‘Must Try Harder’: Anxiety, Self-Shaping and Structures of Feeling, Then and Now
- 92 Downloads
Reading my school reports, I am shocked by the differences between the mature, hard-working, responsible, clever and well-liked eleven-year-old and the sulky, silent, withdrawn twelve-year-old secondary school girl. The coded class prejudice of my teachers becomes clear. Thinking back on my history of self-harm, I wonder at the damage caused by the education that has also brought me much of what I value in my current life. Could earlier unhappy heterosexual relationships be viewed as self-harm of another kind rather than just part of growing up? I explore intersections of class, gender, psychological health and education in my life story, drawing on an ‘archive of the self’ that includes school reports and fiction. Autoethnography and memory work are used to place the self within social and political structures, including the current epidemic of self-harm among adolescent girls, with the aim of de-individualising the mental health struggles of today’s ‘clever girls’.
KeywordsMemory Striving Embodiment Dissociation Self-harm
- Desert Island Discs (2017) BBC Radio 4, 22 January. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b08b3k40 (Accessed: 28 April 2019).
- Burke, P. (1987). Introduction. In P. Burke & R. Porter (Eds.), The social history of language (pp. 1–20). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Butcher, P., Elias, A., & Raven, R. (1993). Psychogenic speech disorders and cognitive-behaviour therapy. London: Whurr.Google Scholar
- Campbell, D. (2018, May 18). Poorest and brightest girls more likely to be depressed – UK study. Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/18/poorest-brightest-girls-uk-depressed-study-teenagers-mental-health (Accessed: 28 April 2019).
- Chaney, S. (2017). Psyche on the skin. A history of self-harm. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
- Cline, T. & Baldwin, S. (1994). Selective mutism in children. London: Whurr.Google Scholar
- Diski, J. (2009). The sixties. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
- Hawton, K., Harriss, L., Simkin, S., Bale, E., & Bond, A. (2001). Social class and suicidal behaviour: the associations between social class and the characteristics of deliberate self-harm patients and the treatment they are offered. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 36, 9, 437–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hoggart, R. (1958). The uses of literacy: Aspects of working class life with special reference to publications and entertainments. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Jalland, P. (2010). Death in war and peace: A history of loss and grief in England, 1914–1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Marsh, S. & Boateng, A. (2018, August 28). Quarter of 14-year-old girls in UK have self-harmed, report finds. Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/29/quarter-of-14-year-old-girls-in-uk-have-self-harmed-report-finds (Accessed: 28 April 2019).
- Steedman, C. (1986). Landscape for a good woman. London: Virago.Google Scholar
- Steggals, P., Lawler, S. & Graham, R. (2019). ‘I couldn’t say the words’: Communicative bodies and spaces in parents’ encounters with nonsuicidal self-injury. Social Theory and Health (forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Walkerdine, V. (1985). Dreams from an ordinary childhood. In L. Heron (Ed.), Truth, dare or promise: girls growing up in the fifties (pp. 63–77). London: Virago.Google Scholar
- Walkerdine, V. (1990). Schoolgirl fictions. London: Verso.Google Scholar