my last psychologist, Jacob Mathew, introduced me to the works of psychologist, Kirk Strosahl. i have made reference to his work before, the three i’s of depression. He has done work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. this is a new, scientifically based psychotherapeutic modality that is part of what is being called the “third wave” in behavioral and cognitive therapy.
in The Suicidal Patient, Strosahl asserts that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. he contends that suicidal thoughts are a common place in human experience, and best understood in context of language and a problem solving strategies. the suicidal person considers trading the elimination of her/his distress and despair for their life. The distresses, whether it be external, financial problems, problems with the law, family or relationship problems, or internal like depression, anxiety, or psychotic breaks drive the despair. their thoughts goes to the elimination of distress as a short term gain. in the process, they overlook the long term and permanent side–effects of a suicide.
Strosahl attempts to shift the thoughts of the suicidal person: “while i recognize that you are in pain, can we discuss other possibilities of dealing with your distress that doesn’t require trading in your life?” he introduces the three i’s of depression, inescapable, interminable and intolerable. hopefully the person struggling can see themselves in one or maybe all three of the i’s. he then works to get the struggling person to see that these problems are temporary and they can be overcome.
with my most recent depressive episode, i notice i, for the most part have struggled with two of the three i’s, inescapable and interminable. if that’s all that is on my plate, i am free of suicidal ideations. the problem occurs when i add intolerable to the mix. at that point, my plate becomes too full and my despair starts to peak and taking my life starts to creep into my mind. that’s not a fun thought. thankfully, i have not struggled with intolerability recently, so thoughts of taking my life have dissipated.
looking at the three i’s, they are all a form of despair. it is the despair that causes problems, problems that can seem to big and overbearing. the challenge to me and other people struggling with suicidal thoughts is to replace the thought and feeling of despair with the opposite, hope. i can’t say i’m there, yet.
while not there, i have started a travel down the right path; at least i have hope that i can beat this despair. i guess that’s a good start.