Understanding Self-Injury Urges

The following information was compiled from a forum wide survey of community members to help anyone understand the urges to harm one’s self. Caution is advised as the comments have not been spoiled or censored.

What do we get out of SI? Its different in each part. Some get the reaffirmation that we are really alive. Some feel like they are leaking out the bad stuff, the pressure. Some use it as a way to communicate to the rest of us that they are hurting or really really mad. Some use it to re-enact abuse episodes. Some use it as punishment to those inside that are loud and/or crying. And the weird thing is is it works for us. it really does. What ever the part was trying to accomplish they do.

First, the body hurt will focus the pain on the outside so we not feel the hurt on the inside so much. This easier on a pirate. Second, maybe somebody see the outside wound, no we crying in the heart. So for number 2, I saying communications. Third, it help me remember I real. OK! That all we got!

Your loving friend, Pirate

There are times when the body feels like a volcano of emotions, but unable to erupt. The turmoil inside can create such pressure that it is unbearable. Without some kind of outlet, it feels as if physically I will explode… In addition, crumbling to pieces emotionally, and dissolving into tears in public is not acceptable. For us, SI is a pressure valve…like with a pressure cooker. We know it isn’t the best solution, but it is the only thing we know at this time to relieve the building pressure.

The Observer for Mosaic

Lesley said its like when you spank a little kid for trying to play in traffic or other dangerous stuff. You tell them that way smack on bottom cause they dont get other word way. (some bigs don’t like this idea) also smack fingers not stick things in socket. (friend do this to toddler). they know slap finger cause parent dont want them to no explosion from lectric inside body. Lesley cut so others dont talk. Dont do other bad things that get more hurt. Like parent k*ll*ng for telling or other part doing worse SI like k*ll self. That make sense?

I have struggled with self-injury for 29 years. Cutting, burning, scrapping skin, even purposefully bre*king bones. I’ve wanted the world to see my pain. At times it has been a release: a release from this enormous, devastating pain that I believed would kill me. It also served as a punishment. I felt I was very, very bad and that I needed to get rid of all the bad in me. And sometimes I just needed to see the blood so that I would know that I could control something of me, because when I was young I had no control over the pain or abuse.

Hope Grace

For me, kus no one else here that I know of does it. For me, its like I get to a point where the brain and words dont work and we know we are in lots of pain but nothing broken nothing really hurt and dont know where the pain is coming from. So to make it real for me like I hit a wall or whatever that will like jerk the brain back into working. and it does relieve the pressure inside so we dont think we are gona explode no more.


Well, I have to do it when I get really bad physical feelings with memories and then I hurt myself to feel SOMETHING ELSE, anything else, just so I don’t have to physically relive that moment. You know, to derail those thoughts and help me to be distracted enough to pull me up out of that horror. Another reason is that it seems like all that pain and grief is not known by anyone else and I feel that it should SHOW somehow, to validate the things that have happened to me. The last reason I have is to keep others from telling and it works. They respect what they can’t stop from happening.

Jenna and Jessa/SplitDecision

yus may not like what wes say. wes not do SI nomore cus we under contract with T. The whole system is. But wes remember when we did SI that it like takin a drug. wes did it so that wes culd feel. it make us feel good and that why it like a drug. cus it not good to do.

wes got triggered from broken class tinkling and wes know that wes can’t stop. So wes talk and talk to T abot it and wes not do no more. wes not trigered no more by broken glass either. When wes get down in the black pit, wes think abot it but wes hafta call T cus it in our contract and wes luv her and want to honor it. So maybe a suggestin would be to find a safe person to call when yu feel like SI


When Kristi make us do something that is very bad we have to be punished for that if we be punished bad enough then maybe we not do bad no more. Use to just hit now b*rn and c*t couse hit not work.

We used it as a way of hurting ourselves *before* someone else could hurt us. Figured that if we did it to ourselves, others would leave us alone. Warped thinking, I know.

Also used it as a way to get the brain to clear out when it was tough to concentrate. (Head-banging)

Used it as a way to feel something/anything other than the intense emotional pain or complete numbness. (C*tting & Head banging)

Used it as re-enactment, as well…..trying to jog the memories of the scars that *weren’t* caused by us. (C*tting)

I don’t remember when I started. I really don’t. I remember doing it regularly after my mom got back from treatment for her alcoholism. Her rage was worse than ever. And she never just went into her room and passed out anymore.

I am the oldest. I felt I had to take as much of her rage as I could and protect the little ones, my brother and sister. I could not let her see that she was hurting me. Dissociation helped but it wasn’t enough. So I would bite, scratch, and hit myself, and hit my head against the wall.

I have spent many years trying to understand my self-injuring, and trying to stop it. Last year I asked inside if someone within me was responsible for this. And I met “protector”. My world turned around.

I came to understand that, for me, self-injury was a form of self-protection. At first, it protected me against fighting back at my mom, and possibly making it worse for me and my sibs. It protected me from being vulnerable and showing my mom how much she hurt me with her rage. Later, it protected me from feeling my own rage, disappointment, hurt, fear, shame. I have felt baffled by it, ashamed and afraid of it. I thought I would never be able to stop. I thought it was a question of will power. I didn’t have enough will power to stop hating myself. I never left scars. Marks sometimes, but not scars. To show anyone would be too vulnerable. Part of my power was in the secrecy. NO ONE, least of all my mom, really knew me. It was incredibly lonely.

When I met protector inside, I was astonished. I saw my whole life in a new way. I have not had to injure myself since. I have wanted to many times, but I call on my selves within to help me have the courage to feel the feelings. It takes more courage to feel my true feelings as they are happening, than it does to hurt myself.

I want to be a woman of courage. I am a woman of courage. I protect myself in better ways now. I honor my protector within. She did what she had to do to keep me alive. Now we are learning new ways


CB is filled with inner hurt but can’t show it to others how much she hurts. She wants to SI to bring the inner hurt out to where it is seen and therefore real to her and anybody else who’ll listen. it’s a cry for help when we feel that noone is listening to our words.

it’s a coping mechanism for easing stress. (not a great one mind you but a coping mechanism nevertheless) if we are filled with lots of hurt we try to channel it to others less destructive than CB, such as our angry teen who can swear up a storm, or one of the kids to cry it out with half a dozen stuffies and a blankie.


Usually, the compulsion to SI for me came when I was desperate to make an invisible pain visible. I had constant physical pain that I knew came from my psyche and that wasn’t helped by any medication or pain treatment method, and it made me feel so crazy because the pain was like a phantom. Furthermore, it felt like no one believed the pain existed, and the only thing that seemed to help at all, even for a little bit, was to injure my body so I could hold up that injury and say, “See?! IT HURTS!!!!!!!”

I was fortunate in that I had very little psychiatric history before being diagnosed with DID. So I had very little exposure to the kind of nasty responses mental health professionals seem to have toward SI.

My t insisted upon a safety contract fairly early on in therapy, when the pain was rapidly getting worse and I could not hear any validation or caring from him. (That’s not to say he wasn’t trying to communicate those things, but that I was incapable of receiving/hearing them.) It was hard as hell to keep that contract, and often the only reason I did was because the only thing I cared about in life was the ther*p*utic relationship. I didn’t give a damn about myself, whether I lived or died, but I kept my word because I had given it to one person who had genuinely invested himself in me, and I cared about that investment. It wasn’t even him as a person so much as the fact that one human being had made that much effort to connect with me and claimed to care whether I lived or died. That’s what motivated me to get on the phone and to do the other things in the contract when nothing else would.

By the way, my t did not throw away any boundaries while establishing that bond. I saw him twice a week for single sessions with occasional extra sessions and brief phone contacts. In the seven-plus years I’ve been working with him, we’ve had less than a handful of actual “phone sessions,” calls that were long enough to qualify as actual half or whole sessions. I’m not a mental health professional, but in retrospect I think that speaks volumes of his skill as a therapist–and I think it also shows that t’s don’t have to abandon all boundaries and limits to meet a DID client’s needs.

I believe that SI develops a life of its own, that it becomes a compulsion of its own apart from whatever it originally was meant to express. For this aspect of the SI problem, I found treatment with Thought Field Therapy to be immensely helpful; indeed, I consider myself cured of the SI compulsion. It’s been years since I even thought about SI’ing, much less did anything. It *is* possible to recover from SI, as difficult and cantankerous a problem as it can be.


Well we have insiders who vary in their reasons to SI, but here is what we have come up with:

To release pain, too much emotion, or negative feelings.

To punish ourselves for many reasons, ie when we felt too good about an accomplishment, or when we feared outside punishment, we would ‘beat’ them to it.

Self Control – it is a measure of control for us, to be able to control the hurt.

This will sound dumb, but to some inside, they say it feels good.

Unfortuneately maybe to show some of the pain we are in.

I think S.I. is addictive, because under times of stress, old methods come into our head before the new ones we have learned. So unfortuneatley when things are going bad, SI, drinking, pills, anything to punish ourselves is first and formost in our mind(s). But fortuneately, we have enough learning thru t other methods.

To overcome impulses to SI, and we have not been the most successful at this, but we tend to clean and stay busy. Hard work, scrubbing the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, anything physical. Someday, and hopefully soon, we hope to have all of us be free of this compulsion to SI.

“There is a LOT of pain around touching. We h*rt the hands and face, but especially the hands. Have to be careful not to c*t or sl*m them into the wall. Each time, trying to get rid of the sensations in them of the touching we were forced to do.

Last night, had to work hard not to h*rt. We’ve been doing so well, upset that we went back to that. Look at what happened and, as an adult, I see that David learned from the m*m that pain, b*rning, was the punishment for the touching. I feel that he has learned to expect pain if he feels pleasure. Pleasure must be p*n*shd. Been having fun here, and now he’s run back into the dark because he expects to be h*rt for it.

David b*rns, Glory h*ts and c*ts to stop the body sensatons. I finally understand that this p**n is stronger than the memory of the touching. It punishes and heals at the same time.

Pr*yd for help to stop h*rtng us and had another memory. This one was of our Nana, m*ms mother. She loved us, which, I believe, saved our sanity.

When we were little, carried blanket with satin edges, sucked thumb and rubbed edge of blanket against face for comfort. Nana sewed and taught us how to crochet. When we were really little, less than two, she made little pillows of satin in triangle shape so it was easy for our small hand to hold. Easier to get comfort by carrying pillow instead of whole blanket. When we were older, she told us we called little pillow “wooba,” and asked why, but we didn’t remember. She had saved one of them to show us. When she d**d, we were far away all was thrown away before we knew it, but we still have the memory.

Now understand why Evelyn Rose carries the blanket and offers one to others who are crying. It’s the comfort she understands.

Working hard to use the memory of the “wooba” to replace the b*d touch feelings in the hands. No more c*ttng or b*rning…”