"In a world of magnets and miracles..."

Psychology behind suicide

Hitler's, Virginia Woolf's and Sid Vicious's suicide notes

Hitler, Virginia Woolf and Sid Vicious have one thing in common. They all decided to end their life by committing suicide. Under surface we can discover different suicide decisions in their acts and different motives in such action. What is business like approach to making a suicide attempt? Is suicide a selfish act? How suicide pacts are made?

By MILENA STOŠIĆ (milena.stosic@wavemagazine.net)

We asked Tony White, well known psychotherapist and author of the book Working with suicidal individuals to comment their suicide notes, also in light of speculating circumstances around these deaths. With the limited information at hand it is impossible to provide rigorous understanding of the psychology of these people, but one can find out what suicide notes in general can tell us. What driven these famous individuals to commit suicide is in area of guessing, but here is what their last words possibly can reveal.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler (20th April 1889 - 30th April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, most well known for his central leadership role in the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II and the Holocaust. The last will and testament of Adolf Hitler was dictated by Hitler to his secretary Traudl Junge in his Berlin Führerbunker on April 29, 1945, the day he and Eva Braun married. They committed suicide the next day (April 30), two days before the surrender of Berlin to the Soviets on May 2, and just over a week before the end of World War II in Europe on May 8. It is usually interpreted that this act is consequence of his determination to avoid capture.

The Last Will

As I did not consider that I could take responsibility, during the years of struggle, of contracting a marriage, I have now decided, before the closing of my earthly career, to take as my wife that girl who, after many years of faithful friendship, entered, of her own free will, the practically besieged town in order to share her destiny with me. At her own desire she goes as my wife with me into death. It will compensate us for what we both lost through my work in the service of my people.

What I possess belongs - in so far as it has any value - to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary.

My pictures, in the collections which I have bought in the course of years, have never been collected for private purposes, but only for the extension of a gallery in my home town of Linz on Donau.

It is my most sincere wish that this request may be duly executed.

I nominate as my Executor my most faithful Party comrade, Martin Bormann. He is given full legal authority to make all decisions. He is permitted to take out everything that has a sentimental value or is necessary for the maintenance of a modest simple life, for my brothers and sisters, also above all for the mother of my wife and my faithful co-workers who are well known to him, principally my old Secretaries Frau Winter etc. who have for many years aided me by their work.

I myself and my wife - in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation - choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years' service to my people.

Tony White's comments

This is interesting for a number of reasons. It illustrates the type of statement that is part suicide note and part last will and testament. These are typically like an unemotional business letter as compared to the next suicide note which is highly emotional.

This is not a good sign if one finds a loved ones suicide note that is business like in its style. Firstly, it indicates the person still has well functioning cognition or thinking ability. If this is the case then they can employ that clear thinking in planning a suicide attempt in the same manner. Thus the suicide attempt is more likely to be being completed compared to the spontaneous and not well thought out suicide attempt.

Secondly, it indicates this person has made the decision to end their life and it is just a matter of time until the planning is finalised and the attempt will occur. The ambivalence of "I want to die vs I don't want to die" that most suicidal people have is not apparent. This person is clear they have made the decision to end their life.

This most often happens over an extended period of time. The individual, in this case Adolf Hitler, may have made a series of decisions over years where he slowly backed himself into a corner where the only way out, in his mind, was to end his own life. This is usually done initially at an unconscious level but can become much more conscious as the time draws closer. The person finds them self caught up in a situation created by them (and now all those around them) and can see no way of getting out of it. They suddenly realise they are on a fast moving train and can see now way of getting off.

At the beginning they cannot see where all this is heading but as they proceed on it becomes more obvious. Other examples of this can be with financial ruin. The person makes a series of decisions over a long period of time where the likelihood of financial ruin becomes more likely. Eventually it happens and they take their own life.

Some do the same with a loss of reputation. The politician or high profile person engages in what is very unwise behavior often of a sexual nature. Eventually they are exposed and their reputation is ruined. This is same reason why pedophiles are a high risk group for suicide attempts. They behave in a way over time which significantly increases the risk of being found out. When they finally are they feel they have no way to turn, their reputation is ruined and thus they make an attempt on their life.

The point here in the suicide note of Adolf Hitler is it reflects a business like approach to making a suicide attempt. This commonly results from a protracted set of decisions made by the person which slowly but surely backs them into a corner, such that they can only see one way out.

Virginia Woolf

Adeline Virginia Woolf (25th January 1882 - 28th March 1941)was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. Her most famous works include the novelsMrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando(1928), and the book-length essayA Room of One's Own (1929), with its famous dictum, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction".

Suicide note: (to her husband Leonard)

TO: LEONARD WOOLF Rodmell, Sussex, Tuesday (18th March 1941)

'Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that - everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.

Tony White's comments

Obviously a very different suicide note to the one above. Highly emotive and not business like in the sense of setting the practical matters straight before the death. Like the previous note it does reflect a slowly developing desire to suicide over extended period of time.

Instead of making a series of decisions that backs one into a corner in this case there was an accumulation of emotional distress over a long time. This could have been due to the pain of a significant mental illness where she reports that she hears voices and cannot concentrate indicating a possible significant deterioration of the Adult ego state functioning. This suicide attempt results from the progressive erosion of one's resilience due to significant emotional pain over time.

This decision to suicide does have some merit. It is easy for psychologists and loved ones to say there is always hope for the suicidal. However, they are not the ones suffering the devastating pain from depression, anxiety and the sense of going mad. At that time her quality of life would have been very low, no one knows how long that will last and how often it will repeat again in her life in the future.

Some argue that suicide is a selfish act. This suicide note presents the case against that view. Where the quality of life is very low and she knows this new bout of 'madness' will cause significant distress to those loved ones around her. That is a fact, it will. Loved ones may say they are prepared to endure that but they will suffer as a result of her mental illness and suicidal thoughts. When she dies that suffering by the loved ones does come to an end in that sense. It creates a new distress for the loved ones but it does end the ongoing and repeated distress that her mental illness and suicidal thoughts will cause them.

Thus one can understand the logic behind her decision to make a significant suicide attempt. Her times of madness cause her great pain and cause pain for those around her. No one knows how long it will last this time and how many more times in the future it will happen again.

Sid Vicious (Sex pistols)

Sid Vicious (10th May 1957 - 2nd February 1979) was an English musician best known as the bassist of the influential punk rock group Sex Pistols. He was accused of the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. A pathologist who examined his body said the star's tolerance to the drug had been weakened by his period behind bars. That, and the potency of the heroin, had killed him - is info that can be read in media.

His mother discovered what appeared to be a suicide note in the pocket of her son's jeans. Written some days earlier, Vicious told his mother he wanted to be reunited with 'his' Nancy. The discovery of the letter led some friends to speculate that Nancy's death had been a suicide pact that had gone wrong, and Spungen had administered the fatal knife wound herself.

In fact, ten days after her death, Vicious had attempted to slash his wrists, and just a few months earlier the couple had told a British music magazine of their plans to take their own lives.

Suicide Note: We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.

Tony White's comments

This suicide note raises some different features than the other two. Firstly, it demonstrates the very short suicide note that is only a few lines long. This reflects a lack of desire to make some long statement about why or what is to be done upon ones death. It is simple, straight to the point, explaining why and giving instructions about what is to be done after death.

A complete lack of any emotion or remorse at the pain inflicted on others or the pain they were feeling at the time. This may be because at that time he was in quite a narcissistic frame of mind and unable to contemplate the effects of his actions on loved ones. However, that may not be so. Some suicidal people report the futility of leaving a note. What can you say to make loved ones feel a bit better? What you say may just make them feel worse. One could argue that because he was very brief and gave a few instructions he has done a better thing for his loved ones than the highly emotive note shown above.

The note is clear in illustrating an intent to die and raises the whole area of suicide pacts. This is where relationships and suicide get mixed up. Many couples have a special connection with some activity, or place or belief. It may be a special activity they do each wedding anniversary once a year. Or a special place they go to on holiday each year. These things give them a commonality, a kind of special connection and is seen by both as important in their relationship. Sometimes the special thing is a belief or view about something. If we have two people who are potentially suicidal that special connection can be about suiciding together. Hence we end up with the suicide pact.

(Published: 10.07.2011.)

No comments:

Post a Comment