Monday, 10 September 2012

self harm and BDSM

I discovered recently that someone who was once very close to me has started cutting herself. I had suspected for some time that she might have been considering this and had worried about it. I know she would not welcome any contact from me so I feel helpless in being unable to offer her support. In any case I do not know what that support could be other than friendship and kindness which she has already rejected.

I have always been very squeamish and find blood or even the thought of cutting skin very upsetting and off-putting. I find it hard to read positive statements from those who self harm about the beauty and satisfaction of the blood following the knife.

It made me reflect too on the fact that there are many in the BDSM world who enjoy knife play and blood and playing with needles. I wondered how this differed from self harm if the power was given to someone else to do the cutting and piercing. Is the desire for it the same as in self harm or is the BDSM context totally different, meeting very different needs?

23 comments:

Kitten said...

I personally never found any help in self harm. I attempted it once YEARS ago, but felt no therapeutic release from it like others do. I however, love getting pierced, enjoy knife and blood play, and have a huge scarification piece wrapping around my hips.

Being cut or pierced during a BDSM session has the same appeal to me as any pain for a masochist. When someone else is doing it, and the power exchange is involved it has a completely different vibe to it. It's not just for me then. It has an intimacy to it that we both enjoy.

I have done some cuttings on Master because he wanted to do so much he couldn't do it himself. It was for therapeutic reasons, and he was much better afterward. He put it as "You can only feel joy equal to the pain you have felt."

Pygar said...

Thank you very much Kitten for telling us of your experiences from both sides of this.

I still find both difficult - partly perhaps because of my aversion to blood but I hope I can still understand your explanation of the "intimacy" of this kind of play.

P xx

Lana Kitele said...

Engaging in self-harm vs knife/blood play is starkly different. For self-harm, it's used as a destructive tool to try and destroy or lessen internal anguish. In knife/blood play, it's completely consenting by all parties in a completely different environment. It's more positive I guess you could say. Self-harm is destruction against yourself. Edge play involving blood is just that, play.

Trust me, I do both ^.^

Lana Kitele said...

Oh I also want to add that the best way to be there for your friend is simply to just be there. talk to her, listen to her, uplift her with kindness - express concern if you like. She's gonna do what she wants, but even though it seems like she is rejecting your friendship and worry for her well-being... she'll be grateful for it in the end. She may feel torn up inside now (or whatever triggers her to self-harm) but nothing speaks louder or is more comforting than having a friend to lean on.

I don't self-harm nearly as often/bad as I used too, but I've been doing counseling and using my friends as ways to keep me afloat. I'm grateful to have them around and I use to reject them a long time ago as well.

Patience and attempts at understanding can go a long way. But there's no reason to stick around if you feel she's becoming too destructive to herself and it starts affecting you in a hindering way.

I hope all works out ^.^

Pygar said...

Thank you so very much Lana. I feel privileged to have you share your experiences and thoughts on here which contribute hugely to my stumbling words.

I still wonder though what it is that makes cutting destructive if done to oneself but constructive if someone else does it for you?

Yes - I can understand that it becomes more positive within the confines of a caring and perhaps loving relationship. It is just that part of me worries that it is a way of making the negative aspects of self harm feel positive within a play situation. That perhaps the same issues that you have discussed with your counsellor and your friends might still be there for someone who enjoys blood play in a consensual BDSM relationship - but they might not feel the need to get that support.

Please do not feel I am being in any way critical. It is an area I genuinely do not understand and am grateful for you and Kitten explaining it from your very personal perspectives.

Your advice regarding supporting a friend who is self-harming also sounds just right.

Good luck to you also.

Thank you

P xx

melinda Sweetgirl said...

I feel a need to comment this buy can't right now. P my friend will you please remind me if i don't? I feel i have a lot to say (*Lol* as usual when i open my mouth :-P)

Pygar said...

Nice to see you here again melinda Sweetgirl.

Consider this your first reminder!

P xx

Anonymous said...

I've never self-harmed however I've read about it and it seems that people can get addicted to it, that when they self-harm, they get a rush of endorphins and they want that rush again and again.

It's usually people with poor emotional regulation who self-harm i.e. someone who can't handle strong emotions and/or tries to repress them instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner through self-harming or another mode of self-destructive bheaviour.

There is help for self-harm but like anything else, your friend has to want to stop herself, you can't make her stop.

There are harm reduction strategies like rubbing ice on the wrist or pulling an elastic band against the wrist etc-these will still give some sensation of pain but not to the same intensity and no permanent damage.

I don't personally understand the appeal of knife play or needles; it just seems destructive only letting someone else do it to you instead of doing it yourself.

Pygar said...

Thank you Anonymous for your very thoughtful comments.

P xx

Pygar said...

*nudges melinda Sweetgirl*

:)

P xx

liminalitiesandsubrealities said...

When I engaged in self harm it was when I felt completely out of control and helpless. At that time, only the source of the problem would have been able to comfort me and change my mental state (i.e. the circumstances making me feel helpless). Perhaps you can help your friend get there. Of course everyone and every situation is different and this may not be an option.

As far as bdsm and cutting I see no relation. This could be because I have no desire for this kind of play. But also, bdsm usually involves two (trusting) parties. The act of cutting/self harm is solitary. Inviting someone into this intimate mental space would feel like an invasion to me.

In other words it is not something I would want my dom to participate in. It's not for him. It is not for his pleasure and it is certainly not for mine. It is to gain back some control I've lost or has been taken from me. A very different kind of control I willingly give to my dom.

Maryann Lovejoy said...

As always, an interesting and thought provoking discussion. Thanks, Pygar. I keep bumping into the same conclusion in different guises. Everything is interpretation. Perhaps there is no objective reality. It is good if it leads to good results. How does one interpret the results? Another discussion.
Maryann

Pygar said...

Thank you liminalitiesandsubrealities for sharing your experience and knowledge with us. It has helped me learn from you and others who have had personal experience of self harm and have shared there thoughts on her. Thank you to you all.

Pygar said...

Thanks Maryann Lovejoy - good to see you here again. You ask so many questions! Much to think about - and perhaps write about another day. Thank you again

P xx

melinda Sweetgirl said...

I'm going to comment on this without reading the other comments, just to make sure i don't deviate from what i have to say.
This could quite well become long; if that's the case (which it most likely will be knowing me) i apologize, also if i'm being repetitive to what other's have said.

*takes deep breath*

Firstly for me there is nothing that links self-harm to BDSM in my opinion, other than the fact that the one can replace the other. This was my case anyways.
When i met Sir i self-harmed. He told me i wasn't allowed to, that actually made me stop. I know it wouldn't have lasted very long if it hadn't been for the fact that we introduced S/m to our relationship. Physical pain is physical pain afterall, and now i got that without the harm. I like blood, i always have, i'm morbid like that. People don't self-harm because they like blood though. Knife- and needle play however i can see that being the underlying reason. I've never done either. Would i like to? Yeah sure. But it has nothing to do with my self-harm or mental health status.
I think the word cleansing can confuse people in this context, even if it isn't really a bad word to choose for it.
Think of how almost all subs say that they feel cleansed/purged/relieved after a punishment. It's physical pain replacing the mental one. When your mental pain is so great that you actually feel physical pain from it, giving it _actual_ physical pain is a relief. It's a bit like popping a balloon that is getting over distended. Or like opening a vacuum-packed packet of coffee; at first it's so tightly packed you can't even squeeze it, but as soon as it has a minute little opening it says pssss and loosens up. I think it can even be compared to the effect an orgasm can have on tension.
Apart from all this, it's also a distraction.
I know some people use it as self-punishment, i never have, for me it was purely physical; i needed the relief.

I'm blabbering. Bottom line: the only connection for me between BDSM and self-harm is that the first replaced the latter by giving the same kind of release but in a different format.
A lot of ppl say, especially ppl outside of the lifestyle, say that BDSM is just another way of self-harming and excusing it. There is no scientific proof for this whatsoever -and it has been studies made on it. They've found no greater rate of self-harm than in any other group of people, the only link they could make was that people within BDSM was more open about it.

OK, that's my rant over.
Sorry for writing a book.
Hugs, melinda

Oh! P.s. P there's nothing really that you could've done unless she wanted you to, especially not under the circumstances. Don't beat yourself up over it. *hugs*

Pygar said...

Dear melinda Sweetgirl

Thank you so much. Better late than never!

Seriously though - your post is so very authoritative, both from your personal experience and from your knowledge of the issues. I understand why it has taken you time to write it.

I promise you were not "blabbering". Thank you for putting me straight on this issue in such an informative way.

Thank you also for your kind words.

Hugs back

Pygar xx

Anonymous said...

BDSM is just consensual self-harm with the help of another, whether it's psychological or physical... humiliation can be just as damaging as a knife. The sub is the one being harmed, but they also have control over the situation. This kind of agency is what distinguishes from abusive situations where they don't have control (often in childhood, etc.) The real question is whether there is room for healing and growth in a D/s relationship or whether it's addictive and regressive. There can be both good and bad aspects, I guess awareness of the underlying issues at hand for each person is key.

Pygar said...

Thank you anonymous for your thoughts. I am not sure I agree that in most circumstances that BDSM is just self-harm. I would hope that I have never harmed anyone in BDSM play and I think most who indulge in it would say the same. Some of this though may just be semantics.

I think though that your final point "The real question is whether there is room for healing and growth in a D/s relationship or whether it's addictive and regressive. There can be both good and bad aspects, I guess awareness of the underlying issues at hand for each person is key." really gets to the heart of the issue.

Anonymous said...

I think the difference between bdsm, or rather masochism, and self harm is not quite in the act of what is being done rather the reasons why one does them and what they derive from them. Which I assume depends on the person, and even this I suspect may vary on each occasion.

Desire for pain is incredibly complex,as is fetish psychology certainly my own seems to be. I have experience of bdsm as a switch and self harm, but I very much doubt that makes me an expert, perhaps only expert in my own reasons for doing so and even then it still seems to complex to grasp.

I did find self harm helpful and therapeutic, obviously not entirely so. I found it created a stark and immediate mental switch from despairing hysteria, to feeling calmer, and a strange empowered feeling. I have control issues though. I also am disabled with chronic arthritis and experience a lot of physical pain of which I am not in control of, though this was never the trigger.

My own sexual desire for acting out rape fantasies, or choosing to be abused is mainly about trust and control. I was sexually abused as a teenager and I think this is a coping strategy of trying to return to a time of trauma within a safe loving and trusting relationship. I'm curious why other people do it.

Pygar said...

I am sure none of us are "experts" in this field Anonymous. However sometimes the sharing of experiences and reflections on our own experiences, feelings and actions can help ourselves and others.

Thank you for sharing your own personal experience with us.

P xx

az said...

Self-harm is not destruction of yourself. It is saving yourself from a mental/spiritual destruction by heavy emotional suffering through small physical injuries. If i didn't use self-harm, i.d have had not physical pain and scars but probably had gone insane and got mentally damaged or had suicided.

az said...

Absolutely right. People (and animals, yes, they do it too!) don't self-harm for no reason. And helping with the REASON (real situation, that makes them feel so heavily stressed and power less) is the only way to help. Otherwise it will be just making a person who do it to mask his/her suffering in order to make others feel more comfortable around them. Treat a cause, not symptoms. Self-harm, btw, is a much more innocent technique of coping with stress and emotional pain than many others. Other people might be not able to pinch their own skin but they will take a gun a shoot everyone around them when they are overwhelmed by suffering.

Pygar said...

Thank you very much az for offering your own personal observations and experience. I think you get to the heart of the matter when you emphasise the importance of trying to address the cause of someone's distress or suffering rather than just looking at the symptoms.

Good luck and best wishes

P xx