Why do we indulge in self-harm? || IIT Kharagpur (2021)

May 15, 2022 | 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 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, 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 as self-harm is actually just an attempt towards liberation gone wrong. The fellow was trying something and he thought it would work out—


Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More