Monday, June 11, 2018

The following is a personal hypothesis; not anything I can back up with any studies at the moment. It's just a hunch, really, and I'm only half-awake right now. With that in mind, I'll muse about out loud. Maybe there's something like a "suicide switch" in our brains that gets flipped on somehow. We all have moments where we've had something we wanted to do and then suddenly not wanted to do it anymore. Our brains have the ability to recognize something is important, and still completely disregard that information. Cognitive dissonance, I think, the ability to believe conflicting ideas. Like when I'm late getting up in the morning but I hit the snooze button one more time.

Our minds are often in a state where the next action we take is determined solely by how we feel at that exact moment, not by how we think we might feel later. The all-you-can-eat buffet comes to mind. Starving when I start eating, then several plates later I can't even remember what it was like to be hungry, and so full I can't even imagine that I'll ever be hungry again.

Humans have two superpowers:

1. The ability to imagine (forming thoughts, ideas, and even feelings *independently* of current external input).

2. Theory of Mind, (the ability to understand that other humans have their own thoughts and feelings, and that again, this occurs independently of whatever's going on in our own minds).

We also have thumbs, but I'm not talking traits exclusive to humans; just a couple of things that humans in particular do insanely well.

We take these abilities for granted, I think, but the loss of one or the both, for even a few moments, could easily lead to taking an action that would seem incomprehensible to other humans who have never experienced the loss of their own superpowers.

So that's one line of reasoning, one possible set of conditions that could trigger the suicide switch. For an individual, anyway. But why are suicides in the US specifically, going up?

There's another scenario that's more disturbing to me: that our superpowers are still working. That this trend in the United States, this pandemic of people ending their own lives, at rates that are rising rapidly and steadily, isn't some abstract loss of reasoning. Maybe it's a direct result of the culture.

More people who can't imagine their lives ever getting better.
More people examining how the culture values them as an individual and coming to the conclusion that it's very little, if at all.

More Americans who see that whatever horrible thing happens to them, the rest of us will shrug and say "Well, if only they'd done this instead of that."

Which is how I imagine this will play out. Our culture will decide that there's absolutely no reason more and more Americans are choosing to end their lives, and if there was a reason, that reason certainly has nothing to do with living in the greatest country in the world.

And maybe it doesn't. I'd personally like to know for sure. But now it's time for my afternoon nap.

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