Self Harm & Emotional Pain

This page features a collection of video lectures on the subject of self-harm or Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) and its connection to emotional pain.  These resources, I hope, will provide some personal and professional answers in dealing with, or appreciating the phenomenon of self-harm.

The aim of this learning is to bring awareness of what is possible and what is needed to assist others with the same issues. Self-harm is a behaviour to be respected because it serves the person. It is also behaviour to be taken seriously, and with compassion.

Willis, J. on “Bullicide”

Willis tells us about the impact of bullying on people who self-harm. He also explains with neuroscience that both physical and emotional pain activates the same area of the brain.

Lewis’ sharing of his experiences of self-harming may resonate with many people. As in the above video, bullying is known to be a trigger for self-harm.  Lewis tells us of the value of loving people who are suffering from emotional pain.

Working with Self-harm in Psychotherapy

Self-harm indicates the need to cope with unbearable emotional pain. The most important aspect of treating clients who have learnt this coping strategy is to authentically respect the person, and what they do and feel. The therapy sessions will then deal with the emotional turmoil that underlies the need to self-harm. The therapist and client work together to understand the origins of difficult feelings. Reminiscing past experiences in a secure therapeutic environment bring up emotions attached to these experiences. As Lewis explains, cutting silences emotions. Therapy brings the voice back to these emotions. This voice is also heard by the therapist who respects the process.


Psychotherapy works through the trauma where the pain resides for the patient. The active ingredient in the therapeutic treatment is the healing of loneliness. In my practical experience, self-harm and suicidality are experienced in deep loneliness. Loneliness is treated through contact in the psychotherapeutic relationship and the therapeutic process.

In a case study in this article, I describe loneliness happening when there is no one to meet us or when we think that no one should meet us at the contact boundary. The healing work of therapy is to meet the client at this contact boundary in the therapeutic field where the pathos experienced.