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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings


Terminating a process

During the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years, my dad sent me to summer school to fill my time while he and my stepmom worked and my youngest sister was in daycare. It was then that I was introduced to a basic computer programing course in which I learned how to terminate a process.

Admittedly, my rudimentary software skills weren’t anything to brag about. Still, I understood that if application software with which I worked presented a seemingly unsolvable problem, I could simply press Ctrl+Alt+Del to end the function.

According to one source:

Control-Alt-Delete (often abbreviated to Ctrl+Alt+Del and sometimes called the ‘three-finger salute’ or ‘Security Keys’) is a computer keyboard command on IBM PC compatible computers, invoked by pressing the Delete key while holding the Control and Alt keys,” and is used for “ending a Windows session or killing a frozen application.

Regarding the current post, Ctrl+Alt+Del serves as a double entendre—a word or phrase that is open to two interpretations, one of which is usually risqué. Not only does the command feature relate to the termination of an application, it is also used in reference to suicide.

Regarding this topic, in a blogpost entitled Self-Image, Part 2, I stated, “The first time I recall truly considering suicide was at around nine-years-old, in third grade.” As a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) practitioner, I don’t shy from discussing self-termination.

Whether it regards terminating a computer process or the process of life, I find utility in examining Ctrl+Alt+Del as a topic. For those unwilling to contemplate this matter, you are welcome to terminate the process of continuing forward with reading this post.

Command features

In a blogpost entitled Mind Tricks, “I stated, “Not to oversimplify matters, I think it’s important to note that the mind is not the same thing as the brain. Whereas the brain is the hardware, the mind relates to software.”

In this way, Ctrl+Alt+Del as a means to terminate a software issue on a computer relates to a useful command feature for achieving an outcome. However, where suicide is concerned, behavior related to killing the application of unhealthy thoughts or beliefs may not be an appropriate solution.

From time to time, I work with clients who experience suicidal ideation (ideas). Mostly, I use REBT to address the irrational beliefs which serve as unhealthy, unhelpful, unpleasant, or unproductive command features which result in the decision to self-terminate.

Aside from believing that one should, must, or ought to perform at a certain level, be treated in a particular way, or experience a life absent of suffering, I find that people self-disturb by speaking to themselves in harsh ways they may never use with others. Personally, I know all too well how this occurs.

Rather than providing private examples or case content from my clients, I think illustration from the song “Wings,” by rapper Vic Mensa, can provide clarity related to harmful command features a person who contemplates suicide may use. Mensa states:

The voices in my head keep talking, I don’t wanna listen. “You’ll never be good enough, nigga, you never was. Nobody fucking needs you, you should just jump off the bridge. You hurt everyone around you, you impossible to love. I don’t want you to live. I wish you were fucking dead. I wish you were never born, we would all be better for it. I don’t love you, I don’t like you, like a fucking metaphor. Fuck every song you ever done! You lie to everyone and ask them to tell the truth when that’s something you never done. You’re a fucking embarrassment, how dare you win, nigga? You let the devil in. You’re still a drug addict, you’re nothing without your medicine. Go and run to your sedatives. You can’t run forever, Vic. Climb the tallest building and spread your wings.”

In his song “Suicide,” rapper Jaysaun also states:

Ya hear voices in ya head and you don’t know if you alive or you dead. You been thinkin’ ‘bout a bullet in the side of ya head, but instead you stay home and you don’t come outta’ bed. But you don’t even sleep a little bit, you sleep when you dead. You stressed out, manically depressed and you fed. So, don’t push you, ‘cause you on the edge of the ledge. And, umm, go ahead and take ya own last breath, but ain’t no comin’ back from death!

The similar theme of voices in one’s head—command features—yields analogous outcomes for the characters in the songs of both Mensa and Jaysaun. For some people, the only perceivable solution to malfunctioning mental software is suicide.

While it isn’t unusual for the average person to experience these thoughts and beliefs at some point in life, there are some people who chronically encounter command features comparable to those outlined by Mensa. If left unaddressed, it’s a matter of when and not if some people will select Ctrl+Alt+Del.

Addressing suicide

For those who are personally unfamiliar with the barrage of self-defeating mental conversations which impact the emotional and behavioral consequences that lead to suicide, it may be difficult to understand a person’s decision to self-delete. Herein, I hope to clear up some misconceptions.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard ill-informed statements from people who seemingly cannot fathom what would lead a person to conclude that suicide is a reasonable option. Consider the following remarks and my response to them:

· People who are suicidal want to die.

Not everyone who is actively suicidal actually wants to die. Remember Mensa’s line, “The voices in my head keep talking, I don’t wanna listen,” and Jaysaun’s admission, “You been thinkin’ ‘bout a bullet in the side of ya head, but instead you stay home and you don’t come outta’ bed.”

People may contend with suicidal ideation for years before ever taking the steps to complete suicide. I suppose that many individuals simply want whatever situation they’re experiencing to end and this doesn’t necessarily mean they want life itself to end.

· Suicide is never the answer.

Prima facie, this is clearly an invalid claim. Some people definitely choose suicide as an answer to (a) problem(s). Whether or not suicide is the “right” or “healthy” answer is another matter altogether, and it largely depends on one’s own moral principles as how suicide is perceived.

Recently, I’ve heard grumblings from people who oppose Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) program. Per one source, “In June 2016, the Parliament of Canada passed federal legislation that allows eligible Canadian adults to request medical assistance in dying.”

Though the MAID program isn’t authorized on a federal level in the United States (U.S.), one source claims medically assisted suicide is apparently practiced in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico.

For now, I will reserve my opinion regarding such programs. The only point I’m making herein is that it isn’t factual to claim that suicide is “never” the answer, because it clearly sometimes is the solution for some people in Canada and parts of the U.S.

· Talking about suicide encourages suicide attempts.

This is incorrect. Speaking about suicide affords an opportunity for communication. If simply talking about the matter inspired people to commit suicide, I suspect there would be no more funding for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Likewise, I wouldn’t discuss suicide with clients if I thought doing so was a form of encouragement towards taking their own lives. What I’ve come to realize is that talking about suicidal ideation tends to reduce ideas about suicide, not increase them.

· Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

While I concur that suicide is a permanent resolution, I disagree about the “temporary” nature of a person’s problem. As mentioned herein, I began experiencing suicidal ideation when in elementary school.

This problem has remained as background noise within my mind since then, intensified by some experiences from my military service. It is because I realize that this problem is ongoing that I’ve come to understand that my level of frustration tolerance has resulted in a solution other than suicide.

While I don’t like or love that thoughts of suicide exist within me, I can tolerate and accept that the nonsense I sometimes tell myself doesn’t need to serve as command functions. As such, I don’t need to seek a permanent solution to a chronic problem.

· Only crazy people commit suicide.

There is a difference between mental illness (a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior) and mental insanity (mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior).

The label “crazy” is a euphemism for a person who has been deemed mentally insane. Per one source, “It is hard to determine legal insanity, and even harder to successfully defend it in court.”

On the other hand, and according to one source, “More than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness.” A separate source claims 1 in 4.

At any rate, there aren’t nearly as many mentally insane people in the U.S. as there are individuals with mental illness. Likewise, not everyone with mental disorders attempts or even completes suicide.

Though perhaps an unpopular opinion, not every person who commits suicide has mental illness. What is more, not everyone who has been declared mentally insane experiences suicidal ideation.

· All suicide is preventable.

Though mental, emotional, and behavioral health practitioners may try to help—and despite the diligent efforts from legal entities, law enforcing agencies, crisis workers, family members, loved ones, friends, and others—not all suicide deaths are preventable.

· Suicide is a selfish act.

Person X could alternatively conclude that it is a “selfish” act to expect that others shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to commit suicide, simply because person Y doesn’t want her to. Given these competing interests, whose option is considered morally superior?

Is it selfish—lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure—for person X to rationally conclude that suicide is a preferred option to living with an incurable ailment? Must person X suffer solely because person Y doesn’t want person X to die by suicide?

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have more questions than solutions. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s entirely helpful to needlessly shame person X who is likely suffering beyond person Y’s comprehension, is it?

· People who threaten suicide are just seeking attention.

While some people may allude to suicide as a form of attention-seeking, not all people contemplating suicide are dingo so. I think it’s important to take every instance seriously.

If you will, forgive me an anecdote. Many years ago, a friend of mine was studying for a nursing exam. Her brother-in-law contacted her and expressed suicidal ideation.

Because my friend didn’t take the outcry seriously, and her study session was considered to be more important at the time, she merely shrugged of the young man’s confession about wanting to Ctrl+Alt+Del. My friend wound up passing her exam and her brother-in-law was successful at taking his own life later that week.

While the brother-in-law’s behavior was his own responsibility, one can imagine what a difficult time my friend went through following the event. Not everyone who threatens or simply discusses suicide is seeking attention, as some people are quite serious.

· Suicide is an unforgivable sin.

When I was a religiously-minded person, I heard this shaming technique used as a preventative strategy regarding suicide. I suppose the threat of eternal damnation may have saved someone’s life at one point or another.

However, for those who actually read scripture, the only unforgivable sin I found listed in the Bible was Mark 3:28-29, which states, “28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”

If you disagree, take that up with your deity. As my late stepmom used to say, “I didn’t write the book and it’s a good thing I didn’t.”

· People who commit suicide are weak.

I can’t say with any certainty, though I imagine it takes a significant amount of courage to complete suicide using some methods people employ. While I’m not glorifying their actions, I don’t personally consider these individuals to be powerless.

They literally take control of their lives through an effective means to an end. You may consider that “weak,” as we can simply agree to disagree on this one.

· Suicide isn’t a rational conclusion.

Something that is rational is based on or in accordance with reason or logic. Though others may disagree with the following logical syllogisms, a person contemplating suicide may reason:


Premise 1: All people are self-determined and autonomous actors.

Premise 2: John Doe is a person.

Conclusion: Therefore, John Doe is a self-determined and autonomous actor.


Major premise: If all self-determined and autonomous people should have the right to choose the time and manner of their death, then any suicidal behavior must be supported.

Minor premise: John Doe is a self-determined and autonomous person who should have the right to choose the time and manner of his death.

Conclusion: Consequently, John Doe’s suicidal behavior must be supported.

Describing a patient (a lawyer diagnosed with cancer) in an emergency department who made a rational argument for suicide, one physician relayed the now-deceased patient’s sentiment as follows:

“Doc, I have been a lawyer since before you were born, and I know I am being held here due to the fear my profession has instilled in your profession, with its fear of malpractice suits and what not. But don’t you worry, that is why every human is given the right to defend them self no matter what, and I will die happier knowing I defended my right to die doing what I love to the very end”.

Again, people may disagree with the morality (i.e., good, bad, right, wrong, etc.) pertaining to such logic. However, these are well-reasoned (rational) conclusions—even if they do not reflect my personal belief or principles, or the position of Hollings Therapy, LLC.

Noteworthy, in a 1960 interview, REBT originator, Albert Ellis, stated:

If someone upholds the thesis that everyone in the world might just as well commit suicide or that everyone should devote his entire life to mystical mumbo-jumbo, I again will uphold his right to believe and preach this doctrine. This is his value system; and, for better or worse, he has a right to it.

A controversial topic within the mental health field in the U.S., self-determination and autonomy are highly valued in certain regards. As an example, adults are said to maintain the expressed right to permanently alter sex-presenting characteristics and gender expression.

However, when it comes to suicidality— the risk of suicide, usually indicated by suicidal ideation or intent, especially as evident in the presence of a well-elaborated suicidal plan—this matter is fiercely disputed. What makes transitioning from one sex/gender acceptable though transitioning from life to death unacceptable?

As previously stated, I don’t have the answers. I’m not making declarative statements in this regard. Rather, I think that if self-determination and autonomy are to be selectively valued, there may be room for critique concerning whose values are to be upheld.


As a young child, I began experiencing suicidal ideation. Not long afterwards, and clearly not having acted on impulse, I learned the basics of how to program computer software.

As an REBT practitioner who works solely with clients via telehealth platforms, I now use electronic software to assist people with the product of their self-disturbing mental software. Unhealthy command features don’t need to serve as the be-all, end-all rigid demands people have to obey.

Herein, I’ve provided examples from Vic Mensa and Jaysaun to illustrate how a person may choose the Ctrl+Alt+Del function for one’s life. Additionally, I’ve addressed a number of common misconceptions related to suicide.

Ultimately, I try not to make decisions for the clients with whom I work. Although, there are various polices within the state of Texas which I must obey.

Therefore, if I suspect that a client is an imminent risk to self, I take the required steps to promote safety. As well, for those individuals within the U.S. who have come across this blogpost and who are seeing resources related to suicide prevention, I offer the following information from the National Institute of Mental Health:

Call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 (para ayuda en español, llame al 988). The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call 911 in life-threatening situations. If you are worried about a friend’s social media updates, you can contact safety teams at the social media company. They will reach out to connect the person with the help they need.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Service members and Veterans in crisis, as well as their family members and friends, with qualified Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text messaging service. Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone or send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder. You can also start a confidential online chat session at Veterans Crisis Chat.

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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