Those of us on the outside don’t understand

WARNING: Discussion of Self-Harm

There are a hundred ways to self-harm, but most of those who think about it, will think about what’s shown in the images here: the use of a razor blade on your own skin. Burning, carving, pinching, self-hitting, self-biting, hair pulling, food restriction, foreign-body ingestion, over exercising, sleep deprivation, sitting outside without proper attire, repetitively engaging in unhealthy relationships, neglecting medical intervention.

There are even more reasons why someone would choose to do so.

We, on the outside, think they might be doing what they do to draw attention to themselves but more often than not what they’re seeking is far more internal. 

“Many factors play a role in their decisions to self-injure. These elements fall into four broad categories: (1) environmental influences, (2) direct media influences, (3) peer group dimensions, and (4) internal psychological elements.” But boiled down to simplest terms “It temporarily reduces tension and restores a sense of equilibrium. It has powerful communication aspects, provides a sense of control and empowerment.”

(From: Treating Self Injury, a Practical Guide. B. W. Walsh)

It’s entirely possible that they’ve lived a life full of pain. Pain from being abused in some way. Pain from a medical condition. Pain from abusing substances. They spend so much of their lives experiencing that pain that when it’s removed – something is missing.

It’s entirely possible that those who’ve experienced trauma in the past grow to feel that they don’t deserve good things, and when those good things happen, they retreat to return to what they know. 

If you’re like me, there’s likely been times in your life when you’ve done something in response to a bad situation. I remember pounding my fist on the steering wheel of my car over frustration from a job I once worked at. I was left bruised, and the steering wheel suffered as well, but under no circumstances did I feel like I deserved what I did to myself, it was a ‘vent’ to a bad situation.

Over the course of the time I’ve been making images for Woman as Art, I’ve seen this several times, as has been displayed here. What these strong women have told me is frequently what’s going on inside their world is so loud – that the only way to silence the noise, or calm the inferno, is to gain control through self-destruction.

To find relief. “It hurts but it doesn’t hurt, maybe because I can control it.”

In the end, it’s something that has clearly marked pain.

It’s something that’s written all over them.

It makes them Woman as Art.

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