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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 6, 2007
A reference to this book in a novel I recently read led me to seek out this book for myself.

Many of us will know someone who has self-mutilated. Some of us will have direct experience. Each of us will wonder 'Why?' This book sets out, in a clear easy to read way the views of some professionals. It also sets out, in a clear and non-judgemental fashion, the experiences of some self-mutilators. In seeking to explain, it neither condones nor condemns.

In my view, the book has two primary audiences:those who seek to understand and those who seek to explain such behaviours.

If understanding is the first step towards healing for some, then this book may well provide a welcome step.

Highly recommended to those who seek to understand what is generally seen as either inexplicable or attention-seeking behaviour. In my experience, it is generally neither.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
2 people found this helpful
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on August 20, 2003
This book is really a tough one. After the forward and the preface is a short poem by some one that does cut... I'm not going to re-write it here for obvious copyright reasons. The theme of the poem is matching the feelings on the inside to what is on the outside. And for alot of people I think that that sums up the whole cutting issue.
Its a very hard book to read for anyone who is close to this topic. It will trigger you, I have no doubt, if abuse issues are close to the surface for you. It triggered me. I had to start and stop this book multiple times before getting to the end. Truthfully, I'm not really sure I have gotten through the whole book, I only know I reached the end of it.
It has an interesting mix of professional detachment and painful personal accounts. Sometimes it is almost difficult to reconcile that they are in the same books. At times the *painful* just is around the next page and you aren't quite expecting it. I would say that a great deal of stability would need to already have been achieved PRIOR to reading this book. And if you had a personal history of cutting... the longer ago it was...probably the better. This would be a very hard book to recommend to someone who is actively doing it. I could see how reading it would give them insight but I don't think that they could acheive the amount of detachment from the book they would need to absorb it without being triggered.
This book, no doubt, is important. It invokes a feeling of community and of not being alone in behavours that tend to be very solitary. And also of hope and profound healing for me. All that said, you have to be ready to read this book. Be very gentle with your self always.
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on August 25, 2003
"A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain" is the most intelligent and honest book I have read that deals with self-mutilation. Throughout the book, Marilee Strong's caring and sensitive approach does justice to both her (interview) subjects and the subject of cutting itself.

Additionally, Strong's writing style never comes across as overly-clinical or scholarly. The book is written in very accessible language - unlike a lot of other books on the subject. If you are or if you know of someone who suffers from self-mutilation, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.
Thankfully, books such as 'A Bright Red Scream' give insight into a subject that is still largely ignored, scorned and feared within our society and even - sad to say - amongst certain health-care professionals.
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on December 28, 2003
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.
The most startling revelation I experienced while reading this book - which is a page turner in and of itself - is that I had the impression that I was somehow unique and special in the fact that I was a self-mutilator (because it is such a personal method of self-expression often shrouded in cultivated secrecy and privacy on the part of the self-mutilator) and that I managed to overcome my urges by finally learning how to feel my feelings and address my issues in healthier ways as "normal" people do. This book, however, made me realize that it was almost formula pre-destiny based on the circumstances of my upbringing that would serve as the basis and foundation for the ways I acted out down the road in my teenage years. I was left with the sense that, given all the criteria of what makes a injurer an injurer, I almost had no choice but to do what I did in order to survive and cope - and the act IS a form of survival and coping when you are given the message while growing up that control and perfection is crucial and any overt, yet healthy and normal, form of emotional expression is not okay for whatever reason. This realization made me a bit angry for a time and left me feeling that the path I'd taken in life that I thought was of my own free will was actually one that was chosen for me, in a sense, by those who had a hand in my upbringing; that what I had spent years attempting to address and overcome was actually something I may not have had to address at all had my formative years and childhood been different because, quite simply, self-mutilation is an effect of a cause. I was left wondering what else I may have done with my time and energy had I not had to grapple with this because, for many years, it was a behavior that consumed me - both in the doing of it and then, later, the overcoming of it.
Self-mutilation isn't something people just choose to do without reason or without a deep-seated basis of history that, in a strange way, actually supports the behavior. This book sheds illuminating light on how and why self-mutilators develop into who they are and why they do what they do and it also makes a strong case as to why this is not an act that suggest suicidal tendencies as many suspect, but rather an extreme way of trying to stay alive and save ones own life by expressing emotions, as all humans need to do, in a secretive way that prevents backlash from those around the person who have made it clear that the normal path of expression is not acceptable.
For anyone who self-mutilates and wishes to understand themselves on some very deep levels in order to gain insight - which in and of itself may generate the path toward overcoming the behavior, although some suggestions for treatment and help are given in the book - or those who know and love a person who self-mutilates but doesn't quite understand why they do what they do, thus far I have read no other book that addresses the issue better than this one does and cannot recommend it enough.
3 people found this helpful
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on March 24, 2002
An insightful book -- on many levels. Originally, I picked the book up to learn about the psychology behind cutting specifically, but I found this work to be illuminating in a much broader way.
The author presents an empathetic, mostly nonclinical study of self-mutilation through profiles of cutters (mostly women), with insights into the ways that survivors of childhood abuse process and cope with the physical suffering that they have undergone. Interestingly, the light that is shed here is applicable to most of us who have any sort of trauma -- whether we are cutters or not, and whether that trauma has its origins in parental abuse or not.
One of the strengths of the book is the polished way that the author manages to infuse factual information (such as scientific explanations of brain functioning, medications, etc.) into the generous number of deeply personal profiles. Perhaps more of a balance could have been achieved there -- the large number of profiles may tend to "water down" the impact of each after the first ten or so -- though it is clear that the author was attempting to show the diversity of the cutting population. In that, she is certainly a success.
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on August 14, 2001
A Bright Red Scream is a very good book. It is very triggery, though, so if you aren't safe, please skip the graphic sections. And when I say graphic, I mean graphic. I could've lived without some of the references to sadomachism, but I know that some people who are into that are also SIers. I would definitely recommend this book to self-injurers, in particular cutters and burners. If you do other forms of SI, they aren't as highly mentioned, but this might be of use to you. It tells the stories of many SIers from around the world, male and female, young and old.
Please, read this!
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on March 3, 2005
Not for the faint-hearted, this is a book that can be beneficial even if you're not a "cutter" or know someone who is. I was first introduced and interested in this area after I read a disturbing short story ("Early Sunday Morning") by Jackson McCrae, from his latest book, THE CHILDREN'S CORNER. It was harrowing with its dead-pan telling and suspense. That started me on a quest. I have been studying up on different disorders for a year or so now and I wanted to read this since it was one of the only books on SI at my local library, which is quite sad. I know some cutters and so it helped me a lot, from a friendship standpoint and personally. It is a good mix of information and personal accounts. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in the subject. Would also recommend CUT for another great read on this subject.
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on January 31, 2002
This book is great for cutters and former cutters to read. (As well as other SIers.) It explains the science behind self-injury in terms that are easily understood. It also allows the reader to look into the lives of other SIers and understand their stories. I think this is an incredible book and that every self-injurer should read it. Their friends and families could read it, too, to give them a good understanding of their loved-one's life.
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on February 13, 2002
I loved this book. I myself am a self mutilator and I feel as though no one tries to understand me. This book helped me in so many ways. I was cutting around 6 times a day if not more when I purchased this book. I read it in less than a week. It helped me understand my past better and realize everything that happened isn't my fault and although I take it out on my body it won't go away. It showed me im not alone and I can make it through. Thank you so much for this wonderful book. I reccomend it to anyone who knows a cutter or is one theirselves.
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on October 20, 2001
Having just finished the book Cutting before reading this one, I have to say that A Bright Red Scream was very thorough, which at times made it very difficult to read. I fully appreciate the honesty of this book, as it really looks into the lives of those who self-injure, and refuses to see the behaviour as merely a pathological phenomenon. This book validates the experiences of the people she interviewed, which is in turn validating to those who SI in general. My only advice in regards to this book is that if you currently self-injure, or are a former self-injurer is to take this book a little at a time, since it can at times be incredibly triggering.
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