3.26.2014

What are teens hoping to feel when they self-harm?




There are few things as disturbing as self-harm, which in extreme can lead to suicide or suicide attempts. Self-harm has many functions and the authors focus on the following two:

A common motivation teenagers give is that non-suicidal self-harm provides a way to escape unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Another motive, little explored before now, is that self-harm is a way to deliberately provoke a particular desired feeling or sensation.

Escape and seek. Escape pain, seek resolution. Pain because adolescents that self-harm are, to simplify, experiencing existential suffering or depressivity and eagerly looking for ways to cope with it. One of those ways is the downward spiral  of depressivity, which revalidates the main causes of depression - this leads to the annulation of the self; the other, is to seek an alternative to the pain that one is feeling, which is, more often than not, hardly meaningful, or impossible to signify - this leads to creative destruction through meaning-making processes.

The most common sensation the teenagers sought was "satisfaction" (45 per cent of them), followed by "stimulation" (31 per cent) and "pain" (24 per cent). 

Excruciating pain, psychological pain, can take many routes in order to be materialised and addressed but I question the meaning of satisfaction that it is attributed to this word. I believe that what is tried to symbolise here is the abject need to seek closure, to diminish activation, to give a sense of control to the experience of existential suffering. 

To seek pain is not in contradiction with seeking satisfaction or stimulation; they seem to be expressions of an experience of pain in the spectrum of making sense of the same pain. Different avenues to signify different aspects of this process of questioning the fabric of which one is made of. 

The meaningful construction of personal sense in the scope of one's identity in the maze of depressivity. This is quite interesting. The  experiencing of self-harm is, no question about it, intrinsic to its author, the individual. So, in that sense, the aggregation of meaning in categories proves to be less than ideal.

For instance, one explanation for the more frequent self-harming observed among those who say they self-harm because they want to experience pain, is that the act triggers pain-relief mechanisms in the brain - a form of euphoria. And yet, self-harming was less frequent among those who said they self-harmed for satisfaction. 

This is why. Contradictions emerge rapidly if the words are used to capture so powerful experiences without consolidating first the narrative constructions and experiential expressions of self-harm in the intersections of the basics of the pain that is experienced. 

Lastly, self-harm is tool, instrument, is expression, is an apparatus of the self to symbolise the need to create...destroying. But it is not the cause that leads to its reinforcement. It isn't cause and consequence but it can further aggravate the main issue, the ontological basic insecurity of the self. 
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