The ambivalence of the suicidal act : a psychoanalytic exploration

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Daly, Cecilia
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Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Suicide is an immense human tragedy, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people on a global scale every year. In this dissertation the author seeks to uncover the unconscious constructs that characterize the inherent ambivalence of the suicidal act. Through a psychoanalytic lens, the author explores suicide from the theories of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and Jacques Lacan. The dissertation considers the distinction, made by Freud, between mourning and melancholia, the concept of the loved and hated lost object and the destructive force of the superego in the context of suicide. Klein’s main focus is on the death drive from which her other theories emanate. The research examines her theory of projective identification, the early paranoid-schizoid in which there is a split between good and bad objects and the later integrated/depressive positions. Klein proposes suicide as a means in which the person seeks to preserve the good objects while ridding the body of the bad objects. Lacan distinguishes between acting out and “passage a l’acte”, both means by which the subject manages unbearable anxiety. Closely integrated with Lacan’s theory of suicide are the notions of lack, desire and narcissism. Lacan perceives the completed suicidal act to be an acknowledgement of the death drive, which he contends is at the heart of narcissism. The final part of the dissertation considers the creation of the suicidal body through dissociation and detachment, which it is argued, enables the act of suicide to take place. While the research helped the author to 5 better understand the inner workings of the suicidal client’s world, ultimately it is concluded that one can never fully discern a client’s conscious or unconscious intentions. It is essentially our ‘lack’, a fundamental part of our humanity, which prevents us from knowing but none-the-less, sustains our hopes and beliefs for the future of our clients. Author keywords: Suicide, ambivalence, narcissism, identification, psychache