The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury

By Patricia A. Adler; Peter Adler | Go to book overview

5
The Phenomenology of the Cut

Many scholarly portraits of self-injury are analytical, detached, and impersonal. They objectify and externalize an act that is, at its essence, about feelings. Yet at its core, self-injury is about the pain that drives people and the feelings of relief that they get from it. Comprehending self-injury requires a close, densely textured examination of how this act is carried out, felt, and interpreted by the people who perform it. It requires particular attention to the accompanying range of emotions. Clearly there are different sensations people experience from self-injuring, just as there are different reasons why they do it, so this cannot simply be reduced to a single formula. But the act of self-injury, its preparation, its practice, and its aftermath are experiences that are powerfully important to its practitioners.

Sociologists have written about the relationship between consciousness, the body, and nature. Their quest has been to capture what occurs phenomenally in experience by giving close, descriptive analyses of the deep, inner essence of people’s perceptions, interpretations, and understandings of their lifeworlds. This chapter takes a phenomenological approach to looking at the existential sensations of self-injury.

Many people told us that when they reflected on their acts, it felt as if they were replaying a short movie in their minds. In this chapter we use their voices to present the most immediate thoughts and sensations that they reported when they reflected about their experiences of self-injury.


Impetus for the Act

People were prompted to self-injure by a variety of motivations. The greatest number used self-injury as a mechanism to help them deal with life situations that were too intense to handle other ways. Although injuring themselves did not solve their problems, it enabled them to get through difficult periods by a means that they found, at least temporarily, acceptable.

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The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Literature and Population 22
  • 3 - Studying Self-Injury 38
  • 4 - Becoming a Self-Injurer 53
  • 5 - The Phenomenology of the Cut 66
  • 6 - Loners in the Social World 94
  • 7 - Colleagues in the Cyber World 108
  • 8 - Self-Injury Communities 128
  • 9 - Self-Injury Relationships 144
  • 10 - The Social Transformation of Self-Injury 167
  • 11 - Careers in Self-Injury 181
  • 12 - Understanding Self-Injury 199
  • Notes 219
  • References 231
  • Index 250
  • About the Authors 252
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