I sometimes have thoughts of suicide. That does not mean I would ever come within a mile of committing the act of suicide. But my brain does simulate it; though I do try to always reduce such thoughts.
But what I have noticed is that 'suicide' is triggered in my mind whenever I think of some embarrassing event, real or imagined. Or an event in which I'm obviously a low-status actor. This leads me to think that suicide might be a high-status move, in the sense that its goal is to recover status after some event which caused a big drop in status. Consider the following instances when suicide is often considered:
- One-sided break-ups of romantic relationships. The party who has been 'dumped' (for the lack of a better word), has obviously taken a giant status hit. In this case, suicide is often threatened.
- A samurai committing seppuku. The samurai has lost in battle. Clearly, a huge drop in status (aka 'honor').
- PhD student says he/she can't take it anymore. A PhD is a constant hit in status: you aren't smart enough, you don't have much money, and you don't yet have intellectual status.
Further, suicide (or suicidal behavior leading to death) seems to have conferred status to artists. Examples: Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, David Foster Wallace and many more. I'm not saying that they committed suicide due to a pressure to achieve high-status (though that may be the case, I'm not sure). What I am saying is that suicide has been associated with high-status.
Further, after a person is dead, he/she is almost always celebrated (at least for a while) and all their faults are forgotten.
My theory: in many low-status situations, an instinctive way to recover status is to say that you are too good for this game and check-out. In fact, children (and adults) will often just leave a game they're not very good at and disparage the rest of the players for playing. And suicide is the ultimate check-out. This theory is motivated by observations of my own brain going through thoughts of suicide. They almost always consist of imagining other people crying about my death and saying what an awesome person he was. And about how he was just too smart to be able to live in this world.
Do you think this theory has some weight? I'm certain that I'm not the first person to think of this. But a quick Google didn't yield much. Any pointers to literature?