What, you mean those ever-so-slightly-unbalanced folk who cut themselves because they’ve got teen angst issues?
If, deep down, that’s what you think when you hear or read ‘self-harm,’ then you have issues of your own. Seeing as most people have ‘issues’ that they never find out about (or often when it is too late), then you are in excellent company.
Here’s a quick but very serious word about self-harm – it takes many varied and subtle forms. But nearly all of them involve some kind of personal acknowledgement of the fact that all is not well. Abusing one’s body with drugs (including alcohol), sex (including pornography), food and other beverages (and I’m obviously not talking about water here) and other things will most probably result in a person acknowledging on some level within themselves (including unspoken) that the abusive behaviour (which often quickly becomes addictive) is not a good thing – even if they find that they can’t stop doing whatever it is.
But none of those things are what I’m talking about.
As social animals, we want to belong. And everyone knows phrase/expressions such as ‘peer pressure, ‘being a sheep,’ ‘easily led’ and more. So there is an understanding that one is supposed to be ‘independent’ within oneself, and that being ‘dependent’ is highly undesirable (unless you are marrying a spouse for their money….). But as Stephen Covey points out, independence is not as valuable as ‘inter-dependence’ which requires a much great commitment to self-awareness and personal emotional maturity. And we could talk about inter-dependence in much more detail, but that’ll have to wait for another time. Here’s where I’m going: what if you think you are interdependent, but in fact you are not even independent – you are dependent?
I’ve known boys support the opposite football team of their father just for the sheer cussedness of it (though sometimes there is more to it than that). I’ve known girls deliberate do the opposite of what their mothers wanted them to do for the sheer cussedness of it (although, again, there is often more to it than that).
Spouses and partners frequently manipulate each other and depend on each other while pretending to be in a balanced, equal relationship. Oh, wait – friends of the non-romantic variety do this too…
And this is where I am going; how to self-harm and dupe others and yourself: a) just place more value on values, opinions and aesthetic positions of others than you should; b) chase your tail trying to ensure that you keep up with the Joneses; c) get angry and frustrated because you do this, and in a fit of anger and rage vow not to do it any more; d) listen to the very people you once valued espouse their opinions, and then do the opposite (with virtually no exceptions); e) find yourself doing things you never planned to do just so that you are not doing what people whose opinions you once valued are doing; f) get angry and frustrated again because you now realise that not everything that these people (whose esteem you once valued more than you should have done) say is actually wrong, but you cannot bear the fact that they might be right about some things; g) find all sorts of incredibly creative ways to distract yourself from actually dealing with this situation within yourself; h) become even more angry and frustrated because you now know that you are STILL being controlled by other people, but they don’t know it; i) eventually discover that you are completely unable to get unity and stillness in your own head because you are being controlled by others in this way; j) reflect on this reality, talk about it to others, go round and round in circles and never find an answer –
Why do I call it self-harm? Because in being thus affected by others – and angry about such emotional dependency – the (itself highly emotional) reaction to such a situation is a sequence of ‘reactive’ responses which do not do anything for one’s peace of mind. One is effectively hurting oneself emotionally, and that kind of mental torture is very destructive.
A person doing that kind of thing is not going to think that they are self-harming. But their rejection of those things and those people they once used to value often leaves a void – and what they then fill that void with is not always superior to what they rejected…
…and it can lead to a rejection of even what is right and good because those who you want to not be like in any way agree with those things – so then you hurt yourself out of sheer cussedness, spite, bitterness, insularity/myopia – and that may then lead to finding other things/people to make you feel better about yourself…and you may do what you never thought you would do just to ‘feel good’ –
So, if you were tempted to laugh when you heard about someone who self-harms – perhaps you should make sure that you are not the pot calling the kettle black. Because if you were sorted in yourself, you wouldn’t need to take cheap shots at those with more problems than you have! By laughing at them, you have accepted a social value that is worthless, cheapened yourself in the process, and shown that you are not worth knowing…
And if you were kinder and more charitable – then God be praised for you, whoever you are, whatever your culture, whatever your creed.