Follow-Up: Further Thoughts on Self-Harm

Ok, this is not going to be a well thought out or organized post, but I’ve had a lot more thoughts since the previous post about self-harm and I’d like to just throw some of them out there:

Tim brought up the interesting point of stigma being there because self harm necessarily involves harm. I think this is potentially true, however I think there are two important things to consider about this:

1.What constitutes harm?

I posed this question on twitter: would you consider a cut to be harm? Many people answered not necessarily, and that it depended on how serious it was. Let’s take a couple of examples-

a.You’re walking in the woods and you accidentally run into a tree branch. It scratches you/cuts you and you bleed a little. You shrug it off and you continue walking through the woods. You get home and everyone probably ignores it. Few people would say that you had been harmed, unless they take a definition of harm that suggests ANY pain is harmful.

b.You intentionally cut yourself and you bleed a little. You shrug it off, and go downstairs. Everyone freaks out and asks you why you would harm yourself. Are we sure it’s more harmful in this case?

I would propose a definition of harm that generally includes keeping someone from doing what they want to do, or keeping someone from functioning in their life as they so choose. Some people might include subjecting someone to any amount of pain in this definition, but I’m not sure I would go that far.

2.There are other things that we do, which we believe are good, which necessarily involve harm. Most medical care falls under this heading. Therapy. If we include pain in the definition of harm then every time you work out you’re harming yourself (my new argument to be lazy!). So while there may be a distinction between say rock climbing and self harm (it perhaps wasn’t the best example, although I do think that rock climb automatically comes with some pain), there are other examples we could look at that are praised when we do a cost/benefit analysis and decide that the necessary pain is worth it.

Beccy mentioned that there is a good deal of bias against self-harm and so it could be harmful to cut simply because of the attitudes of other people and the crap you’d get from them. Also an important consideration, I think generally subsumed under the first point I made in my other post. I personally would tend to weigh this slightly lower because I don’t really care too much about the opinions of people who are biased against those with mental illness.

So what do you think? How is self harm similar to and different from other forms of harm? What about BDSM? What constitutes “harm”? Does a small cut really count as harming if it does nothing to impinge on someone’s life?

One thought on “Follow-Up: Further Thoughts on Self-Harm

  1. Greg Laden says:

    There is a widespread set of cultural practices in which people cut themselves or gets someone else to cut them, sometimes involving causing scarification but that is not always the intent.

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