Recently, I have had a great deal of people ask me why I cut myself. People who have never been through it often have trouble understanding the mindset behind it. It is difficult to understand if you have never been in the situation, but I will try to explain it as best I can.
I think the first thing that is important to note is that people who begin cutting are already hurting in a much deeper way than simply a cut in the skin. When a person cuts themselves, they are doing so because they already feel such deep and powerful emotions. In my case, it stems from issues I have had with my father and my failure to cope with it in a heathy way. For others, however, it could be number of things. They can come from problems with family, friends, relationships, or even just general feelings of worthlessness or insignificance. All of us as human beings have felt some level of emotional pain at some point in our lives, and we all choose to deal with it in different ways. Some people turn to alcohol. Some turn to drugs. Some of us will search for sexual pleasure as a way of releasing the pain we feel. Some people will even unknowingly use religion and ritualistic worship as a way to feel like they are coping with their inward pain. We all have things that we will try to fix our problems with on our own, trying desperately to take care of our problems without the need for God. Cutting just happens to be one of those many ways.
So how, you may ask, does cutting or any other form of self harm possibly help relieve that emotional pain? There are many answers to this question. One answer would be that it is simply a distraction. There have been times when I would be on my face in the floor crying my eyes out over something so huge that hurt me, yet after I cut my eyes were dry and I no longer even remembered what I was upset about.
One thing that makes cutting appealing is simply control. Nobody can ever control their circumstances all of the time. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. And when we feel like we can’t control anything and we feel like everything around us is crashing down and nothing is ever going the way we plan for it to, cutting is the one thing that we can control. I can control how long my cut is, how deep my cut is, and to a certain extent I can control how much pain I allow myself to feel. It gives me a high to be so in control of things. When some people attempt to forget their problems they turn to things like illegal substances or alcohol, and they choose to use so much of it that they cannot control what they are doing. The opposite appeals to me. I enjoy being able to control my thoughts and my actions, and cutting gives me a false sense of that.
Another reason for cutting is that it gives us a way to punish ourselves. A lot of times we, being human, will mess up and feel like we should be punished for what we have done. God, however, does not always punish us in the way we think He should. Therefore, some of us will choose to punish ourselves for what we have done. We don’t understand the forgiveness and overwhelming grace that God offers to us. We don’t feel like that should be enough. So instead of simply trusting that it is, we take matters into our own hands.
The last reason that I will list is one that is not always true. It depends on the particular person or situation, but for some it is a way of crying out for help. A lot of people are different than this and will cut in places that are not easily seen, or will cut somewhere that they can cover it up. For others, however, they will cut somewhere that the whole world can see it, and will not make an attempt to make it go covered. It is a desperate attempt to get people to notice or care who otherwise would not. We all want people to love and care about us, and while we all know that people do, we don’t always feel it as strongly as we would like to. So some use cutting as a way to force people to care.
None of these reasons in any way justifies any form of self harm, and I’m not trying to claim that it does. But these are all things that Satan likes to use against us in our struggle. Even the strongest people will fall to the lies that harming ourselves is the only way to fix the pain and problems in our lives. If you know somebody who struggles with any form of self harm, whether that’s cutting, burning, head banging, pulling out hair, or one of the other various forms of self mutilation, please make sure to just love them. Encourage them to stop and encourage them to seek counseling and possibly even medical attention, but make sure you always do so with a heart of love. Without love we are nothing, and without love we can never win the fight.