Getting unstuck and moving on with life

“Would you like cake or death?”

The absurd question above is a quote from comedian Eddie Izzard. I used it recently in a session with an amazing woman who was expressing being passively suicidal. While that may sound tragic to you, it has the net effect of annoying me.

I don’t mind folks who are actively suicidal. If they’re reaching out to me it’s because they recognize a need for help and they’re doing everything they can to not die. Folks who are “passively” suicidal are not in any way planning to end their lives, they’re simply in a place where they wouldn’t mind dying.

There are plenty of things in life that are okay to be ambivalent about. If you and I are going out to lunch, I’ll be ambivalent about where we go because I eat out 7 days a week. I’ll go to any good restaurant you like. Being ambivalent about continuing to draw breath? F@ck that.

Healers and helpers hate ambivalence. Most of us would rather face adversity, pain, conviction or extreme distress. Ambivalence is being, “on the fence.” It means approaching your life choices and options with an attitude of, “Meh…”

My client, like most of us when we’re hurting or fearful, is locked into some rigid black and white thinking. She sees herself as having the choices of living or dying. In her mind, all other choices are on hold until this one is made. This is an illusion. She chooses every day by default and more importantly:

There is a third option: surviving.

There are a hundred problems with this choice but the biggest one is that it’s subconsciously driven. It’s like settling – no one has ever, in the full light of day said to themselves, “Well, I could have a lot more in life but it would require leaving my comfort one and taking some risks so I’ll just say my life is good enough and ride it out.”

You have to lie to yourself to settle and you have to be too fearful of hope to be ambivalent about living.

Having hope means risking disappointment. It means taking on the responsibilities of healing and moving forward in life.

My client is a wonderfully resilient woman. The problem with resilience is that there’s exactly one way you develop huge amounts of it – you keep getting back up.

Ideally, there comes a day in our adult lives when we realize that we’re getting knocked down because:

– We never learned how to duck.

– We take everything on the chin.

– We lie to ourselves about other’s intentions.

– We hold out for what we cannot have.

– We rail against the things we’re powerless over.

All of which leave us stuck in terribly sad things like depression, anxiety, and Dave Matthew’s song lyrics.

(I love Dave but after more than two songs I kinda wanna either slip into a depressive episode or punch his father in the face for not hugging him as a boy).

In my quest to help instill hope in others, I use a lot of humor. That’s why I throw quotes from Monty Python and Eddie Izzard around. If we can laugh about something then we can overcome it.

It’s always about willingness. My client is going to go on living. In fact, sooner or later, her life is going to be better than ever (her entire life story demonstrates this). The only thing that’s up for grabs is how long she will stay down, agonize, and fight with powerlessness.

I urge folks to shift their focus onto what they CAN do and away from what they can’t. The option we never seem to consider is the possibility of leaving things alone for a time. We decide that life simply cannot go on until A, B, and C are resolved.

Life doesn’t work that way.

“Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.”
Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.”

― Marianne Williamson

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.