Is it "selfish" when it's justified?

Discussion in 'Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings' started by Jeff Nyman, Mar 28, 2009.

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  1. Jeff Nyman

    Jeff Nyman Member

    Here's a question that I've been wrestling with.

    We often hear the mantra that suicide is "selfish." Okay, maybe there's truth to that in many circumstances. I can buy that up to a certain point. But what about if it's truly and sincerely the case that people would be better off if you were gone?

    I don't mean that as a dramatic statement. I mean it as a statement of fact.

    If that's the case ... if it's the case that, say, ultimately your immediate family would be better off without you, then ... isn't it "selfish" to not go through with suicide?

    This is what I'm wrestling with. I guess the fact that I'm even posting on a forum like this says I must have doubts in my mind. And, honestly, I don't understand that. Because I feel sure of what I say. While I don't think I've been the worst husband and father ever, there's massive room for improvement. Beyond even that, however, I think I'm a pathologically self-destructive person. I don't mean that in terms of "cutting myself" or anything like that. I more mean it in the sense of taking stupid risks, such as with career choices in terms of job hopping. Those stupid risks have finally caught up with me in a big way, such that I've really risked everything in terms of family stability and security.

    It's one thing if you take yourself down the rabbit hole, but when you take your family with you ....?

    So it's a paradox for me. I'm nothing without my family. That I know. I couldn't live without them. Nor would I want to. And yet I'm a destructive influence on that family. So -- to use that familiar phrase, but in a different way -- I can't live with them and I can't live without them.

    My options have been reduced to one; my single choice is clear.

    So why is it so damn hard? Why do I keep having to rationalize and justify it to myself? Why can't I just do it? Why do I go to a forum like this and bother people with my ramblings when they have their own problems? Why do I hold out hope emotionally when logically and intellectually I know that there is no real hope?

    For once in my life ... just once ... I have a clear choice that would actually be a selfless action. It would allow me, once and for all, to repudiate the person I was and, in ending my life, at least achieve some measure of justification and perhaps even judgment. And yet, here I am. I'm still here. I'm still causing my family problems. I'm being selfish. I'm putting my own fear of taking suicidal action above that of my family.

    I don't know how to break this loop. I don't know how to find the courage to do what I need to do. The only people I could ask that did break the loop are the ones that finally did it -- and so I can't ask them! When you think about it, it's almost comical. Or it would be if it wasn't so pathetic.
  2. snowraven

    snowraven Well-Known Member

    Hi Jeff and welcome to the forum. I've seen a few threads asking this same question and I don't think there is any straightforward answer. What I would say though is that whenever someone commits there will always be a great deal of pain for others.
  3. Jeff Nyman

    Jeff Nyman Member

    Thanks for the response.

    Yeah, I believe that. Or, rather, I suppose I believe there actually is a straightforward answer. But the catch is that it only applies to each individual person and they have to find it largely by themselves. Only then will they recognize it as an answer.

    It's sort of like the role of the observer in quantum mechanics. (Just bear with me here.) Reality is defined by observation. Until the observation is made, you have a superposition: everything all jumbled together, various "answers" competing for the right to be made "real." (If that seemed like an odd digression, well ... welcome to me. And, yes, I simplified the role of the obesrver quantum mechanics to make a point.)

    I'm thinking that what it really comes down to is a philosophical decision and a philosophical choice.

    Philosophy is not so much about finding the right answer as it is about asking the right question. Here's sort of how I'm thinking things through.

    • I think that the deeper responsibilities of life are generally found beyond your own self.
    • A philosophy is usually driven by a set of values; the things you truly cherish and truly believe.
    • Our human values are sometimes dignified only by a willingness to fight for them.
    • To be truly alive, you may have to be ready to die for something.
    But that last point is an interesting sentiment when you express it in terms of your own self-destruction, isn't it? It's one thing to do something where you know you could die, but that's not the plan. It's another thing entirely to actively contemplate your own destruction. (The observer acts to define themselves out of existence. The "answer" they make "real" is the one that repudiates the question and the answer.)

    That second point also raises a question, though. That question is where does the "truth" come from? (Granted, the "truth" will be interpreted by everyone differently and will be specific to each person.) I think that in essence the moment of "final truth" (acceptance?) comes when we gaze into ourselves and look at who we truly are and make the determination that we accept it or we don't. In fact, there's a quote that I like along these lines: "There comes a time when you look into the mirror and realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. Then you accept it, or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking into mirrors."

    I guess my point is that I'm starting to think that in order for the loop to be broken, there has to be a moment where you sit alone with precisely what you have become, no more and no less. (Think of it as the savings account of the soul at full maturity.) And you make that final determination as to whether you can live with that or not.

    For myself, I'm thinking that when all of the self-preservation aspects finally melt down, the emotional and the intellectual elements will finally be in total agreement. Then I can act.

    But I don't know how to get there.

    I think that's true, certainly. The question then becomes: will there be even greater pain if you do not commit suicide? That question, unlike what I was discussing above, probably doesn't have an answer, even an individual one, simply because it's predicated upon something you can't know. After all, if someone commits suicide, you'll never know if their continued presence would have been more harmful than the suicide itself.
  4. the fleet asleep

    the fleet asleep Well-Known Member

    i seem to be addicted to this question, and even though theres a few other threads on this, ill get in on the ground floor of this one. for obvious reasons (it being a suicide forum and all), people seem to not get my point on this.

    short answer, yes. if there are people who would be hurt by your death, then it is selfish. all variables aside, ie all things you have no way of knowing (such as whether or not your family will be better off), the only thing your death would cause for certain is pain. at that point, what happens to you doesnt matter, cause youre dead.

    anyway, thats the common sense, heres what i think. you are a father, and a husband. you say you cannot live without them, and that you wouldnt want to, so its clear you understand the value of such bonds. take pride in this much, as many people in your situation seem to lack that ability. understand that, as long as you can still make this connection, then you are not as far gone as you think.

    youve made bad choices, from what i can gather. ones that may have a devestating effect on your family. whatever said problem is, would it not be compounded by your death exponentially? in a time of need, weight on the shoulders comes under heavy gravity, and whether or not such a change in situation is of your doing, its not fair to your family to add to it.

    i, too, am pathologically destructive. i get by because, in recognizing it, i know i can learn to get around it. you seem to recognize it too, which should be another point of pride, as the vast majority of people who are spend a life in denial. change comes to those who work hard on it. too hard, sometimes, but at least a lifetime of working on yourself means you havent spent a lifetime denying your issues.

    what it boils down to, is this though. youre a father. to know your father has comitted suicide rather than work to change could crush a child for life. if you are a good father (insofar as youve said that youre not a particularly bad father) then your responsibility is to those children first and foremost. there is more to a father than his ability to provide, and your presence alone is more valuable than you could imagine. youre also a husband. would you really want to leave your wife with not only a financial burden, but a life of knowing her childrens father ended his life rather than face himself?

    so, from what i can tell, yes. it would be selfish. you say suicide is your only choice, and the way i see it, its the only choice you cannot make. if you believe youre a destructive individual, then you must use every last ounce of your being to change that, as there are people who love you, and this will not change if you die. you recognize your problem, and this means you already have a leg up on most. i feel for you, as ive wrestled with my own self destructive nature, and spend endless hours wondering if ill be able to handle a wife and kids. if youve made bad choices, then get help. get as much help as you can possibly get. your family needs a living, breathing, father more than they need anything else from you.

    i hope i havent come off as too insensitive.
  5. Jeff Nyman

    Jeff Nyman Member

    No, you've not come off as insensitive at all. You come off as someone who has thought about this a lot. I respect that completely as it's something I'm trying to do.

    Your response deserves a considered response from me; you've really made me take pause here for a second. Let me gather my thoughts and respond back to this when I have something more substantive to say.
  6. Regenesis

    Regenesis Well-Known Member

    No,its not selfish.Its something that has to be done sometimes
  7. Jeff Nyman

    Jeff Nyman Member

    I guess part of me sees it's important to keep in mind that people being hurt and being selfish are a thing of degree. After all, let's say two people -- you and your friend -- are looking for similar jobs. You come across one that both you and your friend can do. But you don't tell him about it because, after all, you need a job to feed your family. So you just take the job for yourself. Are you selfish in that case? Your friend would probably get hurt (by not getting a job that he could have), but you would be in a better position and so would your family.

    To be "selfish" means that you care only for yourself. But if your actions are, in fact, meant to make things better on others, even if they might have some hurt involved, I don't think it can be called "selfish" necessarily. If you were killing yourself simply to hurt others, then, yes, you'd probably call it selfish. The definition of "selfish" has nothing to do with the hurt others may feel; it speaks to your motivations. If your intent (and your motivation) was to think of yourself regardless of others, then you have a selfish situation. I would argue that the way I have lived my live up to now -- with the risks I have taken -- has certainly been selfish.

    I don't know. Maybe I'm just rationalizing here. Again.

    It's a good question and I have to say -- and I'm scared to admit -- that I really don't think it would compound it, at least ultimately. Short term, it most likely would from an emotional standpoint. But I keep coming back to that issue of: can I change? If I've admitted I'm self-destructive in some of my risk-taking actions -- where I've definitely been selfish -- then is not that going to compound the situation exponentially if it were to go on? In other words, will I just keep putting myself (and my family) in these situations again and again? This is essentially the logic we use with abuse victims, right? We tell them, "Look, this is the fourth time they beat you. Do you really think it's going to change? Do you really believe them when they say 'never again'?" Instead what we usually tell such people is: "Get out now. Get out while you can."

    On the other hand, sometimes people do truly recognize it. They finally have gotten the lesson. They've put the pieces together and realize the components of their personality that made them destructive. But is it too late? In my case, for example, my job-hopping has led to a situation where I have very few references I can rely on (in a time when those are critical), a very diverse career history in Information Technology (which has made me "overqualified" for many positions, according to recruiters), and a series of gaps that become more difficult to explain the longer I am out of work. Further, since my twenty-year work history is all in Information Technology, usually in a lead role, I'm having a hell of a time getting places like UPS or retail stores to even look at me (because they feel that when the economy improves, I'll just bail).

    I'm not trying to paint a "woe as me" picture. I know people have a lot worse situations than me in a lot of cases. But I guess the problem is that we're going broke. Fast. Within two months, I don't see how I can make any more mortgage payments, never mind utilities and food. I'm stuck. I'm desperately trying to find a position but it's just not happening. My mother-in-law has a lot of money, however. So what I know would happen is that were I to die, my mother-in-law would either help my wife pay off the house entirely or would allow her and my son to move in with her. (She has a huge house and it's only her in it.)

    This is my biggest concern. Now here's an example of selfish for you. I'm so concerned that if I do this, I'll never see my son grow up. Yeah, I know, I'd be dead so I wouldn't know it. But I know it now. And that's what makes it hard. But then part of me says: "Hey, Jeff, in case you didn't notice, kids learn from their parents. You really want to pass your 'legacy' on to your own son?"

    See, even just writing that out I realize how truly scared I am right now. I think I know what I need to do, but I'm too scared to do it. (I must be; after all, if I wasn't and I was sure, I wouldn't be here talking about it.) I don't know if the scared part is coming in because I feel I have to do it, but don't want to; or I feel I have to do it, and I do want to. That may be a distinction without a difference, I suppose. I know one thing I'm scared about is messing it up. I have my method roughly planned out but it's nothing elaborate and there's certainly ways it could go wrong. I've written out a "note" that I feel explains my action, to the best that any such action can be explained.

    And, yeah, I'm scared of not knowing whether I'll harm my family more by this action or whether I'd harm them more by not taking this action.

    In any event, I thank you for the response. I appreciate it. It forced me to put my own thoughts in more order. (Assuming you consider what I wrote above "more order.")
  8. the fleet asleep

    the fleet asleep Well-Known Member

    if the question is whether or not its selfish, then yeah, by definition, it is. a certain degree of selfishness is not necessarily a bad thing, though, despite the stigma of the word. in that case in particular, theres a few things that allow you to be selfish in taking the job. 1) the only certainty in that situation is that one will get a job, and the other will not. someone will inevitably lose out, theres no getting around this. 2) not getting the job doesnt mean youll never get a job again. for all intents and purposes, losing that job could open the door for a better one. in either case, theres no permanent loss. 3) if both men are men (so to speak), then there will be a mutual understanding that ones own family comes first.

    how about this example. say a commanding officer gets reckless, and leads his men into an ambush. just as the men hunker down to fight, the commanding officer brains himself, as he figures his men would be better off without him. now, while he may be right about being inadequate, theres now one less gun working for the greater good. not to mention his men are now demoralized, and in panic mode. is he not selfish, despite having good intentions?

    this is true, but the situation still lies in your hands. again, most people spend their entire lives denying they have this problem, and recognizing, while not half the battle as some say, is still the important first step towards change. granted, it may take disproportionately more work for you than many others, but thats no excuse not to try. besides, in the case of abuse, the aggressor is acting out of hate, or with the specific intention to cause harm. im sure this isnt the case with you.

    heres where i can relate more personally. you see, my father is a scumbag. the classic kind. he spent his life more selfishly than anyone ive ever known, to the direct detriment of his family. for many years, he moved my sister and i from state to state on whim, getting arrested, and having his kids fend for themselves. i moved in with my mother after he had gone to prison in a state 1000 miles away from any of my family.

    anyways, 6 years after i had moved in with my mother, i was forced to live with my father again. again, he lived for himself. one day, at 16, i came home from school to find all his and his gf's shit gone. i lived in the apartment till i was evicted, lost all my shit, and was homeless for a month.

    i have two points to this story. even though i know it was for the best that he skipped town (though, he certainly didnt do it for my sake), its still tough to know that i could be so easily abandoned, and its still something i struggle with. my second point is that, while i inherited many of my fathers traits (his conmanish nature, his ability to speak his way into and out of anything, his 'im always right' attitude), i recognize them all, and actively work on them. i inhereted many of his bad traits, and ive still managed to turn out decent people (despite the whole suicidal thing, of course :wink: )

    if you kill yourself, then you will have already made their decision for them.

    you seem to have a very firm grasp on your mentality behind this, which if i may be so honest, is refreshing. i believe, based on what youve said, that you already know just what would happen to your family if you were to end your life.

    a job can be replaced, possessions can be replaced. you can get over being hungry, you can get over being homeless. people can change.

    a father cannot be replaced, his death cannot be easily gotten over (if at all), theres no changing that.

    the thought of suicide isnt selfish, but it is an effective means of coping. if youre as torn up over this as you are, its clear you have substantial good in you, despite the choices youve made. id love to tell you itll all be okay, but itll only be okay if youre willing to work to make it so. changing is tough work, but its not impossible. a living, breathing, human being who recognizes his problems, is more valuable to his loved ones than any perceived gains from his death. im willing to bet my own life that your family would agree with that.

    its about as much order as i coulve asked for, trust me.
  9. wheresmysheep

    wheresmysheep Staff Alumni

    says it all really.
  10. Jeff Nyman

    Jeff Nyman Member

    I took awhile to respond back just to give due thought to everything. The two separate statements above are the conflict I have. I agree with both points completely and without caveat.

    The only thing I can say is that I do believe I am willing to change. I believe that because I've really looked long and hard at the behavior patterns I've exhibited over the course of many years. I think I've at least to some extent isolated why I have acted the way I have in the past, in terms of my decisions. I also realize that those elements are no longer operative in my life. Perhaps it's the fact of how bad the situation has gotten. I'm not sure. My one problem is that while I do believe I can change, external circumstances are such that I don't know that I'll be given the chance to put that to the test. I really do think that I may have simply reached the end of the rope in terms of "chances given" and "opportunities squandered." Even if the desire to change is truly there, I don't think will be a chance for me to exercise it.

    This latter aspect isn't a problem I'm asking for help on, of course, because I realize it's entirely my own situation and, further, it's even somewhat out of my control, given that I can't force a job to hire me. Certainly not in the time we have left before all money quite literally runs out.

    Right now it's essentially a "race" against time. I realize that now and, believe it or not, that actually helps. I can't guarantee that this is going to end well for me. But what I can guarantee is that I've come to some accommodation with myself as a person; I've at least come to accept that much of what happens in the next couple of days is out of my immediate control ... but I'm not absolving myself of responsibility here. I realize that the reason things are so much out of my control right now is largely because I acted incorrectly when things were in my control. So while I can't guarantee it will end well for me, I realize that doesn't matter. I need it to end well for my family.

    So I at least wanted to respond back here to provide some "closure" to this conversation and show that I have thought about it; I have tried to think about my options, my decision paths, and so forth. What it comes down to here is a value judgment: is my family better off with me or without me? It's not a question anyone else can answer, I realize that. It's actually not even something I can truly and categorically answer. The best thing I can do, I think, is let history and my conscience be my guide. I may have to, for once in my life, do what is for the ultimate good, even if it causes some immediate bad. I just have to determine if I really believe that suicidal action will lead to the ultimate good. (Gee, at least I picked an "easy" question to tackle, huh?)
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2009
  11. What Ever

    What Ever Active Member

    You said earlier and I quote: "The question then becomes: will there be even greater pain if you do not commit suicide?"

    My answer is that their will be only pain if you commit suicide. Think about. While you may perceive some great pain being given to your family while you are still living the fact is that even if that was true since "the greater pain" would never come to pass your family would only be left with the pain of knowing that you died. There is no upside to that for them even if you think there might be in the future. It is just a plain and simple fact. If you live on the other hand there is at least the chance for something good. Actually if you think about it you are already doing something positive for your friends and family by not killing yourself. Even if you aren't sure whether being alive is a positive thing for your family you should be sure that killing yourself is without a doubt a negative thing.
  12. Vanq

    Vanq Active Member

    I don't see any conflict between "selfish" and "justified" in the first place. The two are perfectly compatible in my eyes.
  13. Angelo_91

    Angelo_91 Well-Known Member

    It doesn't really matter if it is selfish or not because I believe when youve had enough you just can't find a reason to give a fuck.
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