Synopses & Reviews
Five-year-old Tommy killed himself at home, where he lived with parents who said he was unwanted and deficient. College student Jennifer committed suicide by swallowing a huge mixture of pills at a motel, miles from the house where she lived with an imposing, unemotional mother who'd long thought the girl a burden. Bob, a father of two and computer company manager, might have survived his attempt at suicide, but his wife did not call 911 for 10 minutes after she found him in his running car in the garage, so he died on the way to the hospital. All of these cases described in detail by author Mecke share a factor aside from the fatality. Each person was clearly motivated by an instigator: someone who provoked the suicide. Instigators create a crushing relationship with a potentially suicidal person that, as Mecke puts it, becomes a fatal attachment. Mecke, with more than 40 years experience as clinical psychologist, believes instigators are responsible in a significant number of the more than 30,000 suicides that occur in the United States each year. Through vivid and compelling text, we understand the minds of suicide victims and their instigators, and also learn how early trauma associated with death or abandonment can make one become an instigator. Finally, Mecke shows us how we can intervene to try and break the instigator's grip, to foil the attachment. As she explains one of her primary points, relating to both the suicidal and their instigators, is that children require careful nurturing especially during their early lives. And the bent their personalities take following a trauma places responsibility upon us all to watch, to explain, to care for them.
In addition to tragic stories drawn from her practice, Mecke also describes the instigators in larger scale suicides and those of historical figures—from the cult suicide of hundreds moved by Jim Jones at Jamestown, and the suicide bombings motivated by Osama bin Laden, to the suicide of poet Sylvia Plath and the person who precipitated her death. Classical literature and Greek mythology is also used extensively to address the issue of what triggers suicide. The insights apply universally. This is a must-read for clinicians, counselors, and anyone interested in knowing about suicide and its causes.
Accessible at all levels.Choice
[Mecke's] daring hypothesis is that...suicide is often caused, created, fostered, exacerbated by an active instigator upon a subtly designated scapegoat. This instigator has a freighted psychodynamic history of his own relating to death. Viola Mecke's careful spelling out of this drama is scholarly and fascinating, calling as she has done on both extensive case histories and classical mythology.Edwin S. Shneidman, Founder, American Association of Suicidology Professor of Thanatology Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles
...[P]resents a compelling discussion of the human context of suicide, enriched by examples from case histories, modern literature and mythology. She shows us that suicide is not an isolated individual act; it reflects a failure of relationships and is often instigated by a significant person in the suicidal person's life. This book has much to offer the general reader and it will give clinicians a new understanding of suicide and its interpersonal antecedents.Mary Ann Norfleet, Emerita Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University
An unprecedented work revealing in detail the types of instigators who - passively or actively - provoke people to commit suicide.
About the Author
VIOLA MECKE is a clinical psychologist with more than 40 years of experience in research, private practice, and teaching. She is a Clinical Professor Emerita in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University Medical School and Emerita Professor of Educational Psychology at California State University, Hayward, where she is former coordinator of the Child Clinical and School Psychology program. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a Fellow of the Academy of Clinical Psychology.
Table of Contents
Fatal Attachments: Love Betrayed
Instigators: From the Hellespont to Seattle
Terrorized Children: From Innocence to Instigator
Passive Instigators: Walking By on the Other Side
Passive Instigators II: But I Was Doing the Best I Could
Ambivalence and Instigators: He Loves Me; She Loves Me Not
Self-Attached Instigators: The Jilted Lover
Passive Instigators III: On Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth
Provocateur Instigators: You Know What You Need to Do
Heroic Provocateurs: Riddles and Rhymes, Music and Massacre
The Internal Instigator
Death in the Soul
The Internal Instigator II: Double and Triple Tragedies
Instigation Foiled: Getting Out Alive
Loving Attachment to Life