Self Harm and the Wiccan Rede
So I have been thinking how, as a Pagan, I should view the issues around self Harm.
I mean for the person who is Self Harming rather than the wider issues of support and help. While there are obviously Pagan specific factors to consider when treating, or providing help, to somebody who self harms, such as belief structures and world view which would obviously be very important in treatments such a s talking therapies, I am more interested at the moment on the more internal view. How does being a Pagan sit with Self Harming.
The Rede, at its heart, suggests we should harm anybody, ‘An it harm none, do as thou will.’ This is obviously an impossibility as there are many circumstances where you need to cause harm, A good example here being the pain caused when setting a broken arm or the physical harm caused by some of the more aggressive cancer treatments. Here it is the ends, the result and intention, that is important and puts the harm caused into context.
We can accept the lesser harm because it prevents greater harm.
Generally the reason for Self harm fall into one of 6 categories
- Distract themselves, alter the focus of their attention, or regain control over their minds when experiencing pressing, unavoidable and overwhelming feelings or thoughts.
- Release tension associated with strong emotions or overwhelming thoughts.
- Feel something physical when they are otherwise dissociated and numb.
- Express themselves or communicate and/or document strong emotions they are feeling and cannot otherwise articulate.
- Punish themselves.
- Experience a temporary but intense feeling of euphoria that occurs in the immediate aftermath of self-harm.
Categories 1 and 2 definitely fall into the ‘preventing greater harm’ context with, depending on the circumstances, categories 3 and 4 potentially also fitting within this context.
This is not to say of-course that somebody who self harms for those reasons doesn’t need, and shouldn’t be provided with, help to address the underlying issues but it does show that beyond the compassion we holds all feel for somebody who has mental health problems, Pagan or not, there is within Paganism an understanding that Self Harm is not something to be stigmatized. Understood and supported yes but not shunned and stigmatized.