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Conscious vs. Unconscious self-destructive thoughts

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worlds edge

Well-Known Member
I'd like to open a thread and get folks' opinions here, I've been thinking about this a lot lately and really can't come to any kind of definitive conclusion. In fact, I'm starting to feel a bit like a dog chasing its own tail.

What I mean by a "conscious self-destructive thought" is a bit broader than feeling suicidal, though it would certainly include that. But it would also include anything on and up from wishing you weren't here any more, that you'd never been born, or that if I just yank my steering wheeling hard to the right there's a big oak tree that would turn my little Escort into tinfoil. And even if the thoughts are fleeting, never acted upon, or perhaps even rejected with a shudder, they're conscious. You had the thought, and you know you had the thought. Whether any action is taken upon the thought is irrelevant to the current discussion, at least insofar as I'm trying to define my terms. I think that's a reasonable definition, though I'll certainly entertain others and modify my idea as necessary.

What I mean by an "unconscious self-destructive thought" is rather more nebulous, so perhaps part of my confusion is definitional as much as anything else. It may not even be a thought per se, more like an unwillingness to think. As in I know I need to do laundry, pay bills, all the little things that constitute the daily grind known as living. I know I need to do them, yet I do not. I know I need to return phone calls, get my wife a Valentine's day card, yet I do not. And I don't really know the why or the wherefore of this. It is almost as though I'm on autopilot, save that my autopilot function is aiming for mountain tops rather than to fly over them. I slack off at work, and know I shouldn't. Yet I do. And at some point or other I engage in a bit of self-examination and become quite frustrated at my conduct. Yet the next day I return to exactly how I was the day before. I guess in a broader sense you could extend this to substance abuse (which I candidly do not have a problem with) maybe overeating (which I do have a problem with), the sort of thing you do, don't know why the hell you do it, but can't seem to stop yourself from doing again and again and again.

In my case, I can't decide if it is almost as though a part of me wants to be fired from my job, wants to hurt my wife deeply over truly stupid things and wants to "clear the field" for consciously suicidal thoughts to take over. Or is the other way around, and that this boorish, stupid behavior is what is driving me to into an actively suicidal mode? Or perhaps there's a sort of synergy (and I can't tell you how much I despise that word!) at work here, where one sets the other off, and I head into the abyss in the proverbial downward spiral.

I'd never admit this in real life or likely in any other on-line venue, but the conscious thoughts don't bother me very much at all. I have them, I can examine them and think about their relative merits, and then decide how I wish to proceed. Thus I can easily reject the most absurd and foolish, and meditate upon the more reasonable. The unconcious thoughts (or perhaps "un-thoughts"? "impulses?"), on the other hand, bother me no end and fill me with unreserved self-loathing, typically when I'm trying to fall asleep at night and am mentally reviewing my day. And yet I'm seemingly stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day moment, where each day I repeat the errors of the previous except when I put forth what for me is an almost superhuman effort to try and change my behavior...and of course I revert to type the minute I slack in this effort. What's also both interesting and depressing is that I can only identify the unconscious thoughts via my actions. I simply don't know what I'm doing when I'm doing it.

I'm hopefully going to be posting some detailed thoughts in the near future about my consciously suicidal thoughts, but I'm a bit befuddled how to handle or even get my arms around what I consider behavior that is irrational and unconscious. I guess what I'm looking for feedback on is the following:

  1. Does the above even make sense? Or am I just babbling incoherently?
  2. Have defined my terms reasonably?
  3. Am I just trying to rationalize bad behavior by calling it "unconscious?"
  4. Going the other way, are my so-called consciously self-destructive thoughts the cause or the result of the unconscious ones?
  5. At a global level, do my categories make sense?
  6. Anybody else have a similar problem and have a solution for overcoming it? (Like I said, consciously suicidal thoughts don't really bother me. At least consciously. :tongue: )


Active Member
hi gmork! it was really nice to read something like that. it does make perfect sense to me, and i like your definitions.

as far as rationalizing bad behavior by calling it unconscious - i would say no. as i haven't been able to be my OWN best critic, i'll use my exboyfriend as an example. he is a 30 year old man who, in the last year that i was with him, didn't get a job, didn't pay his bills and had to move back in with his parents, didn't pay parking or speeding tickets and therefore had a warrant out for his arrest, and who was enrolled in college but didn't go to class or do homework. his life seemed to be going downhill very quickly. but whenever i would ask him about these problems, he just didn't want to think about them. so in your terms, he had an abundance of unconscious self-destructive thoughts. i thought he was just lazy for the longest time. as it turns out, when he finally did talk to me about how he felt about himself, he was extremely depressed and a little suicidal, and didn't know how to stop having these thoughts or how to get himself out of this hole. it really went way beyond just procrastination or being lazy, and we eventually got him help.

when you talk about the conscious thoughts being either the cause or result of the unconscious ones, i have conflicting views. i assume it would be a little different for everyone. with me though, in the week leading up to my suicide attempt at the end of january, i had a complicated java program i had to write for class. every day, i knew i had to start on this thing, but i didn't know exactly how to do it, so i kept putting it off and putting it off. then the night before it was due, and i still didn't have one line written, and i was contemplating dropping the class altogether, i felt like an utter failure and decided that giving up on life was better than giving up in school, and i went to go take my life. is that a bad example? like i said, i haven't been my own best critic.

the way we got my exboyfriend help, and the way that has been proven to help me, is getting on a relatively high powered SSRI, like prozac. it is my motivator, and it acts a little like speed. it brings out the OCD in me, so everything around me has to be accomplished and perfect - my room is always very neat, my homework done just the way i want it, and i keep very good grades and have an active social life. i also bite my nails, get nervous or lose sleep for no reason, and have major difficulty achieving orgasm, but the pros to me outnumber the cons. the prozac doesn't help with my conscious self-destructive thought, but it is my only hope for warding away the unconscious ones. i have no idea if this would be good for you or anyone else of course, but it is definitely worth talking to a doctor about.

i hope my opinions were useful. :smile:
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Well-Known Member
Whereas I don't have formal answers to these questions, and my depression leaves me little motivation for thought-based activities such as answering these questions, I must wonder why it is so black-and-white. I mean what about "sub-conscious" thoughts? Some of what you categorize as unconscious, I would categorize as sub-conscious. You probably know it's happening, but not motivated enough to do something about it. This also introduces a confusion between "unconscious" and "subconscious without motivation". That motivation is actually "willpower", or the lack of it.

So I guess I've just added to your confusion. Or maybe I'm way off base here.

BTW, my day has become very much like you describe... I find idle activities to burn my day away and have no motivation to do actual work that I need to. Heck, I don't even have enough motivation to finish this senten
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