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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happiness and How to Prevent Suicide: Finding Happiness While Exploring Suicide.

I've often wondered what the remedy is for  the unhappiness that seems ubiquitous to our culture. I mean, what does the average person need to be happy? What is the core of happiness for most people? Hell, what would make me happy! The answer came to me while preforming a literature search for a lab that studies ostracism. I realized  that If I want to know what makes a person happy,  I need to find out what they can't live without. Or, in other words, find out what--if taken away--would make them want to kill themselves.  

The general answer is the group. If you take away the groups, then you take away the will to life. The two major issues that create the wish to commit suicide are simply social. The first is the a feeling of belonging. If a person feels like they don't belong to a group that they value, then they are likely to have suicidal ideations.

 They're going to be miserable. In fact, a person cannot avoid feeling the pain of not belonging if they are ostracized. Recent studies have shown that regardless of how confident you are, you're going to feel pain, actual pain, at being ostracized. Our brains are wired to be hyper-sensitive to being ostracized in any way. and even something as simple as a diverted eye gaze can stimulate the pain response. 

You may say, "I don't have pain when I'm rejected". The quick answer to this is that the way this that you probably just let it go when the brain activates the pain response. You don't attend to and so you forget about it. However, some people whether through biology, bad relationships or both cannot let this go, and reflect on it well after the fact. 

Each act of ostracism or rejection makes them feel more and more like they don't belong and causes them to develop an expectancy, where they look for signs of rejection everywhere, and do so automatically. They find it everywhere because they have a  confirmation bias. So they become sensitized to everything, perceiving more and more, everyday, as a sign that they don't belong. 

The second issue that adds to the sense of not belonging to create the perfect storm of suicide a feeling of being a burden. The key feeling here is "I'm a hindrance to everyone around me" or "the group would be better off without me".  This is the best predictor of the violence of the method of suicide. Varying on this trait is the difference between the suicide attempter popping a bottle of aspirin or a bullet. The more they feel burdensome to their family, friends and others, they more likely they are to use a more permanent method of attempting suicide. This is the single best predictor of a person moving from  attempter to an actual corpse.

 Feeling like you just don't belong, or  worse, like you are a burden to those around you is tightly connected to the will to live. It's reasonable to believe that if this is so connected feeling unhappy, that turning the dial the other direction can increase the will to live and happiness. My revelations is that everyone just needs to feel valued and accepted. That's the key to happiness.

So I've made some rules for myself:

1) When in doubt, be warm and friendly--it fosters friendship and intimacy and keeps me from making someone else feel like they don't belong.

2) Look at myself and everyone else through the eyes of "What they're good at" rather than from the critical perspective. So, to use a cliche: See the good in everyone, including myself.

3) Constantly make attempts at building new relationships. This means taking chances.

4) Divert my focus from memories of rejection and feelings of failure to:

5) Constantly remind myself of the healthy relationships that I have, as well as how I can, and do, contribute to those relationships in healthy ways.