Raising the dead
I can remember the feeling. The present was nothing but agony. The future would be no different. Life was awful. I was a failure. There was only one way out: I had to die.
That’s my ten-year-old self.
I can see him, desolate. “I wish I were dead,” he wails. “I want to die,” he cries.
I see him tie a necktie around his neck. He tightens it, crying. He starts to black out.
He reflexively loosens the tie, still crying. Maybe he didn’t want to die as much as he thought he did. Perhaps a part of him wanted to die, and another part of him didn’t.
He hates himself for his cowardice.
“You can’t do anything right,” he screams in his mind. “All you had to do was nothing, and you couldn’t even do that. You’re completely worthless. A failure.”
If he was cursing at the part of him that had loosened the knot, it has no answer.
That part of him is speechless in the face of such utter contempt and overwhelming misery and utter hopelessness.
It makes no argument. It offers no excuses.
That’s some of what’s inside me. Maybe something like that is in other people, too, but certainly in me.
Not just the 10-year-old
It’s not just the troubled ten-year-old inside me. I’m full of miserable teenaged selves. They wish for their death. For the end of their intolerable existence.
The other day in an IFS session I woke up and saw the ghosts of those tormented, failed, embittered Past Selves within me—dead, and yet undead.
They had not sacrificed willingly for the sake of a better Future Self. They had died regretful, resentful, angry—in the desperate hope of oblivion.
They died cursing themselves and all of existence. They died full of self-loathing and self-contempt. Something else carried on, worked hard on improving, and eventually became the self I had become the day I discovered the living dead.
The irony: those past selves reviled themselves for not killing themselves, unfairly because they succeeded.
They were dead, but not dead the way they had hoped to be.
And as Miracle Max says, not completely dead.
It seems that a Present Self can sacrifice itself for the sake of a better Future Self, or it can die unable to bear its existence. Either way, a Future Self arises. In one case the Past Self is alive, integrated within it; in the other, the Past Self haunts it like a ghost—a sad, miserable creature, dead and undead.
The ghost remains until it finished its unfinished business.
Talking to ghosts
I’ve been talking to some of those ghostly selves, those undead Past Me’s. “You succeeded,” I tell them. “You wanted to die, and you died.
“And if you want to stay dead, that’s fine. But you’ve got choices now that you didn’t have then.”
They’re relieved to know they didn’t fail utterly: that they wanted to die and they succeeded. Oddly, they are relieved.
They’re happy to know what has become of what they once had been. They are pleased to meet me, the person who evolved.
I tell them that I’m grateful—that I appreciate their suffering and the fact that they died to get me here.
They are relieved to know they did not live their lives in vain.
Relieved of their burdens, freed from the past they wake up.
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