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In this article I talk about why borderlines self-mutilate (self-injure) and how can they stop.

Pain: It cuts like a knife quite literally in the lives of many borderlines who self-abuse, self-injure, or self-mutilate. From my past experience I assert that self-injuring, cutting and the like, is the result of the transference of emotional pain into the physical realm which is a frantic effort to avoid feeling what is, in Borderline Personality Disorder the abandoned pain of those with BPD. Those diagnosed with BPD do not know how to effectively cope with their pain let alone how to heal it. The results of this are not only self-mutilation but are also the manipulation behind the borderline's attempts to control what hurts on the inside by abandoning that and trying to control all that is on the outside of that pain. What is on the outside of borderline pain, is the borderline's body, and the environment in which the borderline lives and the people in the borderline's life.

Let me just qualify that any and all manipulation on the part of those with BPD, while the responsibility of those with BPD, has its motivation in attempts to cope and to survive. Borderline manipulation is not some calculated campaign to just hurt, abuse, or inflict suffering on others. This is not to say that what results from borderline manipulation that often hurts others is in any way justifiable.

In his book, "Lost In The Mirror", Dr. Richard Moskovitz writes: "Perhaps the most shocking and mysterious of all borderline behaviour is self-mutilation. Whether burns or cuts or penetrating wounds, these self-inflicted injuries are the products of compulsion. Like other compulsions, a buildup of tension leads to an irresistible urge, and the tension is discharged by the act." (Pages 71-72)

If you are borderline and you self-injure, self-harm or self-mutilate based upon my own past experience I would assert that you are doing that because you feel driven to. The impulses that are leading you to feel driven to hurt yourself are the by-products of your inability and or unwillingness to feel your feelings.

A continued refusal to feel, deal with and release your feelings is what leads to that buildup of tension inside that then leaves you with a familiar feeling of angst. It is an aggravated sense of something about to explode or implode if relief is not sought. It is a feeling that can leave you feeling out of control. When you self-injure yourself there is then this false sense of being in control. It gives you a sense of power. What it really represents is your helplessness in action, however. Cutting, or burning yourself is not the act of someone in control of themselves. Self harm or self injury is not the act of someone who even knows who they are. Self harm is the manifestation of the desperate pain of the lost self - a self that is lost as the result of the core wound of abandonment. It is surrender to one's repressed emotions run wild and that are dysregulated inside.

Self-mutilation can be a way of trying to punish yourself for what you have done or what you feel guilty for as if you had done. Your guilt may be the result of something that you've recently done or it may be related to what happened to you as a child. Self-mutilation in the extreme, as in the sacrificing of a limb or a body part can be a way of attempting to set your past apart from the current chapter of your life. It can also be an attempt to purify yourself from what you feel is so wrong with you. Self-mutilation can also be a cry for help, and it can also be an attempt to re-direct pain.

Self harm is also steeped in the shame of abandonment.

When you feel intolerable emotional pain or distress you transfer those feelings into the realm of the physical by hurting yourself. It is also a way of saying loudly to the world around you without ever uttering a sound that you are in a tremendous amount of pain. Self-mutilation can also be a reenactment of earlier traumatic events that you experienced in the past - it is the remaining the legacy of abandonment in BPD.

In my past experience, years ago, when I had BPD, I would cut because I was that dissociated from my feelings. All I could feel was agitated, angry, rage, or "bugged". I could not identify any further than that what I was actually feeling. The sensation of being "bugged" would escalate inside of me until I felt compelled to act out. I would then cut. Cutting was how I cried. As the blood dripped, it was like tears cleansing the ocean of my psychic pain. After I would cut, I then would take care of myself. I had learned how to simulate nurturing or soothing myself (my physical self only) by taking care of the wounds that I would inflict upon myself. I could not feel the emotional pain. I did not understand it or have much, if any concept of it back then.

Parent Category: Disorders