In a discussion on the recent tragic deaths here on PEI, some one pointed to an article that he felt gave some insight into the state of mind of one of the individuals involved. I read the article and although it is not new decided it needed a bit of a critical take down.
First of all, as a way of introduction it is important to distinguish some of the different types of murder-suicide.
- Domestic abuse, as the ultimate act of domination by the abuser who then commits suicide out of grief or to evade legal consequences,
- Suicide to facilitate murder, as in suicide bombing,
- Suicide after murder to escape punishment,
- Suicide after murder as a form of self-punishment due to guilt
- Considering one’s suicide as the main act, but murdering e.g. one’s children first, to avoid their becoming orphans, and/or to be together in an expected afterlife,
- Joint suicide in the form of killing the other with consent, and then killing oneself
- Some cases of cult suicide may also involve murder
Khem Jokhoo, physicist, engineer, and yogi writes in the Guardian Trinidad & Tobago about murder suicide as a dysfunction of the soul. Without explicitly reference one of the above types, he seem to be addressing the murder-suicide within a family.
The genesis of any type of violence begins in the “mind.” Therefore, to fully understand why anyone would murder someone they love and then commit suicide, it is important to first understand the anatomy and functions of the soul.
We are off to a bad start here, as calculations in physics have pretty well ruled out any sort of mind-body dualism. Studying the anatomy of the soul becomes impossible, thus negating much of what follows. But we’ll continue anyway.
Anatomy, functions of the soul
The mind, the intellect and the memory are the three faculties of the soul.
The mind is the thinking faculty of the soul where all thoughts are created or generated. The mind imagines, thinks and formulates ideas on the basis of all emotions, desires and sensations. The mind projects instant thoughts, relives past experiences and even anticipates the future. The intellect is the faculty of the soul used to assess thoughts. This is the faculty of understanding, judgment and decision-making. It is the intellect that remembers, discriminates, judges and exercises its strength in the form of “will power.” In the intellect resides the power to reason and it is the seat of your conscience. The memory is the faculty that records all the past actions and experiences of the soul. It takes the form of habits, personality traits, beliefs, values and instincts.
Here he separates the components of the brain into the mind, the intellect, and memory. Neurobiologists do not make any such separation. These functions are all driven by neurons firing, changing, and becoming fixed. An introduction can be found here, and an introduction to consciousness as a function of the brain here.
Murder-suicide victims normal
Generally, people who commit such gruesome acts are very normal and ought not to be categorised as psychopathic in nature. They come from among the rich as well as the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated, and they straddle all religions, class, colour or caste.
The root cause of these actions stems mainly from one of the five evil spirits of anger, greed, ego, lust and attachment.
Aside from the supernatural inclusion of evil spirits, it has been demonstrated that people who commit familial murder suicide are not ‘normal’. In fact it is most often the ultimate culmination of domestic abuse.
Common characteristics of murder-suicide in families include:
- Prior history of domestic violence
- Access to a gun
- Threats, especially increased threats with increased specificity
- Prior history of poor mental health or substance abuse, especially alcohol
Previous history of abuse is by far the most dominant risk factor. In one study, 82 percent of the men who killed their intimate partners were known to the authorities — treatment professionals, the military or the criminal justice system, for example.
In most cases, the man exhibits possessive, obsessive and jealous behavior. There is a gradual build-up of tensions and conflicts after which an event leads the man to act. The triggering event is often the woman’s announcement that she is leaving.
Back to Jokhoo
Anger makes reasoning power comatose
When someone’s love or affection has being rejected after years of marital bliss or a long intimate relationship, especially in preference for another, the mind feeds the bruised ego with thoughts of hate and revenge that generate anger that leads to hurt and depression. Relationships turn sour mainly because of infidelity, flirting, jealousy, greed, or some sort of selfish motivation by one or another party. Whatever is the cause, it leads initially to anger and the ego of arrogance.
When anger is nurtured, the reasoning power of mind and intellect becomes dormant or comatose, rendering the conscience dead. When the conscience goes dead, the power of discrimination of the intellect goes into temporary hibernation. Some refer to this stage as one with a “split personality.” It is at this point that anger turns into raging jealousy, hate or an unrepentant ego, causing the most heinous crimes to be committed, even to our most loved ones. When the act is being committed, the perpetrator does not have the power of reasoning as the intellect is impotent and cannot discern the consequence of the act.
Putting the fault on sexual or emotional rejection is a classic ‘blame the victim’ technique, and takes the responsibility out of the hands of the perpetrator. Anger is a natural response that is ubiquitous across cultures, and is something that virtually all of us feel at some time or another. Most of us are in control enough not to act with violence to a stimulus that incites anger. He is correct in stating that anger can be an initiating cause in murder-suicide, however experts consider the driving force to be self harm and refer to the phenomenon as suicide-murder; the reversed term used as a chronological convention.The perpetrator would have a distorted sense of the consequences of his act, rather than no understanding at all.
Murder-suicide act was premeditated
Usually, the one who commits the act is always hopeful that he would regain his lover. However, during the period of hurt and depression, he cannot bear the reality that his loved one is in the arms of another and this is when he would premeditate the demise of his loved one or the third person. During this period of premeditation, nothing matters anymore and he retreats from society internally and externally.
At work, he would withdraw from everyone and would be seen in deep contemplation as though mummified. If there were children involved, he would pretend as though all is well so as not to hurt them. However, his facial countenance betrays his inner feelings. He is hurt and depressed and cannot hide his feelings. Because of this, he plans his exit through the suicide route. He becomes careless and leaves notable evidence that would only be discovered after the fact and act. Many times he would prepare a suicide note so his children would understand his feelings and would not lay blame or hate him.
Approximately 95% of domestic murder-suicides are perpetrated by males, and the most dangerous point is when the female partner leaves or threatens to leave. Most studies on suicide emphasize that predicting suicides, never mind murder-suicides is almost impossible. While some suicidal people may exhibit extreme depressive symptoms, many are adept at hiding their emotions, and as many as 2/3 of attempted suicides are not aware they have a treatable illness.
Suicide, a means to end the agony
Suicide is the act of one whose “psyche” is confused and who has lost the ability to discriminate between right and wrong, or lacks the strength to judge by not having clarity of thought, or is empty of tolerance and hence becomes devoid of the power to face situations. Suicide is a self-inflicted premeditated demise of one’s life when the soul has lost the power to face situations, either for loss of name, fame, shame, sickness or indebtedness to society. Therefore it is important to understand the spiritual aspects of life as well as know that anger, greed, ego, lust and attachment are your own worst enemy. The root cause of these gruesome acts is non-physical and hence the solutions must be spiritual in essence.
In many cases suicide is an attempt to end the agony. Despite Jokhoo’s absolute assessment that the root cause of suicide is spiritual and not physical, there are conflicting opinions of the effect or religiosity on suicide rates. Some studies have reported lower levels of suicide in religious communities while others have found the exact opposite with lower rates in secular societies. The difficulties in determining the number of suicides (mental health experts consider an unknowable number of accidental deaths to be suicide) may be at least partly responsible for this discrepancy. Considering oneself a member of a religious organization may protect against suicide by several means. The sense of community may be protective against the sense of loniless and abandonment common in depressives. Many religions consider a suicide to be a ‘sin’ and people may resist for fear of eternal punishment. Suicide can sometimes be ‘contagious’ in that if one occurs, others may copy the behaviours, thus a community with initial low rates of suicide would tend along that path. On the other hand community pressure may cause the victim to cover up their actions to look like an accident.
In the end, the writing of Khem Jokhoo add nothing whatsoever to a deeper underrstanding of the tragedy that is murder-suicide.