A Culture of Self Destruction

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Neuro Semantics, Personal Development

The Star newspaper (Malaysia) today, the 10th of February 2011, carried a troubling headline; “Scary Trend”. It stated that an average of 60 suicides happens in the country per month, with the majority of them being committed by teenagers and young adults!


“The National Suicide Registry Malaysia (NSRM) estimated that between January and August last year, a total of 425 people committed suicide, averaging 60 per month.”

-The Star, Thursday, 10th February 2011


The Ministry of Heath identified this “high risk” age group as being between 16 and 25, an average rate similar to that of the United States! The frightening fact is that these figures may not reflect the true numbers of suicide cases as about 30% are probably classified as undetermined deaths, a move made by families to avoid the stigmata of suicide.


Globally suicide is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide with about a million people dying by suicide annually. (WHO Sites: Mental Health. World Health Organization, February 16, 2006.) On the other side of the coin, there are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year worldwide! (Bertolote JM, Fleischmann A, October 2002, “Suicide and psychiatric diagnosis: a worldwide perspective). Yes, these numbers do send a chill up our spines!  


“Suicidologist Adnan Omar believes the suicide trend amount the young is getting more serious here and is fast catching up with Japan that has a rate of above 30 per 100,000 people.”

-The Star, Thursday, 10th February 2011


Does it not sound ironic that as we evolve into a “developed nation”, the era of the high income economy, with significant increase in technology and efficiency in the fields of communication from the internet to facebook and twitter, medicine, health and supplementation, higher education, housing, economic opportunities, etc. we are faced with a crisis of life, of esteem and meaning. As Neuro-Semantic practitioners, we believe that human persons are always performing meanings. That is part of our nature as a semantic class of life – meaning making machines. So what meanings are these individuals performing by committing suicide?  What could be the cause?   


“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

-Albert Einstein


To an extent, it is due to the decay of foundational institutions like the family and family relationships, nurturing parenthood, faith, religion, culture and holistic education.  These foundations have, in the past, been the channels that nurture esteem, install and demonstrate “being and transcending” values that provide quality meanings for growth. They provide the physical and emotional security, safety, significance and certainty to help one grow into fully alive and self actualized human persons, performing our highest and best meanings and intentions!



In its place artificial substitutes have risen and become empty symbols of esteem, meaning and value. We may call these substitutes “the props” of life that seduce us to define our self worth and meaning by our job, status, brands, labels, political or religious affiliations, economic and social worth, gender, race, family status, money, etc. We may no longer feel that we are made in the image of God, but in their images, hence the meaning to “identify with”, we find self identity in, and as a consequence they hold transcendental meaning, value and self worth for us!    


“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all.  No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”

-The Sickness Unto Death


This then results in the performance of the meaning. Individuals unconsciously step into an endless, stressful and highly pressured roller coater ride to nowhere, to endless striving to prove ones self worth, gain approval and esteem in being the fastest, smartest, brightest, richest, prettiest, biggest, etc. Modern society as a whole seems be built on this dehumanizing culture!


When becoming the “smartest”, the “best”, the “prettiest”,etc. is unreachable,  isolation, a deep sense of “failure”, disillusionment, meaninglessness and worthlessness seeps in and this meaning may be performed in the act of suicide!  If they are attained, then the illusion is encountered, these do not deliver the promised meanings! Meaninglessness, depression and emptiness sets in, a schism is created. This could either result in a person being “leashed” or addicted to them indefinitely or to suicide, the “best solution” to a painful existence! So what possible solutions are there?  


“In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead.

In the twentieth century the problem is that man is dead.”
- Erich Fromm


Perhaps we need to be reminded of the profound teachings left by one of the giants of Humanistic Psychology, Abraham Maslow, of the hierarchy of needs. They essentially point to the “needs of the human personthat must be met in order for self actualization to happen. Being hierarchal, they move upward from the lower needs up to the pinnacle ones. If the lower needs are not realized or deficient, the higher ones will not be either. Society, culture, businesses, economies, families, etc. should be founded on these needs; they give meaning, purpose, nurture esteem and facilitate the unleashing of potential – self actualization! Our current culture seems to have forgotten these fundamental hierarchal needs. Could they be part of the solution to the “Scary Trend” mentioned above? Let’s explore them.


“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”
- Arnold J. Toynbee


1. Physiological needs: air, water, food, sleep, rest, sex, excretion. For most folks in developed countries, this is not much of a problem. They nonetheless need to be met constantly for esteem to be felt. If they are suddenly threatened, chaos ensures. This is seen in the many economic – social – political melt downs globally. They result in street protest, riots and civil unrest!


On the other hand, if we are too stressed with work, our careers or studies, these basic needs for good rest, recreation and quality food get neglected and an imbalance occurs. Deficiency happens. Does not this happen today? Do we not see the performance of this deficiency?           


2. Safety needs: secure country, community, job, family, health, resources, these provide safety and security in order for one to feel free from physical and emotional harm or threat. Again if this is not met, esteem is affected.


It is here that much deficiency is experienced today. In a highly commercialized “rat race” work culture, economic uncertainty, lay offs and down turns, job security diminishes. Inflation leads to the increase of prices of essential goods and the needs for health, education, etc. and this result in more uncertainty and insecurity. Uncertainty builds on uncertainty which results in a vicious circle being created. Does this trend not effect the young graduate entering the job market?


3. Love/belonging needs: family, friendship, and sexual intimacy. Once the earlier needs are met, these needs are now fulfilled. Social needs are those related to genuine and quality interaction with others and include needing friends, belonging to a group or larger community and the need to give and receive genuine love.



Here too there are challenges and deficiencies. Families today have very little time to be families! Parents are too busy, children are put into high pressure situations to perform and produce A’s. Genuine “face to face” friendships, “belonging” and connection is substituted by facebook.


The deficiency is evident in the performance of deviant sexual behavior resulting in growing abortion rates, unwanted pregnancies, and abandoned babies. Gangs start to become the viable alternative for these needs to be met. Marriages break down and divorce rates go up. Loneliness, social anxiety and depression set in, symptoms of deficient meanings and unmet core needs! What can a young mind do when it experiences these deficiencies? Suicide may just be the “logical” performance of this toxic meaning.  


“We have to learn to be our own best friends because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies.”

-Roderick Thorp, Rainbow Drive


4. Esteem needs: confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. Once a person feels “belonging”, the need to feel important, desired and accepted by others arises. It is the need to engage oneself to gain recognition and have an activity that give a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued; be it in a profession, job, vocation or hobby.


“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.”

-Abraham Maslow


Maslow cited two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, recognition, fame and prestige. The higher one is the need for self-respect, the need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom. DEFICIENCY of these needs can lead to inferiority, weakness and helplessness. Today we see the lower esteem needs being widely commercialized and politicized as “the higher need”. One is set on the quest to seek the “higher esteem need “by impressing and performing for others to earn esteem, competence and self respect. Unless a person can learn to give this “significant value” to himself, emptiness, isolation, and meaninglessness occurs. When this happens, physical, emotional and relational suicide is perhaps inevitable!   


“Classic economic theory, based as it is on an inadequate theory of human motivation, could be revolutionized by accepting the reality of higher human needs, including the impulse to self actualization and the love for the highest values.”
- Abraham Maslow


5. Self-actualization: creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, acceptance of reality, lack of prejudice. It’s the summit of the hierarchy of needs, the quest to reach one full potential. It is never fully reached; rather it is a life long quest.


Here one has acquired autonomy and freedom, is spontaneous and resilient, “reality” centered, humble, accepts self and others, stretches and takes risk, and contributes to the larger outcomes of life. The ego is got out of the way!  Some of these self- actualized individual studies by Maslow included Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Adams, William James, Albert Schweitzer, Benedict Spinoza, and Alduous Huxley.


 “If you really put a small value upon yourself,

rest assured that the world will not raise your price.”

-Author Unknown


Today we do have a choice and the opportunity to reverse this “Scary Trend” and starve off the culture of self destruction. . Perhaps the answer lies in reeducating, realigning and reintroducing these hierarchal needs back into the very foundations that were designed to make us better human persons. This “crisis” is an opportunity for us to make them the central driving force to unleash human potential once again, to give richer meanings and foster a society, culture and economy that is on a the quest of self actualization, both individually and collectively. The choice is up to you and me. Do choose well.   


“The symbol in Chinese for crisis is made up of two ideographs: one means danger, the other means opportunity. This symbol is a reminder that we can choose to turn a crisis into an opportunity or into a negative experience.” 

- Virginia Satir


Stay committed to transcending, transforming and transferring value back to your world!

Conrad Rozario is the founder of Alchemy Resources. He has more than 14 years experience in Sales, Marketing, Business Management and Talent Development. He holds a MBA from Gordon University, Illinois, is a Certified & Licensed Trainer of Neuro Semantics and NLP (ISNS, USA), a Master Practitioner in Neuro Semantics and NLP (ISNS, USA) and a Language and Behavior Profiling for Coaching Practitioner.  You can follow Conrad on facebook!