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Is it possible to experience the end of one's own life?

In most cultures, suicide is regarded as an irrational act, in other societies it is unknown, yet strangely enough, in some highly-civilized countries it figures prominently, and its incidence rate continues to increase. Although rationalized by intellectuals, its possible emergence remains somewhat far-fetched, unexplainable, and does not seem to conform to any established patterns. To many, it is difficult to imagine that someone could have been so desperate, discouraged and unrealistic as to do it. Suicide is an ultimate, unrepeatable, irreversible gesture. Relatives, friends and doctors alike feel its aggressive impact, and its frightening connotation, one may speculate, could have been, at least in part, the intention of the victim too.

As Jean-Paul Sartre puts it in L'Etre et le neant: "With a little bit of imagination I could see my own corpse, it is not so difficult as it seems, yet, in fact I would see myself through my own eyes. ... I should realize ... that I will never exist at all, that I will never hear, and that life will continue for others ... It is impossible, therefore, that this should be my death ..."

The experience of one's own death is rooted in the depths of each human being. It is no wonder that such an intimate experience is often wrapped in silence since there are many other fundamental psychological phenomena (such as the "lived body" or the corporeal kinesthetic feeling), which, in their turn, remain hidden and quiet, until some event, or pathology, brings them to the foreground of one's existence.

When a person starts thinking of death, his consciousness divides between a space of reality and a space of non-reality. It is the latter that the individual tries to transform into a conceptual, virtual space, in an attempt to integrate the notion of non-being with the conscience of the living being. However, conscience is not synonymous with experience. Taking cognizance of a possible demise barely resembles reverie, or the imagining of the state of non-being. To the living subject, death is something imposed from the outside, it is an exogenous phenomenon, against which many rebel, a rebellion that the feeling of injustice seems to trigger.

It is well-known that a child does not have a representation of death. Only about the age of 10 does the notion of absence, or of nothingness, get a contour. The evolution of this concept organizes around two main axes: on the one hand, the perception of an absence, on the other hand, its persistence in time. This is a terribly difficult problem for the child to grasp, because he has not yet developed the consciousness of the imperceptible, that is, the concept of non-being. Four main stages have been identified in the process by means of which one acquires death consciousness.

The first stage, which lasts until the age of 12, is one of total misunderstanding, which results in apparent indifference. Most frequently, the child understands death as an abandonment, yet, not as an irreversible, finalized process.

The feeling that something comes to an end and/or disappears marks the second stage. It is a mythical perception of death, understood as a reversal of the real. To the 4-6 year-old child, death is a temporary and reversible process that prolongs in the future the possibilities of reintegrating the dead person in the present reality. Therefore, the life-death couple is not seen as a contradiction: truly, the two states are different, yet, in no case are they opposed to each other, or menacing, since either of them may be reversed.

The concept of death begins to get more concrete contours between the age of 6 to 9. It is the age of "infantile realism," associated with such concrete representations as the cemetery, the tomb, the corpse, or the skeleton. The child realizes that the person is dead, yet he remains, for a while, within the space and time of the child, though unable to speak, move, or breathe. The deceased person, sometimes absent, rigid, at other times gone away, or sick, remains somewhere in the conscience of the child as someone who has chosen another way of living. At this age, the child is capable of making the first generalization about death--all men are mortal, however, in his conscience, the end of life transforms into the element of a unitary biological cycle, which all human beings are subjected to.

After this stage of accepting his earthly destiny, between the age of 9 and 11 the child begins to fear death. The idea that mortality applies to his own life comes into his mind now. Frequently, in order to explain death and its consequences, the child imaginatively produces such intermediary representations, as the phantom, itself a transitional object, symbolizing an "already dead" person, yet still living, which has fascinated generations of young people. Consequently, the child begins to understand the irreversibility of death and experiences the anxiety, the suffering and the pain caused by the separation from, and the loss of those whom he used to be attached to, and he may even feel responsible for someone's death.

Factors of the immediate environment also contribute to the child's conceptualization of death; they may have a strong exogenous and evoking effect for the psyche of the child and the adolescent. The way in which the family talk, in his presence, about death, or the personal understanding the child gains from his own experience of the death of close relatives, may capture and stimulate his imagination, in his effort to interpret death and its consequences.

The adolescent becomes aware of the fact that the idea of mortality applies to his own destiny too, which Kirkegaard blames for bringing about existential spleen. It is in this ambiance of strong psychic tensions that the adolescent gets access to the symbolism of death, which philosophical, ethical, metaphysical, religious interpretations only enhance, and whose significations he then projects onto his own life. Adolescents have a clear understanding of the irreversibility of death, and that is why, for them, mourning is real, and identical to the one experienced by the adult person. The adolescent with a terminal or chronic disease, forced to directly confront the idea of death, bitterly resents life's finitude. The acceptance of the approaching end, when life has not yet begun in earnest, is a mental exercise which flatly contradicts instinct and the survival program. That is why there are fewer suicides among cancerous adolescents than among elderly people suffering from similarly serious maladies.

Like adolescents, adults experience not only the anxiety of being separated from their beloved ones, but also fear, pain and suffering, in general. Examining those suffering from lethal illnesses, Elisabeth Kubler Ross identified 5 stages in the process of accepting the irreversible end, namely:

* negation (the obstinate refusal to accepting one's approaching death);

* anger;

* the negotiation stage, when one desperately searches for the meaning of his life;

* despair and depression, accompanied by sadness, which prepares him for the acceptance of his own death, and

* the final acceptance, often accompanied by a sort of emotional detachment toward one's own person and entourage.

Yet, what is the attitude toward death of the self-murderer, what is his state of mind while planning his own death project? The period of latency which precedes the self-destructive gesture--the raptus, is often referred to, in clinical diagnoses, as depression, or as de-structuring or narrowing of consciousness.

The death caused by the suicidal act is an ambiguous one, because the participant in this act does not look upon it as an exogenous fact, but "in-corporates" it, thus breaking the laws according to which he has been created. The death that the suicide desires for himself is thought of, and imagined as belonging more to his own body which, in the case of the melancholy individual, becomes a body-object. The death of the subject, in the case of the melancholy individual, leads to a final unifying synthesis of the body-object with his own person, which thus proves capable of carrying out an action.

In fact, the melancholy individual often considers himself as a living dead, this experience being present in the first level of the Cotard syndrome. However, most suicides belong to the category of the desperate individuals, no matter what the cause, or the causes, which have triggered despair, either as a psychic state imposed on the subject who experiences it, or as an unbearable weight to which the subject inevitably draws near, yet not progressively, because, in despair, one falls suddenly, unexpectedly, as from the edge of the precipice. As Paul Claudel puts it in Positions etprepositions: "We do not have wings, yet we have enough strength to fall"--as if the will to fall were identical to the weakening of the will to live. The suicide plunges into a bottomless pit, which grows deeper and deeper, every time he attempts to understand it, a pit which opens under his being, and inside it, once he falls prey to despair. Under the overwhelming weight of its ponderousness, despair creates its own moral dimension. From fall to fall, the suicide experiences it as an ever-heavier substance, whose mass burdens with his errors. Deprived of belief and love, he may give up the hope that he will be able to break loose.

What meaning may the act, the action, and the summation of one's behaviors take on, since, in the end, they convert the living into the non-living?

While death is absurd to living beings, the suicide's attempts assign a final meaning to it, very often represented by the aggression directed to himself, as he sometimes proves unable to direct it towards others. This way, self-aggression is in continuity with the "global" being of the suicide, the autolytic behavior cannot always be explained by its immediate causes, although it does not position itself outside circumstances.

Suicide also takes on the aspect of a symbol, a gestural expression of the inner language, often hardly suspected even by those that are very close to the subject. The suicide plays in a fatal way, a double role, as actor and as spectator, at the same time.

The suicide has an unusual perception of time. Minkowsky noticed that, for the suicide, the future disappears and is identified with nothingness, the indeterminate, emptiness. Living time dies! Past time condenses and the global time diminishes. As Henry Ey puts it, "Death anxiety is the porch toward open time."

In the life of people and communities there are many strange things: quarrel, hate, conflicts generated by trivialities, useless waste and self-destructive impulses. People enlarge their sphere of action by doing wrong to others, they waste time and energy to shorten this already too short break from oblivion which we call "life." Many, finding nothing to destroy, or failing in their attempts, turn their weapons upon themselves.

Such empirical observations led Freud to formulate the theory of the self-destructive impulse which he called "death instinct," implying that from the beginning there has been, in all of us, self-destructive impulses which materialize in suicide only in exceptional cases, when many circumstances and factors combine to make it possible. These life and death instincts--let us call them "constructive and destructive tendencies of personality"--are in constant conflict and interaction, like the opposing forces conceptualized by physics, biology, and chemistry. To create and to destroy, to build and to tear down, the anabolism and catabolism of personality, are not at all inferior to the cellular ones--the two directions in which the same type of energy can unfold.

These forces, initially directed inwards and connected to the intimate problems of the self, tend to eternalize continuously, to focalize on other objects from the environment. As long as this subtle balance is maintained and controlled, it results in growth, personal development, and social integration. An incomplete externalization of self-destruction, as well as of the constructiveness which we postulate we are born with, result in lack of development. Instead of dealing with people, such subjects avoid them. Instead of fighting the enemy, these people fight themselves. Instead of making friends, enjoying music or creating something, these people love themselves only. Hate and love are emotional equivalents for the constructive and the destructive tendencies.

However, no one develops so fully as to completely free himself from the call of destructive tendencies. Indeed, one could say that the phenomena of life, the behaviors specific to various individuals express the result of the evaluations one carries out in order to control these conflictual elements. Some balance, often unstable, is thus achieved and preserved until new environmental factors disturb it and generate their re-arrangement, with a finality that is most likely different from the original state.

Freud made it a point that the manifestations of the self-destructive instinct are never clearly visible--firstly, because they externalize by means of the process of life itself, and secondly, because they neutralize themselves in the process of existence. Self-destruction, in the operational sense, is the result of turning the self-destructive tendencies towards the original object. As a rule, it is not exactly the original object, because the object of the re-directed aggression to the self is the body, and because part of the body may become a substitute for the body, this partial suicide is a way of embezzling the total suicide--except for the situation when that part of the body is a vital one: then the suicide turns real.

On this basis, we can understand why some people commit suicide quickly, others slowly, while still others do not commit it all, why some of them contribute to their own death, and others resist courageously the external attacks on their lives, to which some people immediately succumb. Many of these processes are unconscious and automatic, so that, at first sight, identifying the details of the negotiation and of the compromise between the life instinct and the death instinct seems to be an impossible task.

Common suicide features

Of the many aspects of the suicide, there are 10 mutual features to be highlighted, described by Shneidman, in Definition of suicide, and they can be found in each and every category of people who commit the autolytic act.

1. The main purpose of the suicidal act is to seek a solution.

Suicide is never a random, useless or pointless act. It represents a path towards solving a problem, a dilemma, a difficulty, a crisis situation. The suicide has got an intrinsic, inexorable meaning. It is an answer--unfortunately, the solely available--to the question: "How could I escape this unbearable state?" The fear which narrows down the spectrum of the possible answers leads towards this unique option.

2. The main aim of suicide is the ceasing of consciousness.

The suicide evolves towards different targets at the same time, in an ambivalent manner. What he seeks for is the solution to his problems, but he simultaneously tends to put an end to the flow of consciousness.

3. The common stimulus in suicide is the unbearable psychological pain.

Every individual normally tends to avoid pain, be it physical or psychological. Pain is the enemy of life, and when the former does not originate in Soma, but in Psyche, psychological pain becomes a "meta-pain," that is the pain of re-feeling pain.

4. The common stressor in suicide is embodied in frustrated psychological needs.

Every suicide considers the suicidal behavior as a very logical one, derived from the condition required by the underlying motivation. Ludwing von Bertalanffy, insisting that self-destruction is closely related to the world of pagan symbols which are typical for any man, claims that "[m]an kills himself because his life or his career have taken the wrong path, he does not act because his biological existence is threatened, but he is pushed on by a quasi-motivation fueled by the symbolic psychological need to be, and to remain significant."

5. The common feeling in suicide is that of hopelessness-desperation.

Unlike the beginning of life, when stimulation, continuously generated by curiosity and discovery, prevails, adulthood also brings the necessity of providing life solutions, replete with responsibility. The lack of hope and the feeling of guilt derive from the far too greater burden with which this responsibility endows the individual. The common expression of this feeling could be: "I can't do anything about it--except for the suicide--and there is no one who could help me."

If, at the beginning of the century, psycho-analytical theories provided explanations through a retro-projected aggressiveness, or "reversed crime," contemporary suicidology considers that other abysmal emotions stand for a better explanation of autolysis: shame, guilt, despair, helpless dependence.

6. Ambivalence is the common suicidal inner attitude.

In line with Freud's statement that "[w]e can simultaneously wish for and reject a thing," the suicide's persona reunites at least two tendencies: that of selfdestruction and that of self-preservation.

7. Constriction is the common suicidal cognition.

Suicide can also be apprehended as a more or less lasting narrowing of effect and cognition. A sort of tunneling emerges, a focalization of the spectrum of options usually available in the individual's conscience, as long as his thought is not seized by the dichotomal abyss of solving the problems according to the "All or nothing!" motto.

8. Escapism is the common suicidal action.

Aggression is a means of deliberately escaping from a stressing situation, an escape which has a different meaning from that of fleeing, the latter being a reaction of defense. Suicide is a final egression, a ceasing of the functioning of reality for the individual.

9. The communication of intention is the interpersonal common act.

In a great number of deaths through suicide, "psychological autopsy" reveals the presence of clear hints of the acts which were to be achieved. The suicide's ambivalence determines the conscious or unconscious emission of signals of desperation, helplessness, panic, etc. "The suicide's drama" is played by at least two characters, which make a dyadic relationship.

It is said that acknowledging the common interpersonal act of suicide is represented neither by hostility nor anger, but by a failed attempt to communicate with "the other."

10. The individual's habitual patterns of reactions constitute the common aspect of suicidal consistency.

The suicidal behavior resides in the prolongation of the suicide's personality traits. The same constant of the inability of solving life problems, of the inadequate reaction to stress is found.

At a closer look, these traits could be identified in the suicide's adolescence or youth. The 20 year-old Cesare Pavese used to write down in his diary: "No words. Just the fact ... I will cease to write!"

The three components of suicide

First of all, suicide is murder. In German, the word is literally translated as murdering oneself (Selbstmord), and in all early linguistic equivalents, the idea of murder is there. However, suicide is the crime a murderer commits onto himself as a murderer; it is a murder in which the murderer and the victim are one and the same. We know that the reasons for murder vary a lot, and so do the reasons for wanting to be murdered--which is not such an absurd idea as it may sound, taking into account that a suicide involves a self surrendering to murder and seemingly willing to act as such, and that is why the reasons for this awkward surrender need to be unveiled.

If we are to imagine a battlefield on which a wounded soldier is lying in much pain and he is begging to be killed, we will realize that the murderer's feelings differ according to who he himself is: a friend or an enemy of the wounded. Conversely, the feelings of the man who wants to be killed--by having someone put an end to his agony --are the same in both cases.

There are suicides in which there is a contributing factor which is stronger than others. We can see people intending to commit suicide, but who cannot go through with this murder against themselves. They, for instance, jump in front of the train, or, like Saul or Brutus, beg their armed soldiers to do it for them.

It is likely that no suicide comes to completion unless, apart from the desire of killing and being killed, the suicidal individual is willing to die; that willingness is related to motivational factors and desires he is both aware, and unaware of. Many individuals, despite the violence of the attack on oneself and the corresponding surrender--surprisingly so--do not appear to be willing to die, which explains why potentially suicidal people beg to have their lives saved while being in the emergency room. Since dying and having someone kill you have the same finality with regards to passing away, one might come to the conclusion that, "if you want to kill yourself, or if you feel so troubled by something that you wish to be killed, then you certainly want to die," but real life examples show that this is not always the case. Killing and being killed imply violent acts, while dying is related to surrendering your own life and your own happiness. In the autolytic attempt, the desire to die may or may not be present, or may appear only in various degrees, as Shneidman suggests in his concepts of cessation, termination, interruption, and continuation. Freud has it that instincts are never a conscious act and that we should not mistake the death instinct for the desire to die, and the life instinct for the desire to live. Stengel and others insist that a certain degree of theatrical act is always to be found in the drama of suicide, which is played like a childish and unrealistic board game, namely that "this will not really happen, although I am doing it," "I am not doing it to put an end to everything, but to make everything visible," "I am merely showing my suffering," "I am dramatizing my need for help." These feelings represent the desire to live, despite the actions which seem to show the desire to die.

That is why suicide must be taken into account as a special kind of death, consisting of three fundamental internal elements--to die, to be killed, and to kill--and many shaping elements, each of them being a mixture of conscious and unconscious motivational interactions. That which we call suicide is the individual's attempt to kill life or to save life, or maybe an attempt to avoid a much scarier thing--committing a murder or going insane. In the end, it is expected that the rationalizing processes of someone facing suicide are not logical, rational, or even consistent.

The suicidal determination (the fantasy plan), and not the transposition or the motivation (giving up any hope), is a final dissolutive disaster that the body fears a lot. In a sense, the suicide is fleeing death if we give "death" a very broad sense.

The survivors of a suicide are family members or close friends. Suicide may be found even in successful families, which have a high social and economic status, and even in religious families. Having communicated the plans for the next days, or having a travelling ticket does not rule out the option of suicide. According to Bowlby, the suicidal individual leaves a note to the effect that "the loss of a loved person is one of the most painful human experiences, a painful, yet shameful experience, difficult to share with the others, because the survivor is so inefficient in helping the one that passed away."

Families will avoid admitting of the suicide in order not to bring shame on them, due to the pressure of the society or the social community that rejects such a behavior, because a suicide inside a family is a guilt which can lead even to a retreat from social life for the family members who are left behind.

The individual level of sorrow caused by the death of the loved one depends on many factors. The survivor's response will be more dramatic when suicide occurs unexpectedly, when it is violent and traumatic. The mourning process is long and extremely complex. There will always be some doubt about the guilt of the entourage; the fatal gesture of the suicidal individual will leave an indelible psychic trauma among those who have loved him. That is why there is always the danger that some suicide may be followed by other explicitly suicidal behaviors or suicidal equivalents executed by one or more survivors.

The inner feelings of the suicidal individual remain a mystery most of the times. To those around, suicide is an act through which he disappears as if in a black hole, both as a physical being, and as significance. One should join Sartre in his statement that "[d]eath is absurd because it is not part of any project. What would life be if it had no potential future, no expectancy? In a word, consciousness, that 'for oneself,' if projected in the future, always requires some 'afterwards.' It is precisely because of this 'for oneself that someone demanding an 'afterwards' has no place for death inside the one which is 'for oneself.'"

Tragic destinies ...

Judging the suicidal act of a creator can be done on the basis of criminological, sociological, psychological, and psychopathological criteria, to which we need to add factors such as "creative energy," "creative vitality," and even "creative consciousness." The personality of an artist, of a creator, is a true seismograph of the pulse of times. The value of creation resides not only in the capacity to give aesthetic emotions, but also in its repercussions, thus playing a role model for society. Creation is a supreme fulfillment of personality, the artist being endowed with cognitive, intuitive, and emotional capacities; he transfers himself to the emotions of others.

In the development of the creative act, the trajectory of the artist's life can often take a tragic course. As Tudor Vianu puts it: "[t]he interest of artistic life does not coincide with that of personal preservation. The artist does not live his life, the artist consumes it. The pain experienced by an artist can become the creative impulse unleashed by this signal."

Unfortunately so, we already have a lot of cases of genius artists, writers, painters, musicians who have ended their lives by autolysis--among them, Van Gogh, Tchaikovsky, Jack London, Stefan Zweig, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Kirchner, Pavese, and others. Mention should also be made of the artists whose attempted suicide failed: Gauguin, Schumann, E. A. Poe, O'Neill, Berlioz. Then, death is a leitmotif for a great many others: Novalis, Lautreamont, Chateaubriand, Camus.

By analyzing the circumstances of the suicide, we will find that all the abovementioned artists go through an incubation phase of suicidal motivation, during which the unfavorable conjecture and the decrease of the creative power mentally crystallizes the idea of the necessity of death.

It is now time to focus on a dramatist whose suicidal behavior, ending in suicide, occurred in circumstances involving psychopathology.

Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis

Sarah Kane (3 February 1971-20 February 1999), a fascinating blend of fragility and fighter, an author of intense, violent drama on redemption through love, sexual instinct, pain, torture and death, defying in an almost unbearable manner the taboos of modern society, created in an absolutely particular context, while experiencing the symptomatology of a severe depression, fighting suicidal ideation, contemplating death and concurrently clinging to the painful subjective present so as to turn it into words. Her drama is a genuine testimony to the experiences of a person who has the desire to die, going on without any scenic indications, without specifying a spatial context, with no decoration, no specific characters. In terms of staging, the fragmentation of content in lines assigned to some actors is left at the discretion of the director.

Although seemingly a long monologue with no changes in decorum, there is still a spacing, there are variations in emotional states, attitudes and nuances of cognitive processes--all of them belonging to the spectrum of depression, the dark corners and every minute detail finally coming to light, though. The theater play begins ex abrupto, as if in the middle of a conversation, referring to some friends and passing suddenly to the image of a mind crushed down by dark-minded thoughts. The light and the clear-sighted moments anticipate hope, but the deployment of the material, coupled with the tragic story of a writer who ended up hanging in the bathroom of a renowned London psychiatric hospital two days after admission for acute voluntary intoxication suggest that the ensuing light brings to the fore the voyage from contemplation to decision and the final gesture.

For the therapist, the confession is a survey of the diagnostic criteria for a depressive disorder, an X-ray exam of the psychic processes unfolding before his eyes as the drama "plot" goes on and on. We now get a glimpse of the meaning of the title; the hugely depressed patient wakes up early in the morning (or rather at 4.48 sharp) after a night's disturbed sleep (or rather a prolonged insomnia)--hence the contemplation process on the wing, with its characteristic ambivalence. Neither survival, nor suicide is desired, but each one is chosen by turning down the other.

The normal quality of pain and distress and the authenticity of the depressive experience are confronted, in an approach much like psychotherapy, with the afflicted subject trying to internalize that view, accept it, incorporate it. But the approach fails because it is depression that can conjoin depression, and the internal-external dissonance is preserved, generating disappointment. The reality seen in the objective mirror of the therapist generates a transfer reaction, quite significant for the subject now recognizing her problems: anger, treason, loss of faith, and incompatibility with the outside world.

Choosing the suicide method is part of the contemplation process. It is similar to a conversation with a skeptical alter ego, for ever ready to challenge the authenticity of the gesture, the ability of the passage a l'acte revealing the cool ambivalence that blocks the decision and puts off suicide, thus covering the vicious circle of self-deprivation.

The playwright then moves on to a lyricism mixed up with psychiatric terms, all of it drawing up the fragile contours of a dangling woman, loosely hanging in a dubious balance, on the verge of the deep abyss gradually growing into non-existence --the body-mind fracture, with the psyche struggling desperately in a seemingly dead soma (body) which it means to join home.

The idea of responsibility for the autolytic behavior is provided by the development of the plot in the form of a dialogue, while the hostility and aggressivity of the suicidal person are shot at a person in need of attention and love, whom she curses profusely--that person gradually turning into an empathic alter-ego, a mirror image triggering off the process of growing responsible and painfully aware, now in a poetic idiom, of the huge separation between expectation and reality, between the real person and our mental image of her person. One can never bridge over this abyss, and so the suicidal individual falls deeply down, as if she were falling into death.

Once the decision has been taken, once sitting (in a real or imaginary design) in front of a reality-correcting mirror, the negotiation process will be taking place, with the treatment actually accepted as a form of brain non-existence which might well breathe in life and bring it back. What follows is the illustration of a tragic incoherence of ideas taking tyrannical control of the person's thinking, an all-round anesthesia bringing it all into a destructive "monstrous paralysis" that is still little short of depression. It is like a two-sided coin: the subjective side of thoughts cut short, and the objective side of the medical letter, with symptoms and their evolution, medication posology, side effects--all of this getting into the same cool, objective and professional pattern of the observations in the medical ward, coming to the effect of a substance abuse in association with alcohol.

The effort to get out of the labyrinth still goes on, through the stage of psychosis with perception, depersonalization and derealization disorders, in a poetic rhythm of "madness" that the individual wishes to be extracted from, but fails to make an exit, still stuck in an ambivalence--some hostility turning both inwards and outwards, the swinging between light and darkness, between accepting God and rejecting Him, between utter confusion and normalcy, trust and distrust. Suicide is just as much a loss of love, and the issue of free will is ambiguously solved (there is no way out, the choice may come later). The harsh and rough verbs graphically illustrating suicide methods alternate with impersonations of the nothingness that seem to be both eternal and fleeting, with the suggestive image of the depression that is stronger in the morning and brings in the paradox of grief reminding the individual that it is still there, to sign down her defeat. The suicidal person gets rid of the straight-flowing time and space constraints, and becomes the threefold impersonation of victim, murderer and witness--in terms of the deadly act.

After enumerating numbers, actually filling in an attention test by counting backwards in sevens from 100, the hope of mental health is dimly lit and sends light rays from the tornado eye; the dialogue with the mirror builds a hinge of trust to raise the "sunbeams" of "conversion to mental health," to search into and consider a wide range of motifs and motivations. In a way, it all comes full-circle, the questions and answers being much like before, only that at the beginning the idea was egocentric (how the reward goes), whilst now it is empahtic, altruistic (how the offer goes about it).

One gets back to the idea of responsibility, negociated in terms of transfer-countertransfer, pointing out the anger recoiling to the mirror and back to its source, with the understanding that the individual now turns it down simply because she is on the point of getting to terms with the other. The rejection of the body and the need to tear away bring about suicidal behavior, salvation by the other--with the rebirth of ambivalence through the ambiguous attitude toward the savior.

The imminence of death is foreshadowed by the cosmically designed force with which the individual voices out her need to make decisions for herself, to anticipate, predict, and get out of the cycle-like dangling between life and death. The method is made explicit, and the suicidal motivation becomes strong, liberating, clear and coherent, freed from the burden of the idea of sin. The final recognition of the need to be loved and acknowledged as engine of suicide joins the realization that the suicidal individual dies not exactly because she wishes to, but for the other one--in order that this alter-ego might see her fading away. Suicide is thus a smooth rather than rough passage, like the swinging of a mental curtain suggestive of theater--the two sides of this curtain have no access to each other and actually exclude one another.

The authenticity of emotion, given that Sarah Kane had a severe depression, was twice hospitalized at Maudsley Hospital in London and hanged herself in a bathroom of King's College Hospital two days after non-voluntary admission for voluntary intoxication, gives a genuine quality to the plot, in any kind of staging. Beyond any psychological or philosophical theory on the choice of death, the story of a creative mind in the grips of depression is certainly the most suggestive tale-telling assessment of literary genius, getting the mechanisms of suicidal psychoticism accessible to the people who live with no desire to cut loose the subjective burden of one's own life.

Acknowledgments The text was translated by Prof. dr. Remus Bejan and Ms Irina Simanschi, MA.


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Doina Cosman, MD, PhD; Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine; ClujNapoca;
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Author:Cosman, Doina
Publication:Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity
Article Type:Essay
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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