IIT Kharagpur: Why do we indulge in self-harm?

Acharya Prashant
7 min readMay 16, 2022

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Questioner (Q): In spite of being fully aware of the consequences, why do people engage in self-harming behavior? Why do people stay in toxic marriages, relationships, friendships, get into addictions, do substance abuse, or get into other miscellaneous self-harming activities?

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, nobody engages in self-harm knowing fully well that the action will lead to harm. Whatever one does, one does it for the sake of happiness or pleasure. That is how we are.

Q: That was going to be my follow-up question, that there is definitely some happiness involved even in self-harm. But they should realize that that happiness is short-lived.

AP: ‘Must’ and ‘should’ do not work in the domain of Prakriti (physical nature) and body. You tell your body, “You must wake up” — does it oblige you? You know of the physical tendencies, and how they are. You tell your body, “You must not inhale the virus along with the air” — would it listen to you? It won’t. It has its own mechanism. It operates as per its own ancient design. And we were saying that we share this design with the jungle, the bananas, and the monkeys. We are actually quite helpless when it comes to this design. It is just that there is a ray of hope: human beings have a peculiar consciousness that not only seeks liberation but can actually attain liberation, that too within its lifespan.

So, what you call self-harm is actually just an attempt towards liberation gone wrong. The fellow was trying something and he thought it would work out — it didn’t. And when it doesn’t work out, it results in harm. That is self-harm.

Self-harm is not merely when you pop some toxic pills or the kind of things you narrated — somebody is indulging in violent behavior, somebody is getting into neurotic relationships, somebody is tolerating toxic relationships. Self-harm is not merely that. Those are just very visible expressions of self-harm. Self-harm is when you make a bad choice thinking it is good. Self-harm is not only when you say, “Oh, my relationship has gone awry”; self-harm is when you, first of all, enter that relationship. Self-harm is when your entire concept of life is a borrowed…

Acharya Prashant