For much of his thirties, Jesse Bering thought he was probably going to kill himself. He was a successful psychologist and writer, with books to his name and bylines in major magazines. But none of that mattered. The impulse to take his own life remained. At times it felt all but inescapable.
Bering survived. And in addition to relief, the fading of his suicidal thoughts brought curiosity. Where had they come from? Would they return? Is the suicidal impulse found in other animals? Or is our vulnerability to suicide a uniquely human evolutionary development? In Suicidal, Bering answers all these questions and more, taking us through the science and psychology of suicide, revealing its cognitive secrets and the subtle tricks our minds play on us when we’re easy emotional prey. Scientific studies, personal stories, and remarkable cross-species comparisons come together to help readers critically analyze their own doomsday thoughts while gaining broad insight into a problem that, tragically, will most likely touch all of us at some point in our lives. But while the subject is certainly a heavy one, Bering’s touch is light. Having been through this himself, he knows that sometimes the most effective response to our darkest moments is a gentle humor, one that, while not denying the seriousness of suffering, at the same time acknowledges our complicated, flawed, and yet precious existence.
Authoritative, accessible, personal, profound—there’s never been a book on suicide like this. It will help you understand yourself and your loved ones, and it will change the way you think about this most vexing of human problems.
Bering (Perv), a psychologist, carefully balances his natural whimsy and avid curiosity with deep compassion in this look at how suicidal urges work. He is disarmingly frank in disclosing his own identity as "that everyday person dealing with suicidal thoughts," which "flare up like a sore tooth." The book focuses on the idea that humans are "thinking, almost constantly, about what others think," leading to emotions such as shame even among the objectively successful. Bering gets lost in an intellectual ramble through suicide's possible evolutionary purpose, but gets back on course with a discussion with social psychologist Roy Baumeister, who identifies a typical six-stage mental process, starting with feeling of having fallen short of expectations, and culminating with disinhibition. Bering's deep reading of an extraordinary diary written by a teen in the four months before her suicide in the context of Baumeister's framework is disturbing but highly enlightening. He also details with concern modern factors in suicides, such as highly reported celebrity deaths, internet suicide pacts, and glamorized media depictions as in the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Throughout, Bering treats his sources with unvarying respect, as well as a spirit of affiliation. Readers who have experienced the anguish of suicidal impulses will find his work both heartening and deeply illuminating.