Magical thinking about death

Pre-suicide fantasy. Most if not all suicidal people have a fantasy about what will happen after they die. Who will do and say what and what will become of them and so forth. How factually based that fantasy is, can of course vary enormously. However it has been noted by many that such pre-suicide fantasies often involve a degree of magical thinking. That is, the A1 ego state is influential in the thinking about the post death scenario. These three have stated so:

Firstly Harry Boyd (1972) makes the statement, “My impression is that the suicidal patient does not, on the Child level, really conceive of his death as terminal”(P.87).

In addition Little (2009) talks about the ‘pre-suicide fantasy’, “suicidal people have transformation fantasies and are prone to magical thinking, like children and psychotics”(p.220).

Campbell (1999) also describes fantasies that the suicidal can have about death. He notes the suicidal person expects and understands that his body will die (Adult ego state) but the person can imagine there is another part of himself that can continue to live in a conscious body-less state that is unaffected by the physical death of the body (Child ego state).

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We all maintain our A1 ego state until we die.

When the A2 arrives it does not just go away so we all maintain the ability to have magical thinking.

 

These writers are talking about suicide in the general population including fully grown adults. If adults can regress in these ways such that their Child ego state magical thinking plays a significant role in their pre suicidal decisions then a teenager has more propensity to do so because their Adult ego state is less resilient and more immature.

Hence we have this diagram showing the regressed nature of the suicidal person.

Regression ego states

In addition some, if not many suicidal people, are intoxicated to some degree at the time of making a suicide attempt which means the A2 is further decommissioned. Furthermore some protective factors as they are known are reduced. One protective factor is the person will think of the pain this will cause their loved ones after the suicide. This of course requires compassion and empathy which generally are seen as Parent ego state functions. In regression the Parent ego state is significantly reduced and hence these protective factors can also be significantly reduced.

One could probably say, the person who is going to make a serious suicide attempt has the ego state structure as shown in the diagram. It would seem prudent for any therapist to enquire of the pre-suicide fantasy a person may have to assess the level of magical thinking present.

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