The following are some techniques I have gathered from members of the world-wide Self-Injury/Self-Harm support community. They are used by people who self-injure to help with the distressing emotions, sensations, or dissociation/depersonalization when it arises;
Sit quietly and breathe deeply and slowly in a quiet safe place. As you do, notice;
5 things you see
4 things you feel
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste
Repeat as necessary to distract from the urge to self-injure.
Locus of Focus
Like the 5 senses game, sit quietly and breathe deeply and slowly in a quiet safe place. As you do, notice your surroundings and focus on one thing at a time; what it looks like; what colour it is; what the texture is; etc. Try not to think about them in judgemental way, simply be present and observe the space around you.
For those who may find themselves feeling numb, dissociating, depersonalized; Try the Senses Game; Try clapping your hands, stamping your feet; Going for a walk in a safe place – do your best to reconnect to your surroundings.
Write it out. Take your thoughts or feelings and write them down in a journal – get them out of your head. You can swear, rage, cry, complain, or scream in your journal.
Make sure you keep it safe so no one else will read it unless you wish to share it. These are your thoughts and feelings – and your story is yours; who you choose to share it with is up to you.
Colour a picture, or if you’re not artistic, scribble using pencil crayons. It’s like journaling, but using colour instead of words.
The Butterfly Project
Using Sharpies, draw and colour a butterfly on the place you typically self-injure to remind you not to hurt the butterfly. A variation on this that may have more meaning is to have someone you love draw the butterfly for you.
Wrap a rubber band around the area you normally self-injure [such as your wrist] and when you have the urge to self-injure “snap” the rubber band to give yourself a sharp stinging feeling.
Use Pens, Not Tools
Using a Sharpie or other pen, draw the lines on your body where you would normally cut.
Some use red paint which gives the effect of seeing the “blood”.
Squeeze an ice cube as hard as you can to get an intense physical sensation.
The Layer Plan
Keep your tools in the bottom of a box or a drawer. On top of them, arrange “layers” of things that might help you avoid self-injuring; a note from your therapist; a note from someone who loves you; a note from yourself to yourself; exercises you can do; lists you could make; your Journal; pencil crayons and paper; Sharpies; rubber bands … anything that will distract you.
Be sure to work your way through the layers, using each thing inside the best you can before moving to the next. And if you find yourself down to the layer of your tools; Please, be safe.
I welcome any other suggestions in the comments below.
Previous articles in the Self-Injury series;
- In History & Nature
- Spectrum of Function
- Contributing Factors
- Treatment Options
Aaron D. McClelland, RPCc – www.interiorcounselling.com/aaron/