“Was he really THAT unhappy?”

“Was he really THAT unhappy?”
August 13, 2014 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #435

“It seems unlikely that the choice to end one’s own life is made from a wise, grounded, Self-in-Presence place.”

How do we deal with such sad news?

Sad news came on Monday when we learned that beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams had died at age 63, almost certainly having taken his own life. We in the San Francisco Bay Area are feeling this loss especially, since Robin Williams got his start and made his home here… but many people today all over the world are wondering, “Was he really that unhappy? Was it depression, was it problems with addiction? Why did he feel he had to end his own life?”

And we will never know.

But it would be good if this wondering and guessing and imagining can bring us closer to having compassionate empathy for the possibility of emotional suffering so great that the only way out seems to be through suicide.

“Seems to be…” I say it that way because it seems unlikely that the choice to end one’s own life is made from a wise, grounded, Self-in-Presence place — at least in most cases.

In most cases it is a part of us, or several parts acting in collusion, who have decided that the only way out of unbearable suffering is to end life itself.

Those are the same kind of parts…parts I know very well…that might have decided at another time that the only way out of unbearable suffering was to get drunk, or immerse one’s self in studying, or withdraw from all contact with other people.

So really, it’s the suffering that is the problem. And for that, I know something that can help.

Right now, right at this moment (if you would like to try this), let your hand move to your heart, or to any other place in your body where you feel pain and sadness. Say gently to yourself inside, “I am with you.” You are with the one in you who is sad or suffering or in pain.

Don’t try to make it feel better! Don’t try to cheer it up or distract it or offer it hopeful adages about a better future. Just this: “I am with you and I know it hurts.” And then just be there.

This is probably the most helpful thing you can do for another person who is hurting too. And the same advice about not cheering them up also holds. The biggest gift we have for each other, no matter what, is to be there. May you receive that gift from those who love you today.



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