Suicide: A product of unconscious hypocrisy 2
By: Osei, Nana Yaw
In recent times, reported cases of suicide are becoming very common in Ghana. Apart from suicide, some individuals with a compromised emotional stability or intermittent explosive behaviors are drenching others with acid. Needless to say the government of Ghana and other stakeholders must act swiftly to address the emotional needs of the citizens. As indicated in the part one of this article, Jung’s persona archetype which forces us to be unconscious hypocrites causes social pressure that lead to suicide. Carl Jung reminded us that for the purpose of our mental health it is better to be a conscious hypocrite than to be an unconscious hypocrite.
Another obvious cause of suicide is untreated depression. In her book entitled: “On Death and Dying” published in 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross claimed that when the terminally ill patient for example can no longer deny his illness, when he/she is forced into more hospitalizations, when he/she becomes weaker and thinner, he/she cannot smile it off anymore. She went further to claim that the patent’s numbness or stoicism, his/her anger and rage will soon be replaced with a sense of great loss. Elizabeth quoting the Indian Poet, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), stated that “The world rushes on over the strings of the lingering heart making the music of sadness.” Individuals who feel the sense of great loss suffer from inner grief; practical definition of depression. Such individuals suffer from religious faith crisis and thus telling them to compare their life to Job or give it Jesus may not help at this point. This article looks at the causes of suicide from the Freudian and Durkheim perspectives.
The Jewish psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) claimed that individuals who commit suicide have inherent death instincts/drives. Freud who was noted to reduce every human behavior to sexual drives switched gear during or after his later writings, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” In his foregoing writings, the founder of psychoanalysis explained why human beings are attracted to repeat painful or traumatic events, notwithstanding the fact that such repetition seems to contradict our drives to seek pleasure. By such a compulsion to repeat the human subject attempt to bind the trauma, therefore motivating the subject to return to a state of quiescence (dormancy).
The term thanatophobia implies fear of death or dying person. In the view of Freud, death drive bereft some individuals with thanatophobic tendencies. Freud intimated that individuals have a life drive and a death drive. He claimed sex and aggression are dominating in our existence. The instinct for aggression is an extrinsic manifestation of the death drive. In some instances, this aggressive instinct is regulated inwardly with suicidal and homicidal outcomes. Death drive can motivate individual to either commit suicide or douse others with acid.
In his book entitled “Le Suicide” published in 1897, the French social psychologist, sociologist and philosopher, Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) propounded four main kinds of suicide. These are egoistic, fatalistic, anomic and altruistic. Durkheim claimed individuals who commit egoistic suicide feel disassociated from their community. This complements Alfred Adler’s claimed that a damage to belongingness or a sense of belonging is the reason behind almost all mental health issues including depression, psychosis and suicide.
Individuals who commit fatalistic suicide feel oppressed by the society around them. They found constantly repressed both physically and mentally by those who enforce power over them. Individuals in the dictators’ country or prison are most likely to commit fatalist suicide. This is similar to what the humanistic psychologist, Carl Jung called the negative effect of persona archetype. In Cameroon, for example, suicide cases are rising. This could be somewhat due to political repression. Since Independence in 1960, Cameroon had had only two heads of state: Ahmadou Ahidjo (1960-1982) and the incumbent Paul Biya (From 1982-present). Besides, society is putting too much pressure on people. In church, our noble pastors ask member looking for children, husbands or wives to come forward for prayers. This is not totally wrong, even so, such a call increases emotional pressure of couples without a child, or adults without partners. Church members must be motivated to come for such prayers at their own will. Even methods of collecting offertory and tithe can cause internal pressure. Social and political repression are partly responsible for suicide.
Anomic suicide is a suicide due to lack of societal norms and values. In the concept of anomic individual, absence of social control make individuals to be unguided relative to their choices.
Lastly, altruistic suicide is a type of suicide committed for the benefit of others or for the community. This includes self-sacrifice for military objectives. Oral tradition tells us how Nana Tweneboa Kodua of Kumawu sacrificed his life to liberate Asante Kingdom from the political dominion of Denkyira. This was a sort of altruistic suicide.
Political pressure can equally lead to altruistic suicide. For example, in 1954, Brazilian President Getulio Vargas committed suicide hours after resigning due to deepening political crisis. “He was found by his son in his private apartments at 08:30 local time. Dr Vargas, who shot himself through the heart, left a dramatic suicide note that was broadcast on national radio just two hours after his body was discovered. In it he complained his efforts to ‘liberate’ the people of Brazil had been hampered by foreign interests which he blamed for the economic crisis that is gripping the nation. His letter read: ‘Nothing remains except my blood. I gave you my life, now I give you my death. I choose this way to defend you, for my soul will be with you, my name shall be a flag for your struggle.’It ended: I take the first step to eternity. I leave life to enter history." (Source: BBC 1954). Discerning readers can check the following link . http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/24/newsid_4544000/4544759.stm
Apart from Freud and Durkheim another simple cause of suicide is guilt and shame. An individual suffering from guilt will say for example: “I feel very bad about what I did or what I did not do.” Individuals in the middle age beyond 40 years are most likely to suffer from guilt as they reflect on their past errors. A shameful person will say for example: “I feel very bad about who I am and whom I am not” Shame is a thinking error mostly due to envy or jealousy. Untreated guilt and shame can lead to suicide. Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder also hear some voices speaking to them to kill themselves or others. Transpersonal psychologists believe that spiritual matters cannot be rejected in the lessons of suicide. Some people believe holy angels speak to them to kill themselves or inflict pains on others.
Children are terrific observers but a very poor interpreters. What kinds of horrific movies are they exposed to? Are we teaching them about demons at their early stages in the Sunday schools? How professional are our Sunday school teachers, pastors or Moslem Imams who are inseparable agents of socialization? What are they teaching the kids? Are they inciting children against their grandparents on the grounds of witchcraft? What kind of messages do they hear on the electronic media? Let us instill hope in them rather than baseless superstition. Reading Elizabeth Kubler-Ross exposed me to the Indian literature giant, Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore entreats us never to limit a child to our own experience, for he/she was born in another era. Unfortunately, this is what most Ghanaian counsellors do; exerting their persona archetype (Explained in part I) on their clients. Out of shyness, people accept the convictions of their parents, pastors, teachers against their own wishes. We repress our feelings making us unconsciously hypocrites. Unconscious hypocrisy causes depression and suicide.
In order to prevent suicide, individuals must practice speaking out their mind. We can attain inner peace by confronting the realities of our own suffering. Going “Rashida Malafaka lady’s” way could ameliorate one from inner emotional problems and suicidal thoughts. Pastoral counselling which is very common in Ghana cannot meet the emotional needs of individuals with suicidal thoughts and depression. Trained pastoral counselors must help their clients to resolve the ambivalence (contemplation) rather than instructing them per the counsellor’s own convictions. Counsellors must be humble enough to recognize their shortcomings and direct their clients to seek appropriate help.
Government must be serious with psychotherapy in Ghana. How can people without formal training in counselling and psychotherapy be announcing their consultation fees on the media? The only normal person you know are people you do not know well (Alfred Adler). Let us love every one and eschew suicide and homicide. We can conceive of a future without high-rises. But a humanity without music and love is not just inconceivable; it is impossible (George Leonard). Let us work together for Ghana and say no to suicide. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. And Make Us Cherish Fearless Honesty!
By Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo), Minnesota, USA. Nana Yaw Osei works in the field of psychotherapy. He studies PhD in Psychology. N_yawosei@hotmail.com