Some of our previous books have explored topics such as upperlevel drug dealers and smugglers, college athletes, our own children and their friends, and employees at Hawaiian resorts. In part, all of these venues were either close to home and/or close to our hearts, and they can be seen as having a fun and playful side. In addition, in all of these previous studies, we have taken in-depth participant-observation roles in conducting the research. Not so here. There was nothing fun or funny about exploring the lives of the selfinjurers portrayed in this book. It was, however, compellingly interesting.
We ourselves have never self-injured. Other than being admitted into many of the chat rooms that self-injurers visit, we were not a part of this community. However, no other study of ours has been so intense, so intimate, so intricately entwined in the travails and turmoil of people’s lives, and so embedded in both the psychological and sociological aspects of the human condition. What you are about to read may strike you as gruesome, morbid, and depressing but also fascinating, revealing, and important. There are stories of struggle and pain mixed with stories of self-understanding, triumph, and redemption. For admitting us into the most private aspects of their lives, we could not be more thankful to the over one hundred people who poured out their deepest stories and feelings, conjectures and analysis, either face to face, by telephone, or through email, and the literally thousands of people who opened their hearts and lives through email and chat-room conversations. Obviously, without their generosity, openness, and candor, this book could never have been written.
There have been several scholars who have been particularly supportive of this research throughout the past 10 years. People such as David Altheide, Jason Boardman, Dan Cress, William Force, Leslie Irvine, the late John Irwin, Matthew Lust, Carol Rambo, Pepper Schwartz, Phil Vannini, Dennis Waskul, Amy Wilkins, and Hongling Xie gave us feedback, ideas for sources, and intellectual arguments to ponder as we sifted through our data. The faculty in both of our departments at the University of Colorado and the Uni