Self Harming

When I am treating someone who has, as part of their symptoms, self harming, I ask them if they were ever sexually abused.   The other symptoms maybe an indication of other kinds of abuse, but self harming is symptomatic of sexual abuse.  It is the way in which the person is able to release all of the pain that they feel inside.  It will release the pressure that is felt by holding on to the emotional, mental and sometimes physical pain that was felt while being sexual abuse.  Depending upon the age at which you were abuse,  the severity, length at which it lasted and the anguish you felt at the time, you may not remember the event(s).  You may have dissociated. So, a lot of the time the answer to the question “Were you ever sexually abuse or molested” is  “No”.   Not because they are lying, but because they do not remember, do not want to remember, their emotional brain is not ready to remember.  They will have to relive the horror.  So, the emotional brain that is stuck at whatever age the abuse began, is still in control, trying to protect you from the reality of what happened to you way back when.  Self harming is an adaptive skill learned to release the tension that will build within the person trying to emotionally run away from events in their lives they cannot or will not face.  It is also part of a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, which is also a result of being sexually abuse or molested.  Self harming is not only about cutting, it is about putting yourself in positions that are dangerous.  Men who have been molested are more likely to do these things to release the tension, but will cut also.  Dare devils.  Women will cut themselves to release the tension.

This is not easily dealt with, it is very carefully looked at, pealing layer after layer off until you get to the core.  Moving too fast will re-traumatize the person, sending them deeper into themselves.  Moving too slow will allow the person to remain stuck.  There is a lot of trial and error and a lot of drama and hysterics that come with the borderline personality.  At the end, if you are using trauma therapy along with dialectical behavior therapy, you can learn another way to be, one that will work in this society.  One that will allow you to be free of the internal tension that leads to self harming.  Free of the drama that seems to be your life, but again for another blog.  For people who have been molested, trust is not easily gained.  A good therapist will know this and know that this is a very long process that will allow the person to become comfortable with you before you can even begin to get to the core issue.  They will need to trust you with the information that you are about to hear. The information that they have been hiding for a long time, even from themselves.  This relaxation video will help to calm and to give away what you cannot control.   Click here for the video  Enjoy!


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I became a therapist in an attempt to understand my own childhood and what happened there and how it made me who I am, exhibiting the behaviors that were not always positive, very often self-destructive. I used Art Therapy to help me understand things in my past that were stopping me from making better decisions in my present day. I used Behavioral Science to help me understand underlying causal factors, roots to the present day behaviors that I was seeing in myself. Both help me to change those behaviors/thoughts that were causing me to make self-destructive decisions that were causing pain in life. I have been a therapist since 1985 and have an undergraduate degree Art and behavioral science (double major) from the University of Maine. My graduate work was done at Marywood university and I have a degree in Art Therapy. I have certificates in Forensic Interviewing and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior therapy. I have 22 out of 30 credits toward a degree in Trauma Therapy from Drexel University. I started out as a Community Support Worker, Program Manager/Clinical Supervisor, Family therapist and Outpatient therapist.

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