The Dream Themes of the Suicidal Unconscious

St John, Victoria
Emmens, Joanne
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

My Research question is “What are the themes in the dreams of a suicidal person?” This research aims to increase understanding of the state of mind of a person who is suicidal by examining their dream material. I ask, when an individual’s mind has moved into a state of suicidality, what might the themes in the dreams of a suicidal person show us? My motivation to examine the perhaps hidden states of mind of the suicidal person comes from my personal experience of having lost a dear friend to suicide unexpectedly and feeling a strong need to better understand potentially hidden symptoms that may not otherwise be picked up by mental health agencies, family and friends. New Zealand is well known as having a very high suicide rate and my research hopes to contribute to understanding more about this phenomenon and in turn to inform assessment and treatment of this condition.
Using a qualitative interpretive methodology (embedded in established psychoanalytic theoretical constructs), I analysed 55 dreams of suicidal patients that I gathered from articles and used a thematic analysis method to draw out underlying themes. My findings uncovered much already written about themes such as violence and hostility as well as bringing to light some seemingly benign themes such that I argue are clinically very relevant and would be valuable to research further. Benign themes such as ‘pathway/crossroads’, ‘architecture/structure’, ‘holding on and letting go’ and ‘peaceful, seductive solutions’ were uncovered, and the clinical and theoretical implications of these findings discussed.

Dream , Themes , Suicide , Unconscious
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