Four reasons to choose life
AT ONE of his most recent lectures in Indianapolis, 'rock star' psychologist Jordan Peterson read out a serious and confronting question from an anonymous audience member.
"I plan on taking my own life very soon. Why shouldn't I?"
The room fell quiet.
"I don't know if I should address it but I'll give it a shot, because it's important. It's very serious," Dr Peterson said.
The question came amid increased awareness of suicide brought about by the deaths of two high-profile figures, chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade.
Dr Peterson has practised as a clinical psychologist for more than 20 years. His most recent book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is a bestseller, sitting atop the Amazon charts for weeks.
Dr Peterson answered the question, giving four reasons why this anonymous audience member should not take his own life. Here they are:
The first reason: "You'll devastate the people you leave behind".
"Think about how everyone you know will react to your death. Your family members. Your friends. What would their life be like with you not in it?" Dr Peterson.
"You may just absolutely wipe them out in a way they may never recover from. You cannot fix someone's suicide. You're stuck with it."
"What if they blame themselves? They could go their entire lives blaming themselves for not just any death, your death; the death of someone they love dearly.
"I've had clients in my clinical practice that have never recovered from the suicide of a family member. Decades later they're still torturing themselves about it."
"By ending your own life, you might just be ending someone else's. You'll simply be offloading the pain you're experiencing to everyone you love. Is that what you want?
The second reason is that you might not have explored all the possible solutions to your problems. What if you end your life when there's a solution right around the corner? It's possible.
"There are all sorts of treatments for depression," Dr Peterson said
"You owe it to yourself - and to your family - to look at every possible alternative.
"Explore any possible avenue before you take a final step … explore everything you can explore to put yourself back on your feet."
"Talk to a psychologist. Talk to a therapist. Try antidepressants. Keep yourself busy. Adopt a puppy if you have to. Try literally anything.
"For some people, antidepressants work. They don't work for everyone. I'm not claiming they are a panacea, but they certainly beat the hell out of suicide."
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The third reason is you'll put a stop to all your potential.
As Dr Peterson puts it: "you have intrinsic value and you can't just casually bring that to an end. You'll put a hole in the fabric of being itself."
"People with depression often struggle to find meaning in their lives. They don't think anyone needs them or cares about them. This almost always isn't true.
"Don't underestimate your value in the world," Peterson said.
"Just because you can't see your potential, doesn't mean it's not there. Everyone has something to contribute, even if they don't know it.
"You can always commit suicide tomorrow."
"Today, you have things to do. The world needs you even if you don't need it.
The fourth and final reason is that maybe your life doesn't belong to you.
"Don't be so sure your life is yours to take. You don't own yourself the way you own an object."
"If you're religious, maybe your life belongs to a higher power. Or if your not religious, maybe it belongs to your loved ones or some greater cause.
In true Peterson fashion, he takes the religious option: "you have a moral obligation to yourself as a locus of divine value."
Chad, the man who anonymously asked the question, later reached out to Peterson on Twitter. Here's what he said:
Hey dr. Peterson. It's Chad. You read my serious question tonight at the lecture. I just want you to know that you may have diverted me onto a different path. I am probably going to check myself into a hospital tomorrow night. Thank you.— 𝓒𝓱𝓪𝓭 (@chadjustin98) June 16, 2018
Dr Peterson's entire response is on YouTube. The accessibility of information nowadays is incredible.
Before the internet, you'd have to pay a fortune to get just one hour with him. In 2018, you can listen to expert wisdom from the world's most high-profile psychologist for free.
Dr Peterson is an expert in his field and his message has almost certainly saved thousands of lives - that can't be denied even if you hate the guy (as many do). He is certainly a low-cost source of wise psychological guidance.
In saying that however, don't rely solely on experts like Dr Peterson.
If you're suicidal or if you seriously struggle with depression, seek help. You need advice that's tailored to you and you only.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
Follow Luke Kinsella on Twitter @luke_kinsella