“Drunkenness is temporary suicide.” – Bertrand Russell, philosopher
“He wanted to work by Skype.”
Jack lived in Toronto so he wanted to work by Skype. He said he was 21 and made a good living as a video gaming developer for a local company. Jack told me he came from a typical family with a mom and dad and brother and sister. He loved his family. He also loved travelling and had been to several exotic locations both in Europe and Asia. He said he often found cheap flights because his home town airport was so large.
Jack said he needed to develop more self esteem as he was quite shy in public. He mentioned he was not sure he was cut out for sitting in front of a computer all day, even though he was good at it. He also told me he wanted help with his negative thinking which got him down at times.
“He was hesitant at first but soon jumped into the learning curve…”
Our first session explored his history, family structure, and significant traumas. Jack said his father was his challenger and his mother, his supporter. He knew they both loved him, as he did them, but he was glad to have moved out two years previous and gotten his own apartment downtown closer to his job.
Jack had a girlfriend, Tiffany, who he felt close to and had dated for the past eighteen months. She was currently between jobs but working as a bartender until she found a new one in the field she had studied at school, journalism.
I gave Jack a process to identify his top values. I asked him to complete it and send them to me for our next session. I also asked him to identify his personal life goals in the seven areas of his life: spiritual, mental, vocational, financial, social, familial and physical.
Jack did this and in our second session, he set his first immediate goal of building his self esteem so he would have more self confidence with others. With that in mind we began the process of broadening his perceptions of himself. He was hesitant at first but soon jumped into the learning curve with more enthusiasm.
“…but when I’m alone…I feel hopeless.”
When Jack returned for his third consultation, he told me his biggest struggle was managing his negative thoughts. He said he struggled to be positive. He pointed out how often his family, friends and others encouraged him to be positive about himself and his future. But, he said, it was very hard and he felt he failed at it a lot. And, these failures at controlling his negative thoughts discouraged him, and even depressed him. Then, he would get down on himself, and then, things seemed to get even worse.
I asked him what was the most negative thought he had ever had?
He said, “Ken, I have a close family, girlfriend, good friends and a well paying job. I have nothing to complain about. Yet, I lack an enthusiasm for my life, I think I should have. I’m good at what I do, but it is repetitive and boring. I think I should chuck it and switch to something else that would inspire me. But, then I think people wouldn’t understand my actions…so I try to be positive, upbeat…kind of the life of the party! And, I can pull if off for a while, but when I’m alone…I feel hopeless. And it’s useless to even try to change it. Then it really hits me how helpless I feel. Then I go back into that pit of despair!”
“The suicide arrives at the conclusion that what he is seeking does not exist; the seeker concludes that he has not looked in the right place yet”
– Paul Watzlawick, psychologist
“…negative thinking…[is] natural and necessary for your mental health.”
“So, Jack, where did you learn that it wasn’t OK to think negatively?” I asked him.
“I have no idea. I guess I picked it up somewhere. But, isn’t it a no brainer anyway? Who wants to think negatively all the time? It just depresses you? Right?”
“Wrong, Jack! Negative thinking and negative thoughts are not just OK, but natural and necessary for your mental health.” I said.
“But, what about all those people who go around only thinking positive things which make them look and feel happy, fulfilled and successful?” he asked.
“…negative thinking is not only natural, it is useful.”
“Jack, there are only two sources for constant, positive thinking and constant, positive feelings… and they are drugs or lying. This is because constant positive thinking is both unnatural and dangerous to your future.” I replied.
“Are you serious?” he asked, shocked by my comment.
“Very serious, Jack! The fact that you picked up the notion you should always be positive, is really not surprising. It is very common in our culture, in our media, in at least one school of psychology, and even, in certain counselling approaches. But, it is actually delusional thinking based on mythology. There is ‘no happy ever after’…such a state is unnatural. It is only to be found in cartoons, movies and certain theologies.”
“So, Ken, you’re saying negative thinking is not only natural, it is useful?” Jack asked.
“…what do I have to do to get to keep it…”
“It is vital to prepare us for our future…to be able to problem solve…to be able to meet the challenges of our future. We actually can’t have a positive thought without its’ complementary, counterbalancing, negative one.” I added.
“Would you give me an example, Ken?” he asked, getting curious.
“Sure! If I opened my wallet and passed you $1000 in cash, what would you think, as you started planning how to spend it?” I asked.
Jack smiled for a moment, perhaps at the image of him holding the cash in his hand. Then, he turned serious and looked at me, saying,
“I guess I would wonder why you would give me that kind of cash out of the blue…or maybe what do I have to do to get to keep it… or what do you want from me for the $1000?”
“Exactly Jack! What is it going to cost you to keep the $1000…the negative side of the positive thought of receiving the money. That’s a law of nature, called the law of symmetry in physics, homeostasis in biology, and balance or fair exchange. This law applies at all times and places in each of our lives.”
“… negative thoughts are what create the pain which motivates you to evolve yourself…
“That makes sense as I think about it! Does it work the other way as well, no positive thought without a negative one?” he asked getting the idea and playing with it.
“I’ll bet you have had someone give you a compliment, and as soon as you said, thank you to them, you wondered if they really meant it. Has that ever happen to you, Jack?”
“All the time!” he replied.
“Same law, just the other form of it!”
“Ken, are you saying, we can’t have a positive thought without an accompanying negative one, and vice versa?”
“Yes, indeed I am, Jack! It’s natural, normal, healthy, productive and necessary to learn and so have a future!”
“Are you saying I can stop trying to avoid my negative thoughts…that my negative thoughts are learning opportunities for my future?”
“Yes, indeed I am, Jack! Your negative thoughts are what create the pain which motivates you to evolve yourself forward into your future! We all experience negative thoughts about half the time…it’s the basis of our creativity, our adaptability and our survival!” I added.
“Wow! That really makes sense! I’m really pleased we had this conversation today, Ken!” Jack said.
“That’s the thing about suicide. Try as you might to remember how a person lived his life, you always end up thinking about how he ended it.”
– Anderson Cooper, journalist
“This third consultation with Jack, never happened!”
But Jack never said “Wow! That really makes sense! I’m really pleased we had this conversation today, Ken!”, except in my imagination! This third consultation with Jack, never happened! Instead, Jack took his own life four days before our third session. So, I never got the opportunity to have this discussion with him. I never got to assist him to clean up his delusional thoughts of pleasure without pain or pain without pleasure, which I just described to you!
So, Jack never got to learn how his thinking was natural and normal. Jack never got to learn we all experience this dualistic thinking regularly. Jack never got to learn to appreciate how his brain works. Jack never got to learn to appreciate the perfection of his thinking and his life.
But maybe, we can all honour Jack by cleaning up our own illusions about being Helpless, Useless or Hopeless which we carry around. Then the memory of his struggle will add value and appreciation to our life. And, I suspect that would please Jack!
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” – Phil Donahue, entertainer
Until Next time…
So, now you know, our illusions about how life works can create helplessness, uselessness and hopelessness. So, wherever you are looking for more pleasure than pain, more gain than loss, or more advantages than disadvantages…look again carefully and find the balance law in action. Then, you can start appreciating yourself, your life and everyone around you.
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Our next seminar is entitled, “How to Bring Balance to Life and Purpose to Work!” It will be on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
Send us your feedback and topic suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact me.
Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com