Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Suicide Threats and the Narcissist

I received a comment on this post in the last 24 hours that actually provoked me to write.  And I wrote with enough substance that I decided to put it on the front page so that all may read it.  Here is the comment:

I agree with a lot of what is said on here. Regarding the comments about being scared of death meaning the person won't commit suicide... I just want to share that one of my family members may have been narcissistic, and threatened suicide often as a manipulation tactic. We thought that she would not do it but she did. Being scared of death might be a narcissistic trait, and they might threaten suicide as a manipulation, but I'm just sharing that that doesn't mean a person won't do it. I think it might be helpful to remember that narcissism is a disorder... so while it is angering keep some perspective about the person still being a person you don't want to die from suicide.

I will comment on the final point first: perspective is exactly what I present on this blog.  The perspective is this:  narcissists are their own creation.  Their "disorder" isn't something that just accidentally happened without their contribution.  They create their own "disorder" and then they inflict it on everyone around them.  When narcissists threaten suicide this perspective still applies.

It is well established that most people who serially threaten suicide aren't very serious about actually doing it.  The serious ones will almost always do it without giving even a hint of their intentions.  Or they will do just that: hint without an overt threat being made.  Many times those hints aren't recognized by others for what they were until it is too late. 

While suicide is always a tragic end to any life we shouldn't pretend that we can actually stop someone who is serious about doing it. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to intervene, it simply means we shouldn't blame ourselves if they successfully complete the act. I don't know of any caring family member, friend or even co-worker who wouldn't try to stop someone who has threatened to kill themselves.  People will go to great lengths to help an apparently suicidal person.  This is the very reason that narcissists love to use this threat to get attention whenever they want it.  If there was an ongoing problem of people ignoring suicide threats then do you think that narcissists would use those threats to get attention?  Obviously answer is no.  If a narcissist is frequently threatening suicide then you have all the proof you need that the threats are garnering them much attention.  If they move on from threats to actually doing it then the blame rests squarely on them.

If the suicidal person doesn't accept the help when they make threats to kill themselves then I think it highly irresponsible to blame the people around them for not doing enough to stop them.  I'm not saying that this commenter is blaming people for this, but it can be inferred that they think the way this topic has been discussed on this post would lead people to not do enough to stop the suicidal person.  I'm just pointing out what I think is obvious...the truly suicidal person will carry through no matter what people may do to try to stop them.  Additionally, individuals who frequently make these threats without any real attempts should also accept the blame when people stop believing them.

The problem presented in the post (and the comments) isn't that people don't or won't do enough to help suicidal individuals.  The problem is how there are crassly manipulative people who will use suicidal threats to get what they want.  In the end, the narcissist is always after all the attention in the room.  All I was trying to get across is that there is a distinct possibility that all those suicidal threats are actually being used to get compliant behavior from us.  Recognition of that possibility isn't going to stop people from trying to help someone who threatens suicide with regularity.  I think that people deserve to know they are being manipulated when these threats are ongoing.  Being aware of this (not slight) possibility will allow people to do their own assessments of what is happening and decide when they will stop letting these threats rule their own lives.  

That the narcissistic person in this commenter's life seems to have defied this logic above doesn't negate what I've said.  There are exceptions to every rule.  There is also a possibility that the suicide wasn't supposed to work. It is well known that there are people who attempt suicide but the method and timing often reveal that the person was hoping someone would intervene.  It is usually called a "cry for help" and not seen as a total commitment to offing themselves.  These individuals do get help.  Whether they will avail themselves of it is another matter.

Suicide is recognized by the psych community as very often being a hostile act toward others.  It can be used to stick a shiv between the ribs of family and friends that can never be removed.  That is a lot of power to wield.  To pretend that suicidal people don't factor that in is to be stupidly naive.  So putting more potential blame on those who've had a family member or friend kill themselves is cruelty.  They already shoulder far too much blame.  Blame that was foisted on them by the act of suicide itself. 

Here's another thought for all to chew on:  suicide is homicidal behavior inflicted upon oneself.  (I'm sure I've pointed that out before somewhere on this blog.) Homicidal behavior is just a fancy phrase for murder.  Murder is in the heart of the suicidal person.  That murderous intent has all too often spilled over into murdering other humans for us to safely ignore this reality.  This is not something people are willing to point out very often, but if you have someone in your life who is suicidal, you also are dealing with a person who could very possibly justify killing others.  It must be said.  To say it another way, a suicidal person is not just a danger to themselves; they may easily also be a danger to those around them.  People deserve to know that fact and adjust their lives accordingly.  Frankly, I would advise anyone to try to help an openly suicidal person, but when it becomes apparent that help is not being accepted then it is best to be on guard.  Put some distance between yourself and that person.  But that is my opinion.  If you choose to risk continued close association that is your choice.  No one is going to stop you.

No one here wants anyone to commit suicide.  Not even the narcissist. Not even when they make us angry. What I have provided here is plenty of perspective.  It is perspective that factors in multiple realities...not just one.  People are smart enough to figure this out without being talked down to.  The problem out there isn't that people are dehumanizing narcissists and hoping they will follow through on their death threats against their own person.  The ongoing problem is that narcissists dehumanize us.  And then abuse us accordingly.  To point this and other realities out about narcissists doesn't dehumanize them.  It exposes them.  Narcissists are, without exception, predatory.  I have expended much effort to help people stop being prey.  Our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness isn't suspended by hungry narcissists even when they act like they want to kill themselves. 

Please read all the above with the realization the the blog author here fully understands that people who aren't narcissists may threaten suicide.  They may actually carry it out.  I'm not saying all people who threaten suicide are narcissists.  Please don't construe anything I've said to be implicating that.  But if you know you're dealing with a narcissist then all the above must be considered.

Also, I want to add that the person whose comment I responded to in this post deserves to know this all applies to her/him too.  I hope this person isn't blaming themselves for the suicide of their family member.  That is a heavy burden to carry.  Please don't carry it.  I want to make sure that no one carries that burden unnecessarily.  That is what this response is about.