An Integral Understanding of Suicide

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Suicide has been in existence as long as self-aware consciousness has been in existence. The gift of self-aware consciousness included the capacity for humans to anticipate and understand the inevitability of their own deaths, and all gifts come with a price. In this series of videos, Dr. Keith Witt talks to Jeff Salzman and Corey deVos about bringing a more integral understanding and compassion to the topic of suicide.


I really appreciated the in-depth overview that Keith offered to Jeff and myself, as well as the tremendous care that he brings to this difficult subject. As someone who has lost friends and colleagues to addiction and suicide over the years, and someone who struggles with occasional depressive cycles while also recovering from a fair dose of trauma, I find Keith and Jeff’s wisdom so very helpful. Thank you as always for your love and guidance, Dr. Keith!


Thank you for this discussion. Some years back I came across Robert A Johnson’s wisdom in his books, especially He: Understanding Masculine Psychology. He made such a good point. A synopsis of it is this: those who wish to suicide need to kill their ego and not their life. It’s a daunting step, but losing a dysfunctional identity is such a better option. Egos can be rebuilt, remodeled, upgraded.
My recourse to some suicidal thinking in my late teens was to determine to live my life for God, by serving others. It was the right choice.


Dr Clare W Graves identified suicidal tendency as an evolutionary phenomenon associated with the emergence of Green (FS). He wrote (based on data from his nine year longitudinal developmental psychology study, the basis for the Spiral Dynamics book):

‘By the time the FS system is dominant in a personality, crime against the other person - crime against the other person’s self - is not found. I have not found it in FS personalities. Now I have found crime against the self. I have found them taking drugs to the point of hurting the self. I have found suicide - aggression against the self. Suicide, the data says, is a rather odd one. Suicide is highest in the FS system.’ Source: The Never Ending Quest, Cowan and Todorovic 2005, Page 341.

This is quite possibly why we are seeing an increase in suicides. Graves also wrote that Green values ‘deeply interpersonal penetration and interpersonal communication.’ Yet our social communications technology (developed by the individually themed Orange stage) offers only shallow, remote communication, devoid of real personal contact.


I’m grateful for this discussion of suicide from an Integral perspective, esp. since I myself have struggled with depression and suicidability for roughly 30 years.

Dr. Witt, Jeff and Corey offer a variety of wonderful perspectives in terms of how both the quadrants and structure stages, esp. moving through stages, can impact the tendency towards suicide.

I do think this broadcast overlooks a significant subset of this at-risk population, a subset to which I belong. These are people who have treatment-resistant depression. In my case, I have exhausted almost all of the medications available (save for those with high potential for serious side effects), have worked with several psychotherapists for approximately a third of this time (10 years) including currently, and have also spent 25 years working intensively with alternative modalities (cranial sacral, subtle energy work, meditation, acupuncture, etc.). Although I’ve made grudging, gradual progress over the years, I still never have what I would call a “good” day. Most of my days hold an enduring sense of struggle to keep my head above water. Some days I consider release from this life, to euphemize.

I believe it is inaccurate or inadequate to suggest that if people simply had the necessary resources (mostly LR and LL solutions), all the bases would be covered. (This is at least is a general message I personally take away from this broadcast.) Although, a lot, perhaps a majority of at-risk individuals might be thus able to avoid suicide (this is a good thing to be pursued, to be sure!), in many cases even in the best of circumstances we have inadequate treatments currently, and a subset of people is suffering daily torture.

I want to caution people in a position of authority from broadcasting and educatng others that if a suicidal person “just” did or had access to x, y, or z, their suicidability would be fixed. To use me as an example, this message overstates UR and LL efficaciousness of treatment and thus undermines the UL reality of some of the very people you are wanting to help. Frankly, it triggers in me a sense of alienation (which I know is not intended!)

I do not mean to dismiss all the wonderful understandings and suggestions these 2 broadcasts are offering. I guess my hope is that the perspectives and subpopulation I mention here would be also held in awareness and folded into the conversation.


Keith - Thanks for this much-needed article. I have already shared it with my community leaders who are discerning how to address/engage the topic of suicide because of recent occurences.
I appreciate your comments and the others who have written in response.

I have another question - or probably a request - will you write another article on Suicide and Conscious Death (perhaps it is a spectrum??) I am thinking of suicide as a “natural” end of life choice, when one has lived a life of purpose and full consciousness. I personally don’t want to become dependent on others if I am not able to care for myself. I think this is a different topic than the one you addressed - but one that will become of greater interest as us Baby Boomers age (in many places). I look forward to what you have to share on this option.


From what you wrote about yourself I gather you might not have explored the following treatment possibility in the UR. Please forgive me for asking this question, if you’ve already covered that form of depression treatment in your 30-year struggle. Have you heard of Dr Hoffer’s treatment of depression with Niacin (vitamin B3)? Just in case you have not and are interested in watching a brief video that will give you access to more information on the subject, this video would be a good start

I am very aware that providing unsolicited advice or solutions to people can act as a total turn off. So I hope you don’t interpret my response to your post as patronizingly imposing my help on you, making you feel worse. However, if you feel like you would have been better off without this unsolicited advice, I ask your forgiveness for this transgression.


Thank you, Rainweb, for your caring suggestion, caringly offered- I am grateful. I will certainly look into Dr. Hoffer’s niacin treatment…

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Being (perhaps) Integral in a not very Integral world, has been a source of great loneliness and disconnection for me. And being a woman makes it even worse, as my experience is that so many so-called Integral men are still suffering from the brainwashing of the Patriarchy/Dominator system. I have spent a lifetime being lonely, and was suicidal pretty much every single day for over 2 decades … until I spent 18 months having sessions with a modern day shaman who released 100s of dark entities from Past Lives and other dimensions etc. Over time, the vast majority of the depression lifted, and I have weeks at a time where I am running at neutral with the occasional bouts of happiness. But eventually I have to acknowledge that I am still bone-wearyingly lonely and disconnected. I dont have 1 single person in the town I live with, who is a good friend - and its not because I haven’t tried. I am highly functioning in this arena, but I just cant have normal boring meaningless relationships like most people seem to be capable of. My sense it that there must be plenty of integral hearted people who are in a similar position?? Also, does Integral philosophy take into account the concept of Entities and Wetiko etc? Or does it just relegate this to Purple or perhaps Green thinking??


greggfiller, I’m curious about whether you’ve tried ketamine therapy? I’ve read good things about its effectiveness for treatment-resistant depression. I’m curious about it because it is a powerful psychedelic which is being actively (and legally) used to treat depression in some clinics in the US, but I have never heard from anyone who tried this therapy personally. I’m asking because you mention having tried a wide range of therapies without success–this is not meant as advice.


famaroux, I am glad to hear you were helped by a shamanic approach. Although it’s not an area I’m actively following, I am quite sure there are integral approaches to shamanism out there. Psychedelic therapy and research has been having a renaissance for a while now, e.g. MDMA is on track to become a legal psychotherapeutic agent by about 2021, and there are clinics in the US offering ketamine for treatment-resistant depression.

As for your sense of isolation, I am sorry to hear that you don’t have anyone with similar interests where you live. In my own case the Internet was a great help when I was first getting into integral, in terms of finding friends with similar interests and inclinations. Over years I was able to make connections in the physical world that started out online.

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Hi Arthur,

Thanks for this response. I haven’t taken ketamine, but I have been researching it. It isn’t FDA approved yet as an anti-depressant. It’s all the rave with some of the well-to-do here in LA, where a handful of clinics offer it, intervenously. Each treatment is very expensive. Not certain how they do it legally- maybe a scrip. I read an article 2 days ago about some people self-administering it in pill form. That technique can be quite dangerous, it said.

The kicker for me regarding ketamine is something I read a few months ago in an article: people get astonishing and immediate effects/ relief from their depression- for about 3 weeks. Then the drug inevitably loses all of its effectiveness, and the person returns to their previous state.

A couple of larger drug companies (like Proctor & Gamble) are currently developing a ketamine-based antidepressant.

I am currently micro dsing (aced) which is having a gradual and gentle positive effect over time. I find it works much differently than antidepressants, which are like a crude additive and stimulant to the body that you have to take continually (MDing does not have a reality-altering effect when you take it); antidepressants obviously help some people’s condition, but in my case always made me feel abnormal or doped, not myself. MDing works very much like homeopathy (something I did constitutionally for years) in my experience- very clean and stimulating the body’s natural healing mechanisms.


Thanks for responding Arthur :wink: and yes I get more interesting connections online. But humans are physical kinaesthetic beings that need REGULAR connection to actually feel connected and supported. Ah well, the journey continues…


greggfiller, interesting, thanks. I’m glad microdosing is having positive effects for you. As for ketamine, I suspect clinics are able to use it as a depression treatment through off-label use, since it is already approved for medical use in other contexts. It seems to me that “astonishing and immediate effects” that last 3 weeks from one treatment would be AMAZING. The side-effect of experiencing an extremely interesting state of consciousness for a short time might be worth it. Repeated applications every 3 weeks or so would be great for people who can afford it. “Very expensive” is an unfortunate quality.

famaroux, yes to the need for embodied physical connection! In my case I usually had a few good friends in close proximity, and in addition found people online I could connect to in other (and in some senses deeper) ways. It became a priority for me to meet good online friends in person whenever possible.

Thanks for that share famaroux. I identify with the struggle of having an intergral outlook in a non integral world. Every now and then I chat to or watch an integral person and I just feel so much of my brain switch on. I can actually enjoy non-integral people more if I get some of what I need. Like green for example, endless drives me a bit mad their inability to accept any kind of hierarchy or solid distinction, but with some integral balance I can appreciate more the truth they have.

Also your explorations with shamanism, entites, perhaps energy work etc? I also find of great interest. I’ve heard of such things in the integral world but only in a dry manner. Simple symbols, Jungian archetypes in a manner that doesn’t seem to fully appreciate Jung and just vague references to the sublte body.

And this discussion, is making think of a post I want to consider. What might be an integral therapy. I’ve been struggling to find a new therapist of late, and I feel as though what I often bump up against is a green mindset. It only deals with subjectivity and doesn’t seem to deal with rock solid judgements amongst of other things.

And I second Arthur’s post. Sorry to hear about your struggles but also want to appreciate your strength for speaking your truth. Personally I hope to make some integral friends even if it’s only through skype, zoom is a great platform for group chats these days and connection seems to be a big part of healing mental health. You have had any success with that?


Lovely to hear from you LionLamb - nice juxtaposition of opposites in your name :wink:

Happy to chat on Zoom or Skype - I live in Australia AEST zone - and my skype name is famaroux.
Zoom seems to be better quality all round but not quite so easy to just get on a call .

Oh thankyou. Obvious reference to Jesus Christ in my name :), although it’s somewhat tongue in cheek.

Zoom is great I only just discovered it. I’ve been wondering if anyone will organise some meetings on this forum for chit chats.

I’m in England so quite the gap in timezones but that’s never stopped me before. I’ll add you and PM my skype name, I kinda trust this forum but feel iffy about having my personal details online :).

Thank you Gregg, for your perception of my suggestion. If you chose to follow any regimen like taking niacin etc., I would greatly appreciate, if you could share your successes or failures with me.

Hi famaroux,

below is a link to Wilber’s essay on subtle energies. It’s pretty long and detailed but if you can work your way through it, it could be pretty enlightening. The subtle domain and the subtle body, which I call the emotional body, is a very integral part of the AQAL-integral worldview. I have come to call Wilber’s map “AQAL-integral” to distinguish it from many people’s use of the term “integral”. More often than not, looking at them from an AQAL-integral perspective it becomes obvious that they might have a cognitive understanding of AQAL-integral but the centers of gravity of their self-systems are at an orange or green altitude. In my experience, without developing one’s subtle body through therapy, shadow-integration, body work, bioenergtics, shamanic work etc, nobody develops an embodied understanding of AQAL-integral. In fact, in his earlier writings Wilber stresses that often in order to grow, we need to regress in the name of progress. We need to include, what we dissociated from in the process of our upbringing, which led to shadow integration work as a corner stone of an AQAL-integral life practice.

Having written all this, I hope you did not perceive this as too dry or even patronizing. I know very well how lonely it feels to be surrounded by people who have no interest in the AQAL-integral perspective. And I know how easy it is for me to contract into a depressive inner conversation of being stuck in a hostile universe with no right to exsit, unable to connect in any meaningful way to people and feeling stupid for not being able to get out of this state and approach people.

The only way I have found to deal with this kind of contraction into a possibly suicidal state is to practice relaxing into what Pema Chödrön calls the “groundlessness of my own existence” i.e. the causal domain of my causal body and suspending any reaction to experiencing this state. Neither trying to run into distractive busyness, nor contracting into autistic withdrawal, both of which I tend to do automatically, will do any good. In fact, it will simply prolong my stuckness in that state. So, over decades I’ve slowly learned to simply be with that state, to suspend any fight or flight reaction to it and when I succeed in simply being with that state and simply telling the truth about it, a deep sadness about the suffering and pain of living in samsara will show up, that state will leave and freedom and deep compassion will show up in my awareness space.

When I share my experience with people and instead of just getting it, they tell me how they “mastered” this situation in their lives, I feel not gotten, rejected, and lectured, and I will close down. Therefore I do hope that you don’t experience my post as lecturing or imposing an unsolicited solution on ypur loneliness and pain, in order to avoid being touched and moved by you and your experience. I am moved and touched by what you wrote and this is my best response.

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