You’re continuously surrounded by stimuli and so you might find yourself going along and distracting yourself from how you feel, from how you actually are. Some of these distractions are more socially acceptable than others, for example overworking or extensive use of social media are far more acceptable in this society than substance abuse. The nature of the underlying dynamic is similar if not quite the same. Ultimately, it’s never about the thing you choose as the distraction but the need to escape. And, of course, you do need to escape every now and then, but doing just that for the sake of it feels as if something needs to be challenged.
What becomes difficult is that even though your attention is occupied by, for example, reading a social media thread and ignoring your partner next to you, you don’t stop feeling. What needs to be said is that this dynamic doesn’t discriminate either so feelings that are part of living, be it loneliness, anger, anxiety, fear, boredom or even joy get pushed down. Your ability to experience and express feelings weakens and so what connects you to others as a feeling being fades.
Looking at this phenomenon from a compassionate stance is crucially important. First, notice that we all do this. Let this bind us for the time being until we figure out how to find our feeling space again, until we learn how to be with whatever is going on for us, instead of chasing the illusion that distraction will lead to moving on.
Working on myself and supporting clients, it has become clear that the more I attempt to experience fully whatever I’m feeling, the sooner it’ll go away. Something shifts on a feeling level and when I manage to gather enough courage to meet it, be it disappointment or rejection, face to face there’s a sense of relief, a sense of completion that then carries me forward.
Learning to be with the pains of living and finding your feeling space is no easy task and we need to empathically support one another to do that. Paradoxically though, staying with whatever you’re experiencing has the most potent ability to transform your relationships with others and restore a sense of connection to yourself. Distractions around you will not lessen, so learning the skills and resilience to stay with your experience is needed more than ever before, so is a dose of kindness to the part of you that yearns to escape.
Counselling can give you the space to do just that, to strengthen your resilience and skills to stay with whatever is going on for you as long as you need to, so you can have a sense of completion, build relationships that feel more alive and reconnect with yourself.
As published on Counselling Directory.
Practical ways to support one another
(as published on welldoing.org)
This brief article is aimed to support you if you were to self-injure or if someone close to you has just disclosed that they self-injure and you’d like to know how to best respond. Self-injury can take many forms; there’s a misconception that it is only cutting or scratching oneself. People develop different ways to hurt themselves.
There are numerous ideas on the function of self-injury. Some people talk about the need to replace emotional pain with physical pain. Some people may self-injure in an attempt to feel more, at a time that they feel numb. Others discover that their self-injuring releases anger that they’re unable to share with others. One thing every person I work with feels strongly about though, is that their self-injuring is part of their way of coping. Giving yourself or your loved one a no-self-injury ultimatum is never helpful, in fact it can do more harm.
When supporting people who self-injure that initial reaction of acceptance is crucial, and the same goes for you if you were to be that person, that self-acceptance is key. As you’re listening to them disclosing this, remember that they trusted you with that information and keeping that trust is something you need to attend to. You may find yourself feeling unsettled as you’re listening to the various ways self-injury takes place but remember that we all hurt ourselves at times, even if not in external, visible ways. We do injure ourselves emotionally; harsh self-criticism is a good example of that. Try not to think differently of the person now that you know this about them and remember, we’re all in this together. As you’re having that intimate dialogue you may understand something more about yourself too.
It is pivotal that once you’ve listened to that person, you gently ask more about how they’re looking after themselves after moments of self-injury. Do this to get a sense of how they’re managing it all. Often there may be a sense of shame for the individual, so hear them out and sit with them a bit with whatever is going on for them now that they shared this with you.
If you did all that, you’ve already done so much for them. Make sure that you’re looking after yourself too. Supporting a loved one who self-injures isn’t easy and you may want to encourage them to seek professional support. Initially you may be the only one who knows this about them, but it doesn’t have to be this way. To fight the stigma and lack of awareness there are places you can go to for support, and you can pass these on to that person. The more support the better, given that it is the right kind of support.
On a finishing note, even as you’re reading this you may feel overwhelmed and lonely. It makes sense that you do; it is hard to deal with as there’s so much stigma around. Hear me out though when I say, there are people out there who understand that struggle and ready to support you in whatever ways they can.
As published on welldoing.org - https://welldoing.org/article/self-injury-awareness-day-practical-ways-support-one-another