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I'm writing something about Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes From Underground about how we sometimes revel in suffering. I want to then add

... much of which is not only self-inflicted, but also self-imposed.

Meaning that not only do we hurt ourselves, we do it on purpose.

Is that correct? That was my first intuition when writing that sentence, but I'm not confident in that.

What is the difference between self-imposed and self-inflicted?

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    wounds are inflicted, constraints are imposed. – Jim Jan 1 '14 at 7:59
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The only significant difference is that self-inflicted implies a physical injury, whereas self-imposed implies only hardship. Both are invited.

self-imposed: imposed by oneself on oneself; voluntarily assumed or endured; voluntary, of one's own free will or design; done by choice; not forced or compelled; e.g. self-imposed exile

self-inflicted: of a wound or other harm inflicted or imposed on oneself; of an injury having been inflicted on oneself by oneself: died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

You may need a more passive adjective to make the distinction. For instance, you might say that some sorrows are endured (they come from without but are tolerated and suffered by the victim) while others are encouraged or self-inflicted.

  • I don't want to mean that some things are endured, I want to mean that some things are definitely our fault (perhaps by character flaw or by accident) while some things are definitely our fault AND intentional. – Dan Gayle Jan 1 '14 at 0:40
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From the two definitions given by anongoodnurse, it sounds like only "self-imposed" is actually invited, as the action was voluntary, of one's own free will or design, or done by choice, whereas "self-inflicted" just means that the injury was done by oneself, and doesn't seem to carry the idea that it was necessarily done by choice.

The example given under self-inflicted was died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. If you were cleaning your weapon but didn't make sure it was clear, looked down the barrel, accidentally pulled the trigger and thereby got shot in the face, you would have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Getting shot would not have been voluntary, of one's own free will or design, nor done by choice as you didn't invite death, you didn't want to get shot in the face, but through your own negligence you got killed.

So it makes sense to me (based off of the two definitions) to say that self-imposed is something that someone does to themselves that they want to happen, while self-inflicted is something that someone does to themselves, whether they wanted to do it or not.

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