Fatal Attachments

The Instigation to Suicide

by Viola Mecke


An unprecedented work revealing in detail the types of instigators who—passively or actively—provoke people to commit suicide.

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June 2004


Pages 216
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Psychology/General
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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.

Table of Contents

PrefaceFatal Attachments: Love BetrayedInstigators: From the Hellespont to SeattleTerrorized Children: From Innocence to InstigatorPassive Instigators: Walking By on the Other SidePassive Instigators II: But I Was Doing the Best I CouldAmbivalence and Instigators: He Loves Me; She Loves Me NotSelf-Attached Instigators: The Jilted LoverPassive Instigators III: On Looking a Gift Horse in the MouthProvocateur Instigators: You Know What You Need to DoHeroic Provocateurs: Riddles and Rhymes, Music and MassacreThe Internal InstigatorDeath in the SoulThe Internal Instigator II: Double and Triple TragediesCult InstigatorsInstigation Foiled: Getting Out AliveLoving Attachment to LifeBibliography



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,^LFounder, American Association of Suicidology^LProfessor 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,^LEmerita Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry,^LStanford University

Viola Mecke has developed a dynamic theory of suicide that should be read by every psychotherapist who works with depressed patients and every person who has a severly depressed relative or friend.—Jerry H. Clark, ^LFormerly Chair, National Association for the Advancement of Psychology

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