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Self-Injury or Self-Harm

Content Warning: This article is about sensitive material and about pain and traumatic memories. It may mention suicide and other disturbing ideas that our culture does not understand or accept. It is not an endorsement of engaging in self-harm, but it doesn't judge or vilify it either. Victims have enough shame; we won't shame people who self-harm.

This article is a .

Mirroring the Pain Inside

Whether used as a method to externalize internal pain (like a mirror reflection, see As Inside So Outside), a means of "drowning out" emotional pain by overwhelming it with physical pain, or any other reason, self-injuri is a touchy topic for many. It is sometimes too easy to dismiss self-injury as the province of the truly messed up who should be locked up. "Not I", many people will say, and very often people don't attempt to gain futher understanding of this issue. It is often ignored and hidden among people searching for legitimacy, much like the wounds and scars themselves often are.

However, the phenomenon is quite real, and all to important to ignore.

Self-injury is inflicting something physically painful on oneself. It is used here in a physical context, where it would be self-torment, abuse or sabotage to do similar acts in the mental, emotional, or social aspects of one's life.

Why do people self-injure?

Far from obvious, the reasons that people self-injure are often complicated, and multi-layered. There is no one and only agreed upon reason that people engage in self-injury, or "SI". Sometimes, it is an almost shamanic desire to let out, and externalize a pain that is otherwise locked inside, i.e. to give it a physical representation. Other times it is to rid themself of a taint they feel they carry within themselves. In other cases, it is the patching up that is the motive. The need for a reason to feel entitled and deserving of self-care, such as the bandaging and disinfecting of the wounds induced by cutting.

The reasons are countless.

Two members of our system used to self-injure, but for very different reasons. For Saturnia it was a release of feelings she had no other way to express. For Shi, it was merely a love of blood and seeing it flow from the body.
~DazzleBerry of the Saturn System
Simple addiction to ones' own endorphins is also possible, whatever might've caused the original self-injurous behaviour. Cross-ref SubstanceAbuse.
We used to do this, and still crave it every once and a while. --Anothers

Is Self-Injury Suicidal?

People who injure themselves on purpose often have no intention or desire to kill themselves. Sometimes the pain they inflict is not of a caliber that would result in death under any circumstances, like digging one's nails into one's palms.

Suicidal tendencies are covered elsewhere. See also Suicidal Depression and Suicide Attempts.

More

Note from the Others- Self-injury can be related to NOT doing things, eg not drinking water, as a way of regulating intense experiences or avoiding higher matters. If your body is screaming for water, nothing else seems that important. Altered states of consciousness can also be induced by deprivation.

Also, deinfing self-injury within a system can be tricky. Someone might be engaging in painful activities for pleasure, while others in the system see it as dangerous self-injury that must be stopped. After one persons pleasure, another person may enter the body and feel unbearble pain from that.

How Common is Self-Injury?

While it might not be looked at this way, self-injury is pervasive. Monks would flay themselves with whips as a form of attonement or self-discipline. People say "Bite your tongue" - as if in biting one's tongue the pain is a reminder to keep one's thoughts to oneself (which is a parallel where self-injury can sometimes be seen amongst abuse victims who fear telling their secrets). You bonk yourself in the head and say "I coulda had a V-8!" Back massage -- especially deep-tissue massage -- is painful. Sports team members inflict harm on themselves deliberately, through substance abuse, playing with injuries, or playing at all, all the time.

People inflict harm on themselves constantly. They smoke, drink, abuse condoned addictive substances (caffiene for example), eat too much, eat themselves into deadly diseases -- all in the name of instant gratification, ignorance of the future, ignarance of the effects of this abuse on the planet or their loved ones, etc. Even when studies show the effects of second-hand smoke they continue to smoke with their babies and pets -- neither of whom can voice their opinion on the matter -- in the room.

The person who is commiting self-injury usually does so in private. Quietly, secretly, discreetly -- usually letting other people know or harming others is the last thing they want. Unlike the pervasive self-harm we are allowed to commit overtly and publicly, self-injury is secretive, shameful, and limited to harming only one person (as long as they don't have an accident and put themselves in deadly danger). It is viewed as an illness, where the sports team member who continues to play with a fractured bone is a martyred hero. Somehow it is less brave to face the demons inside than it is to toss balls around for "points" so that you can earn millions of dollars a year, and retire to making commercials for millions of dollars a year. Our world has mistaken greed for bravery, and does not get that this person who is suffering in silence is the most brave of all -- opening up to others and sharing the pain with them makes everything easier if you have people you can trust.

Pretty backwards.

What Can You Do About Self-Injury?

Distraction techniques, etc. (stub!!)

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