by Edward Le Prieur
Self-mutilation is a rising epidemic in the modern age; perhaps one of the lesser known results of our current lifestyle. Occurring in increasingly young people in a persistently ‘social’ environment or so we’ve been led to believe. Major changes in family structures involving both parents working longer hours and losing hours to be together as a group. Technology in general and the internet is filling a void in the lives of young people. The traditional structures of the village, neighbors and extended family is lost. With that the attention is turned to a source or means to alleviate the isolation caused by these societal changes.
The Internet provides the illusion of social interaction, but speaking to a wall of text is not enough to fool your brain into thinking you’re being social enough. We need to see faces, read emotions and interact on an interpersonal level to maintain a healthy mind. If the mind is healthy then so to the body. It’s just not sufficient to replace this kind of interaction with a device, the end result is depression, decreased well-being, and self-destructive tendencies. Such as cutting, burning or hitting oneself, overdosing on prescription or illegal drugs, or abuse of alcohol.
Though self-mutilation may seem bizarre, to choose to physically harm oneself; to most the behavior seems completely irrational an outsider behavior. Self-harm is frequently described as an experience of depersonalization or a dissociative state. An estimated 30% of individuals with autism spectrum disorders engage in self-harm at some point, including eye-poking, skin-picking, hand-biting, and head-banging. Again this relates to the inability to appropriately express oneself socially leading to the damaging behavior.
Self-mutilation in non-human mammals is well established but not a widely known anomaly. Especially among higher mammals; other lower mammals are observed to engage in self-destructive behaviors after being subject to laboratory conditions and drug administration. Just as humans need to meet face-to-face and socialize, animals require similar social and emotional desires.
Birds, dogs, and even mice are all very social creatures. Physical contact plays a large role as social interaction in these species; when left alone that physical contact disappears and anxiety increases. In these types of isolation animals are shown to exhibit self-mutilation similar to that of humans. Captive birds known to engage in feather-plucking, causing damage to feathers that can range from feather shredding to the removal of most or all feathers within the bird’s reach, or even the mutilation of skin or muscle tissue below.
Both of these are the result of the acceptance of beyond what is natural both for humans, and for animals. They are the result of residing in a system that is mentally and physically destroying us. If it is not natural for a bird to live in a cage, then for a man to do the same is it not thus unnatural? All the evidence points again to a discord between the society we live in, and the natural world which we are alienated from.