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Antoinette Tuff and the Prevention of Suicide by Cop

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 25, 2013: Recently the media reported how Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Center in an Atlanta suburb, talked a young man carrying an AK-47 with 500 rounds of ammunition into surrendering to the police instead of committing suicide by cop and in the process wounding or possibly killing her and others.

To be sure, like many school personnel around the country, she had received crisis training. Even so, her composure under pressure was extraordinary. Because she had called 911, her lengthy conversation with Michael Hill was recorded through the 911 system.

After he had told her that he didn't care if he died, she told him that she understood how he felt because she had felt like that after her husband had left her. Her story of her non-death loss impressed Michael Hill enough that he agreed to follow her advice and surrender to the police.

Her empathy for his situation moved him. For this reason, it strikes me as a fair guess that he himself is also experiencing non-death loss in his life.

In any event, failed mourning of non-death losses is the root condition that gives rise to what Erich Fromm refers to as the authoritarian character.


Erich Fromm worried about what he styled as the authoritarian character. As the antidote and preferred alternative to the authoritarian character, he advanced the person who has been liberated as the result of the optimal experience of psychoanalysis. Fromm's terms "authoritarian character" and "authoritarianism" are not widely used today. For this reason, I will not use them extensively in this essay.

In ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM (1941), Fromm explains that people who have the authoritarian character are "the kind of persons whose whole life is in a subtle way related to some power outside themselves" (page 172).

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In David Riesman's terminology, such people are not inner-directed character types, but are fundamentally outer-directed character types as a result of their whole lives being "in a subtle way related to some power outside themselves," as Fromm puts it. But both Riesman and Fromm were inner-directed character types.

But I want to examine further Fromm's explanation of the psychodynamics of the authoritarian character and connect his explanation with the work of the Jungian theorist Robert L. Moore of Chicago Theological Seminary.


So how would Moore explain the psychodynamics involved in what Fromm refers to as the authoritarian character?

Moore likes to say that when we project the King archetype in the archetypal level of our psyches onto somebody, we are giving away our power. In other words, we should stop projecting the King archetype onto others and instead learn how to access the energies and power of the King archetype in our psyches. (Moore claims that we also have a Queen archetype in the archetypal level of our psyches.)

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In ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM (pages 172-176), Fromm describes what he refers to as magical helpers -- that is, helpers in our lives who seem to have a kind of magical touch in our lives. He allows that such magical helpers can include "a teacher, a husband, or a psychoanalyst" (page 176).

In other words, when we project the King archetype onto somebody, we thereby enlist that person as a magical helper in our lives. Because Moore claims that we also have a Queen archetype in the archetypal level of our psyches, I assume that we would also be able to enlist a magical helper by projecting the Queen archetype onto her.

As long as magical helpers are respectful of us and responsible and ethical in their relationships with us, they may play constructive roles in our lives until we are ready to stop projecting the King archetype and/or Queen archetype and instead access the power of the King archetype and the Queen archetype in our lives.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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All Americans who have experienced non-death losse... by Thomas Farrell on Sunday, Aug 25, 2013 at 1:42:01 PM