Excerpt from "Cutting: Understanding & Overcoming Self-Mutilation" by Steven Levenkron
The person who chooses this action is someone who experiences herself as powerless. She may not be docile, timid, or shy in public; she may even be quite outgoing. But no matter how outgoing or confident she seems, she feels alone wherever she is, different from everyone around her, an outsider. She is often plagued by a fear of punishment - usually from a parent - for being deficient, inadequate, a disappointment in a way that was either specifically defined for her, or one that is unspoken but understood.
Like the anorexic, she may feel that she has no one to depend upon or to trust with her emotions. That feeling alone will produce fearfulness most of the time, even when there is no immediate cause to fear. So, what we know about this person is that she is afraid, and she may hide behind obsessional thinking or eating disorders as well as self-mutilation to gain relief from her constant state of fear. She is seeking all the relief she can find from her fearfulness. Often, she is a high achiever is some area. At the same time, she may ignore (and usually does) subjects that don't interest her.
She is often apologetic even when she has done nothing to apologize for. She is fearful of what she sees as the imminent danger or resentment others will feel toward her. Sometimes, her frequent gratuitous apologies stemming from this fear will annoy and alienate those friends closest to her. She may interpret their withdrawal as an indication that she has been offensive or not apologetic enough and increase the very behavior that repels those around her. Still, she is a person generally well liked by her peer group who may identify on a very small scale with her vulnerability, a vulnerability that most of them are also experiencing to a lesser degree.
The self-mutilator is therefore a likeable, sometimes high achieving person with a myriad of problems.
The feelings of fear and loneliness from having no one to depend upon or trust are not formed in the imagination of the self-mutilator, but usually in actual childhood or early adolescent experience. They are realistic fears, based on real experiences and the severity of the resulting self-mutilating behavior. Some of the trauma is subtle and may include having a parent with a mental or physical illness; being overlooked and neglected; having the family broken up or separated for a period of time. Some of the trauma is very unsubtle: physical abuse, sexual molestation, and incest rape.
The above sums me up fairly well. It offers some comfort knowing that I am not alone.