Taking a life is tragic; be it your own or someone else’s. Irrespective of voluntary euthanasia for people suffering from terminal painful illness, people who commit suicide are in some ways no different to people who commit homicide; albeit the former internalising a ‘self-hatred and/or loathing’ that the latter ‘project’ onto others. Essentially, both ‘life-ending’ behaviours are about self-loathing imbued by a lack of respect; be it of self or others, their inner turmoil embodying a denial of the beauty of life and its precocity. Certainly, our world can be ill itself, riven by too many wars, untimely deaths, poverty, homelessness, unemployment and an assortment of disadvantage and disengagement. Despite this ‘ugliness’, there is so much to enjoy and celebrate whenever we can as life is a gift; not in any deified religious way, but as a testimony of being human.
To understand ‘self-loathing’ is complex; too often muddied by a myriad of multidimensional myths about self and society that fail to recognise love is not ‘naturally human’ anymore than hate is ‘naturally inhuman’. We assume parents ‘love’ their children, with familial assumptions of innate love reigning sacrosanct in our social milieu; often a fallacious fantasy masking reality. Growing up in a genuine loving family is the quintessential component for self-love, self-respect and self-belief. Without love, individuals can feel empty and worthless. Violence per se is the basic premise of many people’s suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts and behaviours, where others’ psychological violence against self is internalised as a self-hating prophecy; suicide the only respite from feelings of futility. It’s not that different with physical violence; the two inextricably linked but manifesting very differently. Psychological violence is usually out of sight for many people who are unable to understand their unconscious psyche. Difficult to recognise with no visible signs of abuse, this violence is often verbally perpetrated between people. Call it mental rape, the humiliation of another engendered by disrespect, often disguised by supposedly comforting clichés of love and care; however disingenuous these are. Confronting people about this violence is often met with ‘it was a misunderstanding’, ‘I didn’t mean that’, ‘don’t take it personally’ or ‘you’re twisting my words’; all sham attempts at apology that are spurious at the very least. I know only too well because that’s what’s occurred in my life all too often.
I admit I don’t understand suicide; I do know that I entertained ‘suicidal thoughts’ at 19; albeit for a short time, understanding the psychological violence perpetrated by others against me that unconsciously translated against myself, wreaking havoc with my self-esteem and self-belief. I didn’t really want to ‘die’; rather, just find my own life beyond my social milieu that suffocated and stifled me in a way I found confusing to understand. The ‘intellectual put downs’, nestling in my unconscious psyche at that time, took time to unravel, as the ideals of family tradition to love, care and be interested in me were contradicted by a reality where love was missing for the ‘real’ me. Painful to face, I had to find myself on the inside; in my own mind and body irrespective of social and familial expectations. I never tried to commit suicide or thought about it again until at 34, with no money or realistic prospects of obtaining decent employment, I once more thought about taking my own life. I didn’t try then either; recovering my intrinsic sense of self-worth and self belief, despite the psychologically violent assumptions of the shrinks, my family and so-called friends. The potential of our unconscious psyches to absorb these negative projections onto us can be confusing, ‘believing’ others’ assumptions about us instead of working out our own sense of self.
It’s a very long time ago that I understood the projections onto me by other people’s own inadequacies; be it for the female I was and my intellectual passionate ambitions, all too often betraying a traditional and conformist destiny for females. This psychological violence against me was as a woman with her own mind, determined to live my life as I wanted. Previously, I had at times internalised others’ problems as my own, appreciating simultaneously how society and its expectations of femaleness had distorted my family and friend’s thoughts about me. I won for myself a long time ago. Sadly however, too many people are so ‘lost’ in their own minds about who they are and what they feel and believe in they are only too eager to accept others’ definitions and assumptions about them, according those others with a ‘power’ over them. Even more tragic, these others’ also believe in their ‘power’ to decide for those they disrespect and demean. Dare to be your own person and that can engender even more contemptuous condemnation as a delusional and distorted individual. Withstanding this status quo proscription takes a mental strength developed over many years, based on self-respect and self-love in defiance of others.
Homicide can also be about self-hatred; though it’s projected onto others as people’s own internal turbulence; albeit unconsciously, fighting their own ‘internal civil war’, that’s out of sight and out of mind. Avoiding any personal analysis and reflection, they project their self-loathing onto others deemed as hostile or inimical to them, reacting with physical or psychological violence of a clenched fist or mental humiliation respectively.
Suicide takes its own life; homicide takes the lives of others. It’s not that much different when you recognise the causal links; people who kill others are indeed, actually killing themselves as so many homicide/suicide situations attest. Suicide may involve a lack of respect for self; homicide certainly involves a lack of respect for others; the violence shrouded in a secrecy that people will not confront.
This difficult social reality involves us all; families don’t exist in isolation, neither do our schools, the workplace or the cafes of social interaction. To address violence we must first expose it for what it is instead of allowing it to fester unchallenged or misunderstood. The sad reality for me is that I wrote a book about these issues nearly 40 years ago and it was never published, nor will it ever be. A line in that book about ‘stick to the surface, a safer more publishable piece’ was about journalism, but novels that expose ‘unpleasant’ truths about society are also deemed ‘unpublishable’ as society would rather adhere to fallacious fantasy; a masquerade of truth that demands unmasking if we ever want a society without suicide or homicide in our own backyards.