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People are able to experience in two consciousness modes: a reflective mode in which they are aware of themselves and elements of their environment as objects and a non-reflective mode in which they experience themselves as at-one with the contents of consciousness. The suicidal individual is seen as identified with the reflective self and alienated by shame and fear from non-reflective being. Non-reflectiveness amounts to the non-existence of self as an existing object. But the intellect, identified with the object self, confuses the non-reflective extinction of the object self with physical death. To imagine death as a complete absence of consciousness, would seem an impossibility since imagination is an act of consciousness. Hence, the fantasy of death is more likely to be a fantasy of non-responsiveness to the world of objects. Suicidal thoughts and feelings, then, are viewed in this paper as a symbolic expression of the desire to function non-reflectively and the frustration at being unable to do so. Schneidman's “depressed, defiant, and dependent dissatisfied” suicidal types are seen as categories of defensive maneuvers against fears of non-reflective functioning. Much cognitive mythology exists which equates non-reflective functioning with irrationality and being out-of-control. Therapists must understand in themselves and validate in the people with whom they work, the need for non-reflective functioning.

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