is simply the way things are. There is no "I should have gotten that raise" because one hasn't, clearly there were factors that prevented the expectation from coming true, and these factors were inaccessible when forming the expectation that one would be getting a raise.

A common reply to this example, especially from people considering suicide, is "what point is there to life if nothing can be changed" but this is a very blatant misreading of the example. Only the "now" is a given, the future (and technically the past too) are not accessible sources of information. Just because the person in the example didn't get a raise does not justify inaction "because that is the way things are". There is no reason - literally - for the person in the example not to walk in on his boss and make a case for getting a raise and succeeding in convincing his boss to effect one anyway.

Coming to terms with reality as a given is something that is very easy, and because of this very hard. It is very easy because all it requires is a personal realising that a deeply rooted belief ("reality should not be as it is") is meaningless. At the same time it is very hard, because people have great difficulty letting go of their beliefs, especially if not taught how to. Having to learn how to do this when one is already so far down the road that this belief justifies killing oneself is even harder.

In fact this realisation is so profound that some people even created religions around it, elevating it from something that is not intrinsically hard, to something that is holy and special and should somehow be expected to take a lifetime to achieve. These people call it "enlightenment". I prefer to call it a healthy view.

Solving the suicide paradox by voiding the problem for which suicide is a solution, doesn't just keep you alive, it lets you look at the world with an unbiased view. Right now is the way things are, what happens next is the way things will be - your power as a person lies in the ability to move from now to the next moment in a way so that the next now makes you happier than before.

Suicide only does that for the brief moment in your life between making the decision and doing it. A healthy view does that until the moment you die of old age.

You do the math.


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