Sunday, May 23, 2010

Self harm in a wider context **

The 8 most common motives for self harm

1. Self harming as part of gang tattooing behaviour.

2. Self harming to make self feel real which can be found in those who dissociate.

3. Self harming to make self feel something.

4. Self harming used as a means of tension relief and to release pressure build up.

5. Self harming as a physical expression of emotional pain. Self harming is seen as providing concrete evidence of the pain.

6. Self harming as a means to self nurture. It allows the person to care for self as can be found in Munchausen Syndrome.

7. Self harming as a means to punish self and an expression of self hatred.

8. Self harming as a means to manipulate others or as a cry for help.

In dissociation the Free Child aspect of

the personality is split away from the rest of the personality

Some self harmers will report an addictive quality to their self harming. They find it hard to resist these actions as does one who has an addiction to drugs. In these cases the self harming serves some important psychological function for the individual. This is mostly found in those who self harm to:

Make self feel real which can be found in those who dissociate.

Make self feel something.

As a means of tension relief and to release pressure build up.

In each of these cases the self harming provides some kind of psychological gain which the person can not obtain by other less damaging means. To feel something and reduce a sense of numbness, to reduce the dissociation and to provide a way of releasing a sense of tension or pressure build up. They achieve these through self harming and thus become addicted to it as it is their only way they know how to.

Take a minute to reconsider self harm. To cut self or burn self one could say is an intense physical, emotional and psychological experience. It slaps the person in the face and they have strong physical feelings, possibly a sensation of adrenaline and often feelings of secrecy, shame, and a sense of what will happen to me in the future and so forth. The person certainly has a sense of aliveness. It seems reasonable to suggest that this physiological state would counter a sense of numbness or dissociation and possibly provide a sense of release from tension when the experience subsides.

If self harm is seen in this light one finds that humans can achieve this same kind of intense physical, emotional and psychological experience in a whole variety of ways. Indeed any activity that creates such strong emotions and psychological experience could be psychologically equivalent to self harming for the three reasons cited above.

Activities which create intense fear would include dangerous sporting pursuits such as BASE jumping, caving, mountain climbing, race car driving, surfing huge waves and so forth. Such fear could be achieved in the business world when one risks everything in a business deal or on the stock market. When one makes brazen political decisions. Involvement in criminal activity could also result in the same intense emotional and psychological experience. Involvement in some sections of the military or police could also serve the same function.

All these will result in an intense physical, emotional and psychological experience, just as cutting self can. Indeed the other human activity that can create such intense feelings and experience is sex. It seems plausible that the sex addict maybe doing the same as the ‘cutter’ who reports a sense of addiction to the self harming. The intense feelings allow a reduction in tension build up, reduces the sense of numbness or allows the dissociation to be temporarily relieved.

When viewed in this wider context those who self harm by cutting or burning are not all that odd after all. In fact a significant section of the normal community may be doing exactly the same using more socially acceptable means than by cutting ones arms with a razor blade. Indeed our friend Tiger who is purportedly a sex addict may psychologically be doing the same as the 20 something girl who burns herself with cigarettes.

Through the intensity of the sexual experience he could have found a way to relieve a sense of dissociation or numbness temporarily. Of course I have no idea if our man who put his putter where he shouldn’t have is doing this. However it seems that some could use sex for such a psychological purpose and hence the addiction.



  1. Hi Tony, is it necessarily the free child part of personality which splits off in dissociation? Its understandable the way you represent dissociation in the diagram with regards to cutting however.

  2. Hey. I'd just like to say that your description of the addictive side of self injury is very... fitting. I burn regularly with matches, and i use it for all of those addictive reasons. it really does help a lot.

  3. I am glad you liked it Anon


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