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Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming…
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Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

by Steven Levenkron

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It's always a bit hard to objectively rate a book when you've gone to it looking for help and all you've found is information. Or at least, maybe just the wrong kind of information, and it's not as if the information here hasn't been helpful--it's helped me pretty solidly establish that I (who has been struggling with some dark thoughts and tendencies of late) really don't fit the classic profile of a "cutter" (how come we can't say 'retard' but we can say that? I prefer 'person who cuts themself'); that the reasons they cut don't match the reasons I've been having these urges*; that the relief they get from the practice doesn't match the pain I've been feeling about these urges; and that the programme of treatment laid out by Levenkron, of establishing the therapist as a "friendly, bossy" authority figure with whom the sufferer can identify and whom they will want to please enough to stop cutting, then gradually reconstituting their personality and ability to tend to their own emotional needs through talk and self-examination, doesn't match me either--if anything, my personality is TOO strong and integrated, and has difficulty with those parts of itself that can neither be expelled nor integrated. Not gonna just roll over and do what a therapist tells me, for good and ill. But Levenkron did leave me feeling like cutting or precutting isn't what's going oon with me, which was a service.


So, objectively, then? This book is a sensitive look at the classic profile of a person who cuts (abused by parents, totally untrusting of the world, thrown back on inadequate resources to deal with their pain); the reasons they cut (relief from emotional pain in physical pain); and a programme of treatment about which I have mixed feelings--the thing of telling them what they're going to be, and especially the way Levenkron represents it in his little heuristic dialogues in the text, strikes me as reprehensible from a, like, existential-freedom perspective--help me get better WITHOUT taking away my autonomy, healer, or you're just doing me new injury. And you can't expect some psychologist to have an ear for the rhythm of dialogue, but the toca-toca challenge-and-response dynamic Levenkron sets up in what are undoubtedly composed or at least heavily massaged "real life" exchanges also troubles--all he has to do is say one obvious thing, once, and they all cry and say "nobody's ever said that to me before", and then they are his. There's something eeever so slightly Svengali, or even BDSM, in his comfort with cajoling people into handing over their autonomy and then remaking them, that in the context of self-mutilation can't help but feel sick and sad. But he does stress that this programme isn't meant for everybody, just for cutters, who have already lost their autonomy to their habit; so maybe I'm not qualified to judge. After all, I'm not a cutter.


If you have someone in your life who has fallen prey to "this dark adolescent practice" (adolescent only?), this book, read with a critical spirit, could plausibly be valuable orientation.

*And if you find this coy, or worry, don't, in both cases; I'm not cutting and never have, I'm talking to a psychologist about this darkness, and I'd just rather not discuss it here and now beyond the necessary to write an honest review. ( )
2 vote MeditationesMartini | Jul 14, 2010 |
Informative book about self-injury, not as good/helpful as some others I've read. ( )
  Heather19 | Oct 19, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393319385, Paperback)

The author of the seminal and groundbreaking Treating and Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa now explains the phenomena of self-mutilation, a disorder that affects as many as two million Americans.

Cutting takes the reader through the psychological experience of the person who seeks relief from mental pain and anguish in self-inflicted physical pain. Steven Levenkron traces the components that predispose a personality to becoming a self-mutilator: genetics, family experience, childhood trauma, and parental behavior.Written for the self-mutilator, parents, friends, and therapists, Levenkron explains why the disorder manifests in self-harming behaviors and, most of all, describes how the self-mutilator can be helped.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A guide to the treatment and phenomenon of self-mutilation addresses the disorder as an understandable and treatable condition, drawing on extensive examples to identify causes, available resources, and medical options.

» see all 2 descriptions

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W.W. Norton

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