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The relationship with the body is definitely central in adolescence, whether it is self- or hetero-aggression, or a conflicted relationship with food, or hypochondriac-type concerns, or pregnancy breakdowns. The body becomes a poster, a weapon, an enemy, the field of one’s battle. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Charmet points out how the sexually mature adolescent body, freed in our society from guilt, has moved from the ethical to the aesthetic realm. That is, become the object of expression, exhibition, and manipulation in an instrumental, eroticized, sometimes shameless manner. Just think of the many body “inscriptions” : pearcing, tattoos, spacers, etc.

What does the body tell us?

For example, what does the scratched, cut, “battered” body tell us about that form of self-directed aggression, which has become increasingly common and is classified under the name Cutting? Cutting can represent many things: a kind of rite of passage; the search for attention; the search for self-stimulation; the turning of aggression toward self; the search for a boundary of the bodily self. Those who cut themselves often have friends or classmates who do so, so they start doing it out of some sort of emulation or because they have learned about the phenomenon through the web, social networks and blogs. Needless to say, when one starts by imitation, the wounds are more superficial and in more accessible parts of the body, and the severity of the phenomenon can be considered reduced. These behaviors therefore may be related precisely to adolescence, supporting narcissistic fragility and serving the function of identity support or denoting, especially when associated with other situations (eating disorder, depression, etc.), more problematic and dangerous frameworks.

The cutter’s body seems to be a body experienced as external, an object and not a random object: the first available on which to discharge narcissistic anger and pain. A body experienced with a kind of affective dissociation from it, as if body and skin were at the center of a“split narcissistic game.”

The reasons for cutting

Cutting tends to regulate emotional states of anger, frustration, feelings of emptiness, and shame. For example frequently cutting represents an attempt to control the pain aroused by shame resulting from narcissistic trauma (even minor),an attempt to manage anger over mortifications. Again according to Charmet in fact, shame is a typically adolescent affection, very different from guilt. Guilt can be repaired by asking for forgiveness, atoning; shame cannot; it is corrosive to self-esteem, “denutrating the self.”

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