ways of coping. Self-injurers often find that the agency service personnel and staff
need more information about self-injury.
If you are a parent or a spouse of a self-abuser who also seems to be over-
emotional, impulsive, unreasonable, provocative, and/or uncontrollable and is driving
you crazy, she or he may have a Borderline personality. If so, get the book, Stop
Walking on Eggshells by Mason, Kreger, & Siever (1998). It may help you
understand your loved one and be less upset by his/her roller coaster behavior. You
need to take care of yourself and not get sucked into the loved ones turmoil.
How do people stop hurting themselves?
I must emphasize again that self-injury is both psychologically difficult to
understand and dangerous to ones health. Therefore, an important and wise first
move is to get professional help. I will mention self-help techniques but please seek
therapy with an experienced, well trained practitioner.
WARNING: the following self-help methods, while intended to be helpful,
may be described in some details that could trigger a self-injuring response.
If you are in a mood to self-harm or if you are responsive to triggers, please
do not read this section. If you are unsure of your self-control, please
discuss how to reduce self-injury with your therapist soon.
The 2002 British study says the general answer about how people stop self-
harming behavior is they start feeling better about themselves. How do they achieve
that? They get their life in order
somewhat. If they are completely down, they find
a place to live, a way to get food, a place to take care of their kids--real basic stuff
(the threat of losing their children is a major stress
and motivator). They work
through some of their intense feelings from the past and become more able to
communicate with others, both to express things they dont like and to relate more
positively. Generally, among the very poor and disadvantaged in Britain, finding a
supportive environment (living conditions and helpful friends) was a crucial step
towards achieving an acceptable adjustment.
In their personal lives, some of the subjects in the British study who had reduced
or quit self-harming had made use of self-help methods, e.g., a few had switched
from hurting themselves to a somewhat controlled smashing of things, like breaking
glassware or hitting objects with a bat. Others had substituted using alcohol or drugs
to relax or distract themselves instead of self-injury. Another approach is to cause
pain in some less objectionable way, such as flipping your wrist with a strong rubber
band or holding your hand in ice water or maybe just holding an ice cube. A few
people can substitute an imagined injury for an actual injury, e.g. by just thinking
about cutting yourself or maybe marking with a red marker the place on your arm
where you might cut and where the blood would flow, if you did it.
Instead of bodily hurting themselves, some people can vent their anger with
physical exercise, e.g., do some real hard work, mow the lawn, lift heavy furniture,
squeeze a pillow hard, workout at a gym, and in some of these ways feel less need
to feel pain.
Breaking the chain of events early is possible (see chapter 11). Some had
learned to detect early a troublesome downward train of thought leading to self-