More on the "suicide reflex"

A Dietrich Ringle, modified 8 Years ago at 4/16/14 8:53 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 4/16/14 8:53 AM

More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Hi everyone,

A few weeks ago, I posted a thread on here describing what I call the suicide reflex...kind of a helpless and hopeless desire for salvation that springs forth from the root up to the head and crown area.

Such sensations are generally not fun. This kind of thing is about as dark as it gets in the dharma world.

Now, while part of me would have liked to come on here and report that I am happier and have a brighter vision on the world, thus no longer getting such impulses for ending my own life. This is only partially true. I still get the suicide reflex, however.

Last night I was meditating during a evening group centering prayer exercise at a local church. At one point I kind of got lost in thought. I kept noticing how my mind was giving me the sense of unifying and then reproducing, unifying and reproducing. It was a rather restful state of mind.
Well, something happened and my mind got desperate...the suicide reflex kicked in. What happened next shocked me, however. I noticed that the act of wanting to end my life was in fact a coming together of my mind in a very complete sense (as complete as it can get in the dharma world, that is), and that this union (which happened at the crown, I think) produced its own little dharma offspring.

It was indeed a moment for silently rejoicing.
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Hazard J Gibbons, modified 8 Years ago at 4/18/14 2:34 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 4/18/14 2:33 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 40 Join Date: 12/20/13 Recent Posts
I had similar sensations going on during the worst of my Dark night period this winter. It was the thoughts of suicide accompanied by a rising, rushing feeling from my feet up through my chest and then to the crown, like something was trying desperately to escape. Perhaps an exorcism would've saved some time, but I just kept practicing through it. I began to notice funny things, like that my suicidal thoughts were accompanied by the smell of cooking french fries ( this was in a park, at night, with the wind blowing). I interpreted this as the insight practice burning off the unhealthy brain matter that habitual negativity had shored up. It worked for me, and looking back I can say I was definitely in the Disgust or Desire for Deliverance stage. All kinds of weird body things were happening, especially in the head region, don't be too alarmed, they pass and won't hurt you. I ended up going back on anti depressants, which felt like failure at the time but they bought me some breathing room and helped me focus enough to organize my practice in a way that gets me to low Equanimity fairly reliably. I can go on if anyone is interested.
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 8 Years ago at 8/17/14 12:33 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/17/14 12:33 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
I think that such types of "suicide reflexes" (that is, the feeling of acting out such an action without actually killing oneself) are unpleasant because they expose our attachment to pleasurable objects that we may have been meditating on.
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 8 Years ago at 8/21/14 5:02 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/21/14 5:02 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Adam Dietrich Ringle:
I think that such types of "suicide reflexes" (that is, the feeling of acting out such an action without actually killing oneself) are unpleasant because they expose our attachment to pleasurable objects that we may have been meditating on.


And if your mind is really messed up you may even reach meditative absorption on the wish to be annhilated
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Dream Walker, modified 8 Years ago at 8/21/14 5:51 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/21/14 5:45 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 1470 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Wiki link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta%E1%B9%87h%C4%81
The Buddha identified three types of taṇhā
  • Kama-tanha (sense-craving): craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures.
  • Bhava-tanha (craving to be): craving to be something, to
    unite with an experience. This includes craving to be solid and ongoing,
    to be a being that has a past and a future,[8] and craving to prevail and dominate over others.
  • Vibhava-tanha (craving not to be): craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing; a wish to be separated from painful feelings.
Vibhava-tanha is described as follows:
  • Pali: vibhava-taṇhā
  • Also referred to as craving for "no becoming" or "non-existence" or "extermination"
  • This is craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing.[4]
  • The Dalai Lama states that craving for "destruction is a wish to be separated from painful feelings".[11]
  • Ron Leifer states: "As the desire for life is based on the desire
    for pleasure and happiness, the desire for death is based on the desire
    to escape pain and ... The desire for death is the yearning
    for relief from pain, from anxiety, from disappointment, despair, and
    negativity."[12]
  • "The motive for the desire for death is most transparent in cases of
    suicide. Clearly, people with terminal illnesses who commit suicide are
    motivated by the desire to escape from physical pain and suffering. In
    so-called "altruistic" suicide, such as hari-kari, kamakazi, and other forms of socially conditioned suicide, the motive is to avoid mental suffering–shame, humiliation, and disgrace."
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 8 Years ago at 8/22/14 3:44 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/22/14 3:44 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
I tried this kind of practice mentioned above...it has a way of spiraling into meaninglessness. 
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Eric M W, modified 8 Years ago at 8/22/14 8:21 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/22/14 8:21 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 288 Join Date: 3/19/14 Recent Posts
Hey, I have that problem too. Picked it up in the Dark Night two years ago and it hasn't really gone away, even though I generally have good days. I have suicidal thoughts multiple times a day, even when I'm in a good mood, it's just like a weird Desire for Deliverance thing I think.

You need to be careful with this. Do you have a plan for committing suicide? Have you thought about method, aftermath, etc? If so, it's probably more than just a reflex and it's time to see a psychologist. 
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 8 Years ago at 8/24/14 10:48 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/24/14 10:48 AM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Thanks...I see a psychiatrist and psychologist regularly.
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 7 Years ago at 1/4/15 5:15 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/4/15 5:15 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Earlier today I was contemplating my life and talking with my father about some things. One of which I will call

"Perfect states of being"

I don't like when these things end, I get a replacement which feels like

"Completely unacceptable reality."

Anyone found a workaround for this. I have exausted most of my inventory of thoughts.
x x, modified 7 Years ago at 1/4/15 6:48 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/4/15 6:48 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 122 Join Date: 8/18/13 Recent Posts
Adam Dietrich Ringle:
Earlier today I was contemplating my life and talking with my father about some things. One of which I will call

"Perfect states of being"

I don't like when these things end, I get a replacement which feels like

"Completely unacceptable reality."

Anyone found a workaround for this. I have exausted most of my inventory of thoughts.


Here's the thing... reality can be completely unacceptable, but that really shouldn't have any reflection on you. You are not responsible for reality. Basically it is a weird form of egotism that says, "life is shit, therefore I _should_ feel like shit" and the companion thought "If I don't feel like shit, I'm a cold, indifferent, and bad person". There is a certain logic to thinking this way, it is a way of feeling like there is some kind of control in the situation, but it isn't the most sane thing to do.

(By the way, it took me years to figure this out and see past all the crap I was putting myself though.)

When there is a better sense of self -- a basic sanity -- it's possible to say "the conditions of reality may not be the way I want it, in fact they might be simply awful, but I respect my self, I respect this human being, so I'm not going to martyr myself, make myself suffer, in the hopes that somehow this will magically change what is obvious happening beyond my control right now."

In Buddhist terms, this is called disenchantment with the world. It doesn't mean a big spiritual deal where you have to become a monk or something like that. It just means you no longer think that life can be reliable and a source of refuge. This is the whole point of the first noble truth: life unavoidably has some suckiness. So rather than staking your sense of well being on whether life is turning out good or bad, you cultivate a basic sanity that allows you to see worldly conditions as not being a reflection on yourself, not being something that you can reliably control 100%, and never going to be perfect.This is basically the psychological form of the insights of not-self, impermanence, and dukka.

The basic sanity comes from saying, this is just the way things are, but I can work with it, despite it's imperfection.

A good meditation practice will allow you to see that worldly conditions and mindstates just happen, but that doesn't mean we need to fight it or feel defeated by it. They can come and go. Usually, meditation is purely psychological at first. It's like sitting with a therapist with a lot of stuff coming up, and the inner therapist is saying "yes I see, what else?" and more psychological stuff keeps coming up. Story after story, thoughts after thoughts, they keep bubbling up. No big deal, just let stuff bubble up. If you can, just enjoy how things just bubble up on there own and all you have to do is watch it happen. We all need to go through this kind of sitting at first.

After the big stories and struggles have bubbled up, eventually mediation gets more subtle and shows how, on an existential level, sensations and mindstates are just momentary appearances, and we have a lot of freedom about how we react to them. Just because a negative sensations arises, doesn't mean we have to feel personally negative. Our mind gets so finely tuned that we can see the difference between negative sensations and the personal feeling of aversion -- that's a huge insight and really the beginning of more advanced meditation. Positive, negative, and neutral sensations arise, but that doesn't drive us into feeling pride, shame, or boredom. Basic sanity and a new kind of freedom becomes possible.

Adam, I'm _really_ glad you are working with a therapist because sitting practice and therapy is the best combination to really see how we can be our own worst enemy. Talking with a real person will help you really see what you are doing. Sitting every day (just for a little bit) is like getting lots of free sessions a week. One really can't replace the other, especially when dealing with really negative thoughts. Doing both together is catalytic. Keep doing both.

Best wishes! Be good to yourself and give yourself time to really learn how to be free from needless suffering. Unfortunately it takes some time, but it is worth it. Usually the most interesting people in the world are those who have been through this kind of hell, but who have risen above it and found a basic sanity. They're also the ones that really can of help to other people, because they've been through tough stuff themselves.

Good luck. Wishing you good therapy and good practice!
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 1/4/15 11:31 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/4/15 11:30 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Adam, I'd been trying to work through the feelings like "completely unacceptable reality" for months - trying to accept them, trying to understand them, trying to logic through them, trying to fix them, trying to see them clearly, trying to deconstruct them.  In the end, I've decided it's a complete waste of time.  You can simply stop putting any atention on those negative mindstates and they quickly go away.  Once the negative mind-state is gone, you can come back to the real-life object of the worry or anger and laugh because it simply isn't so important anymore.

The key is to realize you don't have to resolve anything, you can just stop the whole wad of nonsense in your head.  Drop it without looking back.  Practice with concentration makes this very easy.  The second I notice I feel less than one of those "perfect states of being," I just drop whatever worry/anger/stress I'm trying to work through.  I leave it be and pay no attention to it. I don't even watch to see if it goes away, I just turn away from it completely.

Everything is imperminant, right?  So what's the use of trying to fix your thoughts.  Just concentrate instead. emoticon
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 7 Years ago at 1/5/15 3:03 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/5/15 3:03 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Its interesting the difference in advice I got from my dad and then this board. The least common denominator is the warmth of appreciation I feel.
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 1/5/15 5:46 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/5/15 5:46 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
For the record, I disagree with Pawel, our advice is not the same.  He is saying to learn to accept the negativity as it is and to become less attached to positive states, thus developing equanimity.  I am saying to cultivate perfect mental states through the use of concentration - to direct your attention away from negativity as soon as you notice it.  The practice of concentration gives you control of your awareness.  Using this control to direct your awareness away from unskillful states and toward skillful ones during the day will quickly turn this into a habit.  Positive mental states will become predominant with little effort.

I don't believe there is any good reason to leave attention on negativity once it's noticed.  If it's difficult to move attention away, then practice in one-pointed concentration and a little self-questioning (such as, "why do I feel like I need to keep returning to this feeling?"  "Is this feeling helping me in any way?") will remedy attachment to the feeling itself that makes it hard to let go of.

In short, concentration really is a remedy for depression and anxiety. 
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 7 Years ago at 1/7/15 2:43 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 1/7/15 2:43 PM

RE: More on the "suicide reflex"

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Adam Dietrich Ringle:
Earlier today I was contemplating my life and talking with my father about some things. One of which I will call

"Perfect states of being"

I don't like when these things end, I get a replacement which feels like

"Completely unacceptable reality."

Anyone found a workaround for this. I have exausted most of my inventory of thoughts.

A few days ago I encountered a sign less perception of Jesus. It came in the form of a remembrance of a prior deja vu where everything was completely synced.


I became inspired and started a practice based on the idea that if someone were to perhaps come "behind me" in my life, that I would leave a clear signature to follow, taking the work out of life.

It was in essence a concentration practice and it led to a split duality of internal and external watchers after a couple days. Don't know how that process unfolded, just that I kept coming back despite losing my focus a few times. I was going to keep this a secret but I told my counsilor , so anyway.