Thursday, January 20, 2011

Philosophical musing: Breaking and self-harm

For many years I've advocated that for some people, breaking down into tears and crying while engaged in BDSM play is beneficial. For me it certainly has been. It's a form of release, where physical pain becomes the trigger to also release emotional pain and stress. I still believe firmly that for some people, this is positive. The fact that I've experienced it as positive is enough to make that statement true.

However, I've recently started thinking of a way where breaking can be used in a negative manner. A manner very similar to what I was talking about before, but which takes the "self-medication" value and brings it to a new extreme. I'm not sure if this is what I experienced with Corvus, and helped him do to himself, just before and after Christmas... But it does have certain signs. Specifically, I'm talking about self-harm.

From Wikipedia:
Self-harm is also apparent in high-functioning individuals who have no underlying clinical diagnosis. The motivations for self-harm vary and it may be used to fulfill a number of different functions. These functions include self-harm being used as a coping mechanism which provides temporary relief of intense feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress, emotional numbness and a sense of failure or self-loathing.
As well as defining self-harm in terms of the act of damaging one's own body, it may be more accurate to define self-harm in terms of the intent, and the emotional distress that the person is attempting to deal with.

Just to have it clear: I have never purposfully broken the skin of anyone. Nor have I ever hurt anyone to the extent where you could see significant strain on the skin, like skabs or very serious bruising. Sure, there's been bruises, but nothing akind to what I see other BDSM people submitting themself or others to.

However, from the definition of self harm it is something hurtfull you put yourself through in an attempt to temporarily relieve yourself of emotional stress, depression etc. And isn't that exactly what breaking does too? Isn't that exactly what I said was so GOOD about being made to cry during a BDSM scene in my first paragraph? I think these are eerily similar. Have I assisted Corvus in doing harm to himself?!?

On the other hand, lots of other potentially dangerous things are done as a form of stress relief. Basejumping comes to mind... Motorcycle racing.... Going to a football match and screaming at the oposing team and their supporters... Working out until you can barely stand upright... All these can also be said to be potentially dangerous, hurtfull or both. And all may be used as a way to relieve emotional stress and such.

In the end, I think all these methods of relief relate to the release of hormones. Endorphines, adrenaline or whatever they're all called. (I'm no biochemist. :P )What gives you a kick or a feeling of joy when your heart is racing and you're doing something your instincts tell you that you shouldn't. And then you go ahead and do it anyway.

What differentiates self-harm from all these others is perhaps that it is "harm". Not "hurt" or "endanger" but simple, destructive "harm". It is destroying in stead of building. Perhaps.. I'm really not sure. (I'm no psycologist either. :P ) I guess I just don't know enough about this area to really be able to answer my own questions. Perhaps someone else out there can?


  1. This is what I tried to talk about on FL, but seemingly no-one picked up on.

    YES! THIS CAN BE BAD! And I'm getting a bit tired of all the people saying "no no no, this is good for me!" I don't f'ing care if it's good for YOU, I'm trying to point out that this might be really really bad for some people, and that dominants might unknowingly engage in self-harm for the sub.

    Some people use ordinary vanilla-sex as self harm, so why do we, as the type of community we after all are, close our eyes so firmly to the fact that some people use us for self harm or negative experiences?

    Thank you for making this post! :)

  2. This is a link to a blog entry that talks about depression and submission, and compares self-harm to the hurt you get from someone else. I think it's well written and he has some good points.

    Though I'm not sure this applies to all cases. Like if the relationship isn't a healthy one to begin with... I still think the sub could take advantage of the dom and "use" him/her to get the pain the sub won't get otherwise. What do you think? (Oh, and where this is comming from? Check out the most recent blog entry: Musings on responsibility and power.)