Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-13-2022


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Eva-Maria Simms

Committee Member

Lori Koelsch

Committee Member

Russell Walsh


self-cutting, nonsuicidal self-injury, blood, bleeding, intercorporeality, subjectivity


This dissertation is an existential, phenomenological study of the role and meaning of blood in self-cutting. Using in-depth, open-ended interviews with participants who self-cut, the author gathered data on the multisensorial experience of blood and bleeding in self-cutting. Data analysis was organized around the lifeworld existentials of corporeality, temporality, spatiality, communication, and relationality. The impact of blood and bleeding across each lifeworld dimension emphasized highly relevant, and previously unstudied, aspects of the lived experience of self-cutting. The six themes identified and explored are (a) blood as an animate abject; (b) bleeding and control; (c) bleeding is a process and the wound is a timekeeper; (d) sensing blood is a release; (e) blood’s multifarious communication; and (f) bleeding is private and blood is taboo. Lastly, these themes were analyzed using various critical phenomenological theories, particularly those related to intercorporeality (Merleau-Ponty, 1968).

As discussed in this dissertation, blood impacted each participant’s experience of self-cutting. Following blood’s many meanings, the author also discusses how subjectivity has been misconstrued in the context of self-cutting. By attending to blood, the multifaceted ways that embodied subjectivity is experienced in self-cutting are emphasized and explored with nuance and detail. In addition to accentuating important parts of the lived experience of self-cutting, blood and bleeding also gesture toward ways of more fruitfully understanding the “self” overall and in the context of self-cutting. Each theme highlights hegemonic sensibilities of Western ideals of human subjectivity as well as offers suggestions for how to re-conceptualize human experience in liberatory ways.