Falling Knives, Part 2

“Self-Injury Awareness Day – Open Your Eyes. Open Your Heart.” Photo by AndyCandy94 (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5: 5) [1].

For many abuse victims, assaults on ourselves are more than an emotional echo of earlier trauma, more than metaphorical.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury or NSSI (commonly known as “cutting”) is generally viewed as an attempt to deal with emotional pain [2]. Estimates suggest that as many as 14% of teens engage in cutting, at one time or another [3].  But adults are not immune.

In sexual molestation and rape, the violation involves the body. Therefore, the body becomes the “enemy”. Self-inflicted injury is one way this can manifest. But negative feelings ranging from loneliness, worthlessness, and shame to stress, rage, and racing thoughts may prompt the same behavior [4].

Self-Destructive Behavior

Maladaptive though cutting is, those who rely on it often do not view the behavior as self-destructive. They may see cutting as their only means of dealing with problems at school, at work, or in relationships which seem overwhelming.

Unfortunately, self-injury is not a good coping strategy. Cutting can lead to dependence, with the need for increasingly frequent and increasingly severe injuries. It strongly correlates with suicide attempts later in life [5].

Better Coping Strategies

There is no way to catch a falling knife, let alone a rain of knives – not safely, not barehanded.  But we need not go barehanded into this fight. Our best weapons are psychiatric treatment, psychological counseling, communication, emotional support, and faith.

Though last on the list, faith is not the least of these weapons. In fact, it can be said to include the others in what Christian’s call “common grace” – a gift by God to all mankind.

“[Common grace] curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.”

– Louis Berkhof

No one approach (or one medication) will suit all of us.  No one approach is likely to serve us equally well, at all stages of our lives.  In pursuing help, we must remain flexible and persistent.

With time and effort, we can reduce and repair the damage from falling knives.

“…The embers glow now
Softly speaking of
The peace within
That poker no longer
Rakes the healed scars
It is powerless
Your tortured soul’s at rest”

– Marie Williams, Damaged People

[1] The scriptural reference is to the so called madman of the Gadarenes (revealed to be a demoniac, and exorcised of his demons by Jesus Christ).  This is not meant to suggest that those who practice cutting are insane or demon possessed, merely that their behavior is similarly self-destructive and that God wants better for their lives.

[2] Urban Dictionary, Cutting, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cutting.

[3][4][5] Psychology Today, “Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Cutting to Escape from Emotional Pain?” by Edward Selby PhD, 1/30/10, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-self-sabotage/201001/cutting-escape-emotional-pain.

My thanks to Marie Williams, together with whom these two posts were written

Part 1 in this series was published 1/31/16

Self-Injury Awareness Day is March 1


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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

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