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On the last track, we discussed various arguments that clients use to persuade themselves that they do not have a problem with self-mutilation. These included arguments regarding personal events, necessary emotional cleansing, and communication. We also included ways to address these arguments of the exploration of ramifications, analogies, and the "Comfortable Presence" exercise
this track, we will examine the ways in which cultural pressures have a direct
effect on the adolescent self-injurer: the idea that pain is achievement;
and the "tough guy" stereotype.
# 1 - 'No Pain, No Gain'
When Melissa was referred to me, I found that Melissa had become confused in her notion that pushing herself physically was the same as inflicting another kind of pain on herself. "My coach told me that if I ache, I tried hard enough. If I'm not hurting, I'm not working hard enough." The motto that her coach had instilled in her, that of "No pain no gain," had been taken literally. Her scratches gave her a feeling of achievement. Luckily, the behavior was discovered early and could be dealt with before it became a dangerous problem for her later in life.
Technique: "Nurturing" Exercise
# 2 - The 'Tough Guy' Stereotype
While in sessions, I found that Sam's behavior did not stem from anger mismanagement, but from incapacity to express the pressures of his life. Sam stated, "Next year, I'm going to be nothing without football. I could come back here and relive who I used to be. But it's really over for me. High school was a setup. I couldn't get higher grades if I wanted to. I'm one of the biggest, strongest, but definitely not the smartest."
He said that when he cut himself by kicking in the windows, it made him feel like he was strong and could take whatever pain came his way. Sam told me how his father would constantly point out heroes in movies and say, "You've got to bite the bullet. That's a real man, a hero. No whimpering and whining when he gets hurt!" The philosophy of "the tough guy" was so ingrained into Sam's conscious that he felt he couldn't deal with problems in any other way that would not make him appear weak.
Technique: "Being a Man" Exercise
Sam stated, "I feel like I need to have a presence wherever I am. I think guys should be well-built and muscular and I don't think guys need to talk to other guys about their problems. That's what girls do. I never bought into the sensitive guy thing. The guys that said they were sensitive were only trying to impress a girl. I think that in this day, people don't appreciate how much strength a guy has. I like feeling like I can protect somebody, like my girlfriend. I find the opportunity to be in a protective role rewarding."
By stating these thoughts, Sam was able to analyze and break down the negative preconceptions or myths he had about his gender, which was the first step in replacing them with more helpful models.
On this track, we discussed the ways in which cultural pressures have a direct effect on the adolescent self-injurer: the idea that pain is achievement; and the "tough guy" stereotype
On the next track, we will examine four aspects of a self-mutilator's ability to form a relationship which includes: a lack of a workable medium of relationship; the factor of low self-esteem; keeping friends at a distance; and the result of shame of past abuse.
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