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Understanding Self Harm…

Self Harm and Suicide — admin @ 1:34 pm

This week at Counselling Connections we turn our attention to self- harm. The word can describe anything from smoking and drinking to eating disorders, from picking at one’s skin or pulling one’s hair out, to cutting with a knife or blade. There’s a lot of it about and while deaths do occur with self- harm, these are usually accidental rather than suicide attempts. There is a general misconception that self- harm is attention seeking. In our experience those of you who self- harm go to great lengths to cover it up. It is generally a very private act, evoking guilt and shame in the sufferer following the initial relief.

We know that those of you who self-harm are trying to deal with incredible emotional pain.  We would like to help you to understand how it has come about that you deal with emotion in this way. Pinpointing the triggers that cause you to harm yourself is key is helping you to overcome your problem.  It has become your way of coping and communicating intense negative emotion and can present itself as an option where there is a history of trauma/abuse. A child who suffers sexual abuse in silence, for example, does not understand and is not able to cope with the feelings arising in him relating to his experience. Anger, shame, guilt, confusion to name but a few. These are frightening emotions when experienced at an intense level. The situation can be further complicated by the silence surrounding abuse, leaving the child with no outlet for how he feels. So he stores it all up inside. Is it any wonder then that he looks for any way he can to release it? It is completely understandable but we can show you a better way.

Those of you who cut will know that diverting your attention to the act of cutting helps to minimise the emotional pain. However you will also admit that the relief is temporary and the feelings you were escaping are still there afterwards coupled with the physical pain of the cut. As adults we have more options than the child in us had. We can seek help and learn a new set of coping skills so that when we feel the urge to cut or self- harm in any way, we can replace it with something more positive. Learning to name emotions and express them with another person is a much healthier way of working through and getting past old hurts. We are not meant to be socially and emotionally isolated. Sharing hurts helps us to deal with them. If you have suffered abuse as a child, you owe it to the child who was you to get the help you need, as you would do if it were a child you know in the here and now. That child, like every child, deserves to be listened to and understood rather than judged and hurt some more.

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