Stories of Self-Injury
Recently, I have begun talking to some friends of mine who used to self-injure when they were adolescents, (and to be very clear, they no longer self-injure). I wanted to talk with them to better understand their experiences as young people with spirituality/religion and self-injury. Luckily, my friends are very cool people, and were open to having a discussion with me.
All interviewees are in their 30's and 40's now and were really interested in thinking through their experiences with me in a dialogical way. These conversations are not a part of my formal PhD research, but are really important because they help me to think about how spirituality/the Trancendent/God and self-injury somehow mix; and most importantly, they help with my understanding of it all.
I have read a lot of literature on positive and negative religious coping regarding self-injury, but nothing really dug down deep into the messy-ness of life the way I wanted it to. What is really important to stress is that my "way in" to all of my research begins with the idea that faith communities have a lot to learn from youth who self-injure, and not the other way around. This is huge, and really key.
The researcher in me needs to say a little about my methodology concerning how I gathered these stories. It was pretty simple: I asked my friends who I knew used to self-injure if they would be willing to share their stories, and they said yes. All interviews were conducted over text message and took about an hour. The questions were modelled after some of the questions asked by Wagner and Rehfuss in their article “Self-Injury, Sexual Self-Concept, and a Conservative Christian Upbringing: An Exploratory Study of Three Young Women’s Perspectives.” (see the Intro to SI Bibliography for more info).
Once the interviews were finished the transcripts were emailed to the participants for editing/adding other things they didn't think about during the main interview. Once they were edited, the conversations were posted. All participants knew they would remain anonymous before the interviews began. I have chosen to not provide any other identifying details (like a mini-biography) before the interviews in order to protect their anonymity.
The friends who have been so kind as to share their stories with me are brave souls. I thank them very much for helping me on my research journey as it has really helped my understanding and given me much to reflect upon. You can check out the interviews here:
(I have received a few messages that the links below are finicky... from my end they are working but just in case they aren't working for you, the "Theological Reflection" tab above also includes all of the links that are listed below).
I have also begun talking with friends who have supported others who self-injure in some way, shape or form. I am particularly interested in doing some theological reflection with them on being part of a self-injurer's circle of care either as a friend, a formal caregiver or a family member. These interviews are all conducted in the same manner as above (via text message, they take about an hour and are edited for content by the interviewees post-interview). The interviews are from multi-faith perspectives and are general reflections and thoughts on people's experiences being part of a self-injurer's circle of care or composites of multiple people in order to respect the confidentiality of those who have received care.