Holy Stigmata, Anorexia and Self-Mutilation: Parallels in Pain and Imagining

Robert F. Mullen


This paper explores the comparative dynamics of self-mutilation among young, contemporary, female self-cutters, and the holy stigmatics of the Middle Ages. It addresses the types of personalities that engage in self-mutilation and how some manipulate their self-inflicted pain into a method for healing and empowerment. The similarities between teenage cutters and female stigmatics are striking in their mutual psychoanalytical need for self-alteration as a means of escaping their own disassociative identities; and offers evidence of how their mutual bricolage of pain, imagining, languaging, and subsequent self-mutilation often provide a transformation from bodies under siege to a resemblance of health and transformation.


agency; anorexic; depersonalization; imagining; sacred; self-cutting; self-mutilation; stigmata; symbolism; wounding

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