Suzanne Noel: Befriending the Unspeakable

The above is a quote from Suzanne Noel’s piece, “Befriending the Unspeakable”, reproduced below:

I am someone who recently suffered severe PTSD. Part of this came with a period that included a desire to kill myself out of despair that I could not change it, nor could I change the situations that were triggering this complicated web of intense, overwhelming feelings. Fortunately, I understood that what I wanted to “Kill” were the feelings, not myself. I continued to live.

Being able to share this urge to end my suffering with others lessened its power. As we know, a lot of suicide occurs in secret, in silence, without any contact with others.

I am in a 12-step program for Recovery from the addictive/stuck process. Since that time of existential despair, when I have a sponsee who says she wants to kill herself (which happens quite often), I just listen, identify with her, and tell her that what she wants to kill is her feelings, not herself. There is an immediate and palpable “Yes, that’s right,” accompanied by a decrease in urgency, in distress.

As I said, the fact that she is sharing is already a step in not committing suicide. I can then invite her to sense what it’s like, to symbolize the situation that is causing her to think in this way. This always brings relief!

The invitation, “What is that like, that desire to end your suffering?” will usually allow a symbolization of it and therefore bring the needed steps towards hope for a solution. Focusing brings such a sense of opening, of possibility, of self-compassion! Being able to process in this way WITH someone is so…curative.

Trusting others is part of the healing from the disconnection and isolation of any addictive (skipped) process. Sharing with safe others is key to sustaining our faith in life, our faith that there is a solution. Knowing that we don’t have to kill our feelings, but that we can keep them company, with another person, is the key to surviving them.

Suzanne Noel is a Certifying Focusing Coordinator. She developed Recovery Focusing and the H.O.W. We Heal model for group work. She lives in the central valley of Costa Rica. See her website.