Dr Sheetal Amte’s suicide has shocked the people. No marks for guessing, obviously a series of conflicts led to it. A well-read, affable person, and a born leader, she left indelible mark with her outstanding work at Anandwan. She had earned respect and admiration from a large group of friends as well as well-wishers of Anandwan of which she was the Chief Executive. The news channels have reported and commented on the unfortunate incident. All newspapers have written stories and they have made their conclusions on the reason for the suicide.
Why do people commit suicide?
If you scan internet you will get many sites which put forth their five to seven reasons. Typically, they talk about depression, psychotic behaviour and the list is long and predictable. The deeper truth is that there are failed conversations, or conversations in which both the parties fail to understand each other. In that sense they fail to define and resolve conflict(s) facing them.
Inability to Resolve Conflicts
Mental illness led to Parveen Babi’s much discussed suicide. And let us leave aside the disputed Sushant case. Nafisa Joseph committed suicide when she discovered, just a few weeks before her wedding, that her would-be-husband was still a married man. And that brings us, yet again, to the point that people who commit suicide fail to resolve conflicts.
Perhaps they see no hope in the situation they are put in to by others, or they get themselves. And the flood of emotions will surely make them see no road ahead, no solution. This is natural and can happen to anyone. It is here that a good friend, counsellor or mentor can play a big role. And in many such cases they must initiate the conversation, not waiting for the person in distress to do it. The article in Psychology Today points out rightly – ‘They’re crying out for help, and don’t know how else to get it.’ Its bye-line is insightful: ‘Suicide is far more understandable than people think.’ Proactively approaching a person in distress is guided by empathy. And empathy is in terrible short supply all over the world.
Counselling is Half The Remedy
Conflict leads to distress, and sometimes to suicide. How can the person in distress handle a conflict effectively? Introspection is undoubtedly the way because it helps us take a dispassionate and ‘knowledgeable bystander’s view’ of the conflict. This, we ought to make, a regular habit. Admittedly this is not enough in many situations. Conversations with mentor, counsellor or friend give added benefit.
When in a conflict we think that others create hopeless situation for us. We see them as primary cause of the problem. While this is true to some extent, it is never the full truth. How we see and, therefore, how we address the conflict determines the outcome. Carl Jung puts is succinctly, ‘When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.’
Two Searching Questions We Must Ask Ourselves
Besides counselling, I would suggest that we ought to develop a habit of asking two questions to ourselves. Ideally, we should write answers to these questions. Writing makes us take dispassionate view of the situation. Moreover, we have all experienced that writing brings out the unknown aspects which sometimes surprise the writer!
The questions are: (a) State what is the conflict. Needless to say, this helps us state the facts and puts us in ‘Adult’ thinking mode; taking as objective a view as possible, and (b) Describe how I contributed to the making of the conflict. This is a bit tough one. It turns you inward. It has the effect of ‘making inner situation conscious’, to borrow Jung’s words. That we also contributed to making of the conflict is a great insight, known to all, yet it is a discovery. And it will also dispel our thinking of the situation as ‘fate.’
And that is the first step to recovery, it is the first step to finding solution proactively.
PS: All the students who attended my course on Conflict Management at TISS had to write answers to these two questions.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
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