For Trauma Survivors, Suicidal Thoughts Are Not Just About Suicide


From Dr. Glenn Doyle: “Part of being trauma-informed is understanding that trauma survivors often use suicidal thoughts as a coping tool.

. . . To live with complex trauma is often to live in pain. That pain is almost always emotional, and not infrequently physical as well. It’s very frequently pain we can’t just lay down or take a break from. Sometimes it’s not even pain we can adequately distract ourselves from.

. . . For many trauma survivors there’s quite often literally NO escape from the emotional and physical pain of post traumatic stress— especially in early recovery. The pain of our trauma traps us. Corners us. Does not give us an out.

Suicidal thoughts are often that out— mentally and emotionally, anyway.

Some people reading this might be familiar with some diets that recommend discipline on six days a week— but one ‘cheat day’ per week, on which the dieter gets to eat anything they want, particularly the things they denied themselves the rest of the week. The reason diet ‘cheat days’ often work is, fantasizing about that ‘cheat day’ can provide a dieter with the focus to power through the ‘discipline’ days— with the promise of something sweet ahead, if the dieter just hangs in.

Suicidal ideation can kind of work in the same way for trauma survivors. We might have a perfectly awful time carrying on day to day, when there is no end to our pain in sight. When we feel trapped, cornered, forced to carry on, to keep living despite the enormous pain we’re in, we can REALLY go down the rabbit hole of despair.

But if we have a potential ‘out’— the possibility of suicide— that transforms our ‘have to’ to a ‘choose to’ situation.

We’re no longer being FORCED to endure the pain we’re in— we’re now CHOOSING to stay alive and work toward healing, because we DO have an alternative.”

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  1. Sounds like the utility of the thought of going through the divorce you are not seriously contemplating, the adventure I know I am not having. My kids finally idolazing me in a way I can pretend to believe it. The voters that voted for me actually appreciating my honest hard work. The partner with whom I never married but maybe I should have, and now I, at least, can daydream about it. Etcetera.
    And it seems as an idea that you are not supposed to think about certain things that comes from the religious camp: Just thinking about your neighbor’s wife is sinfull. Absent of causality or materiality to the outcome it is supposed, as an idea to have: shorten someone’s life.
    Seeing my neighbor’s wife as a beautifull man or woman, nowadays, doesn’t put me any closer to a sin, or a crime, or a harm. Just for that. I might start seeing them as the most beautifull couple I have ever seen, without any envy or lust, not even disgust, if that were not my thing, at least eventually. God works in mysterious ways after all.
    Extending the metaphor of diet: Asking someone to have a diet of happy thoughts when that person can’t “afford” them or buy them. Sometimes not even being able to diggest them. But that’s one problem with analogies, they can run wildly out of context and be used in another context or with another meaning that are not appropiate or constructive. Sorry for the lecture, I couldn’t help it, I have “obsessions” too. Not implying anything either. But ideas can work in mysterious ways too!. Geez, I can’t stop myself today. Sorry, huggies if it’s not offensive 🙂

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