“The Cup Analogy” of Emotional Pain

There is a cup of water sitting on a table. It is so full, it is rounded at the top. One or two drops of water are added to the cup and it spills over. What caused the water to spill? We want to blame the last one or two drops, but in an empty cup it would not spill. It was not the water in the cup prior to the drops being added, because if left alone, it would not have spilled. It was a combination of all the drops of water in the cup that came before and the last one or two drops that caused the water to spill. In a person’s life, the water in the cup is symbolic of all the hurt, pain, shame, humiliation, and loss not dealt with along the way. The last couple of drops symbolize the “trigger events”, “the last straw”, the event or situation that preceded the final act of taking one’s own life.
Often we want to blame the trigger event, but this does not make sense to us. Like the water, these events all by them selves would not cause someone to end their life. It is the combination of everything in that person’s life not dealt with and the last one or two things that caused our loved ones to lose hope. For us, we must find a way to pour out the water along the way. This may be through talking it out, writing it out, sometimes yelling it out, whatever works for you. We must learn to deal with our pain in a way our loved ones could not.
This analogy does not give us the concrete answer many of us are looking for, but I know it made sense for me and has been helpful for many survivors. It allowed me to let go of the search for “why”, and to find a different way of dealing with my pain.

                    —Tracy T. Dean, M.S


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