Everything is getting cold
A Remarkably Foolish Guide to Self Harm. Bring the pain!
Oh how I love these long, dark nights.
These are the shadowy days. So many of us have shadowy aspects of ourselves that we never acknowledge. Things that we consider uncomfortable, unpleasant, shameful AND TRUE about ourselves we tend to keep in the shadows.
In my line of work I see people who are stuck in, married to, derive meaning from and in some way, pleasure from their pain. Ever meet someone in a bad / terrible / dysfunctional / abusive relationship? I spend a lot of time with people stuck like this. This isn’t only at work. I see this everyday at the hockey rink, horse barn and at surf breaks.
People keep themselves in pain because they’re afraid of their shadow. People keep themselves in pain because on the level of their nervous system, that’s what they know. It’s what they’re used to.
I get this. At this time of year, this time of shadows, the water in the ocean is a lot more cold. Frequently at the end of a surf session I find that my fingers and toes don’t have any feeling at all.
The feeling comes back.
The feeling that returns?
Pain. Excruciating pain.
The same goes when people start therapy. Many have numbed themselves to the reality of their lives. When they start feeling again, the feeling they experience is pain.
Some, as their lives improve, are lost without a sense of pain. It’s almost like they’re doing things to hurt themselves because a sensation / state of being in either physical or emotional torment is normal for them.
Maybe, on a preverbal level, they like the pain somehow. Pain can be reassuring. Pain can give a person a sense of control, meaning and return them to their feelings.
Myself? I love the pain of feeling returning to my post surf digits. My fingers and toes burn. I get overwhelmed by endorphins. I cry out. I feel alive. I find an odd comfort in the pain.
People hurt themselves in many ways. Sometimes this is done with awareness. Much of the time it is not. The key if you’re the kind of person who harms yourself is to find a way to minimize the damage.
If you cut yourself, try putting your hands in the freezer between a bag of frozen pees and frozen mango. Keep them there until it hurts. Beware of frostbite. No freezer? If you live in a cold place, try putting your hands in a frigid lake, ocean or river. Hurt yourself slowly, on purpose.
Notice the sensations you experience. Notice what happens. Notice your breath. Notice the story you tell yourself. Most of all, pay attention to the fact that you’re in control of your actions here. You can control your sensations and experience of the world.
Once you’ve done this, how else can you control things?
Finally, there are LOADS of us who are less dramatic. We repeat patterns over and over again that hurt us. A lot of assumptions and automatic behaviours get us here.
Instead of stopping, or trying to stop, next time you find yourself in a self destructive behavioural loop, announce the next stupid thing that you’re going to do. You’ve done it before. You know how this bullshit story goes. Do it again. With awareness
And this time?
Pay more attention to how much it hurts.