The impulse to self-harm is not something well understood by people who have never had the impulse themselves. Images that pop into people’s heads is one of sheer madness and out-of-control psycho-attention-seeking behavior.
I myself can understand both sides. As far as self-harming goes, even though I’ve contemplated the thought, I’ve never exactly had the desire to cut myself. I hate the sight of blood and I hate the kind of pain that derives from cutting. I honestly couldn’t even fathom it. Therefore, I can see how shocking it is for non-self harmers.
However, even though I was never a cutter, I was a burner. Tit for tat you might say… and you may be right. For me though, burning seemed so much more sophisticated and far less messy. I could employ sweet-smelling candles or the lit end of a robustly scented insence stick.
Attention seeking? Yes, it can’t be denied that drawing attention to being in accute and unexplainable pain is most definitely part of it. Can’t you see my scars?!? Don’t you even care how much I’m hurting?!?
However, the chief reason why I chose to burn myself is that it worked like a sort of transference. This term is ordinarily used to explain the odd psychological phenomenon where one person will transfer their emotional pain from one person to another. This happens all the time right? Hatred for a father can later get transferred to a husband or a therapist, for instance.
Self-harm, for me anyway, worked like a kind of transference in that my emotional and psychological pain would then get transferred to physical pain, which can be far easier to deal with… feel, treat, soothe, etc. In some instances, emotional pain can be far worse and more debilitating than physical pain. I believe this is especially true for people with BPD. Emotional pain can feel like repeadly being stabbed or beaten.
So, when I read this helpful page by NAMI on Self-harm I was rather amazed that it described perfectly exactly how this works. This is a helpful page to read if you are a self-harmer.
One of the best aspects of recovery is that I no longer have any desire whatsoever to hurt myself, and that spells progress. Here are a couple more pages on self-harm I found helpful.