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Medina, M. (2011). Physical and Psychic Imprisonment and the Curative Function of Self-Cutting. Psychoanal. Psychol., 28(1):2-12.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 28(1):2-12

Physical and Psychic Imprisonment and the Curative Function of Self-Cutting

Mia Medina, PsyD

As self-cutting becomes prevalent in Western culture, standard psychophysiological and trauma-related conceptualizations fall increasingly short in capturing the compelling quality behind this deep, tenacious, and powerful behavior. A variety of psychoanalytic perspectives can be developed to explain why individuals cut themselves, and this article offers a current relational view that reconceptualizes the phenomenon of self-mutilation as a curative effort in the face of physical or psychic imprisonment and the suffocation of personal agency. Qualitative research data gathered from a population of women in areas of Turkey highly influenced by traditional values as well as clinical cases with 2 American patients are discussed to extract the common symbolic meanings ascribed to this act by individuals from different cultural and personal backgrounds. The Turkish participants' straightforward and concrete explanations of why they cut themselves and their accounts of the real and ongoing oppression they experience are used to shed light on Western women's subjective experience of psychic imprisonment and to understand the perhaps universal function of self-mutilation as an attempt to have an impact on the relational world and reclaim personal agency.

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