CONTEXTUAL-CONCEPTUAL THERAPY (CCT):
Going Deeper into the Suicidal Experience with the Suicidal Person
For some time now I have been looking into issues surrounding suicide. The news is full of statistics and heartfelt stories of families caught in the devastating aftermath of the tragedy and loss of suicide. Soldiers and Veterans are killing themselves at unprecedented rates—22 per day we are told, though rates are likely much higher. At the same time we are losing teens to suicide at a stunning pace, and the overall rates of suicide are reaching epidemic proportion (Sabrina Tavernise, NYT April 22, 2016). And, as the investigations progress, we find that despair is among the more common reasons cited among those who have attempted or thought about killing themselves; and with despair comes isolation.
This is a chilling combination – despair and isolation. When one sinks into despair, a wall is erected in the psyche, and circumstances and misunderstanding quickly become insurmountable. As the wall becomes higher, deeper, and more complete finding one’s way out becomes increasingly difficult, choices are diminished, and soon there are no alternatives but to sacrifice the self–all too often literally.
This is where Fredric Matteson’s work with CCT (Contextual Conceptual Therapy) has become so profound. Fredric shows that there are always more options than the mind believes. When there appears to be no way through the problem. This is where Fredric invites us to look at the problem ‘differently.’ Once that is done CCT takes a dramatic departure from common therapeutic approach–suicide might still need to happen: a metaphoric death, not a literal one. Matteson gives an example that is in alignment with one very suicidal woman’s own sudden realization about her multiple suicide attempts. She realized, “I want to die” is a metaphor for “I want to live.”
“An indirect form of communication is needed to bypass the fierce intelligence and resistance which sustains this psychological and emotional trap. By utilizing metaphor and experiential methods, I have found ways to offer suicidal persons a stereoscopic perspective using metaphoric resonance to bypass the entrenched internal illogic that binds them.”
In essence, what is “killed” (dissolved) is not one’s Self. Rather, some part of the self might need to “die,” so that another part can transform, grow, and mature. Instead of moving away from the suicide, the suggestion is that “the only way out” is ‘through’ that place in the psyche and into the deep imagination where the roots of creativity and one’s Great Identity reside. From here, attending to inner anguish is very different than taking one’s own life when faced with utter despair. The despair becomes a harbinger for deep and profound transformation.
Benjamin Dennis Ph.D