Emotional Intelligence

The Farewell Party.

The true suicide won't tell you, they'll just do it. This post will tell you what they will do.
The Farewell Party.

I can’t remember where I heard the story; but a gentleman invited all his friends to a Farewell Party. As I recall, he was a friendly enough chap with a houseboat on the Thames. That probably means up near Chiswick or beyond – although I’m no expert on houseboats or, come to that, the river Thames. Never mind, he had a houseboat and having sent out all the invitations by word or on paper, he bought in the nibbles and the wine, sorted out the record player and selected all the best dance music that he had.

It would be the best party he’d ever give in his life.

It all went swimmingly. No, perhaps that’s not quite the right word, given that he had a houseboat; suffice it to say that everybody had a wonderful time. Everybody was saying goodbye to him, and he was always surprisingly vague about where he was travelling. Nevertheless, a farewell it was, and everybody said their farewells in the nicest and friendliest way possible.

Naturally enough, everybody was expecting a postcard, and given that at the time it could take weeks for one to travel from some far flung part of the world where they imagined he’d gone. Oddly enough, none came. After a month or so, a friend checked up on him to find that he hadn’t travelled anywhere at all.

He’d committed suicide.

I’m writing this post because there are several extremely important issues to note about this story. The first is that he said nothing about his intentions, and this is not uncommon for those who fully intend to end their lives. This isn’t going to be an essay on the levels of despair that lead people to see no future for themselves; I’ve been there myself – the origins of which I am not going to discuss publicly at this point. Suffice it to say that my ex didn’t listen and cared less. My kids were too little and my parents too distant.

If you haven’t been in this position, you will know someone who has.

What I want to look at here are the warning signs of a potential suicide. They aren’t so hard to spot, but they are not the traditional, outward signs of someone telling everybody that they’re going to top themselves. There is one rule in psychology that is hard and fast: look to what a person does and not to what they say. This is the key to understanding my forthcoming post on fake news; it will be crucial to you if you want to keep an otherwise happy looking friend from ending it all.

So when someone tells you that they’re going to commit suicide, take it with a pinch of salt. That doesn’t mean you should be any the less concerned for them; they want an ear, and shocking people in this way is sometimes the only way to get it. I have no trouble with people who do this, we all have our ways of grabbing attention and we all have times when we need someone to listen. Whilst you listen to them, be assured that they will retreat from their intention as they pour out their miseries to you. You’ll both be awake in the morning to enjoy a pot of tea.

Care.

There is one thing in the way the determined suicide leads up to the point where they end their life, and it is that they care what happens once they’ve gone. This is the first key to understanding the suicide.

The genuinely suicidal will think of their friends. The fake-news story about the suicide of the Germanwings pilot took no account of this whatsoever, and in concocting other elements of the story, effectively undermined their credibility. It was quite clear that they didn’t understand the realities of the situation. A further exploration of this topic I leave to that future post.

Suffice it to say that the true suicide does not want to make any difficulties for their friends – forgetting the emotional side of things, of course. The person wishing to commit suicide, as is common with allillusions of this kind, will usually ignore important elements of the psychological jigsaw. The pilot taking a planeload of passengers with is not the usual course of events. Hanging himself in his bedroom later that night most certainly is.

Value.

This is the second key to suicide. Valuables. Whatever we do in our lives, there will always be things we have that are dear to us in one way or another. In contemplating my own suicide it came to me that getting rid of three quarters of my possessions would be easy. The last quarter would be harder, and dealing with three quarters of that would be difficult but not impossible. The last tiny bits would be extremely difficult to part with.

It must be clearly stated here that the value of these objects has nothing to do with their cost. Value in the strict sense of the word has nothing to do with money, and anybody who confuses the two will find doing business a matter of how to lose money and not make it.

In the case of the determined suicide, and I have to say here that by the time my circumstances had changed – I must add that it was a stroke of luck rather than anything else – I had disposed of half my belongings. I was well along the way, I hadn’t gotten to the difficult bit: what to do with the things one truly values.

I must add that there are spontaneous suicides that leaves a person dead in the way they die in a road accident. I cannot say that I know the statistics, but my bet is that this form of suicide is less frequent than the determined kind. Whatever the facts, the point is that with a spontaneous suicide there is nothing one can do but wipe up the mess afterwards and go through their phone book to contact their friends.

Back to topic: the real issue here is that whislt the individual isn’t going to talk about their suicide, they will be giving their possessions to their friends. I was brought this jewel courtesy of AFN Stuttgart who were running a series at the time, and you can imagine, it hit home. I hadn’t untangled the issue about value at that point, but the reality of the situation remained with me all those years.

In short, if you see one of your friends giving away their treasured possessions, an old teddybear, a photograph or a selection of their most treasured books, their cello or saxophone, the alarm bells should be ringing.

Because they aren’t going to tell you.

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36 thoughts on “The Farewell Party.

    1. I’m glad that from time to time I can break the mould. Your comment is also unusual as you usually have something to say about the content. You weren’t thinking…

      Were you? 😉

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      1. Well, it was certainly interesting. There are a few people in my life whom I know to have seriously considered suicide. It was consideration of friends and family that prevented one from seeing it through. And in all three cases that come to mind it was definitely a lack of a viable future – addiction, mental illness, or both. None of them started giving things away, though, or least that I know of.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The point that has been raised for me in writing this is something that lies at the core of the human being: care. There are things we all care about, even if life’s challenges have become overwhelming.

        To my mind, if someone hasn’t begun to sort out the material side of their life, their thoughts of suicide still lie in the realm of feelings. After all, in terms of thinking, feeling and willing, the latter – the act itself – must follow the idea and then the decision based on all that one can sense, feel. Luckily your friends were able to speak with those around them, act whilst their idea lay in the realm of feelings, and the result is that they’ll wake up this morning to enjoy another day.

        How many people who you didn’t know gave things away to those they knew, and weren’t really missed?

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  1. I would think one would be extremely desperate to be contemplating suicide. It must also be extremely desperate for the families of those who commit suicide. In chronological order I’m aware of 7 people who’ve committed suicide.
    The first a middle aged woman – chose the railway (trains make a hell of a mess)
    The second another middle aged woman chose a bathroom light pull cord.
    The third a man – 9th floor window.
    The fourth middle aged woman 3rd floor window (badly smashed her body but didn’t succeed)
    The fifth young woman – plastic bag asphyxiation at place of work
    The sixth another middle-aged woman – railway.
    The seventh young man with aspergers – hanging…..

    Some of my friends who are older than me have started to give away items such as tools knowing that neither they or their children are ever likely to use them. I’m fairly certain they are not contemplating Hamlet’s dilema (“had not the Everlasting fixed his cannon agaist self-destruction”….) but are merely preparing to enter into the final phase of their life….

    As the above is rather morbid I think something a little lighter is called for:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My concern in writing the piece was twofold. Firstly that such things do happen – as your sad list is testament to. The second was to realize what a person thinks about when contemplating ending it all in a planned and controlled manner.

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  2. G,
    I think you have succeeded in conveying important insights into some of the thinking of those contemplating suicide. I hope you never again find yourself in such a despairing situation. I think most people don’t realise that they have between their ears an untapped ocean of love. Regrettably for too many there’s not the opportunity to put it to good use.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Between us and that untapped ocean of love is an abyss. Anybody who cannot converse fluently on any subject (even if they know nothing about it) will out of their own selves, deny themselves the ability to cross this.

      As to the point of this post, it was to establish the link between psychology and action; not words. There are many who say things, few who do them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad that the many don’t go through with self- destruction after all “life is but a brief candle”. The Requiem has these lines:
    “Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live……He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower”.
    As for the abyss, Psalm 130 sums it up pretty neatly viz: “Out of the deep have I called unto Thee…” Crossing the abyss takes courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I once read that when two people meet there are six personalties present. For each person there is the personality of their own perception. Then there is the personality observed or perceived by the other person and finally there is the individuals’ actual personalities.

    I’m not sure I know the answer to your question but I would hazard just being natural might be the key….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s as good a response as I’ve ever heard, and yes, being natural is the key.

      Now, when two people meet, there are only two personalities. What you are referring to are the perceptions involved – and these are what one sees of the other. I’m not going to stretch things too far just yet, but it is important to note what happens when the other person does something that irritates you. Just the way they tap their nose, rub their eye or chin arouses a feeling of repellence.

      You will be able to tell me in which person that feeling of repellence arises. Which is it? And what did the other do wrong in order to arouse these things?

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  5. Clearly its a failure of communication on the part of both parties…

    When the Judge asked why she had driven over her husband the defendent replied: “It was a failure of communication. I didn’t think he would continue to stand in front of the car and he didn’t think I would drive forward…..”

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  6. I don’t think there was any misunderstanding. I assumed you were referring to third person individuals. But if those irritations and annoyances aren’t discussed civilly then the resentment will merely fester until I guess it becomes intolerable…. God, I’m beginning to sound like Graham Norton in the DT!…….

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    1. My point was this: if somebody’s doing something quite innocuous yet it sets you on edge, whose fault is it?

      Theirs for doing something many people do, and is in social terms, acceptable, or yours for being set on edge?

      This isn’t something like a partner’s annoying habits like my untidiness or the gentleman’s ability to leave knickers lying on the bathroom floor… now that kind of thing does require tolerance and discussion.

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  7. Thanks for the clarification. You use the word fault. May I suggest that what you are describing i.e being set on edge is more akin to an allergic reaction…..

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    1. Okay, and I was intrigued by your use of the word allergy, as the two effects are common in many ways. What I find so interesting is how these things slip under my nose for so long, unnoticed.

      Now: if the other person isn’t doing anything obsequious, and you find that mannerism gives you an ‘allergic’ reaction, who is at fault here? (Using the term ‘fault’ in its loosest and weakest sense; there is no real wrong here.)

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  8. Even in its loosest and weakest sense I don’t think there is a question of fault. An allergic reaction (even a psychological one) simply needs soothing treatment.

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      1. Definitely the aggravated party. However, I suspect that once the aggravated party has smothered the aggravator it would be a cathartic release and they then would need soothing after all! 😉

        Night night!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So, assuming no murders – and I’ve tried to keep them to the absolute minimum in my book – it is the aggravated person’s problem.

        Yes?

        I’m in Germany tomorrow, I’ll catch you when I get home. We can continue then if you’ve got the patience – and the courage – to deal with the abyss.

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    1. If you didn’t need to, you’d be missing an opportunity to deal with your own subconscious.

      Let me put this to you: either you know how to deal with your own subconscious, or it will deal with you. In modern parlance, it’s called dementia (amongst other attributions).

      But of course, the sufferers “didn’t need to” and I assure you, the struggle to get them to see even as much as you can see is wasted breath… It’s as if they welcome dementia (for all their being terrified at the things they regularly forget).

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  9. It is a lot like an allergy, isn’t it? Harmless to most, but unassimilable and deeply aggravating to the unhappy subject, finally arousing a violent immune response.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gosh..that’s one scary story. Didn’t expect it :/ but the thing is – it’s very difficult to look inside of ones life/head/soul or to feel/really see what’s going on with the person. Ppl scroll thru lives of others – to stop and pay attention takes time – everybody busy – excuses – indifference = death. Yeah…

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    1. Thanks for your response.

      When you say that you can’t really look inside another’s head, that is true up to a point. Their behaviour, however, will tell you a lot about the way they think. In many cases, like this one – that is to say, suicide – all you need to know is their behaviour. That’s when you can help on an individual basis and find out a little bit more about how they tick!

      After all, we spend time with others for enjoyment; how about making sure that everything that you can help them with in their broader life is also taken care of… whilst you’re all enjoying yourselves??? That squares that circle, doesn’t it?

      And yes, indifference is death. Engagement is life. It is also healing.

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  11. As a person who actually attempted and was brought back from a suicide attempt ( almost made it ? ) , yes I left a note which was not found for two days after , what brought their attention to it was my own need to make sure that nobody has to clear up a mess from me , I chose the car with plastic sheeting covering everything and went to sleep , only to wake in hospital , why . you ask because my wife said that I acted funny and she had a bad feeling ? They tracked my mobile .Prior to that nobody knew or had any idea how things were , even the psychiatrists said to my wife that I puzzled them !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you’ve read my posts on the subconscious and dementia, you’ll know that I don’t have much time for psychologists.

      Your desire for nobody to have to clear up your mess speaks of the kind of integrity that often precedes a successful suicide. Your wife’s clear thinking saved the one she can still say she loves.

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      1. Your wife didn’t know that at the time, did she? She just thought of you and worked to that end.

        I’ll add that that ‘weight’ cannot be weighed; yet the message was the more meaningful because of it. So was your intention – as witnessed by your actions beforehand.

        Now, if you’d thought to switch off your phone… thankfully you didn’t.

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