. Social Alienation—as previously mentioned, alienation has several definitions ranging from deep psychological despair regarding one’s personal place to more a macro, societal place that diminishes one’s functional value (or what one’s labor is worth).
In between psychological and macro-societal alienation is social alienation, or a deep sense of betrayal that stems from various types of micro-aggressions. One experiencing social alienation struggles with various emotional toxins, including anger, shame, guilt, and distrust (especially of those in authority or of a social system that promises to protect).
From the perspective of the one alienated, the social system and its representatives (such as Mr. Porter in 13 Reasons Why) cannot keep its promises.
1. Impression Management—refers to the external pretenses that one with suicidal thoughts project so as to control the impressions of others—we know that we cannot possibly control all perceptions that others have in regard to our behavior and demeanor (how we appear to others), but we also have the ability to keep intentions private—without creating any suspicion on the part of others.
In regard to one seriously considering suicide, the external pretenses are correlated with one’s: a) emotional readiness to commit suicide; b) decision regarding the specific method of suicide; and c) the “social face” one presents to others in between the thought of committing suicide and actual commitment of such suicide.
Reference to a “social face” implies external pretenses are guided by facework (our emotional and social labor to create “social diversions” that minimize suspicion)—typically, owing to pronounced and intense socialization, our motives of desire are linked to the presentation of a happy face—or at least a face without apparent troubles.
Impression management is a way to present “on stage” external appearances— the front is designed as a “non- provocative” management of others’ impressions—fulfilling the expectation to “be fine” ( the norm of minor euphoria).
1. Segregated Space—one of the enduring themes associated with suicide is isolation—in the literal sense of the term, and in relation to suicide, isolation refers to an intentional alone-ness wherein the suicidal person correlates a specific methodology with a specific location, away from the presence of others.
Again, as discussed in reference to suicide ideation, a suicidal person is ironically rational—in that this person calculates the probability of correlating the proper time to commit suicide and the method one uses to consummate the act with the “special place” to commit the (without drawing suspicion).
1. Social Psychological Themes Associated with Suicide—in regard to Hannah’s plan to commit suicide (in 13 Reasons Why), the more intriguing suicides in our culture involve those deemed physically abled, attractive, and youthful—so that their death symbolizes the Zeigarnik Effect (or unfinished business). The suicide also resembles the previously discussed (in Section One) notion of death as a non-sequitur as it seems to “come out of nowhere” without any meaningful context surrounding it.
Social psychologists have weighed in on possible explanations for abrupt departures (via suicide) or attempts to depart (or maybe seek attention via attempted/failed suicides). Social psychologists attempt to provide some hypothetical explanations of suicide by combining a social person’s disposition (or inner life) with this person’s ecological position (or outer, environmental circumstances).
In particular, social psychologists focus on the suicidal person’s response to environmental demands and characteristics that “permit” suicidal thoughts (and even the act of committing suicide) as opposed to those environmental characteristics that “strongly discourage” such thoughts and acts.
1. Role Theory—maintains that in a developed and progressive society, expectations regarding our functional usefulness begin to outweigh our personal dispositions. In effect, the roles we play (that are linked to institutional expectations and our “player development”) become more central in our lives than core self (or personality) characteristics.
In regard to the sample Twenty Statements Test” ( TST), asking, “Who am I?” Manford Kuhn (the test creator) found that those who began the TST with what he called “anchored descriptors,” regarded their roles as more viable identifications than any personal (or “untethered”) descriptor.
For example, an anchored descriptor such as “Son,” “Daughter,” “University Student,” or “Professor” would indicate that one weighs role as more substantial than an untethered descriptor, such as “Happy,” “Chill,” “Melanie,” or “Who I am”
In and of themselves, anchored and untethered descriptors represent a person’s value—or species being (one’s essence as a productive self in society). Anchored descriptors correlate a person’s value in regard to specific relationships and tasks; untethered descriptors tend to locate a person’s value in regard to particular subjective orientations.
However, and in reference to Ernest Becker in the Denial of Death, emphasis on anchored descriptors can become problematic for two distinct reasons:
One—the anchored, role-based perspective can become rigid and can symbolically lock one into a dependence on the role . This problem seems most applicable to middle-aged-to elderly men who replace their selves with their roles—especially their jobs.
Two —the rigidity of the anchored role can be associated with a failure to adapt so that when one loses a vital role, he/she feels lost and, socially alienated. No other roles (including husband or mentor) are as important as his job.
[Clip from Mad Men — the suicide of Lane Pryce]
Lane Pryce, in the fictional TV Series, Mad Men, is the financial officer at the Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce ( SCDP) Advertising Agency. Colloquially, he could be described as a “work-acholic.” He is extraordinarily competent at his job; the partners regard him as indispensable to the day-to-day running of the Agency.
Lane also “lands” a contract with Jaguar, making SCDP look even more “classy” by having such an iconic car to represent.
However, Lane is also under tremendous financial pressure. Becoming a partner at SCDP involved an investment, which constitutes a very large percentage of Lane’s accumulated wealth. Lane also facing tax woes and is more than $7,500 in debt.
Lane wants to maintain his lifestyle and keep his son in a prestigious prep school. In the meantime, his wife, with whom Price has had several conflicts, is not averse to spending money and “living the good life,”