Friday, 27 November 2009

I will be brief.

So there's a new comment over at an old post of Nine Deuce's:

This whole BDSM thingy is crap. Seriously, anyone who likes being hit and cut and harmed is mentally ill. Why is it called self-harm (a horrible, life-sucking addiction to be sure) when you do it to yourself, but when others do it to you it's "liberating" or "empowering"? It's just fucking sick.

Defenders of this crap, please research abuse and coping methods for it. People convince themselves that they like abuse so they can deal with the reality of it. Victims often seek out places in which to re-enact the abuse which is probably why these folks keep coming back to it.
My only comment is "what makes you think we haven't researched it?"

Handy, isn't it, to assume ignorance on the part of your opponents? Still makes you look like a damn fool, though.

29 comments:

Gaina said...

We're back to Ren's Sushi analogy. Some people are so arrogant as to be convinced that just because they don't like something that there must be something wrong with someone who does like it.

What I find interesting is that a high percentage of the most vocal critics of lifestyles like yours are the people who have no experience of it, and haven't actually bothered to talk to people who follow it before expressing their decidedly uninformed opinions!

Trinity said...

But if they actually paid attention, they might find their assumptions are wrong. Gasp.

Rachel S said...

Methinks the commenter needs to research abuse and coping methods.

distractedhousewife said...

Well, I agree with this person, strongly. But in reverse. The double standards for BDSM and self-injury are ridiculous. If you like pain inflicted by another person, this is fine and liberating and sexy and acceptable, but, if you like self-inflicted pain, you are sick, disordered, mentally ill, and needing to be cured. (This is also why I hated the movie "Secretary"...)

Perhaps this is my anti-psych absolutism, though. But at the very least, one opens oneself to not-entirely-baseless charges of hypocrisy to condemn or pathologize or accept the dominant view of self-injury while challenging this view of BDSM.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

distractedhousewife, I'm having a hard time parsing your comment (perhaps because it's stupid o'clock here and I should have been asleep an hour or two ago), but ...

... are you attempting to suggest that self-injury and BDSM logically go in the same category?

I mean, speaking here as a kinkster with an SI history, I, uh. Well. No. Kind of epic category fail there.

(And that's even setting aside my often-iterated comment that I'm weary of people assuming I'm into SM.)

distractedhousewife said...

Yes, I believe they go in the same category. How could they not?

Some people enjoy painful sensation. Some people enjoy painful sensation inflicted by a partner. Some people enjoy painful sensation inflicted by themselves. Some people (like me) enjoy both.

You yourself may not personally enjoy SM activities, but many do, and it makes no sense to classify this as somehow radically different from self-injury. Why is one method of seeking out painful sensation acceptable and the other unacceptable, based solely on the presence or absence of a partner? Why should there be such resistance to affirming all forms of sensation seeking, in whatever form, as manifestations of human quests for pleasure?

(I am... ah... as my UN implies, quite distracted at the moment, so, it is possible that I am not adequately addressing your question? But, yes. I think deriving physical pleasure from painful sensation is the same root impulse whether it is expressed with or without a partner.)

Trinity said...

dh, I don't think you're right. I think stigmatizing self-injury is stupid and counterproductive, but I also do think that in many cases it is a maladaptive coping device that people who do it want to get rid of.

If for you it's something fun to do on a Saturday night, bully for you. But for many people it's maladaptive and unhelpful, and they work very hard to stop doing it.

I don't think it's a good idea to pretend these people don't exist to make an antipsychiatry point, as you seem to be doing. I'd say a wiser stance for you to take would be to address how, in a psychiatryless world, people will support both those for whom self-injury is fun and those for whom it is maladaptive.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

What makes a consciously chosen pleasure pattern different from psychological pain alleviation?

Gee, I have no idea. What makes SM different from having fillings done? How about what makes pie different from chemotherapy?

You know what self-injury is? It is, in its best case, the least bad alleviative technique for a situation of intolerable psychological pain. That's the best it gets.

Enjoy your masochism, if that's what you're talking about; you're talking about SM done yourself as the same thing as SM done with a partner. But don't you dare trivialise the genuine pain self-injurers are in by calling it "enjoy[ing] painful sensation" and don't you dare feed into the demonising of SM activities by equating them with trauma compensation.

Just. No.

distractedhousewife said...

dh, I don't think you're right. I think stigmatizing self-injury is stupid and counterproductive, but I also do think that in many cases it is a maladaptive coping device that people who do it want to get rid of.

Entirely true. Of course, the same could be true of almost any behavior. Almost any behavior can be done in a healthy way or in a destructive, maladaptive, unhealthy, or addictive way. Including BDSM behavior.

I don't think it's a good idea to pretend these people don't exist to make an antipsychiatry point, as you seem to be doing. I'd say a wiser stance for you to take would be to address how, in a psychiatryless world, people will support both those for whom self-injury is fun and those for whom it is maladaptive.

Certainly both should be supported. I do not deny the existence of people for whom self-injurious behaviors are maladaptive. Rather, I dispute the notion that all self-injurious behaviors are inherently maladaptive, or inherently any more maladaptive than any other behavior. Everything you have written, indeed, could be equally applied to BDSM activities---some people do it in a maladaptive way (surely you acknowledge that there do exist some individuals for whom BDSM activities are done in a self-destructive way? They are, of course, not the majority, but they do exist). Some don't. Both should be supported, but, neither should be assumed to be inherently maladaptive.

As to how they would be supported in the absence of the psych industry... well, those for whom the activities are not maladaptive don't require any particular support, only acceptance. Those for whom the behaviors are maladaptive should be assisted, if they so choose, with whatever problem is causing the maladaptive behavior in the first place (which is of course going to vary by individual). Or is that not what you were asking? Perhaps I misunderstand?

distractedhousewife said...

What makes a consciously chosen pleasure pattern different from psychological pain alleviation?

Quite a lot, of course. But you are assuming that all self-injury is psychological pain alleviation, and that all BDSM is consciously chosen pleasure pattern. This is not true.

Self-injury can be consciously chosen pleasure pattern, or it can be psychological pain alleviation, or it can be various other things, depending on the context and the state of mind of the person engaging in it.

Likewise, BDSM activities can be consciously chosen pleasure pattern, or they can be psychological pain alleviation, or they can be various other things, depending on the context and the states of mind of the persons engaging in it.

You cannot accurately differentiate destructive from pleasurable pain-seeking based solely on the presence or absence of a partner.

Gee, I have no idea. What makes SM different from having fillings done? How about what makes pie different from chemotherapy?

You know what self-injury is? It is, in its best case, the least bad alleviative technique for a situation of intolerable psychological pain. That's the best it gets.


This is simply not true. Many people engage in self-injury without any particular psychological pain at all. It's actually quite common for people with sensory processing differences or people on the autism spectrum, for instance.

Enjoy your masochism, if that's what you're talking about; you're talking about SM done yourself as the same thing as SM done with a partner. But don't you dare trivialise the genuine pain self-injurers are in by calling it "enjoy[ing] painful sensation" and don't you dare feed into the demonising of SM activities by equating them with trauma compensation.

Just. No.


I'm doing nothing of the kind; rather, I am disputing the notion that all self-injurious behaviors are trauma compensation. Which is every bit as inaccurate as the notion that all BDSM activities are trauma compensation (or manifestations of mental illness, patriarchal indoctrination, and such like).

I do have sympathy for those who do engage in such behaviors as a result of psychological pain. Certainly I do. That makes it no less offensive, however, to characterize all self-injurious people as being in this category.

Trinity said...

"As to how they would be supported in the absence of the psych industry... well, those for whom the activities are not maladaptive don't require any particular support, only acceptance. Those for whom the behaviors are maladaptive should be assisted, if they so choose, with whatever problem is causing the maladaptive behavior in the first place (which is of course going to vary by individual). Or is that not what you were asking? Perhaps I misunderstand?"

you seem to reply with" Perhaps I misunderstand" every time someone challenges your belief system. I'm certainly not asking you to change your mind about the psychiatric system here, but I am asking you to consider very carefully the ways in which that system deals with self injury in people who are not you. You're clearly a particular sort of case that would be (or is that has been?) treated in the wrong way by psychiatrists. But what you describe is not the paradigm case, and not only is it not the paradigm case but it is also not what the vast majority of people who SI describe themselves as doing. Your description of your behaviors is of course not something I'm going to challenge, because I don't know you from Adam and therefore have no reason not to take your words as truth for you. But I really don't think you're taking others' words as truth here, and I really think it might benefit you to study without prejudice some other people's descriptions of their own experiences with self-injury.

distractedhousewife said...

I say "perhaps I misunderstand" when I am not sure of what I am being asked... I am certainly familiar with having my opinions challenged, but you seem to be arguing with something I am not saying. I do not in any way dispute the personal testimony of individuals who, by their own statements, have engaged in self-injurious behaviors in an unhealthy, maladaptive way.

I am disputing that NON-maladaptive, non-emotionally-troubled self-injurers are unicorns.

I have read testimonies, yes, of maladaptive self-injurers. I certainly do accept them as truth. I have also read testimonies and heard from non-maladaptive, healthy self-injurers (mostly autistic/SPD types, not just me) who have suffered and been harmed by having these natural behaviors pathologized and by being put through ineffective "cures."

Again, I am NOT disputing that some people self-injure for emotionally unhealthy reason. I dispute that ALL self-injurers do.

And truly I am still not seeing how this differs from BDSM. The critics can claim, accurately, that, yes, some people do engage in BDSM from an emotionally unhealthy state. That some BDSM relationships are dysfunctional. And they are absolutely right.

But they are wrong to extrapolate to the entire BDSM-practicing population. Just as it is wrong to extrapolate that the entire (or nearly the entire) population of self-injurers is maladaptive.

And the root objection to both practices is the same. The root objection to BDSM is the same root objection to self-injury. That seeking out or enjoying painful sensation is necessarily indicative of a mental deficiency or trauma. Because "normal" people, "healthy" people (by their standards) don't like pain or strong sensations.

Which is true, in some individual cases.

But it is equally inaccurate to assert it as a blanket generality of practitioners of either set of activities.

And it is doomed to failure to advocate for the liberation of one but not the other. To advocate for the acceptance of the person who wants to be hurt by his or her partner, or who wants to hurt his or her partner, but not for the person who wants to hurt him or her self. That kind of arbitrary distinction diminishes the legitimacy of the movement, of both movements, in drawing these distinctions between marginalized peoples.

Yes, I am well aware that the theory is that BDSM practitioners are acting out an innate sexual orientation, while self-injurers are emotionally disturbed people acting out trauma. But, while this theory is true in some cases, it ignores many, many people's realities.

The barometer of whether a particular action is healthy should be based on whether it is healthy for that particular individual. Not on broad generalizations attempting to quantify the diversity of human experience and emotion into simple forms.

Trinity said...

dh, I don't think I can engage with you productively any longer. I understand that you're frustrated that people misunderstand your activities, and I understand and agree with your assertion that the self-injurious behaviors that autistic people engage in are not what a lot of NT people mean when they talk about their cutting.

I get that. But I really don't think it's important to expand the term "self-injury" so much as it is to be clear exactly what phenomenon we're talking about. You seem to be talking about selfpleasure for masochists when talking of yourself and stimming when you're talking about the autism cases. I think we've already got words to describe those.

And I think there are enough similarities between cases of maladaptive SI that we can talk about it as a discrete phenomenon that has many things in common.

distractedhousewife said...

I am not trying to expand the term "self-injury."

I am sure there are many similarities among cases of maladaptive self-injury. I do not dispute that.

I think what you are saying, if I am inferring correctly, is that what autistic and/or masochistic people do to themselves should not really be considered "self-injury"?

Well, maybe it should and maybe it shouldn't. That is not for me to say. But it is. Currently. Masochistic self-stimulation is, currently, classified and treated as self-injury. Likewise autistic pain-seeking behaviors. Which are classified as self-injury. And viewed and treated, medically, and culturally, as such.

The reality is that a person who self-induces painful sensation is defined, medically and socially, as a self-injurer, regardless of the person's motivation for doing so. I did not choose the self-injurer label for my own autistic masochistic self; it was thrust upon me from early childhood on. Maladaptive self-injurers are not the only people given the "self-injurer" label and going through the social and medical experiences of carrying that label, therefore, I really do not accept that they or those who speak for them can claim sole ownership of that label as a self-identifier.

I did not choose to be born an autistic sensory-seeker with a proclivity for painful things, nor to be pathologized for this. Likewise I did not choose to be born with a sexually submissive orientation, nor to be pathologized for this. To be labeled as disordered, broken, emotionally troubled, in need of cure, for both of these things with no distinction made between them.

All I am asking is that if you wish to make the distinction, that you make it between "healthy pain-seeking [whether alone or with a partner]" and "unhealthy pain-seeking [whether alone or with a partner]," rather than the formula that "healthy pain-seeking is with a partner and unhealthy pain-seeking is alone, and deviations from this are so rare or so irrelevant as not to be worth mentioning." Or claiming that "self-injury" only means maladaptive self-injury, when, in reality, as the term is used and applied medically and socially, it is an umbrella term encompassing all self-infliction of painful sensation.

Otherwise you are alienating allies and perpetuating stigma on good people (I don't mean me) who have done nothing to you.

roykay said...

I have troubles seeing distractedhousewife and Trinity as being too far apart. Both are into forms of BDSM and oppose excessive generalization. Neither wishes the other restricted or restrained.

distractedhousewife raises an interesting issue - that SI (or more accurately self-pain) may be over represented in the Psych literature due to researcher bias. If you are part of a culture that regards pleasure and pain as dichotomous systems of conditioning, then you have much invested in maintaining the view that all self-pain is some manifestation of a pathological (medical model) or abnormal (social-psychological model) behavior and MAY over-represent that in reporting bias. It seems clear enough to me that the underlying assumptions are open to meaningful review just as has Nymphomania, S&M and Homosexuality.

I think we could all agree that when someone brings the subject up, under their own power, with a Psych professional, there is a higher likelihood that the is a real problem than when someone else imposes "psychological care" under threat of social or legal intervention. When the infliction of pain involve maiming (intentional incapacitation) of someone, even more so. In acknowledging the impact of volition, we muddy the waters; but fairness requires that we do so.

I do not have any particularly good way to help clarify the situation. I wish I did. But it is better to acknowledge a true opacity, that invent a false clarity. I am convince that both distractedhousewife and Trinity dearly hope that those needing help get it; and those not needing help are spared it.

Bean said...

(Note: SI-related trigger warning for this comment. Although that might be obvious, given the above comments.)


distractedhousewife,

You're making no fucking sense.

One of the problems here is that we only HAVE one word in English for sensations that aren't directly pleasurable.

It all gets called "pain," but it's not all the same thing. "Pain" experienced in the context of sexual pleasure (masochism) is not the same as "pain" experienced in the context of emotional anguish (self-injury) is not the same as "pain" experienced in the context of calming self-stimulation (stimming).

Therefore, claiming that all forms of human experience which involve "pain" are all "self-injury" is just as wrong and just as unhelpful as the vagueness of the application of the word "pain" in the first goddamn place.

You want to challenge the way mental health professionals treat you? Call something by the best language there is. Call masochism "masochism." Call stimming "stimming." Don't equate those things with self-injury.

I've got a history of SI, and I echo those that say it has no relation to kink at all. The idea that it does is insulting - when I used to SI, it was because of the overwhelming feeling that I had to do it, or I would go insane. It was not chosen or controlled by me the way kink is chosen and controlled by those involved in it.

Also, I'm irritated that you would drag other AS/ACs into this. I think the idea that stimming is a form of SI is also insulting, and I find the idea of equating the two to be dangerous. It's not like people haven't already struggled for understanding of stims in the first place! Spectrum people have been mistreated for ages because it was believed that stimming should be stopped, and deciding to call it self-injury will, jesus, never help.

I'm not autistic myself, but I was a really sensitive kid (screaming in agony if my sock seams got twisted, passing out from the overwhelming sensation of getting my nails clipped, etc.), and I did/do some things that I think would qualify as "stimming." I also started with the SI as a kid, and I think it would be really disturbing if there was not a distinction between those two things. Because they are not the same, and it does not serve people with SID and AS/AC people in any way to say, "Oh, they like to hurt themselves."

How does that help anyone distinguish between what is a useful coping mechanism and what is destructive, if we call them the same thing?

Trinity said...

"It all gets called "pain," but it's not all the same thing. "Pain" experienced in the context of sexual pleasure (masochism) is not the same as "pain" experienced in the context of emotional anguish (self-injury) is not the same as "pain" experienced in the context of calming self-stimulation (stimming)."

Yes, this, exactly.

If dh is right, perhaps there is a reason to call maladaptive self-injury "fribble" rather than "self-injury", on the theory that anything self-inflicted and "painful" (though again, defining pain is an issue of its own) should be called "self-injury" and "fribble," being maladaptive and compulsive, is a more specific phenomenon.

But in that case people who fribble are still going to need and get specific kinds of supports. Perhaps dh, as an anti"psych" (I dislike that abbreviation, strongly, as from what I've seen, Scientologists came up with it. I'm... not on board with their beliefs on damn near anything) absolutist, believes that the way fribblers are treated by the establishment is bad too... and I don't entirely disagree with that, if so.

But they still fribble, and fribbling is still a phenomenon. It's not, say, the difference between someone who has sex because she likes it and someone who has sex to kill the pain of an awful life but hates herself for it. It's not about the attitude toward the activity, or at least not entirely. Fribbling is, as you and I have said, often compulsive and emotionally and physically damaging for those who do it.

distractedhousewife said...

Yes, I agree that there should be more words, more differentiation, for the type of sensation that is called "pain."

However, there seems to be the assumption that there is some established, recognized distinction between seeking out painful sensations and "self-injury." And that by referring to all acts of seeking out painful sensations as "self-injury," I am, somehow, blurring this established distinction.

I confess, I don't understand this.

Any seeking out of painful sensation *is* classified as self-injury. Both medically and socially.

This isn't something I'm making up, or some linguistic slight of hand I'm trying to pull. It's... reality.

Frankly, I wish I *could* get away from the stigma of the "self-injurer" label by saying "it's okay; it's because I'm a masochist" or "it's because I'm autistic." But that's never worked for me.

How does that help anyone distinguish between what is a useful coping mechanism and what is destructive, if we call them the same thing?

Well, I disagree with the idea that all SI is a "coping mechanism" too, but that's another topic...

It doesn't, but they are classified and treated as the same thing; that is the system we are in.

I've got a history of SI, and I echo those that say it has no relation to kink at all. The idea that it does is insulting - when I used to SI, it was because of the overwhelming feeling that I had to do it, or I would go insane. It was not chosen or controlled by me the way kink is chosen and controlled by those involved in it.

I respect your experience but suggest that it is not universal. I have had that overwhelming, "must do it now or will go insane" about both SI *and* partner-inflicted sensation.

distracted.housewife said...

If dh is right, perhaps there is a reason to call maladaptive self-injury "fribble" rather than "self-injury", on the theory that anything self-inflicted and "painful" (though again, defining pain is an issue of its own) should be called "self-injury" and "fribble," being maladaptive and compulsive, is a more specific phenomenon.

Yes. I would be fine with that. I would also be fine with using the term/classification "self-injury" to mean *only* maladaptive, emotionally-based self-injury, and other terms for other types of self-infliction of painful sensation... but only if the alternative terms are widely medically and socially recognized and depathologized.

I confess, though, the notion of creating new terms entirely is one which I would be somewhat pessimistic about, because of the phenomenon of the euphemism treadmill. Make up all the new terms you want, and try to get them into widespread acceptance, but until the underlying preconceptions are challenged, the new terms will take on the same stigma as the old terms.

But in that case people who fribble are still going to need and get specific kinds of supports.

Definitely. And they should.

[continued because i'm too long winded]

distractedhousewife said...

Perhaps dh, as an anti"psych" (I dislike that abbreviation, strongly, as from what I've seen, Scientologists came up with it. I'm... not on board with their beliefs on damn near anything) absolutist, believes that the way fribblers are treated by the establishment is bad too... and I don't entirely disagree with that, if so.

In many but not all cases, yes.

I'm not a scientologist, although I do respect their beliefs. Anti-psych is just a sort of internet shorthand I use. Better and more specific would be "favoring a diversity-based rather than pathology-based view of mental differences, and favoring an accommodation-based rather than treatment-based approach to dealing with mental differences."

But they still fribble, and fribbling is still a phenomenon. It's not, say, the difference between someone who has sex because she likes it and someone who has sex to kill the pain of an awful life but hates herself for it. It's not about the attitude toward the activity, or at least not entirely.

Why not? What is the difference between maladaptive and non-maladaptive self-injury, except the mental state of the person doing it?

Also, I would assert that, rather than discrete categories, there is much overlap and gray area among people who seek out painful sensation (people who are classified as "self-injurers"). Even among those who specifically are acting out of emotional pain (those you call "fribblers" or who would be called "classic" self-injurers) have diversity among themselves. Yes, there's a profile---and some don't fit that profile at all. For instance, there are classic, emotionally-motivated, maladaptive, compulsive self-injurers/"fribblers" who have no history of abuse or trauma.

I mean, yes, if you are specifically saying that there is a specific phenomenon of people who are abused as children, especially sexually, and who subsequently reenact the trauma of this abuse by repeatedly injuring themselves, then... yes. That phenomenon exists. Definitely. But not only is that not all self-injurers, it's not even all emotional-maladaptive-compulsive-fribblering self-injurers. And appropriate treatment for a trauma-reenacting survivor of child sexual abuse is going to be as different from appropriate treatment for a non-abused angst-ridden depressive adolescent as it is for a sensory-seeking autistic, as it is for an autoerotic masochist...

I have a friend, incidentally, who tells me that among teenagers now, there is little-to-no stigma on self-injury, and, while it's not quite to the level of "everyone's doing it," it doesn't carry the horror it does to older generations. I'm not sure how representative her samples are (my own contacts with the teenage set don't seem to bear this out), but it's interesting nonetheless.

Bean said...

dh,

Any seeking out of painful sensation *is* classified as self-injury. Both medically and socially.

This isn't something I'm making up, or some linguistic slight of hand I'm trying to pull. It's... reality.


What I don't understand here is what appears to be some sort of, "we can't beat 'em, so let's join 'em," attitude. Like, this is the way mental health professionals classify things and we can't change that, so let's just go along with the vagueness of "self-injury" as a term.

Why you'd favour that over educating others about the different ways people experience "pain," I have no idea.

but until the underlying preconceptions are challenged, the new terms will take on the same stigma as the old terms.

This isn't exactly untrue. But new ways of defining language is virtually always part of that educational process.

"Self-injury," to people, means something maladaptive. You are unlikely to change that by saying, "No, I self-injure, and it's great for me." At best, you'll probably be assumed to be in denial about your own experiences.

Commonly understood definitions have inertia.

I respect your experience but suggest that it is not universal. I have had that overwhelming, "must do it now or will go insane" about both SI *and* partner-inflicted sensation.

If you're not talking about some sort of sexual activity (because I am, when I say "kink"), then that seriously needs clarification.

Because right now, what I'm getting from this is that you think that someone's unbearable, maladaptive desire to hurt/punish themselves is somehow qualitatively equivalent to really wanting a good, sexy spanking.

And those two things are not remotely equivalent. I will be happy to step up to the plate and say I firmly believe that's a workable universal.

distractedhousewife said...

What I don't understand here is what appears to be some sort of, "we can't beat 'em, so let's join 'em," attitude. Like, this is the way mental health professionals classify things and we can't change that, so let's just go along with the vagueness of "self-injury" as a term.

Why you'd favour that over educating others about the different ways people experience "pain," I have no idea.


I am all in favor of educating others about the different ways people experience "pain." I am trying to do so.

I think convincing ordinary people that injuring oneself in ways that look, superficially, exactly identical to what everyone knows as "self-injury" is not, in fact, self-injury, but is, rather, some other thing is... well, a very hard sell. Harder than working within the fluidity of the concept. And, again, even if you subtract the autistics and the sensory-seekers and the masochistic pleasure-seekers from the self-injury category, those who remain do not all fit the profile of the classic self-injurer. Do they need a different term too? How many different terms? And how many people are going to get behind an idea like "yes, I'm leaving myself bruised and bloody, but it's not 'self-injury'; it's... this other, completely different, thing"?

This isn't exactly untrue. But new ways of defining language is virtually always part of that educational process.

"Self-injury," to people, means something maladaptive. You are unlikely to change that by saying, "No, I self-injure, and it's great for me." At best, you'll probably be assumed to be in denial about your own experiences.


Yes, and if you said, "I injure myself, but it's not self-injury," you'll probably be assumed to be in denial about reality as a whole.

All intentional pain-infliction is classified as "self-injury."

All self-injury is considered maladaptive.

Therefore, all intentional pain-infliction is considered maladaptive.

We know this isn't true.

I think the second assumption is more susceptible to challenge than the first, given that so many self-injurers (of all different types) have a problem of one sort or another with the mainstream view of it. There are emotional self-injurers who will nevertheless argue that their behavior can be done safely and in moderation and should not be stamped out. There are going to be individual differences no matter how they are classified. So why not focus the emphasis on the idea that not all are (or should be considered) pathological?

Also, again, there's a lot of overlap and gray areas in between. If I smash my hands because it feels good physically and also because it relieves stress, what category would I go in?

If you're not talking about some sort of sexual activity (because I am, when I say "kink"), then that seriously needs clarification.

No, I'm talking about sexual (or somewhat sexual) activity.

Because right now, what I'm getting from this is that you think that someone's unbearable, maladaptive desire to hurt/punish themselves is somehow qualitatively equivalent to really wanting a good, sexy spanking.

No, not at all. "Not all self-injurers are maladaptive" does not equate to "Maladaptive self-injurers don't really exist, or aren't really maladaptive."

But overwhelming, irresistible desire? Yes, I have experienced that for both scenarios, self-injury and BDSM acts... not in the sense of "really wanting a good sexy spanking" but rather, frantically begging my partner to do something to me before I did something much worse to myself, yes.

Bean said...

dh,

Then we absolutely, fundamentally disagree.

I do not think distinctions between the reasons people seek "painful" stimulation is nearly so hard a sell as you think it is.

We make distinctions between rape and consensual sex, regardless of superficial similarities between the physical acts. We make distinctions between going to a scary movie and being in genuine danger, despite superficial similarities between the involved emotions.

And as I've said, I think trying to convince others of the "fluidity" of the concept of "self-injury" is dangerous.

No, not at all. "Not all self-injurers are maladaptive" does not equate to "Maladaptive self-injurers don't really exist, or aren't really maladaptive."

That has nothing to do with what I asked.

I asked you if you were actually willing to compare SELF-INJURY (that's not a fluid usage there) with WANTING SEX. Because that comparison is so beyond offensive it physically makes me shake with anger.

but rather, frantically begging my partner to do something to me before I did something much worse to myself, yes.

If that "much worse" would involve something dangerous to you, or something that you would seriously regret, then I have to frankly say that I don't think what you are doing IS good for you and you ARE self-deluded about it.

And trying to convince anyone that it's totally okay for some people to feel the overwhelming desire to do something dangerous to themselves is wrong.

Trinity said...

"If that "much worse" would involve something dangerous to you, or something that you would seriously regret, then I have to frankly say that I don't think what you are doing IS good for you and you ARE self-deluded about it."

Yeah. I think there's a very real difference between, say "I do bloodplay by myself sometimes" and "I desperately beg for bloodplay from my partner because otherwise I will hurt myself in a way I regret."

If there's regret involved, that isn't masturbation on the part of a masochist. That's something else.

And, as I said, while I disagree with the stigma put on self-injury and definitely agree that some mental health providers don't know what they're doing when faced by it, I remain unconvinced that some kind of help for the compulsion to do things you'll regret -- especially when they could seriously harm you, leave scars for the rest of your life, etc -- is a bad idea because "psychs" are meanies.

I do think that it is a bad idea for a mental health professional to try to make someone stop cold turkey, or to go for the "Go somewhere where you'll feel ashamed to cut" etc. route if the person herself is not ready to give up her coping device. But the thing is, not all mental health professionals are the same, and many take a harm reduction-type attitude toward self-injury, which I personally feel has the best chance of balancing respect for autonomy with the acknowledgment that compulsions that lead us to do things we regret are a) not good for us and b) themselves limiting of our autonomy.

distractedhousewife said...

I do not think distinctions between the reasons people seek "painful" stimulation is nearly so hard a sell as you think it is.

We make distinctions between rape and consensual sex, regardless of superficial similarities between the physical acts. We make distinctions between going to a scary movie and being in genuine danger, despite superficial similarities between the involved emotions.


Yes, precisely... I am not sure that what you are saying differs from what I am saying, except I am saying "there are many, many different types of self-injury," and you are saying (I think) "there are a few discrete categories of self-injury but only one should be considered 'real' self-injury."

Again, what about people who fit part but not all of the profile? Do they qualify as true self-injurers, or as... some other thing?

That has nothing to do with what I asked.

I asked you if you were actually willing to compare SELF-INJURY (that's not a fluid usage there) with WANTING SEX. Because that comparison is so beyond offensive it physically makes me shake with anger.


No. I am not comparing self-injury with wanting sex. But neither was I talking about "wanting sex." I was talking about the same thing you referred to---an overwhelming, irresistible compulsion.

If that "much worse" would involve something dangerous to you, or something that you would seriously regret, then I have to frankly say that I don't think what you are doing IS good for you and you ARE self-deluded about it.

I know it's not good for me. I do it anyway. With all due respect, that's a choice that I get to make for myself as an adult. Unless, of course, I'm hospitalized.

And trying to convince anyone that it's totally okay for some people to feel the overwhelming desire to do something dangerous to themselves is wrong.

I agree. Completely.

What I disagree with is the idea that all self-injury is like that. Or that that kind of self-injury is the only "real" kind. Or that all self-injurers who do that must fit some other psychological profile (like childhood abuse, or self-punishment).

I have done self-injury in unhealthy (physically and emotionally) ways. Yes, I have. I have also done BDSM in unhealthy ways. Yes, I have. But I have *also* done both of those things in *healthy* ways, in other contexts. Both are possible.

distracted.housewife said...

Yeah. I think there's a very real difference between, say "I do bloodplay by myself sometimes" and "I desperately beg for bloodplay from my partner because otherwise I will hurt myself in a way I regret."

Yes, there is. I fully acknowledge that.

But both exist, and both can be done, by the same person, even, in different contexts.

This is, perhaps, revealing more of myself than I ought, but I don't really care... in general, my self-injurious practices (or "pain-seeking practices which are classified as self-injury," if you prefer) are about as emotionally healthy as I am, at any given moment. If I am frustrated, depressed, anxious, panicky, or angst-ridden, I will self-injure (sensation-seek, whatever) in frustrated, depressed, panicky, or angst-ridden ways. If I am calm, happy, secure, and emotionally sound, I will self-injure in calm, happy, secure, emotionally sound ways.

Anecdotally, this is really not that uncommon among people who do this sort of thing, at least among the admittedly limited number I have known personally.

If there's regret involved, that isn't masturbation on the part of a masochist. That's something else.

I'm nor sure that's necessarily true... many people feel regret even over regular, vanilla masturbation because they are taught that it is wrong or sinful. This could be especially true for someone with "deviant" proclivities.

And, as I said, while I disagree with the stigma put on self-injury and definitely agree that some mental health providers don't know what they're doing when faced by it, I remain unconvinced that some kind of help for the compulsion to do things you'll regret -- especially when they could seriously harm you, leave scars for the rest of your life, etc -- is a bad idea because "psychs" are meanies.

Who is saying that? I am certainly not.

Yes, I think some kind of help for the compulsion to do things one will regret is a very good thing.

And I think that applies whether the "things you'll regret" are self-injury, recreational drug use, gambling, or hooking up with anonymous strangers for kinky sex. All of which can be, but are not necessarily, manifestations of a maladaptive response to an emotional problem. And in cases in which they are, are not necessarily all responses to the *same* emotional problem.

I do think that it is a bad idea for a mental health professional to try to make someone stop cold turkey, or to go for the "Go somewhere where you'll feel ashamed to cut" etc. route if the person herself is not ready to give up her coping device. But the thing is, not all mental health professionals are the same, and many take a harm reduction-type attitude toward self-injury, which I personally feel has the best chance of balancing respect for autonomy with the acknowledgment that compulsions that lead us to do things we regret are a) not good for us and b) themselves limiting of our autonomy.

Well, I'm opposed quite across the board to mental health professionals "making" adults do anything at all, but, yes, in the case of people who self-injure in a maladaptive/compulsive/addicted way, and want help with dealing with those desires, I am all in favor of that.

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