Life and death have always been the two impossible to miss revolving doors. At any point, you are either at one door or the other, not both, and while you can transition from one state to the next, few would voluntarily wish to die. Yet going by statistical data, more and more people are choosing to die and within certain age groups, suicide is among the three leading causes of death.
Within a single lifetime, we may know a few people who choose to take their lives, whatever their reasons are. Death then, must be a pleasant enough release, for it to be so preferable over living. Or perhaps the reverse is true: living is so painfully taxing, dreary and void of meaning, that the alternative is more alluring. For most cases, I suspect the latter holds true.
The causes of suicide are numerous and together, they span enough categories to humble a modern dictionary. Yet, if we were to discount some difficult to explain disorders and various genetic predispositions to mental illnesses, the main reason for suicide is probably not difficult to understand. A key part of happiness (and a meaningful life) is wanting other people to depend on you.
Put simply, the more people depend on us, the better we feel about ourselves. It makes us feel just a bit more important, and perhaps even arrogantly, we secretly hope others cannot function properly without our existence. I believe even the most passive and laid-back individual can at least feel this much. We want to be noticed.
It’s no secret that most doctors and lawyers (among other jobs) find their work fulfilling. It feels good knowing that many patients (or clients) depend on them in order to find direction in their life. These elite careers require the possession of an uncommon ability, so much so that though one isn’t a God by any means, it’s as close as it gets to role-playing a deity: the quality of a life is in your hands.
Another way of looking at it is that these jobs are dependent on how much suffering there is in this world. The more people that suffer or incur injustice, the more meaningful (and profitable) it becomes. A doctor may very much wish to heal a patient, but likely won’t mind if someone becomes very sick. It lets them improve their diagnostic and surgical skills. How else would they find fulfillment? How else would they get better at their jobs? We feel important when people need us.
This need for self-importance also extends to other situations. A missionary doing religious conversions feels reassured knowing that her God has tasked her to carry out his work. Her God depends on her. She feels wanted. Similarly, a spouse is far more likely to cheat if they repeatedly feel unacknowledged and unimportant. In such cases, they may feel that whether they are at home or not makes no difference. Their existence is painfully invalidated.
If someone else values them for something, anything, even if the primary motive is raw animal lust or materialistic ambitions, it doesn’t matter. They feel wanted for something, even if it means throwing money away or knowing their actions will likely lead to a disastrous scandal. Would it be wrong then to seek attention in the arms of someone who can provide more and better? The answer will probably remain contentious at worst and morally ambiguous at best.
In Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit, a timeless classic popular among adults and children alike, the Skin Horse gently suggests to the Rabbit that having someone who loves him for who he is, who values his very being, who really, really cares for him, will make him real, whole and complete. That little bit of insight is remarkably lucid and makes for wonderful literature.
On the surface, it’s sound advice for friendship or romantic endeavours: hold on to the rare few who embrace our vulnerabilities and see us for who we truly are. But it may also be understood that to be a real human being, we want to be part of another’s equation for happiness. We want to be the primary reason for which someone feels happy. Then, we are complete, and only then do we feel spiritually important and useful.
Wanting others to depend on us might also explain why the green eyed monster, jealousy, lingers in our hearts. In deeply significant relationships, we sometimes deliberately create moments of pull and push, all perhaps for the sole reason of ascertaining and measuring how important we are to the other person. Does this relationship affect him as deeply as it affects me? If I do this, will I measure up to someone else she knows? Will I be forgotten easily? Do I matter?
Somehow, I suspect there’s a perverse pleasure to be had in knowing that one has left an indelible mark on another’s life – because the opposite is worst. Who wants to spend years together and feel like they aren’t even able to weave their existence into the fabric of someone they value deeply? It’s exhilarating and egotistically fulfilling, even if it is also psychopathically selfish, to know that we are vital to another person, that they depend (or depended) upon us first for everything else.
When we are made to feel like a nonperson (stripped of status and not recognised), living becomes a hellish tar pit. There’s little reason to wake up today, let alone tomorrow, and you are left sapped of motivation, with a silent emptiness that’s so loud and invasive, it’s almost impossible to function purposefully. Death then, I suppose is a valid albeit short sighted response to a long standing problem.
So, have you thought about (HYTA) whether you enjoy having others being dependent on you?