Why is self-destructive behavior wrong?

Discussion in 'Self Harm & Substance Abuse' started by clinomaniac, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. clinomaniac

    clinomaniac Member


    I'm about to talk in detail about cutting.

    I fully understand and agree with this site's anti-self-harm stance, and I am by no means advocating self-destructive behavior. However, I often have a hard time seeing what's so bad or wrong about these behaviors. I want to not want to do these things, but when it comes down to it I can't think of reasons not to. I'm not trying to be argumentitive, I'm just looking for thoughts to counter the following rationalizations for cutting:

    • I'm not trying to kill myself
    • I know where major veins/arteries are and avoid them
    • I keep everything sterile and have first aid supplies handy
    • There's someone else home in case of an emergency
    • People do other unhealthy/risky things like smoking, over eating, speeding, etc. and it's not seen as sick, wrong, or dangerous as cutting. This seems like an arbitrary distinction to me. None of these are good things to do, but I don't see why is such a big deal that cutting is a vice of mine.
  2. Freya

    Freya Loves SF Staff Member ADMIN

    There are significant differences between the other unhealthy/risky things that you mention and cutting yourself. The most pertinent being that people do not smoke, eat too much or speed with an intent to hurt themselves. That is not the primary motivation.

    I disagree with you that smoking and speeding are not seen as being as sick, wrong or dangerous as cutting. The latter is actively illegal and the former has had millions of dollars poured into preventing people from doing it. Perhaps you do not do those things so you do not feel as 'attacked' by the negativity around them. The negative reaction to obesity is also not to be disregarded - there is proven stigma, prejudice and disgust for people who over-eat so, again, I do not agree that 'cutting' is seen as any more 'wrong' or 'dangerous' than those things except for one very relevant point:

    Cutting is intentionally harming yourself. For these other things you mention, harm is an unwanted side effect. Cutting yourself is a 'big deal' because of the motivation behind it. To want to injure yourself is a sign of a less than stable mental state (just as over eating with an intent to give yourself medical problems would be - it is about the intent behind the action). The cutting as and of itself is not a big deal - the mental state causing it is a big deal.

    (I would remind anyone replying to this thread that any 'pro-harm' discussion is against the site rules and will be removed.)
    Brittless and Deety like this.
  3. Deety

    Deety Well-Known Member

    I don't cut, but I do so-called 'self-harm' by another method. The only thing I might disagree with Freya about is that for me, the intent is not to harm myself as such, but to release anxiety by regaining control over something at least. But most people may not see a distinction? And motivation for cutting may be different?
  4. Freya

    Freya Loves SF Staff Member ADMIN

    I understand what you saying that the aim of harming yourself is to relieve anxiety - but there are a number of things that can be used to achieve this (which is why therapy to tackle self harm - to make choices that do not involve intending to inflict injury on your person in some fashion) - I understand that the motivation to or end goal of self harm may be different for different people, but the intent regardless is to inflict harm on yourself - to some purpose, otherwise it is classified as dangerous and/or impulsive behaviours rather than as SI.
  5. IamTetsuo

    IamTetsuo Well-Known Member

    I don't really go in for 'right' and 'wrong' much myself, more just 'do what you want to do' but figuring that out can be the hardest thing of all.

    This is a kind of convoluted sentence. Maybe you could restructure it into, 'I don't want to do these things and when it comes down to it the reasons that I'm doing it are ___________'. The why is always the most important. I did it and I have a reason that I hold as the 'story' of what happened, but why I really did it maybe something else, who knows.

    I woudn't tell you not to do it personally in the same way that I wouldn't tell a young kid not to smoke because when I was young I smoked and people told me not to do that.

    But seriously don't do it :p
  6. Inanimate

    Inanimate Well-Known Member

    I think I can see the distinction between "I want to not want" and "I don't want." Rather than disliking the act of cutting entirely and wanting a stop to it, she probably wants to cut but merely feels as though it's somehow wrong. Maybe she meant to say the former and didn't mean the latter, but that's just how I perceive it. Personally, I had felt the same way. Either way, it is convoluted.

    As for my opinion on why self-destructive behavior is wrong, the bottom line is that while you may be careful, it is generally a dangerous behavior and not everyone takes risks into consideration all the time. People can get overly emotional and overdo it. While the same does apply to behaviors like drinking and smoking, when you're self-harming, you are deliberately and blatantly damaging your body regardless of true intent. There is no subtlety behind it.
  7. GameADDict

    GameADDict Aspiring psychologist

    I feel the same way towards suicide. If I don't want to live anymore I should be able to end it. I wish euthanasia was legal for those with mental illnesses. But I guess society considers both self-harm and suicide taboo. Maybe because of religious beliefs? I don't know.
  8. clinomaniac

    clinomaniac Member

    Thank you everyone for your replies.

    Freya, you hit the nail on the head when you said
    "There are significant differences between the other unhealthy/risky things that you mention and cutting yourself. The most pertinent being that people do not smoke, eat too much or speed with an intent to hurt themselves. That is not the primary motivation."

    Deety, I totally relate to your response "The only thing I might disagree with Freya about is that for me, the intent is not to harm myself as such, but to release anxiety by regaining control over something at least." Personally though the desire to cause myself harm is just as much of a motivating factor as emotional relief.

    Inanimate, thanks for clarifying what I was trying to say. I also appreciated your reminder that even though I like to think I have things "under control" its easy to "overdo it."

    Iam Tetsuo, sorry for being confusing. I have lots of self-contradictory and conflicted feelings about SI, so I'm not surprised that my writing about it gets convoluted haha.

    GameADDict, I hope your getting support for whatever issues you may be struggling with. Your post made me concerned for you. I tend to agree with you in cases where someone is terminally ill and they don't have any means to improve their quality of life enough to make it bearable. When struggling with mental illness it often feels like you've been sentenced to a life thats not even worth living, and that you're fucked up beyond repair. The problem is that mental illness distorts your perception of the situation. When a depressed person is contemplating suicide his/her decision making process is largely based on distorted and false beliefs. Personally I don't think that suicide is morally wrong or selfish. I think of it as a mistake that people make because their decision was based on bad information - a fatal, tragic, preventable mistake. I guess that's why its so important to tell people whats on your mind when you're struggling with depressed/suicidal thoughts.
    Deety likes this.
  9. IamTetsuo

    IamTetsuo Well-Known Member

    I didn't mean to pick at your grammar or anything like that, it was a kind of suggestion to look at it from a simpler perspective to better understand it. At the end of the day we do what we do and I feel it's better to accept it and understand rather than judge it as being potentially 'wrong' which leads that judgement to becoming another rod to beat oneself.
  10. ncrbrts

    ncrbrts Member

    I agree. I think those of us who struggle with suicidal feelings should be able to end it with dignity, rather than resorting to ugly, painful DIY methods which are ineffective as often as they are effective.
    Mike1 likes this.
  11. ThePhantomLady

    ThePhantomLady Safety and Support SF Supporter

    It's a moral question my therapist has asked me a few times... and it messes with my head each time. I don't know what to answer. She asks the questions in the very same way "It's not illegal. But why is it wrong?"

    I hate that it's something I struggle with. I want to stop... I hate my scars especially the ones from the recent years as they got deeper and much more ugly... and I know cutting doesn't help my long term mental health. It feels like it helps in the moment and sometimes it even becomes the lesser of two evils and keeps me from doing worse things.

    But I know it doesn't make me feel more confident in my own skin (yes horrible pun). I hate my body for what a lot of awful people did to it and said about it; and when looking at it; it seems like I'm finishing their job by hurting myself.

    But that's me. But yeah, every time she asks me that I lose my voice.

    I don't know how to class it in terms of smoking or a purposely bad diet, alcohol use or drug abuse...
  12. Mike1

    Mike1 Member

    Absolutely. It's a common comparison, but we euthanise animals every day. If somebody has been suicidal for years it's torture to make us take meds to make us 'better' - borderline suicidal. I actually signed up for the SF site looking for a way to commit suicide on prescription drugs. Humans should have the option to be euthanised as well imo.
  13. beebs

    beebs New Member

    I think adding the negative stigma to cutting or any of the others listed by Freya actually has an unwanted backlash. It creates a layer self loathing when you give in to it that worsens your self image. I've never been a cutter, but I was a drug addict. It was a blissful escape from reality which I believe is a similar motivation to cutting. You can make great arguments for allowing people to take some relief from the pain or life itself or to adhere to self control and maintain a more societally accepted lifestyle. I think it boils down to what you actually want to do and are willing to do. I stopped doing illicit drugs because I wanted to be free of the addiction; so I took steps to do that. It was very difficult, and I still think about going back to it at times even though I've been clean for years.
  14. IdontMatter111

    IdontMatter111 Well-Known Member

    I dont agree that obesity, smoking and speeding are even in the same catagory as such behaviour as "cutting". Yes people may call the former things 'sick' wrong or dangerous but all are still examples of culturally accepted activities (people look sheepish if they get caught speeding) but they are not generally alienated from society for it.....you wouldn't freak out if you saw some one overeating, smoking, or speeding - you might make a remark that you dont like it or someone shouldn't be doing it.....you cant stand on a street talking to someone and just start cutting - its a completely different thing - its a Taboo, its an 'elephant in the corner'. People know it happens but unless you are with a therapist or on a site like this it isnt a socially acceptable sunbject for conversation. I dont think you can line them up as being in the same catagory. Yes we know from education, leaflets, programmes whatever that speeding is dangerous, that obesity and smoking kill but there while people may experience some discriminatory remarks, there are enough people walking around that you arent alone in your struggle. SI is not like that...you dont have a sign on your forehead or do a particular thing in public so people know you do it.....

    I use SI mostly as a release for when things become absolutely overwhelming....i have tried alternatives and for me they dont work but I hope that people really do try other alternatives as its not a good thing to start and can lead to nasty complications. I dont advocate it and im not Pro self harm just in case anyone thinks I might be saying to do it, please dont!

    I agree Smoking has had millions of money spent on it to try to prevent it, but as someone whose in-laws and husband have smoked for upwards of 40 years because they enjoy it. However, you cannot overlook the fact that its sale provides millions of pounds worth of money poured into sponsorship in all kinds of areas which people just happen to turn a blind eye to...

    I think the whole subject is a very difficult one for therapists to deal with and understand....
  15. DrownedFishOnFire

    DrownedFishOnFire Quieta non movere

    Idk where I stand. I have slowly come to terms that I do self harm myself through three different methods, and I just like to feel the pain, I don't know if its a high I get but when I feel the collapse/puncture of the skin layer its a relief and letting the liquid gush out.
  16. Innocent Forever

    Innocent Forever Active Member

    I wonder.....
    I loved your question clinomaniac, for I ask the same thing.
    I wonder if it's really so. Who says cutting has to be to intentionally hurt yourself?