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Thread: Self Harm and Evolutionary psychology

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    Self Harm and Evolutionary psychology

    Kind of 2 questions in one...
    Does anyone have a good explanation of why people would self harm? It seems sort of couterproductive for the brain to allow for that.
    Also what are some of the best books on human psychology? Preferably from an evolutionary perspective. I'm currently reading like 10 different ones but they don't tell me anything I don't already know.
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    If you raise a wild animal in a zoo, do you expect it to be 100% normal?
    “The whole concept of a macronutrient, like that of a calorie, is determining our language game in such a way that the conversation is not making sense." - Dr. Kurt Harris

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaohinon View Post
    If you raise a wild animal in a zoo, do you expect it to be 100% normal?
    Yup. Evolutionary explanations don't hold if the organism is not in the environment it was evolved to expect.
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    Sorry I didn't mean to offend anyone, maybe I just worded things wrong. I'm not trying to reduce self harm from a serious issue just to some evolutionary quirk.. I've self harmed a lot in the past so I was just curious of other people's opinions on the topic.
    A lot of the books I read said it was looking for affection/attention, sort of like a kid that gets hurt while playing gets a hug or something of their parents to feel better, but that didn't make much sense to me since people that self harm usually try to hide it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by homunculus View Post
    A lot of the books I read said it was looking for affection/attention, sort of like a kid that gets hurt while playing gets a hug or something of their parents to feel better, but that didn't make much sense to me since people that self harm usually try to hide it.
    I feel that the attention getting factor comes in to play for self-harming individuals with different triggers/causes than the ones who tend to hide it. You typically think of someone who self harms as wearing long clothing to cover the marks. This, in my case, was because the cutting wasn't meant for others to see or know about. After the initial endorphins were gone, the marks on the skin were not considered a thing to be proud of or something to show off. In my experience the ones who are looking for affection/attention are the ones who more often show their marks. This shows up fairly often in certain social groups in middle and high schools.
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    Which books are you currently reading? David Buss has written a lot (including the textbook on evolutionary psychology). There's also Tooby & Cosmides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by homunculus View Post
    Does anyone have a good explanation of why people would self harm? It seems sort of couterproductive for the brain to allow for that.
    Decisions can be greatly simplified as choosing between what is best in the short term and what is best in the long term.

    My interpretation of self harm is that the affected person is also usually in some other sort of pain, so they are choosing the short term 'win' of overriding their emotional pain with physical pain (as opposed to the long term win of dealing with their emotional issues more constructively).

    Funny story: A co-worker was walking me through some work he had done and I found myself going to sleep. Seeing as I was sitting right next to him at his desk that seemed a tad impolite. So I chose to try and dig my fingernails as hard into my palm as I could to stay awake through his presentation.

    You could even look at fasting (starving really) as a form of self harm. Why does the brain allow that?
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    Quote Originally Posted by magicmerl View Post
    Decisions can be greatly simplified as choosing between what is best in the short term and what is best in the long term.

    My interpretation of self harm is that the affected person is also usually in some other sort of pain, so they are choosing the short term 'win' of overriding their emotional pain with physical pain (as opposed to the long term win of dealing with their emotional issues more constructively).
    Yup this... I self harmed occasionally, usually when my emotional pain became really high, and I guess I wasn't equipped to deal with it. I'm not sure things would have been the same back in a paleolithic society. I mean... people's expectations etc. were different, society as a whole was different, and so on and so forth.

    There may also have been better networks for helping people go through emotional pain that don't exist in our society (or not to the same extent). Most of my episodes occurred when I was "alone" with absolutely no one to talk to or to share my pain with.

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    I actually found a better way to deal with depression. Turn it into anger and smash things. I've put my fists through walls, smashed chairs and even taken a poker to an LCD tv. My family later discovered that junk food has exactly the same effect on me as alcohol though so that might just count as being a mean drunk and not an emotional wreck.
    Although the breaking of both objects and people does impart the most sublime feeling of euphoria.
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    I have chosen to not share my pain with those close to me. When you grow up hearing things such as "you aren't ever going to be good enough" or "you have as much value as a gnat", those weigh on you. I was doing well when the abuser who said such things was alive, but when that person died, it all came back tenfold. I would much rather inflict the pain onto myself then onto my children. I will never do to them, what my mother did to me.
    Georgette

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