My amazing friend, I'm grateful that you are here today and that you had the courage to ask this difficult question. I'm recording this podcast for two basic reasons.
I realize that this is a sensitive issue, and I will attempt to address it in a gentle, compassionate, and respectful way, and hope that you can treat your friends, or yourself in this same manner.
As a therapist of 20 years, I've helped hundreds of individuals who have found themselves feeling somewhat stuck repeating this behavior... this pattern, that they ultimately don't want to continue doing... that they instinctively know is not the solution they were looking for, but that in some way seemed to be providing them with some immediate relief.
These incredible people could reasonably and logically see that this pattern was not healthy for their body, and that it was not a long-term solution for them, and yet, it was challenging for them to stop. I can understand that it's a challenge to stop something that seems to be working... even if it's just on the surface.
These individuals would often tell me "I can see how this is just creating more problems for me, but it's hard to not go back to it."
I would often teach them that the brain is a pattern making machine. Your brain makes patterns from the day you are born, till the day you die, and it never stops, and if we can make a pattern, we can also unmake it, and more importantly, we can make new, healthier patterns... better decisions, better behaviors that can produce better and healthier outcomes for you in the short and long haul.
Patterns and behaviors that don't encourage embarrassment, shame, or regret, but that instead build your confidence, and that help you to develop a healthy pride in yourself and in your life. My friend, I care for you.
You are awesome.
You can begin those changes today, and little by little with some patience, help, and some effort you too can make some adjustments that will make a big difference for you.
I have one more brief thought that I want to share. People will often ask me, "why do people self-harm?"
Now self-harm can be a little complex, and several factors contribute to why they do it, but one of those has to do with emotional management. In other words, they self-harm to manage their emotions. So when they are sad, feeling anxious, hopeless, embarrassed, ashamed, in pain, feeling dejected, rejected, or just suffering in some way, they will utilize that behavior to manage the other pain they are experiencing.
Once again, I'm not sharing this with you to create harm, or for you to weaponize this information against someone else... please, please, treat others in a gentle and compassionate way... life is challenging enough. But can Ijust briefly and respectfully say... my friend, we cannot try to numb out, or run from, or extinguish sadness, fear, or embarrassment, or feelings of loneliness from our life.
These are not meaningless.
As challenging as it is to experience these hard-core emotions, they are a critical part of the tapestry of your life. In fact, I would say that experiencing the sadness will actually enhance your happiness. It's also important to realize that these emotions are signals... similar to a signal on the dashboard of your car that starts blinking... these emotions are saying... "hey, we need to take a look at some things." "We may need to talk to go to the mechanic and get some of these things fixed" (sorry i was still working from the analogy about the car - I'm not suggesting you go to the mechanic to address your emotional or psychological concerns.
These emotions may be signaling, "You may need to try something different," or "You may want to add or take away a couple of things from your life that just aren't working super well." We can't run and avoid these things. We have to go through it.
There's an old quote "work through what you go through." We have to face these things. Talk about these things. Seek out help and talk to others who can assist. Read about increasing your confidence, about being involved where you are, about how to connect with people better, about how to create a sense of achievement in your life, about how to manage bouts of sadness, or nervousness, or stress... you can do it. I mean it, you really can. I'm not suggesting perfection here, just a deliberate and pointed effort to take a step in this direction.
What do you think?
Wow, that was a little longer than I anticipated, but i hope it was helpful to you.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help your friend if they are struggling with self-harming behaviors:
Ok, now for those of you who may be personally dealing with self-harming... or what people may refer to as NSSI, which stands for Non-Suicidal Self-Injury. My dear friend, my heart and mind are with you, and I'm grateful that you are here listening to me.
Here are some strategies that have been shown to work, and that you can begin to do today!
Ok, enough is enough. Btw, I realize that this may not be a particular issue for you or your friends. If that is the case, this is awesome.
These are basic skills that are meant to work with many issues, and that can help you to respond to the challenges in your life with an important perspective, and with the right tools that will give you the best outcomes possible.
I'm cheering for you my friends, now let's get out there, and be valuable to ourselves and others, and live deep, and suck out the marrow of life. Enjoy!