Suicide as Escape from Self (Baumeister, 1990)

Suicide as Escape from Self, is a theory developed by psychologist R. Baumeister, exposed in the 90’s journal article accessible here.

Article abstract :

“Suicide is analyzed in terms of motivations to escape from aversive self-awareness. The causal chain begins with events that fall severely short of standards and expectations. These failures are attributed internally, which makes self-awareness painful. Awareness of the self’s inadequacies generates negative affect, and the individual therefore desires to escape from self-awareness and the associated affect. The person tries to achieve a state of cognitive deconstruction (constricted temporal focus, concrete thinking, immediate or proximal goals, cognitive rigidity, and rejection of meaning), which helps prevent meaningful self-awareness and emotion. The deconstructed state brings irrationality and disinhibition, making drastic measures seem acceptable. Suicide can be seen as an ultimate step in the effort to escape from self and world”

 

Jesse Bering in Scientific American, sums up and comments on Baumeister’s theory: “According to Baumeister, there are six primary steps in the escape theory, culminating in a probable suicide when all criteria are met.”

They are :

1. Falling short of standards

2. Attributions to Self

3. High Self-awareness

4. Negative affect

5. Cognitive deconstruction

6. Desinhibition

 

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