There are no perfect lives, not even hidden immaculately through a screen, this virtual showcase that mirrors our days – often ambiguously – or camouflaged with the mundane smiles we now exchange under the masks. The death of actor Pedro Lima (Luanda, 1971) shocked the Portuguese, who became familiar with his smile through television, namely soap operas (although the actor also made theater and cinema) more than two decades ago. Father of five, he had at his side a talented and beautiful woman, the artist Anna Westerlund, had a job (multiple, even), was apparently healthy, physically, surfed and more recently had resumed boxing practice. “What’s going on? Great actor, beautiful, full of life, with a beautiful family” writes, in one of the thousands of comments left on his Instagram account, a fan of this actor Portuguese. One among so many others.
According to the legal report, the autopsy revealed that the actor died by drowning at Abano Beach in Cascais, but the fact that he left a farewell letter to the family points to a possible suicide. But why is this case so shocking, as most people have expressed? According to the WHO, one person commits suicide in the world every 40 seconds, with suicide accounting for about 800,000 deaths each year, more than breast cancer, malaria, war or homicide.
Ricardo Sousa Andrade, psychotherapist and clinical psychologist with psychoanalytic guidance, demystifies – in the light of the present day – depression and suicide associated with existential crises, the real world of relationships versus the fictionalized by the “personas”, the eagerness to channel emotions in an accelerated and immediate way, the obsession with constant happiness and, ultimately, the absence of lasting bonds and the mission of affections.
What world is this, that we live today, some of us submerged in social networks?
We live in a world saturated with confused signs and impetuous individualization, prone to change quickly and unpredictably. Being in constant motion has become an imperative necessity for people to survive the frenetic rhythms of modern and postmodern society. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman defined the world in which we live in liquid modernity. It is in this liquefied and volatile scenario that people trickle down to isolation. We live in a kind of relational paradox, in an age where it is apparently easy and immediate to connect with each other, however, this relational immediacy enunciates a restlessness that despairs of authentic relationships.
Is there a crisis, shall we say, in the construction of these relationships?
The construction of authentic relationships depends on connecting links that require time to build. Today’s society in which we live despises this time. The time we live in is that of connections, of connecting and being connected. The connection is immediate and does not need time. Unlike real relationships, it’s easy to sign in and out of virtual relationships via the delete key.
Faced with a media death, as happened recently, people generally react almost immediately. What does this immediacy express?
It is in this virtual ecosystem of social networks that the mysterious fragility of human bonds inhabits. Sometimes, the mourning of the processing of a loss, and its meanings, is confused with the need to act immediately. This immediate action can also be a reactive expression to shock. The immediacy of social networks offers a direct channel to instantly express the reaction to shock. This reaction, of course, varies from person to person.
Is there a false sense of intimacy, of personal knowledge of the other?
One of the motivations underlying the human need for relationship, real or virtual, is the desire for recognition. The relationship in the virtual context of social networks can further complicate this process. The Internet has led to new definitions of privacy and intimacy. Technology proposes itself as a new architect of our intimacies. Before the emergence of social networks, language was the architect of our intimacies, and the written word a tool of this architect. Social networks and other social technologies, such as those incorporated into smartphones, have designed a new communication architecture for our intimacies, offering instant connections to express emotions.
At what point does the construction of such “personas” enter?
This possibility of immediate connection to convey emotions can, in some cases, resize the space of the “persona” that dwells in each of us. The “persona” is a kind of false self, has a mask effect, which seeks to make an impact on others, but on the other hand, its main purpose is to camouflage, hide the true nature of the individual. We all need a “persona”, that is, the “persona” is not essentially pathological, because it develops as a natural mediator between the internal and external world. Pathology develops only when the individual identifies with his version “persona” at the expense of other attributes of his personality, obliterating an internal relationship with the “true self” and, thus, not recognizing himself.
Are these “personas”, not the “real seeg”, often those who mirror themselves on social media?
The nature of technologies and social networks is externally oriented and addresses a seductive invitation to the “persona”. This seductive invitation may contain an unthought danger, leaving the “true self” invisible and unrecognizable and, on a deeper level, unloved and misunderstood. The main role of the “persona” is to “hide and protect the “true self”. In extreme cases, the “persona” is configured as real and that is what the inhabitants of social networks tend to think is the real person. At this extreme, the “true self” is hidden. It is here that the pathology erupts causing a profound dissociation between the “persona” and the “true self”.
Is this what can explain the gulf that often interposes between someone’s real life and that which transpires to the world?
The “persona” is a social façade of our subjectivity and tends to be the actor of emotions on the virtual stage through constant updates of “status”, posts and tweets, excluding other comprehensive and multiple aspects of our subjectivity. By expressing ourselves in this way, we are protecting aspects of our subjectivity that make us feel less happy to project in the world. On the other hand, this way of living in virtual reality may be creating a canvas that reflects the contemporaries of narcissus, the modern daffodils, updating through new scenarios the myth of narcissus, confused and not distinguishing a reflection of a true person. In this sense, modern daffodils project a social narrative of fictitious or partially real happiness in an attempt to anesthetize frustration.
What remains to be learned about happiness?
In the reality of our existence, happiness is ephemeral and interspersed with successive moments of frustration. The temptation to anesthetize frustration can amputate the possibilities of understanding it. It is through understanding frustration that we often approach the possibility of happiness and its meanings. Accepting that happiness is not a permanent state, but an ephemeral state, is a challenge to our existence. The art of living involves the construction of a narrative of relationships and feelings where happiness and frustration can coexist rather than separate. Learning to be artisans of affection is one of the great challenges for our existence.
What drives human beings to desire their own death?
The urge to yearn for the scene of death erupts from the darkness of a depressive experience. The human being, tending to be depressed and, in order not to lose his hope in finding the constant reflection of happiness, seeks to opacify the most negative ideas and feelings about him. On the other hand, in an illusory but necessary attempt to rebalance the feeling of self so that pain does not become intolerable, it takes refuge in the idealization of its capacities, confusing the desire to be strong with the forces it really has. It is in this way that the human being with depressive tendencies enters into a depressive relationship with his existence.
Is suicide the expression of this existential crisis?
Suicide expresses the intolerable pain of depression. This unbearable suffering often mirrors masochistic roots and narcissistic vulnerabilities that condition feelings and thoughts about our existence. Among the various life cycles, the “midlife crisis” is one of the most frequent periods, where the search and enjoy the pleasure of the feeling of living can be eroded. This emotional exhaustion causes a feeling of negative balance in the balance that is made of life lived, making cloudy the horizon of what is yet to live. In these cases, the human being is invaded and dominated by an inability to grieve for lost dreams, and the most important lost dream is the omnipotent idea we idealize about ourselves.
Can this feeling of having lost, in a way, the course of life, be fatal?
The impossibility of mourning what we have lost or not achieved at the end of life cycles, makes lost dreams turn into nightmares felt as real. The human being is a being in constant construction. In this construction and reconstruction of our “human buildings”, the experience of mourning is vital to repair the “cracks” of our…