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Analysis of a Suicide Note in Terms of Social Psychology

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This essay is done in the form of an ‘analyzed suicide note’. I take apart the topics spoken about in the note in terms of Social Psychology to both show my understanding of the content and surrounding research, as well as to provide a ‘real-time’ example of how these feelings would affect someone. I am aware that not all people in this situation would have this reaction, this is just a narrative that I am using to portray my points.

“I am going to come out and say this plainly. I simply cannot go on like this. For the past 3 weeks I’ve fought a losing war with myself. Everything I know, and love is completely different. I mean, how would you feel if your entire understanding of your world was reversed? With absolutely no chance of things getting better. What am I supposed to do? I can’t change how I feel? I can’t live like this anymore.” Referring to my schemas, schemas are a set of beliefs we hold about people, events or situations that we use as guides in our interaction with these things. Referring specifically to my understanding of sexuality. Schemas are built over time and are derived from past experiences and repeated exposure to instances of events or stimuli. They are a network of associations that organize and guide us. We interact with people in a manner consistent with these social schemas, which ascribe a range of characteristics to others. Thus in this new ‘homo majority’ world, any schemas developed and maintained over 19 years in the ‘hetero majority’ world would be useless.

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“I can’t eat or sleep or reason or focus. I am running away from everything. Everything I once knew is gone, I don’t belong anymore. The friends I once had treat me like a stranger, even insult me. It hurts. Before this all I was strong, I had dreams, I had a place in this society. Now I have nothing.” This section is referring to Henri Tajfel’s (1979) social identity theory. The idea that both the standing of groups that people belonged to and the groups themselves were important to the individual as a source of identity and self-esteem. The theory stated that a way to increase an individual’s self-image was to enhance the image of their group. This could be done in multiple ways, for example discriminating against those of the ‘out-group’ would increase ‘in-group’ image, creating an ‘us or them’ mentality. This form of stereotyping is derived from the human tendency to categorize things together, a consequence of this is we often exaggerate any differences between the groups, and any similarities of individuals within the group.

There are 3 steps to social identity theory, Social Categorization, Social Identification, and Social Comparison. In the first step objects are categorized to better understand and identify them. In this new world, the homosexual majority and the heterosexual minority are the categories. Social identification follows, for me, growing up in the old world, I have adopted the identity of the heterosexual majority and initially I would’ve acted in ways I believed the heterosexual majority would have acted. As this was the group I belonged to, my self-esteem and pride would have been heavily tied into my membership to this group. Thus when waking up in this new world I would have suffered a huge catastrophic hit to my self-esteem and self-image. The final step is social comparison, where once we have identified with a group, we tend to compare ourselves with our in-group and other out-groups. This is important for prejudice, as because our self-esteem and identities are tied up with our group’s identity, any conflict between groups is also a conflict between our fundamental identities. “Being the subject of the jokes and comments that I have to deal with daily has slowly eroded any self confidence that was left since the change. I can’t go on anymore.” This is a form of prejudice. Prejudice is defined by Gordon W. Allport (1954) as a hostile attitude to someone solely due to their belonging to a group. Prejudice is theorized to have multiple causes, one of which suggests the prejudice is learned and is a function of our cognitive processes where stereotypic information on social groups is stored in the memory and is activated automatically. This information affects people’s behavior toward members of the stereotyped group. Affecting this is the reinforcing social pattern of behavior and perceptions, there is research that suggests people select and create environments and situations reinforce pre-existing prejudices. These prejudices are associated with implicit and explicit attitudes.

Implicit attitudes are attitudes towards groups that are often unconscious and unknown by an individual. They are good predictors of real-world behavior and are often not affected by verbally reported explicit attitudes. This is an explanation into why my own friends would be acting this way, they are acting on their previously implicit views and opinions on the out-group minority. As they no longer wish to associate with me this is a display of how implicit and explicit behavior reinforce themselves and result in strengthened prejudices. “It feels like some cruel joke has been played on me, I wasn’t the kindest person in the old world, but I certainly wasn’t deserving of this. Yes I cracked a few gay jokes and wasn’t the most wholesome, but I didn’t genuinely have homophobic feelings? I am sorry for the transgressions I have caused anyone. This is a hell that I am living in now.” Related to social identity theory is the in-group homogeneity effect. Research into this topic has been heavily affected by the out-group homogeneity hypothesis, which implies that members of the out-group are more homogenous (similar) than the in-group, removing the individuality of the out-group.

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