I am passionate about this topic. I have clients that struggle with self harm. But remember, a self destructive personality does not necessarily mean self harm. Self harm is an extreme form of self destructive behavior. Your question is where does it stems from? The answer is childhood.
Early negative experiences consisting of trauma or abuse. This leads to false beliefs about the nature of self, life. One or both parents may have been unable or unwilling to give the appropriate love, care and attention that were naturally craved by the child. So the child feels alone in her terror, insecure and helpless to do anything about it. The child begins to form misconceptions. They look like this.
If life is so cruel then it’s not worth living.
I wish I had never been born.
Being hurt so much means that I must be bad. Perhaps I don’t deserve to live.
Based on such false beliefs, she feels a fear of loss of control. Loss of control over boundaries in intimate relationships (source of original trauma). Loss of control over the memory of trauma. Loss of control over whichever part of oneself “attracts” trauma. Loss of control over the urge to destroy that part of herself once and for all.
In other words, she is terrified of repeating an earlier trauma, expressing whatever part of herself might attract such trauma. For example, if she was raped. She may purposely starve herself so her body is no longer attractive to predators. Finally, unleashing her own desire to punish or eliminate that part of herself.
The fight or flight of our minds creates a strategy that basically says My survival depends upon me taking back control of my life. One increasingly common route, particularly among adolescent girls, is to take control of eating as a way to “suppress” the physical self. This is the basis of the condition known as anorexia nervosa.
Because they need to feel in control of the risks to themselves, some self-destructive types will keep testing and pushing their degree of control—How much alcohol can I drink at once? Can I drink even more than the last time? How many drugs can I take and not die? How fast can I drive a motorbike and get away with it? This leads to a constant fear and sense of insecurity.
But she does not want to go around being overtly fearful, conflicted and self-destructive so she puts on a public mask which says to the world, “Everything’s under control. I only act this way because I want to. It’s just a bit of fun. I am naturally wild and fearless. I’m a reckless rebel.”
Here’s an example:
I think that self-destructiveness can also mean self-reflection, can mean poetic sensibility, it can mean empathy, it can mean a hedonism and a libertarianism and a lack of judgement.
- Courtney Love
It would be an understatement to say those caught in self-destruction are trapped in inner conflict. I believe a more accurate definition of self destruction is self alienation.