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A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain Paperback


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Frequently Bought Together

A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain + Stopping the Pain: A Workbook for Teens Who Cut and Self Injure + Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140280537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140280531
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"A bright red scream" is how one of the subjects Marilee Strong interviews in this chilling yet compassionate study of self-mutilation describes the sensation of intentionally inflicting pain upon oneself. It is a compulsion that, while shocking and bewildering to most people, affects 2 million or more Americans and countless others around the globe--one of whom, the late Princess Diana, also suffered from the eating disorders that characterize between 35 to 80 percent of all cutters. Rejecting the classic psychiatric wisdom that views self-mutilation as a species of suicidal behavior, Strong links the phenomenon instead to the will to live--often in the face of such overwhelming childhood abuse that the resulting dissociative behaviors are something akin to posttraumatic stress disorder. Strong touches on other issues as well: Why are most cutters women? And is the current fascination with tattooing and piercing, from its most extreme forms in the "alternative" culture to its growing mainstream acceptance, a sublimation of the cutters' instinct? Through interviews with more than 50 self-injurers, Strong tells the moving story not only of their rage and self-punishment, but also of the courageous journey towards reintegration. (The book also contains an introduction by psychiatrist Armando R. Favazza, author of Bodies Under Seige, one of the leading clinical experts on self-mutilation.) --Patrizia DiLucchio --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Strong's research into "cutters" combines journalistic passion with academic integrity. Through dozens of interviews conducted for a 1993 San Francisco Focus article, she explores the reasons that lead over two million Americans to injure themselves regularly and deliberately with such items as knives, razor blades and broken glass. Although most cutters are young women who have been emotionally, sexually, or physically abused as children, Strong's research shows that this specific type of self-harm also appears in other groups. Most interviewees here claim to use cutting to distance themselves from pain and rage, or to "feel something" after years of abuse have left them emotionally numb. The powerful first-person stories, in which the cutters describe their ritualistic methods and somewhat addictive cravings for seeing their own blood, highlight the problem and ultimately lead to understanding and sympathy for those who suffer from the disorder. (A foreword from University of Missouri-Columbia psychiatrist Armondo Favazza, author of Bodies Under Siege, discusses past difficulties in bringing the disorder to the public's attention.) In addition to presenting a psychological focus, Strong also investigates possible neurological and chemical changes that both abuse and cutting can cause. A brief foray into comparison with the American tattooing trend and scarification in other cultures proves to be the book's only weak point, drawing on hypotheses rather than concrete fact. The author recovers quickly, however, when she explores the comprehensive programs and treatments available to cutters. Riveting and dynamically written, this book is an important addition to psychological literature. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book to any parent, friend, or therapist of the person who cuts or self-injures.
W. L. Bradley
I was pleasantly surprised at how well researched and at the very same time incredibly personal this book is.
j. perkins
If understanding is the first step towards healing for some, then this book may well provide a welcome step.
Jennifer Cameron-Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Renee McElwee on December 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Now in my mid-30's, I bought this book after seeing the movie Secretary and recognizing myself as a teen in the main character of the movie. Although, in my case, I overcame my urges to self-injure (in ways other than cutting, which this book addresses) on my own and through the process of maturation and some very focused self-examination in my 20's, I still found myself fascinated as to why I, or any person, would resort to self-mutilation as a way to feel relief and a temporary sense of peace since the act and the resulting feelings seem so incredibly incongruent. This book took me back and allowed me to see and understand myself in ways I never expected and far beyond what I had already ascertained self-mutilation was about based on my own self-understanding. It also allowed me to see where I still lean toward the behavior in subtle, almost undetectable ways even though I have been under the impression for over 15 years that I no longer "act out" or would be considered a self-mutilator.
The book is extremely well written and researched and the case studies sited enable the reader to identify - whether you are or were a self-injurer yourself or know someone who is. The author suggests many reasons why self-mutilators do what they do, why and how this gamut of behaviors addresses crucial needs they have and why it isn't as easy to refrain from when a loved one who doesn't really understand says, "Stop that!" Strong explains the behavior from psychological, emotional, spiritual, physical, chemical, environmental and medical perspectives so that one can gain a full and well rounded picture of self-mutilation, it's causes and it's effects - both overt and obvious as well as subtle and nearly imperceptible.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
OK, it's a subject most of my friends don't want to know anything about. That's why I don't tell them I am a cutter. I discovered I am not alone about four years ago. Although I read another "ok" book on cutting, I just got Marilee Strong's book in paperback because some people in my support group really raved over it. I cried a couple of times reading it, but I couldn't put it down. I feel like someone understands us besides just the "shrink talk" that just tries to put things in neat little unreal boxes. Marilee goes way inside what cutting is about. She doesn't gloss over things and she doesn't seem to act like we should all just "get better" really quickly or "just stop it already"! I'm just a cutter and I'm not a shrink, but I think this person really "gets it." If you are a cutter or if you know someone or just want to understand what it's really like for us, this book will turn your head around.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
It was quite by accident that I found this book. I am still healing from the last time I cut myself in an effort to get the pain out. I believed I was suicidal (maybe I still am) but now I know that there are others who feel the same.
Ms Strong's book explained to the smallest detail all the things happening to me, and helped me feel less of a freak. Not only does this book help people who mutilate themselves to understand why they do it, but she gives great advise on steps to take to move toward ending the nightmare.
This book does not condemn cutters or label them as crazy or disgusting. It doesn't even say that we must stop the slashing that sometimes saves our lives. It is written to inform that there are many, many people hurting so badly on the inside that they must see their pain in the form of blood being discharged from their own bodies, and by offering concrete ways of stopping the pain.
I found "A Bright Red Scream" difficult to put down because it was as though I saw myself actually being seen as me for the first time. I became upset in parts of the book where I learned that we don't always want to give up our ways of dealing because we don't want to do the work, or that we have become attached to what we know works for us. If I am going to be honest with myself, I know these are true statements, at least in my case. I am grateful for this insight.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Thankfully there's now a book on self harm that moves away from the sensationalism of Stephen Levenkrom's "Cutting", and is more accessible than the clinical focus of Favazza's work.
"A Bright Red Scream" features plenty of quotes from people who self injure, and aims to dispell a lot of the myths around self harm - which it does most efficaciously.
People who do self injure should be warned that this book might be "triggery", and might well spark off a "wanting to cut" episode. There aren't really any practical tips in this book to overcome that, so you might want to get as safe as you can first, and read it in small chunks.
Two personal gripes with this book - one is Ms Strong's frequent use of the word "cutters" to refer to people who self harm .. I really dislike this as a label.. I feel it reduces me to nothing but my behaviour. Whilst it is certainly shorter than other terms, and some people do use it, I have found that as I heal, and work to overcome my self injury, I see my self more and more as "Kirsti", and less as "a cutter".

The second is that although she mentions the internet resources, no actual webpages or URLs are given..while I can't correct that here, as it would violate Amazon.com's guidelines, I think that it could have easily been included as an appendix.

Overall, Ms Strong has written an excellent book, which I wouldn't hesitate to give to anyone who wants to know more about what really underlies self injury.
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