Content Analysis of Suicide Notes as a Test of the Motivational Component of the Existential-Constructivist Model of Suicide

By Rogers, James R.; Bromley, Jamie L. et al. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Content Analysis of Suicide Notes as a Test of the Motivational Component of the Existential-Constructivist Model of Suicide


Rogers, James R., Bromley, Jamie L., McNally, Christopher J., Lester, David, Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


Perhaps the most predictable response following a suicide is a search for motive. For example, the suicide of Judas Iscariot in 33 AD has been seen as being motivated by self-punishment, whereas the death of Socrates in 399 BC has been interpreted as an act intended to exert rational control over death (Rogers, 2001a). Similarly, Fine (1997) has suggested that searching for the "why" of a loved one's suicide is a major component of the struggle of survivors in the aftermath of suicide. From a more scientific perspective, motivational aspects are often embedded in classification schemes for suicide and suicidal behavior. Durkheim's (1897/1951) sociological classification suggested that suicide is motivated by aspects of one's position in or relationship to society at different levels; Shneidman's (1987) Cubic Model identified Murray's (1938) needs as providing the underlying psychological motivation for suicidal acts. Edland and Duncan (1973) provided a classification of motives that included retaliatory abandonment, retroflexed murder, reunion, rebirth, and self-punishment. Finally, Tanney (as cited in Maris, Berman, & Silverman, 2000) has listed rescue, reunion, respite, rigidity, gamble, rebirth, revenge, riddance, and reparation as reasons or motives for suicide. Thus, the search for motivational explanations of suicidal behavior is an important endeavor, regardless of whether one takes a philosophical, sociological, psychological, or lay perspective.

From a psychological perspective, suicide notes have been used inductively as a medium for identifying motivational aspects of suicidal behavior. For example, the classification system developed by Edland and Duncan (1973) emerged from their content analysis of more than 300 suicide notes. Similarly, the analyses of notes provided the basis for Shneidman's (1987) suicide commonalities and the related motivational aspects of the Cubic Model. Following a more deductive process, Leenaars (1988) used suicide notes to test theory-derived statements, some of which contained motivational content. Although the use of suicide notes to develop and/or test theoretical constructs, including motivation, is not without controversy, Marls et al. (2000) suggested that "when they do provide thematic insight into the motive and intent of the writer, they often do so with remarkable clarity" (p. 274).

Recently, Rogers (2001a, 2001b) presented an existential-constructivist theoretical model for understanding suicide and suicidal behavior (see Figure 1). This theoretical model, grounded in the existential theory of Yalom (1980) and critical constructivism, as outlined by Mahoney (1991) and Neimeyer and Mahoney (1995), represents a meaning-based theoretical approach to suicidal behavior. Thus, the Existential-Constructivist Model suggests that the existential concerns related to death, the inherent meaninglessness, of existence, and existential isolation provide the underlying, albeit distal, motivation for the construction of meaning.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Rogers, Anderson, Bromley, and Kreitz (2001) have taken the general existential-constructivist theory and derived a more proximal four-factor motivational model (see Figure 2) that includes consideration of spiritual, psychological, social or relational, and somatic (i.e., biologically based) motives for suicidal behavior. The psychological domain can best be understood in terms of Shneidman's (1993) concept of "psychache," which refers to intense psychological pain and the perception that death is the only possible form of relief. Accordingly, every person has psychological needs, represented by such concerns as loss of control, disrupted relationships, excessive anger, or humiliation (Shneidman, 1999). When these needs are thwarted, one experiences psychological pain, which results in cognitive restriction. That is, problem-solving ability is diminished to the point that suicide is perceived as the only way to relieve the pain (Shneidman, 1987). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Content Analysis of Suicide Notes as a Test of the Motivational Component of the Existential-Constructivist Model of Suicide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.