Hidden Self-Harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy

Hidden Self-Harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy

Hidden Self-Harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy

Hidden Self-Harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy

Synopsis

Maggie Turp is a Lecturer in Counselling at the University of Reading and a psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice

Excerpt

For many people, the term 'self-harm' conjures up an image of violent self-cutting, self-scalding or overdosing. These 'high visibility' manifestations of self-harm are those most often highlighted in the literature, both popular and professional. In this book, I suggest that this characterisation of self-harm is too narrow in its scope. It seems to me that self-harming tendencies find expression in many different ways, ranging from the highly dramatic to the virtually invisible. A wide variety of self-injurious or health-impairing behaviours can perhaps be best understood if we think in terms of broadly similar underlying states of mind. In the chapters that follow, the reader is invited to consider this proposition through his or her imaginative interaction with a series of detailed case study examples.

I wish to suggest also that we all know something of the states of mind in question, through our personal acquaintance with entirely normal behaviours which I refer to as 'cashas' – an acronym for culturally acceptable self-harming acts or activities. Some 'cashas' have a specific role and meaning, serving as a rite of passage or signifying identification with a particular tribe. Such rituals are not limited to geographically remote parts of the world; scarifying, tattooing and body piercing, for example, are highly valued signatures of group belonging in some British and American youth sub-cultures. 'Cashas' can also be associated with religious practices, as for example with self-flagellation or pilgrimages that involve covering long distances over stony ground, barefoot or on bended knee. Favazza's work (1989a, 1989b) offers extensive and fascinating accounts of such phenomena.

The 'cashas' that are of most interest in relation to the question of the relationship between normal, flawed self-care and actual self-harm fall into . . .

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