Suicide lies. It tells you that the way you feel now is the way you will feel forever. Hope itself can seem like a toxic lie, a set-up for disappointment. The present feels permanent, and the future feels foretold.
Don’t fall for the lies. “The future,” as they say, “is unwritten.” Things can change. Things do change. Sure, there is no guarantee that things will get better. There also is no guarantee that things will get worse.
To resist the lies, visualize different selves that may emerge in the years to come. The psychologists Amy Wenzel and Shari Jager-Hyman call this exercise “future time imaging.” Imagine yourself in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and more. Imagine not only different times, but also different roles and situations that can happen in the years to come.
What work might you do?
Where might you live?
Will you have new work … goals … friends … talents … tattoos … travels?
The possibilities are limitless. Here are a few questions to get you started:
Imagine that you are able to get out of this suicidal crisis alive, even to feel a little better. What could your life look like a year from now?
In five years, what might your life be like? Where will you be living? What new things might you be doing?
In 10 years, who might you be? What new roles might you have taken on?
You may feel unable to look beyond the present. Or you may feel certain that what lies ahead is more of the same. If you have chronic illness or pain, for example, you might envision suffering in your future. In such cases, it can help to recall other times you have suffered, what you expected to happen then, and how you coped as time passed.
Even if the pain remains, your experience of suffering can change. This can happen many different ways. To name a few examples, you can practice mindfulness, engage in a spiritual practice, mobilize for larger causes, find (or make) meaning in your experiences, connect with others in similar situations, or do the things you yearn to do even while in pain.
The goal of this exercise is not to persuade you that everything will get better. Instead, the goal is to help you step outside the rigid tunnel vision that comes with suicidality.
You cannot know what the future holds.
Life can and will surprise you.
You do not have to fall for suicide’s lies.
Maybe, even, your future selves will be glad to be alive.
© Copyright 2017 Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, All Rights Reserved. Written for www.speakingofsuicide.com.
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