The Fells and Dales Counsellors group met on August 4th 2017 to discuss a chapter from a book entitled “Out of this world- suicide examined” by Antonia Murphy (Karnak, 2017). This text is a mix of theory and personal experience as the author’s sister killed herself in 1983 aged only 27.
The main thesis is that the act of suicide almost always carries within it an aggressive intent, whether or not this is conscious, and also is an acting out of a fantasy and so demonstrates what she calls ” a delusory aspect”. Indeed the author identifies 5 different types of fantasy, namely (1)the merging fantasy which she suggests underlies all the fantasies where death is seen as a return to a peaceful, womb-like state and the body is killed off as it frustrates or disappoints this euphoric dream. Then (2) the revenge fantasy which the author feels her sister acted out, where the person is preoccupied with the impact the suicide will have on others. (3)acting out a form of self-punishment where there is a strong element of guilt and self blame
(4) an elimination fantasy where “the actual body is experienced as something mad or bad and has to be destroyed for the self to survive” and (5) the dicing with death fantasy or deadly risk-taking where the person is “both trying to attract and attack the care of the Other” .
She also describes a fantasy which she thinks of as embodying “the deadly heart of the matter”- the delusion that the person will survive the suicide and so be able to witness its potentially devastating impact. She sees this delusion as one that is easily overlooked and which it is crucial for a therapist to identify and explore with a suicidal client.
She also adds a sixth form of fantasy to her list: that of the hero or anti-hero where the person identifies with Another or with an idea of heroism/perfection and fantasises that his or her death will allow them to live on in an identification with this heroic figure.
We all found this list useful and thought-provoking and agreed it would influence our future practice,
We then discussed a section from another chapter entitled “working through” where the author reminds us that it is not a legal requirement for a therapist to report concerns about suicide and the various implications and dilemmas that can result. We had a consensus that the latest ethical guidelines provided by BACP give sound advice on the individual responsibility of the therapist when working with a suicidal client.