January 26, 2012
Recently, my magpie visitors set a new record high for the size of the group gathering at my balcony waiting for treats.
At one single point in time, I had 18 pies there surrounding me, all squawking and squawling and calling and cheeping and chirping and whistling and warbling and garbling and gawking and flapping and hopping, each hoping to be the next in line for the little bits of bologna I was handing out to them. Eighteen pies! That’s a lot of birds, and they were making a whopping lot of noise!
There had been a number of rainy days in a row, and while pies surely know how to survive in the roughest of weather, they were all looking very raggedy in their sopping wet feathers. Oh, they were a sad sight, all droopy, and soggy, and drippy. Some of the pies were trying to fluff up more than usual to keep the rain off them. Others couldn’t even muster their feathers up anymore. The days of rain must have worn them out.
I know I wouldn’t want to be living outside in a rainy rainy thunderstorm that lasted for days and days. I don’t know where pies go to sleep and rest, but I can’t imagine it being fun at all. It seems to me that bug-chasing in the rain would be difficult, and sludging through deep puddles of muddy water would be more suited for ducks than for pies.
Yes, my big group of pies were a sad sight. A big soggy, soppy, sad sight.
And they were hungry. Really hungry.
Most of the time, the pies will take turns nicely when it comes to treat time. There are the more aggressive front runners, of course, but for the most part, everyone gets a share, and it’s easy enough to make sure that the treats are spread out rather evenly between everyone.
It’s a totally different story when they are hungry.
And it’s even more challenging when there are 18 hungry birds all at the same time.
The claws come out, literally. The pies will fight each other to be first in line, or to get that specific bite of food that they had their eyes on.
Of course, if they could understand that there was enough food for everyone, and that they didn’t need to fight to get their turn, it could have all happened peacefully. But these so-called wild birds didn’t understand that. They were still fighting out of their natural instincts.
The pretty little gray timid pie stayed in the background. She’s smaller and younger than the others, a newcomer to the group. She’s noticeably different in coloring from all the others, and the rest of the pies dominate her for the most part. She didn’t fight anyone for anything, and she would not have gotten a single bite of bologna had I not specifically made sure to directly give some to her. Even then, I had to take time to convince her that it was ok for her to have it. Then, after all that, I believe a more aggressive bird swooped in grabbing and snatching the pieces that fell to the ground, not even allowing little gray pie to finish her own serving.
Some of the more trusting-of-me pies would run up near to my feet, separating themselves from the crowd, willing to get as close to me as possible to ensure they would get hand-fed away from the others. That was the easiest way to make sure of getting something to munch on.
Some of the pies would charge in fast, demanding first dibs, and then fly away to enjoy their mini-feast in the privacy of some hidden corner of grass somewhere else.
Sometimes two or three pies would squabble over the same bite. These squabbles can become real fights where they are pulling each other’s feathers with their beaks, or digging their claws into the tummies of the other birds, pinning the unfortunate bird on its back. (Yikes! I sure don’t like that!) Sometimes they will click and snap their beaks at each other, making a loud scary noise, clearly meant to intimidate the other pie with a definite “Get back or I’ll poke you!” message. They will repeatedly screech and scream at each other, with their beaks open wide, making very loud protests and declarations of “Mine! Mine! Mine!”.
So much fighting!
It’s not like a tiding of wild birds will ever have to learn to get along with each other on a small balcony in one part of town. As these babies grow up, they will have to spread out into their own areas to live, and I assume, some of the birds I am pampering now will have to scoot on down the road to other areas. In nature, there is a very definite pecking order and lots and lots of space to move to. Maggies will argue and fight to survive, and to fight to claim their territory just like all wild animals have done for thousands of years. Survival of the fittest keeps the species alive and well.
And the tough times in life bring out the fighting responses.
But what about when the fighting occurs within a group that really does have to live together?
What happens when moving on down the road is not a legitimate option?
What about squabbles and fights within a dissociative system? For people with dissociative identity disorder, living with groups of people, and internal fights, and intense conflict is a common state of mind. There are ways to internally separate those that are fighting with each other, at least on a temporary basis, but really, everyone is always there. Until the conflicts are resolved peacefully, the fighting can continue to happen day after day.
That kind of ongoing conflict would be very difficult to live with. It would feel noisy, and stressful, and overwhelming. It could be scary for the more timid parts, and intense for the ones with extreme emotions. All too often, internal conflict leads to self-destructive behaviors.
Can you relate to that?
What do you do when your groups of insiders squabble?
How do you work out the conflicts and disagreements?
Do you know how to find ways to problem-solve by working the problem, instead of fighting each other?
Does your system take turns, sharing time and resources with each other?
Do your insiders help each other more than they hurt each other?
There are always going to be different opinions, and different perspectives, and opposing needs. There are going to be parts inside that are more aggressive than others. There will always be parts that are smaller, younger and quieter. Within the dissociative system, there will very often be many insiders that are still feeling wounded, hurt, distraught – insiders who need extra care, nurturing, and attention.
How do you tend to all the varying needs and wants without squabbling in ways that make the problems worse, instead of better?
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
July 10, 2010
*** trigger warning for dissociative trauma survivors ***
The collage and the material discussed in this blog is emotionally intense and could be triggering. Please be sure that you are in a safe place before reading further.
Trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder often have to live a double life. There is the public face, full of pretty smiles and general surface chatter that says “I’m fine”, “I’m doing great!”, “I had a good time”, “Nothing is wrong”, etc.
Recognize any of those kinds of cover-up phrases?
Unfortunately, all too often, looking the other side of these statements proves a very opposite reality. The person is feeling anything but “great”.
Every DID survivor I have ever met has a whole repertoire of phrases and quick answers that indicate they are doing well, that everything is ok, even when they actually are not ok. DID survivors know how to cover and hide their pain. Besides dissociating away the evidence, feelings, and awareness of the abuse from themselves, they have also developed a variety of social skills to cover and hide the depth of their confusion, upset, emotions from others.
On the other side of “I’m fine”, there are very different feelings – depression, fear, anxiety, sadness, overwhelm, emotional pain, grief, shame, anger, just to name a few. Sometimes there are flashbacks, body memories, nightmares, self-injuries, addiction issues, etc. There are often feelings related to self-injury, self-destruction, and self-hatred. Sometimes there are incidents of trauma in the current day, or domestic violence, or sexual assault, or date rape. Life can feel pretty dark.
But still, all too often, the survivor will say, “I’m fine.”
The following collage says it well.
In case they are a little hard to read, the words on the collage are as follows:
This can’t be happening
It’s not real
It’s not real
It’s really happening.
What will I say? What do I say?
I can’t breath I can’t breath
I need air.
Gravel in my hair hurts.
What will I say tomorrow?
What if I get grass stains on my dress?
I can’t breathe.
Please God help me. Please.
Please save me.
Someone help me
There’s no on
And he’s on top
And I can’t breathe
And this is hopeless
And I think
I can’t escape
God please —
I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine
I can never tell anyone about this
What would everyone say? They’ll all be bragging
About what a good time they had tonight
I can’t say
This is the night
God abandoned me
That my soul was killed
That the world left me behind.
I had a great time, thanks. Thanks for asking.
In this collage, notice the initial dissociative statements. “This can’t be real” indicates the need to dissociate and separate from what is happening. Even when the artist recognizes that it is really happening to her, she separates herself with the tiny “to me”.
The middle section describes a sexual assault. Some of the pain and discomfort of the abuse is included – for the most part, the details of the rape are not mentioned. However, the fears and pleas for help are included, showing the desperation felt by the woman being assaulted.
Finally, at least for a short while, the abuse has stopped.
It appears, that after the assault happens, this survivor is expected to make a social appearance at a party or a dance. The social event is supposed to be great fun, but how can a social event be fun right after having experienced a sexual trauma?
But still, the survivor says she’s fine.
- What keeps her from talking about what she just experienced?
- Do you understand why she covers and hides the abuse instead of telling others about it?
- Does this survivor remember that she was just assaulted?
- Did she build an amnesiac wall around the abuse?
- Did one insider deal with the trauma, and another insider go to the party?
- Is this survivor denying the abuse?
Part of the healing process is connecting the reality of the situation with the truth of emotion. Chances are, this survivor does not actually feel fine at all.
What could she do now?
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 20, 2010
This weekend is often a difficult weekend for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder. First, there is Father’s Day (for those of us living in the USA), and secondly, it’s the Summer Solstice. Anytime the difficult days get stacked on top of each other, it’s going to make for a complicated time.
On days when the issues seem to surface in layers, what do you do to cope?
(**This blog article is about difficult topics so it could be triggering – please pace yourself carefully and keep yourself safe.)
Father’s Day has many of the same emotional complications as was written about on Mother’s Day. The days proceeding are often full of painful memories, heartbreaking loss, fear, conflict, and upset. The vast majority of DID survivors have had abusive fathers, so the idea of celebrating fathers typically stirs up great turmoil.
The first day of summer, like all season changes, has relevance to those who have experienced difference forms of Ritual Abuse (RA). Many of the dark church organizations celebrate the seasonal changes and these so-called “celebrations” are full of trauma, abuse, gross activities, icky messes, scary events, etc. Survivors of these ordeals are often flooded with flashbacks, emotional distress and internal conflict during the times of season changes.
When you put the two of these highly emotional events together, dissociative survivors experience a lot of overwhelm. Some of the difficulties can include PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, depersonalization, body memories, difficulties sleeping, irritability, feeling distant from others, etc.) and anxiety symptoms (panic attacks, excessive fears, heightened startle reflex, nausea, trembling, heart palpitations, headaches, obsessions, chest pain, etc), self-destructive thoughts, self-injury behaviors, suicidal ideation (pervasive thoughts about wanting to die), depression, tearfulness, or detached numbing. It’s probably been a miserable weekend for a lot of DID survivors.
Fathers that participate in dark church rituals are often not the kind of fathers that you find written about in Hallmark Cards. These are the kinds of fathers that prefer abusive activities, or that like sadistic pain, or have freaky and perverse sexual interests. They are difficult men who have caused a lot of hurt and pain for a lot of people, especially for their children.
And yet, even so, there are nearly always those parts within the DID system that feel loyalty and a deep bonding with the father figure. These parts are typically parts that have adopted some level of acceptance of the traumatic activities, and have long ago learned to tolerate the abuse or to even define it as anything but abuse.
DID survivors often manage abuse by their fathers by creating a father introject within the internal dissociative system. Father introjects are internal system parts that remember the father so well that they look-feel-sound-act-appear to the others inside as the same as the actual father. An internal introject may do the same kinds of abusive behaviors to the other parts of the system, recreating the same abusive patterns and feelings that the external father did. Since the internal world is so real to DID survivors, it can feel like the father is still there, still controlling things, still making all the decisions, still threatening harm, still causing harm.
And in many ways this can be true.
It can be difficult to separate who the external father is from the internal father introject. They can very much feel like mirror-images of each other, shadow replicas, and the child parts of the system will not be able to tell the difference between them.
But father introjects are NOT the actual father, no matter how much they may claim to be so. Father introjects actually belong to you. They split from you, they came from your mind, and they originated with you. They are actually part of you, and not part of the father. They may have been taught by the father, but they are actually yours.
However, they will be powerful parts of the internal system though so their power and influence is not to be ignored or minimized. It is more important to work with these parts, and reconnect their loyalty to the survivor person instead of to the father figure. This is an absolutely crucial part of the DID therapy process, and if you haven’t yet gained a safe working relationship with your father introject, you will need to do so.
Father Transference Issues
In the therapy process, male therapists will have many of the same kinds of transference issues regarding father issuesj as female therapists have with mother issues. In fact, it is often difficult for some female dissociative survivors to work with male therapists because of the kinds of trauma, abuse, and controls associated with their father. Male therapists often have to address transference issues of being seen as the abuser, controlling male, dominant owner, sexual pervert, etc. So many trauma survivors have issues with men — and even more have issues with their fathers — that it makes being a male therapist for female trauma survivors particularly difficult.
Other female trauma survivors are so used to be led by men or connected to men, especially their father, that they feel more at ease with men and less comfortable with “neglectful, abandoning mothers”. (Female therapists tend to get more of the abandonment transference issues, while male therapists tend to get more of the abuser-male dominance transference issues.) The relationship between survivors and their parents will very often dictate which gender of therapist is a better fit for them.
Typical Father Issues
Father issues are not easy to work through. They often take years of time to sort out, and they are very painful. Many survivors truly feel bonded to their fathers, even if some of their relationship involved sexual activities. Sometimes feeling sexually connected to the father felt better than being emotionally abandoned by the mother. When this is the case, there are numerous emotional complications to process during your healing.
Do you understand the role your father has played in your life?
Do you experience system switching, feelings of fear, or flashbacks when you are in the same room with your father?
What would your father do if you said no to him?
What would your father do if you chose a lifestyle very different from the one he chose for his life?
Are you allowed to live separately from him? Have you been allowed to move away from his neighborhood?
How much control or influence does your father have over you life in the current day?
Are you safe when you are in the same room as your father?
Does your father still abuse you or any of your younger parts? Does he still exert a level of sexual dominance over anyone in your system?
Would you be betraying your father if you refused to let him touch you in sexual ways?
If your father is an abuser, you can get distance and separation from him.
You don’t have to stay bonded to abusers.
You don’t have to stay connected to violent relationships.
You don’t have to be abused to be accepted.
You do not have to be sexual to be accepted.
All men are not abusers.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
September 9, 2009
To those of you that have been having a very difficult day today – please know that you can fight that.
You don’t have to do anything dangerous.
You don’t have to hurt yourself.
You don’t have to do anything harmful to yourself.
You don’t have to go to places where you get hurt.
You don’t have to go to places where your insiders get hurt.
You don’t have to go to places where someone else wants you to hurt.
You don’t have to give yourself to something that is dark and harmful.
You don’t have to go where you get stripped naked.
Find someone safe. There really are safe people out there.
Stay by them. Stay with them. Stay near them.
Learn about protecting yourself, and your insiders.
You can be safe from all that hurt, you really can.
I wanted you to know that there are kind helping people that understand why you are having such a difficult time today.
You are not alone in your struggle today.
I’m not going to explain much out here on this public blog – I know that far too many of you will already know what I mean.
But yes, you can get help and support and understanding…
From gentle people who will not strip you naked.
You can be who you want to be.
You can be who you decide that you are.
You don’t have to be who they say that you are.
You can be who you say you are.
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 10, 2009
For many dissociative trauma survivors, various holidays and times of year are more difficult than other days. Some survivors may know they typically have a difficult time at the change of seasons, or when Easter-time comes, for example, but they may not have the memories or internal information to understand why they consistently have a difficult time at that time of year.
- Are you struggling more now that Easter is here?
- Does Good Friday have any specific meaning for you?
- Does Passover have specific meaning for you?
- Do you consistently have trouble with functioning at this time of year?
- Do you remember anything that would make this hard time make sense?
When survivors with DID/MPD are sitting on unprocessed memories and their system is separated by strong dissociative walls, the host of the system may have absolutely no awareness of why certain times of year are more difficult than others. The host might know that there are consistently difficult times. They might have an acute awareness that they “hate this time of year” but they still might not have an answer for “why” certain times of year are more difficult than others. Host alters, fronts of the dissociative system, can be aware of the side effects of having a hard time, but still not have any explanation for what it’s about.
- Do you find yourself switching more than usual?
- Are you missing more time, even in small chunks? What about in big chunks?
- Are you experiencing more headaches, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks?
- Are you seeing flashes of images, or fleeting snippets of pictures that don’t quite make sense?
- Do you feel unsettled or jittery?
- Do you feel confusion and time distortion, as if it is another time than 2009?
- Are you extra sensitive to certain smells, sounds, lights, and movements?
- Is there more noise, commotion, chaos, and activity coming from deep within your system?
- Do you feel not quite like yourself, as if there are others standing nearby to you, affecting you?
- Do you feel more suicidal or more vulnerable to self-injury, self-harm, and self-destruction?
If you are experiencing these type of symptoms, and yet have no answer for why these things are happening, you really can do something to help solve the mystery.
Any guesses for what to do?
Do you want to know why you are having such a difficult time?
My answer to that is to ask inside. Listen to what your insiders are telling you. There will be someone inside your system that knows why this time of year is so difficult. You might have insiders that have been particularly split off to handle situations from this time of year, so if you can find who that is, you will get some answers for what is going on.
Frequently, my interpretation of the above listed symptoms is that the dissociative walls – amnesiac walls — that previously blocked you completely from an awareness of what happened, is now starting to crumble. What was once kept from you, is now starting to seep into your awareness. For whatever reason, the dissociative wall is starting to weaken, and you are getting bits of information passed to you from others deeper within your system. Maybe they want you to know? Maybe they need your help? Maybe they are ready to begin sharing their story with you?
- Are you willing to help the others in your system that have experienced such difficult times?
- Are you going to turn your back on those ones in your system that are hurting and struggling?
- Are you going to continue to deny their existence because their life story is so completely different than yours?
- Are you determined to strengthen your dissociative walls? Or are you willing to lower those dissociative walls?
Understanding your life, your symptoms, your history, your struggles, etc all go back to having good internal communication. As you talk to your inside people, and ask them what THEY know about what is going on, you will get the answers you are looking for.
Someone inside will know why this time of year is difficult.
Someone inside will be able to explain what those flashbacks and picture flashes are about.
Someone inside will know why you are so sensitive to certain smells, sounds, movements, voices, etc.
The majority of the answers for why you are struggling are contained within yourself, within your internal system. Talking to the people in your system that are on the other side of the dissociative wall will give you a ton of answers to what is happening. Whether you are willing to listen to them or not, or believe them or not, is a totally different issue, but if you want to know why you are struggling, you can find out.
Lots of times, it will be because certain insiders are struggling, and their depression, or their fear, or their anxiety, or their panic, or their PTSD flashbacks will be overflowing onto you.
If you are not sure why you are having a hard time at this holiday season, look inside to find the part / parts of you that have direct knowledge of those hard times, and go from there.
You can do it.
If your insiders are brave enough to start telling you about their struggles, be brave enough to listen to them.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 21, 2009
The healing process for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) is very long, involved and complex. The article, 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder, lists out many of the steps involved in trauma therapy. While that list is comprehensive, it still only covers the surface steps. What tasks do you need to tackle next?
It takes years of time to work through all the issues and complications created from severe trauma and dissociative splitting, and while that length of time may feel discouraging in the beginning, let me assure you that progress truly is possible. You really can heal from your hurt and traumas and lead productive happy, healthy lives.
Therapy is somewhat like the progression through years of school. Therapy work builds upon itself through time to involve a lot of additional steps – the basics needing to be accomplished and mastered first. If the basics are neglected or not learned well, then therapy will get stuck — and if someone goes to school and gets stuck in the fifth grade for three years, they are going to feel very frustrated, especially if the goal is to graduate from high school.
So what keeps a person stuck and unable to progress further in their healing? What blocks their therapy from moving forward?
Sometimes people get comfortable addressing only the surface layers of their trauma. Sometimes they get too afraid to address the deeper layers of their system. Therapeutic resistance can be normal for various periods of time. But will avoiding those areas of your healing bring you the peace of mind that you want?
What if you have been in therapy for years already and are still struggling desperately? Blocks and stalemates in the therapy process usually lead to increased depression, ongoing anxiety, more self-injury, not to mention the added frustration and wasted time and resources. While it is important to tackle the healing process at your own pace, it is also good to make significant treatment gains at every step of the way.
What is missing in your therapy process?
What is interfering with your therapy process?
Where are you resistant to change?
Here are some of the common reasons that people get stuck in their healing process:
- A fear of seeing the abuse – wanting to keep those dissociative walls in place
- A lack of resources, and financial constraints to being able to get sufficient help
- A refusal to accept that loving family members were also abusive monsters
- An adamant refusal to look at who the abusers were
- Anger – wanting a “safe target” to fight with instead of a therapist for assistance and guidance
- Being too busy testing everyone over and over instead of getting to the actual therapy work
- Clinging to denial, clinging to denial, clinging to denial
- Comfort Clingers – wanting to stay hurting, even on purpose, to get comforting responses from other people
- Creating distractions from therapy work
- Current-day abusers actively sabotaging the progress you are making in therapy
- Current-day control by external abusers reinforcing the fear of telling
- External life issues become too overwhelming, ie: kids, school, work, finances,
- Fatigue, frustration, and just being tired of trauma issues being the center of your life
- Fear of learning more, of future consequences, of any number of things.
- Fear of other loved ones being hurt or abused if certain secrets are exposed
- Finger-pointing blame at others instead of being self-responsible for movement and changes
- Genuinely incompetent therapy or working with an uninformed therapist
- Interference of addictions – any form of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sex addition, etc
- Internal programming is running interference and not being removed or addressed
- Laziness – thinking that healing happens magically without having to put in the hard work required
- Not really and truly wanting to do the therapy work – simply going through the motions instead
- Outgrowing the therapeutic knowledge and assistance that your current therapist can offer
- Putting more effort into helping / rescuing others than addressing personal issues
- Refusal to speak with the others in your system
- Refusing to acknowledge, admit, or address your own negative behavior
- Sabotage – of self, of relationships, of therapy
- Self-injury, self-destructive behaviors, suicidal behavior
- The front host refusing to speak with the inside system
- The Ostrich Syndrome — denial or blindness to seeing the reality of the problem
- Threats of ongoing abuse if certain secrets are exposed
What is blocking your therapy and healing?
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 17, 2009
This blog is a continuation of the initial article posted on December 31, 2008, “25 Ways to Avoid Self-Injury and Prevent Self-Harm.”
If you are feeling pressured to get past the “heat of the moment” and you need some ideas of how to do this safely, try using a handful of the following ideas. These ideas will not help solve your self-injury issue on a long-term basis, but they could help you to get through the actual moments when you are feeling at the highest risk. Safe distractions that also provide some element of emotional expression are a good balance.
- Find a brick wall (or any kind of strong wall with no windows), and kick a soccer ball against the wall. Consciously put the anger you are feeling into the ball as you kick it. The cracking sound of the ball smacking the wall can be satisfying as well. The louder the better!
- Use handfuls of ice, ice packs, or cool cloths to soothe and calm yourself. Some people may find warm cloths or heated warm towels more comforting. Changing a physical sensation in your body and concentrating on that may help to calm your frayed nerves.
- Put your anger into something useful — be more assertive with utility companies that aren’t doing their job, or tackle other external household issue that need a more aggressive approach. I’m not necessarily promoting being rude to someone who doesn’t deserve it, but you might be able to constructively resolve an existing problem with your added energy and intensity.
- Color or draw. Small, repetitive movements are soothing and calming, and you might learn something from your picture. The others inside might tell what they are upset about through the drawing that is made.
- Dance out your feelings. Use strong energetic body movements to release the adrenaline and to wear yourself out. Pick music that fits your mood. Sing along if you can – the voice release is good too.
- Write a long letter to your abuser(s). At this point, write these letters with plans to NOT send them. The point is not to set up a confrontation. Let your focus be on expressing your feelings about what they did to you. Write the things that you might never have the courage to actually say to them in real life. When you are finished, you can read the letters out loud repeatedly. Use intensity in your voice. Let yourself say the words with emotional honesty and genuine expression.
- Get obsessed with some safe activity — for example, do in-depth research on a particular subject on the internet, pull every weed from your yard, wash every dish in your cupboards, pace 10,000 steps, etc.
- Count those annoying little doodads on the ceiling, and when you lose count - which you will – start over.
- Do puzzles (the harder the better). There are lots of free online jigsaw puzzle sites if you do not have any actual puzzles in your home.
- Practice relaxation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises. Take long, slow, deep breaths. Inhale deeply and slowly, hold for a few counts, then release your breath slowly. Do this until you can feel yourself calm down.
- Play video games, and take your aggression out on beating the game, or smashing and bashing the other “enemy” characters in the games. Time away “in another world” can help release the pressure you are feeling right now in your world.
- Clean out your fridge or freezer, scrub it, making it clean and organized. This same idea can be applied to closets, or drawers, or bookshelves, etc. Getting involved with a complicated household task will give you another focus, a place to put your energy, and a positive sense of accomplishment when you are finished.
- Alphabetize your books, CD’s, Videos, DVDs, etc.
- Hammer nails into a piece of lumber or old tree stumps until you are exhausted. Watch your fingers – the idea is to NOT do any self-injury! The physical movement will be helpful, the noise will be satisfying, and if you speak about your anger and upset while you are banging away, you will be expressing your feelings at the same time.
- Wash your vehicle, your outside windows, your driveway, your floors, etc. The physical movement helps, and the accomplished feeling of being clean afterwards can help lift your mood.
- Go sit in the waiting room of a hospital, and read a book or magazines, and sip on coffee. You do not have to talk to doctors or any of the hospital staff – people will assume you are there waiting for someone who has an appointment. Just being in a calm, safe place can help.
- Take the time to groom your pets and give them treats. Try teaching your dog a new trick.
- Do something for yourself that makes you feel pretty, such as brushing your hair, doing your nails, getting your hair cut, coloring your hair, wearing perfume, etc. When you feel lousy, try doing the OPPOSITE of that by doing something that helps you feel pretty.
- Make something creative. You might have to pre-plan this, or have some options available just around the house. Finish a paint-by-number picture, work on needlepoint or sewing projects, try beading, learn how to make your own jewelry, etc. Getting creative will help distract you and put you in a better frame of mind.
- Do a collage. It is amazing what comes out in pictures, and you might not have realized what was going on in the background. The collage might explain it to you.
- Do acronym writing exercises. These might help you uncover why you are feeling so terrible while expressing some of the pain. Expression often eases the pain.
- Hold a frozen orange. Feel the coldness. Look closely at the frost on it. Hold the frozen orange where you wish to SI. Scratch the orange, smell the aroma. Look at bright orange color. Count the little dots in the orange peel. As you feel better, allow yourself to eat the orange and throw the peelings away.
- Throw water balloons at a fence, a wall, or a tree and watch them explode. As you throw each water balloon, make a comment about something you are upset about. Use your body and your voice to express your feelings.
- Build a model car or airplane or create something that takes a lot of detailed mental focus.
- Go to the library or book stores where it’s fairly quiet, but people are around. Make a list of 100 books you would like to read at some point in time. Or pick five books from each aisle that you would be willing to read. You can browse for hours, and no one would think anything of it. The same kind of book browsing could happen at online book sites as well.
Stay busy – do things over and over from these lists until you feel safe enough to manage your self-injury impulses. Sometimes just getting past the peak time will be enough to keep you safe.
The more you work on emotional expression in an ongoing way without allowing it to build up to a critical numbing point, the better. One of the biggest keys to resolving self-injury issues is to increase your emotional endurance. The more you can sit with your feelings, the less you will have to hurt yourself to numb them away.
Kathy Broady LCSW