NEW AHHE SPECIAL ISSUE: REPRESENTING TRAUMA; HONOURING BROKEN NARRATIVES http://journals.sagepub.com/toc/ahha/17/1
Self-harm, or self-mutilation, is generally viewed in academic literature as a pathological act, usually born out of trauma and/or a psychological and personality defect. Individuals who engage in self-harm are usually seen as damaged, destructive, and pathological. While self-harm is not a desirable act, this paper argues through the narratives of those who engage in such acts that self-harm may be better construed as a meaningful, embodied emotional practice, bound up in social (mis)understandings of psychological pain and how best to attend to such pain. In particular, this paper suggests that those who engage in self-harm practices are performing embodied, socially situated acts of healing, survival, and self-creation in a physical attempt to retell complex, fragmented stories of abuse, existential angst, trauma, and loss of self. While these individuals may be more or less successful in such attempts, this paper suggests that understandings of self-harm would benefit from more nuanced approaches to individuals’ embodied expressions of pain that take into account the difficult nature of psychological suffering and the effects of trauma.