Carl Jung on “Suicide”

Carl Jung on Suicide:

“It isn’t possible to kill part of your “self” unless you kill yourself first. If you ruin your conscious personality, the so-called ego-personality, you deprive the self of its real goal, namely to become real itself. The goal of life is the realization of the self. If you kill yourself you abolish that will of the self to become real, but it may arrest your personal development inasmuch it is not explained. You ought to realize that suicide is murder, since after suicide there remains a corpse exactly as with any ordinary murder. Only it is yourself that has been killed.” (Jung, 1975, p.25)
“The idea of suicide, understandable as it is, does not seem commendable to me. We live in order to gain the greatest possible amount of spiritual development and self-awareness. As long as life is possible, even if only in a minimal degree, you should hang onto it, in order to scoop it up for the purpose of conscious development. To interrupt life before its time is to bring to a standstill an experiment which we have not set up. We have found ourselves in the midst of it and must carry it through to the end.” (Jung, 1973, p. 434)

“It is really a question whether a person affected by such a terrible illness should or may end her life. It is my attitude in such cases not to interfere. I would let things happen as they were so, because I’m convinced that if anybody has it in himself to commit suicide, then practically the whole of his being is going that way. I have seen cases where it would have been something short of criminal to hinder the people because according to all rules it was in accordance with the tendency of their unconscious and thus the basic thing. So I think nothing is really gained by interfering with such an issue. It is presumably to be left to the free choice of the individual. Anything that seems to be wrong to us can be right under certain circumstances over which we have no control and then end of which we do not understand. If Kristine Mann had committed suicide under the stress of unbearable pain, I should have thought that this was the right thing. As it was not the case, I think it was in her stars to undergo such a cruel agony for reasons that escape out understanding. Our life is not made entirely by ourselves. The main bulk of it is brought into existence out of sources that are hidden to us. Even complexes can start a century or more before a man is born. There is something like karma.” (Jung, 1973, pp. 435-436)

“The reason for such an “unreasonable” attitude with me is that I am not at all sure what will happen to me after death. I have good reasons to assume that things are not finished with death. Life seems to be an interlude in a long story.” (Jung, 1975, p. 279)

“Statistics show a rise in the frequency of mental depression in men about forty. In women the neurotic difficulties generally begin somewhat earlier. We see that in this phase of life – between thirty-five and forty – an important change in the human psyche is in preparation. At first it is not a conscious and striking change; it is rather a matter of indirect signs of a change which seems to take its rise in the unconscious. Often it is something like a slow change in a person’s character; in another case certain traits may come to light which had disappeared since childhood; or again, one’s previous inclinations and interests begin to weaken and others take their place. Conversely – and this happens very frequently – one’s cherished convictions and principles, especially the moral ones, begin to harden and to grow increasingly rigid until, somewhere around the age of fifty, a period of intolerance and fanaticism is reached. It is as if the existence of these principles were endangered and it were therefore necessary to emphasize them all the more. (CW 8, para. 773)

“The catastrophe can, however, also be subjective and take the form of a nervous breakdown. This invariably happens when the influence of the unconscious finally paralyzes all conscious action. The demands of the unconscious then force themselves imperiously on consciousness and bring about a disastrous split which shows itself in one of two ways : either the subject no longer knows what he really wants and nothing interests him, or he wants too much at once and has too many interests, but in impossible things. The suppression of infantile and primitive demands for cultural reasons easily leads to a neurosis or to the abuse of narcotics such as alcohol, morphine, cocaine, etc. In more extreme cases the split ends in suicide.” (CW 6 : 573)

“Freud’s approach is not always mistaken, however, for consciousness is not always firmly established. This presupposes a good deal of experience of life and a certain amount of maturity. Young people, who are very far from knowing who they really are, would run a great risk if they obscured their knowledge of themselves still further by letting the “dark night of the soul” pour into their immature, labile consciousness. Here a certain depreciation of the unconscious is justified. Experience has convinced me that there are not only different temperaments (“type”), but different stages of psychological development, so that one can well say that there is an essential difference between the psychology of the first and second half of life. Here again I differ from the others in maintaining that the same psychological criteria are not applicable to the different stages of life.”(CW 4, para. 762)

“We are greatly mistaken if we think that the unconscious is something harmless that could be made into an object of entertainment, a parlor game. Certainly the unconscious is not always and in all circumstances dangerous, but as soon as a neurosis is present it is a sign of a special heaping up of energy in the unconscious, like a charge that may explode. Here caution is indicated. One never knows what one may be releasing when one begins to analyze dreams. Something deeply buried and invisible may thereby be set in motion, very probably something that would have come to light sooner or later anyway – but, again, it might not. It is as if one were digging an artesian well and ran the risk of stumbling on a volcano. When neurotic symptoms are present one must proceed very carefully. But there are cases of people, apparently quite normal, showing no especial neurotic symptoms –they may themselves be doctors and educators – priding themselves on their normality, models of good upbringing, with exceptionally normal views and habits of life, yet whose normality is an artificial compensation for a latent psychosis. They themselves suspect nothing of their condition. Their suspicions may perhaps find only an indirect expression in the fact that they are particularly interested in psychology and psychiatry, and are attracted to those things as a moth to the light. But since the analytical technique activates the unconscious and brings it to the fore, in these cases the healthful compensation is destroyed, the unconscious breaks forth in the form of uncontrollable fantasies, and overwrought state which may, in certain circumstances, lead to mental disorder and possibly even to suicide. Unfortunately these latent psychoses are not so very uncommon.” CW 7 Page 192.

“Although it in the great majority of cases compensation aims at establishing a normal psychological balance and thus appears as a kind of self-regulation of the psychic system, one must not forget that under certain circumstances and in certain cases (for instance, in the latent psychoses) compensation may lead to a fatal outcome owing to the preponderance of destructive tendencies. The result to suicide or some other abnormal action, apparently preordained in the life-pattern of certain hereditary tainted individuals.” CW 8 : 547

“…..The vast majority of mental illnesses (except those of a directly organic nature) are due to a disintegration of consciousness caused by the irresistible invasion of unconscious contents. Accordingly, we must know where we can intervene without the risk of harm. Even if no danger threatens from this side, we are still not exempt from certain hazards. One of the commonest consequences of preoccupation with unconscious contents is the development of what Freud called “the transference.” Strictly speaking, transference is the projection of unconscious contents upon the person analyzing the unconscious. The term “transference,” however, is used in a much wider sense and embraces all the exceedingly complex processes which bind the patient to the analyst. This bond can turn into an extremely unpleasant obstacle if inexpertly handled. There are cases where it has even led to suicide. One of the main reasons for this is the coming to consciousness of certain unconscious contents which throw a new and disturbing light on the family situation. Things may come up that transform the patient’s love and trust in his parents into resistance and hatred. He then finds himself in an intolerable state of isolation, and will cling desperately to the analyst as his last remaining link with the world. If at this critical juncture the analyst, through some technical blunder, snaps even this link, it can lead straight to suicide.” (CW 17para. 260)

“Generally speaking, therefore, an unconscious secret is more injurious than a conscious one. I have seen many patients who, as a result of difficult circumstances that might well have driven weaker natures to suicide, sometimes developed a suicidal tendency but, because of their inherent reasonableness, prevented it from becoming conscious and in this way generated an unconscious suicide-complex. This unconscious urge to suicide then engineered all kinds of dangerous accidents – as, for instance, a sudden attack of giddiness on some exposed place, hesitation in front of a motor-car, mistaking corrosive sublimate for cough mixture, a sudden zest for dangerous acrobatics, and so forth. When it was possible to make the suicidal leaning conscious in these cases, common sense could intervene as a salutary check: the patients could then consciously recognize and avoid the situations that tempted them to self-destruction.” (CW 16 : 128)

“These peculiarities plainly reveal the qualities of the autonomous complex. It creates a disturbance in the readiness to react, either inhibiting the answer or causing an undue delay, or it produces an unsuitable reaction, and afterwards often suppresses the memory of the answer. It interferes with the conscious will and disturbs its intentions. This is why we call it autonomous. If we subject a neuroticor an insane person to this experiment, we find that the complexes which disturb the reactions are at the same time essential components of the psychic disturbance. They cause not only the disturbances of reaction but also the symptoms. I have seen cases where certain stimulus-words were followed by strange and apparently nonsensical answers, by words that come out of the test-person’s mouth quite unexpectedly, as though a strange being had spoken through him. These words belonged to the autonomous complex. When excited by an external stimulus, complexes can produce sudden confusions, or violent affects, depressions, anxiety-states, etc., or they may express themselves in hallucinations. In short, they behave in such a way that the primitive theory of spirits strikes one as being an uncommonly apt formulation for them.” (CW 8, para. 593)

“The feeling-tone is an affective state accompanied by somatic innervations. The ego is the psychological expression of the firmly associated combination of all bodily sensations. One’s own personality is therefore the firmest and strongest complex, and (good health permitting) it weathers all psychological storms. It is for this reason that the ideas which directly concern our own persons are always the most stable, and to us the most interesting; we could also express this by saying that they possess the strongest attention-tone.” (CW 3, para.83)

“This perseveration of the affect, coupled with great intensity of feeling, is one of the reasons for a corresponding increase in the richness of associations. Hence large complexes are always strongly feeling-toned and, conversely, strong affects always leave behind very large complexes. This is due simply to the fact that on the one hand large complexes include numerous somatic innervations, while on the other hand strong affects constellate a great many associations because of their powerful and persistent stimulation of the body.” (CW 3, para.87)

“In this case and at this moment the ability to “let go” is of decisive importance. But since everything passes, the moment may come when the relinquished ego must be reinstated in its function. Letting go gives the unconscious the opportunity it has been waiting for. But since it consists of opposites – day and night, bright and dark, positive and negative – and is good and evil and therefore ambivalent, the moment will infallibly come when the individual, like the exemplary Job, must hold fast so as not to be thrown catastrophically off balance – when the wave rebounds. The holding fast can be achieved only by conscious will, i.e., by the ego, but one which, as we see here, is nonetheless relative. Relative, too, is the gain won by integrating the unconscious. We add to ourselves a bright and a dark, and more light means more night. The urge of the consciousness towards wider horizons, however, cannot be stopped; they must needs extend the scope of the personality, if they are not to shatter it. (CW 9i, para. 563)

“…..(O blessed Nature, blessed are thy works, for that thou makest the imperfect to be perfect through the true putrefaction, which is dark and lack. Afterwards, thou makest new and multitudinous things to grow, causing with thy verdure the many colors to appear.) It is not immediately apparent why this dark state deserves special praise, since the nigredo is universally held to be of a somber and melancholy humor reminiscent of death and the grave. But the fact that medieval alchemy had connections with the mysticism of the age, or rather was itself a form of mysticism, allows us to adduce as a parallel to thenigredo the writings of St. John of the Cross concerning the “dark night.” This author conceives the “spiritual night” of the soul as a supremely positive state, in which the invisible – and therefore dark –radiance of God comes to pierce and purify the soul.” (CW 16, para.479)