Self-injury is a problem all too common for trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD) or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
For that matter, self-injury (SI) is an issue for other populations of people as well. This discussion will focus more on the effects of trauma and abuse and how self-injury can be addressed effectively. However, because self-injury is actually a very complicated topic, this particular blog article will reach only a few of those layers.
In my years of working as a trauma therapist, I have noticed that many DID survivors self-injure when they are in emotional pain. They are hurting, their heart feels broken, they feel betrayed or abandoned, or they feel incredibly sad (but can’t cry). Turning to various forms of self-injury and self-harm sometimes helps to temporarily relieve their emotional pain.
Trauma survivors also self-injure when they believe they need to be punished, or when they are extremely anxious, or when they are feeling strong compulsions or hearing internal instructions, etc.
One of the reasons self-injury works is because the brain cannot distinguish between a self-caused physical injury and any other type of physical injury and upon recognizing a body injury, the brain releases all the necessarily chemicals and hormones. Dopamine, serotonin, and neural structures are significant in this process. I’ll refer all the complicated medical explanations to others more qualified, but the point being is that the act of self-harm creates a reaction in the brain that allows the hurting person to feel a little more calm and numb.
In other words, when self-injuring, survivors are trying to feel better. They know they are in emotional distress, they recognize the emotional pain, and they know they are hurting. And they want to feel better, or at least to feel differently.
Self-injury can be a quick fix for these intense feelings. In that sense, self-injury is not a lot different from having a few shots of whiskey, or a shot of heroine, or a plateful of doughnuts, or a pound of chocolate. Many addictive behaviors are centered around finding a way to feel better when hurting.
Typically speaking, this has been a life-long issue. From even their youngest days, most dissociative trauma survivors were neglected or ignored when they were hurting. They were not comforted, and their pain was not acknowledged. Even as very young children, they were left alone with their pain and injuries. All too often, they were not properly tended to, they were not cared for, they were not hugged, they were not given medical aid. They were hurt – physically and emotionally – and they were left on their own to manage.
In my opinion, this lack of comfort and the years of neglect are some of the biggest crimes committed against young children. Neglect is as significant in causing harmful life-long effects as any direct trauma.
So, when working with trauma survivors who experienced significant pain and next-to-no comfort, a critical and crucial part of their healing process is to teach how to accept and create healthy and positive comfort.
Children who are injured in healthier environments are very much comforted by their mothers or fathers or other caregivers. Their hurts are recognized and acknowledged appropriately. These children are given hugs and gentle affectionate kisses. They get band-aids — sometimes they get the fancy special band-aids with Snoopy or Spiderman or pretty flowers on them! They are checked on repeatedly, they are allowed to sit close to their caregiver, they are given other little treats (such as stickers, or the chance to watch their favorite cartoon), etc. These injured children learn that positive forms of comfort can help them feel better.
Since traumatized dissociative survivors were typically not taught these ways of receiving comfort, this becomes an important treatment goal in their healing process. They need to know their wounds can be tended, that their hurts matter, that someone hears them, and that they can be treated gently during times of pain.
Tending to the hurts and the wounds often has to be modeled to dissociative trauma survivors. In many situations, this will be completely new experience for them, and the process of having their hurts be important, can be a profound experience.
As trauma survivors start to experience genuine comfort and caring from others (this may start first in the therapeutic office setting), these survivors will eventually learn to copy these same kinds of behaviors and apply them towards themselves and their other insiders.
Emotional pain is no different, and in some ways, addressing and comforting emotional hurts is even more important.
Teaching trauma survivors to sit with their emotions and to increase their ability to endure intense emotions is an essential part of the healing process. In early stages of therapy, most DID survivors can barely touch their feelings. In the later stages of the healing process, DID survivors can sit with their feelings, no matter how intense they feel them, and not turn to anything destructive or harmful.
In order to sit with those feelings, survivors need to learn what to do during those moments. They need to know and understand that they matter and that bringing more harm and pain to their selves and their bodies is not the answer. Learning how to comfort themselves – how to self-soothe, instead of self-injure – is a significant process in their healing.
Self-soothing means that the person is doing something that brings comfort in a helpful, positive way. Feeling better can become about comfort instead of numbing. Survivors can learn that they are worth being comforted, instead of being feeling unvalued and ignored.
Each time trauma survivors are comforted in their pain, instead of ignored or injured more because of their pain, they are experiencing a corrective emotional experience. Correcting the neglect by experiencing proper comfort, including self-soothing comforts, is incredibly significant in the healing process.
Comfort actually works much better than numbing, especially in the long run. Comfort allows for pain to heal. Numbing (or self-injury) means that the pain is just postponed until it comes back again.
Ways to Self-Soothe Include…
Self-soothing is unique to each person, just as any other preference is unique to each person. There are dozens and dozens of healthy options — explore a variety of different options to see what works best for you. Some ideas to try include:
- Listening to music that matches your mood – if you are feeling sad, listen to music that will help you express that sadness.
- Sing to yourself (even if this means making up your own songs, or singing sounds), or play musical instruments as a way of expressing your feelings.
- Wrap yourself up in your favorite comfy clothes or in a warm blanket and snuggle up somewhere safe, quiet, and protected.
- Hold or hug a pet, a stuffie, or a pillow.
- Sit close to someone safe. Lean against their shoulder, or find some way to have physical contact that is in no way sexualized or dangerous.
- Sip on your favorite tea, or any other gentle beverage, and treat yourself to a few simple snacks that are not heavy, but are tasty and nutritious.
- Rock in a rocking chair, or sit in a swing, and let the movement relax and calm you.
- Walk slowly or sit quietly in areas of nature that are beautiful and inspirational.
- Make your room, or your home feel particularly cozy – have nice smelling candles, or soft lighting, or bring out your favorite treasures to look at, sit by a calming fireplace (not for injury purposes! But yes, sitting by a warm fireplace can be very beautiful and calming). If you need to clean up an area first, that is okay, because it is important to be in an area that you can feel calm and quieted.
- Take a warm shower or a warm bath, using very nice smelling soaps and body washes. Dry off with your favorite most soft towels. The more you can make this a “spa-like” experience, the better.
- Bring in fresh flowers, or fresh greenery, or pretty leaves. Looking at something beautiful from nature, even while you are indoors, can be calming and soothing.
- Allow yourself to cry, uninterrupted, when the feelings come. Crying really is allowed, it really is okay, and it is a natural expression for pain. Use soft tissues, and don’t punish yourself for having real human emotions. Give yourself permission to feel, permission to heal, and permission to respond naturally to your pain. The more you can express your emotions in natural ways, the healthier you are.
Trauma survivors — you really can help yourself to feel better without bringing more pain and injury to yourself.
The key is to surround yourself with lots of nice, positive moments that help you feel better through the course of the day. Practice self-soothing every single day, especially on painful days. It will get easier, even when if it doesn’t feel easy or natural to you at first. You can learn this, and when you do, it will make a huge difference in your life.
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2022 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
OMGosh … “rediscovering” this article at this moment in time in my life is so meaningful and spot-on what I need. The fact that it has bubbled up here because of the postings of a dear Forum friend is magical. Then I read what I wrote almost 4 years ago and that is exactly what I am struggling with right now. Rereading wrote I wrote back then is mind-blowing. Rereading the response from one of my old DD blog friends just touched me deeply. I know that you are not active here anymore KenKen but I want to send out the energy through the Universe to say that I miss you and that I think of you often.
So, here I am, still dealing with the same struggle to love myself and not do self-harm. I have to say that the darkness does not feel as deep and overwhelming as it did 4 years ago so I guess that that is progress. I will cling on to that thought. But, I still struggle with the uncontrolled urges to hurt myself with food and alcohol and a life dissociated from my body. ARGH!
The coach that I worked with My/Selves+Me is a Somatic Coach — well, she calls herself that more elaborate title but that is really the short form for what she does. I stopped working with her about a year and a half ago. She wants me to come back but I just did not feel comfortable there any more. Too in my face too soon I am thinking. My T encourages me to go into my body and describe what I am feeling and where. Dang I hate that but know that it is healthy for me to do so.
When pain and neglect were your reality as a child it is hard not to decide not to live in your body. Actually, my body in crisis was the one thing that got me some attention. It was also the source of a lot of pain, hospitalizations, terror and abandonment. It is also when my first insiders appeared. It is odd how pain was associated with attention. I grew up thinking that I had to prove that I could endure enormous pain to win some attention. It was a weird thought pattern that was set up that I am not worthy of attention, comfort and safety (going home) unless I can prove that I can endure pain. Being s*xually abused while far away from home shortly thereafter, just reinforced the scenario.
So, I am an adult now and understand all of this yet I still cannot stop my compulsive behaviours to punish myself for redemption and safety. It is all an illusion though. I try to self-sooth. I have a safe place for my insiders to go. I try to sooth them, hold them, offer them things to help them but … then a darkness descends and I become aware that I have just done something with food and alcohol to hurt myself.
But … I still keep trying … I still have hope … I still dream of experiencing the wholeness of self that includes my heart, mind, should … and body!
we struggle with self-harm urges frequently but have, over time, developed ways of coping for the most part. We write in our journal multiple (lol) times a day, we listen to rage music when we need to, but most of all we self-soothe with our beloved Duffy bear.
We talk to ourselves while holding Duffy, he helps to comfort us and keep us safe and in the present mostly. Sometimes all we are capable of doing is repeating, over and over, “we’re safe. we’re safe.”
it can be far more challenging with some of us, especially the ones still very stuck in their time of trauma. The desire to hurt ourselves can be overwhelming and we’ve found ourselves deliberately scalding ourselves in the shower, for example.
Fortunately we haven’t cut in a very long time but recently we have come very very close to doing so. Our protector has kept us safe several times, once actually yelling, “NO!!!”, which made us drop the knife we were holding.
sometimes we feel like we deserve to feel pain, other times we want to cut to release pain, but we have sort of set up roadblocks against doing so. One thing we do is tell ourselves that ok, we CAN cut, but not right now, maybe tomorrow. We have also learned substitute behavior, such as digging our fingernails into our palms or thighs or, when enraged, stomping on a cardboard box or hitting the pillow, anything to get some of the feelings out.
We can actually get quite angry at ourselves for NOT self-harming, which is downright weird. Simone, in particular, gets quite upset when we stop her from cutting or taking us to the river.
Dennis is even more dangerous because he can take total control over us. Fortunately he hasn’t actually done anything yet. He is really new so presents quite a challenge. He recently had a pretty grim plan for our self destruction. He has been the focus of our most recent therapy sessions because he poses a genuine threat to our safety.
I have been doing some searching around the DD website for information to help me through this darkness that I seem to be stuck in (okay … for about 10 months now … argh!). Anyway, as you all know, there is a TON of information on the DD website. Just when I “think” that I have read everything … BING … I (re)discover something new. I thought that this blog posting might be a helpful one for others to (re)discover as well (great thoughts on why we self-harm and techniques for self-soothing).
Anyway, self-harm has been a BIG issue for me the past year. I had lost a whole bunch of weight in the two years up to last summer, had stopped drinking and was doing good things for my body. I was really starting to feel “normal” and good about myself and my body. Then … BAM … I ran headfirst into the wall of darkness and have crashed and burned ever since. I have slid so far back I have doubted my whole healing process (i.e., am I EVER going to heal and get off of this treadmill of self-destruction, hatred and shame or am I just too damaged and worthless to ever get there). I have felt depressed and hopeless in the process but … there is always that little light that keeps me going. Shit I wish that that little light would grow and get me out of this dark abyss.
Yet … I keep trying. So, not to be a total downer here (just acknowledging my truth), I am also working really hard to try and learn the lessons of life lived whole, healthy and loved – lessons that I was never taught. That starts with me learning to love myself so that I will want to be whole and healthy.
So, along with my T, I work with a Body Awareness Guide and Embodiment Coach. Okay, a really strange title for someone who works to help me get in touch with my body and to live in my body. One of the things that she has been teaching me is self-soothing. She encouraged me to go into a quiet place and then to think about what part(s) of my body could be soothed and what actions that would take. For me it was crossing my arms/hands over my heart – that felt especially soothing and protective to me. That was something that I could do in the outside world to sooth myself if I felt myself getting triggered. I also short-formed it a bit for more awkward situations to rubbing my one ear (not sure why that was soothing). I also liked holding a pillow so she helped me implant that sensation as a pleasant body memory that I could access in my outside life (without actually having to hug a pillow). The idea was to hug a pillow as much as I wanted at home to get the feeling firmly planted in my brain so that I could close my eyes and visualize it later without a pillow. Has taken practice but I am getting the hang of it.
Sure would welcome knowing how others cope with self-harm and self-soothing.
KenKen to ME+WE says
IDK about anyone else, but we know you’ve been going through some real dark times and we’ve been struggling to hold on, too.
Some of the things we have done to combat the darkness is:
1. We recognize the calendar. Meaning we know, deep within us, what times of year brings the worst of darkness. We recognize it so we can try to tell ourselves it will last this long or for that much time, it will not last forever. When the anniversary dates get over with we know there is going to be some fallout and some relief.
2. We write here. At the writing place. Sometimes we write a lot about our stories. We think everyone has negative thoughts about us doing that. But, it helps so much. We think maybe our fears of what other (outside people) think of us is paranoia and not really real. So we battle that out, and write. We found writing is better than cutting. And we can sit in our pain and not act it out or act on it.
3. We play video games. Our newest found fun one is Everwing. For us, it is not soothing or relaxing. It’s a timed game full of all sorts of things that has our heart speed up. It’s fun. And distracting. And fun. We have another one that isn’t timed that we play to pass time and give us something to do while we sit and battle out the SI urges.
4. We make lists. We make lists about everything. But there is one we do over and over and over. Takes up a couple hours every day. Calms some fears and uses up some time.
5. Watching tv or listening to music. We can do these things, but we can only tolerate outside noise when the darkness is on it’s way out. Helps though when we can.
6. Going outside. Pfft. Next.
7. Sleep. When we are at our lowest and need to escape any way we can, we try to sleep as much as possible. Without drugs. Sometimes we take otc sleep meds.
8. We try to be nice to each other and ourselves, but mostly we try to not do more damage. Meaning we will do anything we can to not cut, burn, od, etc. We are working very hard on not drinking ourselves to sleep and I have to say we are doing very well with that struggle.
9. In the darkest of the darkness we recently went through we read here and wrote here and tried to help others and got so much support and love from all of everybody that reads and writes here. That has been our saving grace in the past 7-8 months.
ME+WE, I know it doesn’t feel like the darkness will ever leave but it will. I’m sorry to say it will probably come back again, but then it will leave again. In the meantime hold on. Even if you do nothing at all it is better than acting on those SI impulses. Harder done than said. True. Believe there are others out in the world that can see you, we see you, we understand yous. And we care about all of you very very much. We love yous Miss ME and all your WEs ❤️🐱🐾🐾🐿️🐻❤️
(I think that the nickname that T.Clark came up with is perfect for you ☺)
Thank you for your words of encouragement and all of your great ideas. Always helpful to hear what other folks do to keep from hurting themselves. I especially like the calendar part. I have ignored doing this in the past (i.e., trying to figure out triggering times – although I have been aware of some). Hiding from them does not make them go away. I need to stop running and turn around and face my stuff. Some times I feel like a total wimp. I have to keep telling myself that it was sheer will, strength and resilience that got me this far and I can keep going.
BTW – I do not think that anyone has “negative thoughts” about you telling your truth here. Quite the opposite is true actually. You have been a courageous and inspiring leader here in speaking from your heart and telling it like it is. That is a vital step in healing and you have been a great role model here in telling your truth.
I’m so glad I found this blog article. My family doctor used to make me look in the mirror he had hanging on the little exam room door, and he would try to get me to say that “I love the person in the mirror…” only he wanted me to say “I love you to myself.” That didn’t work so well.
On self-soothing… several years ago I did not have any inside communication (or very little, can’t really remember).. but I used to do the hand sign for “I love you.” And put it near my heart. And eventually I started using that sign language sign for telling my insiders that I love them.
That went on for a couple of years, although still very little communication. Now when I do the sign for I love you near my heart, I mean it.—- For those inside I mean it, I REALLY mean it. But I still have a hard time with the one about loving myself. *sigh*
I wish I knew more about “Body Awareness Guide” and “Embodiment Coach?”
The sign language sign still is very important to me and my “inside team”… and I can do it very inconspicuously…. …
Thank you for the idea to “hug a pillow as much” as you wanted at home to get the feeling firmly planted in your brain so that you could “close” your eyes and visualize later without a pillow
Wow… thanks… that is such a good idea!! Because I/we still have trouble visualizing things inside.
Distressed A says
This has been an eye opener. Thank you.
That picsher be true. If you get ignord or even feel ignord it do feel like you got hurt for real like like geting puncht in the stomake.
When you be so loneley it feel like it sqweeze you hart and twist it and make it ake. When you be allone when you hurt so big it feel like you get puncht in the stomake.
Somtims if you cut then it make the ake in you hart go away for a little bit.it dont work for real to make things beter. But it do feel beter than being allone all the time
. It do feel beter then geting you felings hurt. It do feel beter than being so scard and you allways be allone or if you need talk about what hurts but you dont get a chants. It do feel beter then woryng that sombudy be mad at you,
But it still be dumb to hurt you self. But somtims you just need to do it to feel beter so it be beter then nuthing.
Thank you so much rachel
We are so sorry for your pain
Your understand pain
We are trying to understand
Pain and other things.
Just call me Tina says
Reblogged this on Broken Cisterns Hold No Water and commented:
sigh . . . this is like a foreign language to me. I sort of understand it, from a distance, but I can’t speak it.
fantastic post — good to repost regularly
I rarely self-injure anymore but recently did and so the suggestion to self-soothe daily resonates with me. And there are new-to-me calming activities like carving soap… Thank you for truly understanding this complex issue; sharing and reblogging. It’s really affirming of our realities.
Kathy Broady says
Welcome to Discussing Dissociation, and thank you for your comment. Carving soap is a great idea! I can see the benefits if just pulling through the soap over and over, as a substitute for other feelings … And soap is a relatively economical item to use. Do you make creative sculptures with the soap? Using soap is a really interesting medium. It could be a therapeutic option, (thinking outloud here). I’m wondering if the soap could be preserved, and it could be important to pay attention to the differences in the carvings. Some might be more frenetic, while others could become more creative. I wonder if the change in carvings could indicate a difference in feelings, or a progression in healing…
Just some thoughts. Really cool idea. Thanks for sharing!
Morticia Addams says
Reblogged this on theperksofawriter.
Reblogged this on Tales of an Urban Priestess and commented:
some thoughts on self-soothing insead of self-injury, very readable if you have to deal with this.
Ein wundervoller, englischer Beitrag über das Thema Selbestverletztendes Verhalten (SVV) und wie man in Momenten extremer innerer Anspannung versuchen kann sich selbst wieder zu beruhigen. Ich weiß, dass es auch viele gute deutsche Artikel zu dem Thema gibt, doch dieser hier geht auch ein wenig auf die möglichen Hintergründe des Themas ein.
Kathy Broady says
Reblogged this on Discussing Dissociation and commented:
On those really tough days, remember that it’s much better to do self-soothing than self-injuring. You’ve been hurt too much already. Give yourself the permission to feel better through gentle, comforting, soft experiences. Leave the violence alone. Decide to be kind to yourself and your insiders instead. How? Keep reading the article below for lots of helpful ideas.
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Thank you to Kathy.
So much to absorb.
We are trying.
I do not understand how on earth to soothe parts/insiders. I have no imagination what-so-ever so imagery seems obsolete. I try communicating but am still at a standstill. Only the therapist seems to be able to speak with them or I dream stuff. So very lost with all this after years of therapy, reading, etc.
This is what my T has suggested I do. Self-soothing. Sounds great.
I mean, how can I make myself be kind to a body and soul that I don`t believe deserves it?
I cannot bare to be touched. I shower compulsively to scrub away the filth I feel sticking to me 24/7.
Harsh physical feelings (like being too cold, being sick) can *sometimes* give me some sort of a reality check.
When I self injure though (and I do it A LOT). I never remember. It doesn`t feel like it was me who did it, but it must have been (or at least a part of me).
Kathy Broady says
Hi brokenbeyondrepair —
Thanks for reading this blog — I appreciate you and your comments.
Try scrubbing on the inside — in your internal world. There will be those in your inner worlds that still have yucky stuff on them. It’s part of the way DID folks “stop time” and until you can clean up the internal world, you may very well feel it very realistically on your outer body as well.
Also, when you are feeling that on your outer body, it may mean that those who are remembering the abuse and “filth” and nearby you. They will bring their old / internal feelings to the outside, so… when you know you are physically clean externally, look deeper inside for the root of the feeling.
AND…. in your therapy, work really hard on that whole belief about “not deserving” kindness. How can that be so? Why wouldn’t you deserve kindness? Because in my books, of course you deserve kindness. It may be a foreign concept to you, but yes, you deserve kindness. Absolutely you do.
Keep working through your trauma issues. CLearly you have been hurt very badly, (ouch, ouch, ouch) and it will take some time and lots of hard work to heal from that. But you can do it. You really are not broken beyond repair. Healing can happen for you too.
Thank you….it`s taken mesuch a long time to get back to you, sorry.
We`re working on some of those very ideas, right now which is painful, frightening and sometimes very hopeless.
(changed my username, now 🙂 hope you can check out our blog, sometime)
It be lots beter to cut insted of feel
We dont like to feel
Cut is good
You can do it allone
We startid in secin grade
It make are skin not hert so bad
Hi 🙂 It’s Brittany 🙂 We have lots of things to say so I said I can type because not everyone can spell the way that you can read 🙂 We done lots and lots of body hurts to the body because the body was not suposed to be happy or feel good or get nice words or eat or sleep. So then when we did they said that our body person was an attention seeker and that make her hate herself cause she did not know how to stop being a attention seeker 🙁 Then when out body person hated herself she said she had to get hurt so she learn never to be a attention seeker ever again but everytime that she did that she had to do it again and again and deeper and deeper 🙁 But then we gotted our safe person back cause our body person did not talk to him for a long long time but then she found him and she talks to him everyday now. He said that he does not like when she hurts the body because he loves all of us and he loves the body and he only want everyone and the body to feel safe and warm and no hurts and happy. But our body person did not like that at first cause she said we did not deserve it and that the body was yucky and dirty and needed to learn and she said the hurting made her feel safe and she liked the hurting because she was not ussed to the good no hurting stuff. Then he said that she would just have to learn to be used to the good safe no hurting stuff because he would not let her hurt the body no more and that he loved her and that was why. Then the body person learned that the body mom was wrong super super super super wrong. Because sleeping and being happy and crying and saying when you are sad or mad or asking for hug and watching tv with teddy and blankys and wanting safe snuggles is all GOOD things 😀 They are all good good good things and they are not lazy or bad or attention seeker stuffs. Now we not hurted the body in almost 1 year 🙂 Cause now the body person knows that she can call somebody when she hurting inside and all of us can call when we are scared or sad or hurting and then we can say why and then he says that he loves us and that we are safe and that teddy is here and that he gives us safe snuggles and huggles and that the bad people can not hurt us no more and that we are all good boys and girls but the scary people inside just need to learn how much better the safe love happy feelings are then be scared and hurt and hurt the body but when they say they want to hurt the body we tell on them and then they do not want to be loved yet cause they are scared so they stop and they dont hurt our body 🙂 There is lots of reasons to hurt the body you a right. Kristeen says it gets our badness out but we are still learning that there is no badness in our body so sometimes we want to get the badness out but he said there is no badness inside us. And then Ms. Tasha said that we do not got badness inside our body but that if we do not believe her then do not hurt the body to get it out we can cry and the scared hurting stuffs will go out inside of the tears from the body but that the scared hurting stuffs is not badness 🙂
Thank you for this one Ms. Kathy 🙂 It was really good and the body person gone inside to cry and get snuggles cause you said that
” Survivors can learn that they are worth being comforted, instead of being feeling unvalued and ignored. ”
and the body mommy always telled her to stop being lazy and whiny and sulking and being a crazy b word cause doing those things was stupid and nobody had the right to waste their time or anyone elses time with that b s word 🙁 So she gotted happy and feeld really comfort cause she said it like that 🙂
Thank you Ms. Kathy 🙂
One “self-soothe” form listed was “listen to music that matches your mood”. I’d like to know if what is true for others is true for me? I have to really be careful with that because some of my “moods” (aka alter swaps into their uncontrolled moods) become more elevated with matching music, books, and films… and then their actions toward the body esclate.
I didn’t tell my T everything – i rarely ever do because i need her – i need to know that she won’t leave or get rid of me if i stop being the image that i am… if that makes sense. Every time I start to form the words of the actual compulsions, i am stopped up short. It is dangerous to give her too much info. I might burst the bubble of “fixable, curable, potentially healthy and whole”. And i can’t risk losing her. Not now – after three years, she’s one of my people. one that I protect from the badness that is me. When i first started with her I thought “ok – this is the one we can just lay it all out on the line with. I told her I’m DID, I told her the risks of working with DID (like ‘you can’t walk out on them once you start…’) and if she really wanted to commit to me. I went in full force with the agenda of healing. But then i started caring for her and about her, and she cared about me and i can’t do it now. I’m not dangerous or something to be afraid of, but i …what if i disgust her with all of me – the shadow areas. i can’t go there. So i never told her how I relapsed this time while she was away. All i said was that i injured. There was more i should have said. but i couldn’t.
from what we have been reading aerobic exercise directly effects the chemicals in the brain and is possibly a better way to self sooth than any you mentioned.
Kathy Broady says
hi nubivagant –
Oh I agree – exercise is a great way to address emotional issues. For those that can exercise regularly, I think it does wonders in all kinds of ways. For those that have a harder time doing any exercise, maybe this can be a vote of encouragement to try a little harder at making that a regular part of the weekly routine. As the author John J.Ratey MD says, “Move your Mood”!
Good point, and thanks for the comment,
Kathy where can I email you please?
Kathy Broady says
Hi maddie —
Take out all the spaces, but here is my email in words:
Kathy at Abuse Consultants.com
Regarding fear of DD’ed people.
I agree, it’s ignorance. What’s frightening is how much ignorance there is in the professional community. However, research is being done and the hard evidence will show, and then they will have to change their tune.
I know when my friend went thru a psych program many years ago, they said almost nothing about DD’s.
My T works with an organization(ISSTD) that is working to educate therapists and is trying to get the word out there to helping professionals about dissociation. They have a website, listserve, education programs, they have annual conferences etc.
As far as DD’s being ‘scarey’. People get scared of what they do not understand. I have a DD and I often don’t truly understand it, how it can be?
I think one of the hallmarks of DD, is the sometimes sudden and inpredictable, unexplainable, extreeme changes that can happen with a switch. This is not necessarily scarey, but freaky perhaps. Its something people w/o DD don’t do generally.
I think ALL people have negative aspects within, not just DD people. they just don’t know that they are there is all.
For me, I guess what is freaky to me for eg, is I can be triggered into a part that is not remotely ‘dangerous’, but it can be extremely intimidating 🙁 I am glad I have this part, as it have saved my bacon more than once. But its freaky that its in me cuz I usually pretty mild mannered. And when it pops out, it usually pops allasudden, and its pretty intense, and thats a bit freaky too.
However, that being said. I bet if I told people I had a DD, they would all think, no way! I think if they thot on it awhile they might reconsider, but I am just considered a little eccentric.
I think ya, sadly, if I were to tell them all i had a DD, then their whole attitude would likely change, and there would be fear of me. At least on some peoples parts anyhow 🙁
Most T’s aren’t too terribly good w/SI 🙁
My T does ok’ish. She doesn’t ignore it, which I am glad of. She just patiently explains why it is wrong to hurt the body and stuff. She understands WHY, and we talk bout that. But she don’t avoid it. She don’t make me show either, so longs she know I doing good self care of the injury.
I think T’s should not be afraid of SI.
If you got a T thats afraid of it, then maybe you goto tell your T about why. That it frikken WORKS. Then T and client can work on fixing the feelings that make SI needed.
See, I don’t SI too much no more, and thats cuz I manage better. NOT cuz it was ignored, not cuz I not s’posed to. I just don’t need to do it so much anymore.
So much bout DD’s is not understood.
T’s goto be willing to seek supervision from a qualified T that actually knows what they doing.
Us clients, we goto explain stuff to T’s so they can know.
This is tuff stuff 4sure.
That is my thinking also… and my therapist has told me that other people have some of the same thoughts and feelings… I say to him, so what does it bother me so much and it doesn’t bother them??
Can’t remember his answer… I guess the reason is because they don’t have MPD/Did. Cause it sure does scare me… YIKES… sometimes I feel like a “nut”…
I saw some very scary movies… and maybe that’s why I have such a hard time … rationalizing that Yes, I do have MPD/DID … but even though it’s been verified by more than one therapist… it’s still very difficult to comprehend.
You are so right “This is tuff stuff 4sure.”
From — My/selves+Me
Kathy, what is your stance on discussing self injury with clients? It has been my experience that only one out of 5 therapists was actually wanting to talk about it (and not my current PsyD). My guess is they thing that talk of it will cause more? I just saw my T after 2 weeks of her gone, told her that we injured, and she just nodded, scribbled some notes. I’m never sure what to think on that – if trying to talk more about it makes it appear that I am attention-seeking or self absorbed or not willing to move on, make progress. So she doesn’t know the extent of it. My former one used to make me show her if they were visible, but then even stopped that practice.
Kathy Broady says
Kiyacat — that’s a complicated question, but a good one.
I will probably turn that into a post because there really is no simple answer.
The shortest answer, which will not really explain much of anything, lol, is…. yes, I do speak to my clients about their self injury issues, and yes, I often have a peek at the actual injuries when possible. At the same time, I don’t make the SI the main focus of our therapy either…
Ok – having lots of thoughts about why t’s do or don’t do this … I think that will become a post of its own.
Kathy thank you – can I ask you something.
Kathy Broady says
Yes, Maddie, you may ask me a question at any time.
You can ask me here, or you may email me if you want to ask me with more privacy than here on the blog.
I don’t S.I. (me, Caroline) but I have a lot of physical hurts from injuries and while Missy or Jodie or even the kids can block that out, I have a hard time doing that. Ever since the physical stuff started getting worse the past 3 years or so I have really been trying to get creative with ways to make myself feel better. I have a really good masseuse. I also have some really soft clothes like fleece yoga pants & fleece sweatshirts that I like to wear, then curl up on the couch in a fleece blanket, heating pad on my back and some soft pillows. Lighting candles also helps me relax, especially vanilla scented ones.
These things help, especially with the physical stuff. And I’m trying to be a good role model for the inside kids so maybe they can learn to do things for themselves too.
Caroline…those things sound very soothing and comforting to me!! I just love those fuzzy clothes and blankets! Sounds great
…also to see what is real when nothing is real.
nansie – yep
“When we feel those feelings again now…they come with the same dynamics and full force as they did when we were young…BUT we are equipped to handle them now because we are not a helpless child anymore. So while the pain is not different we need to keep in mind that WE are…we are adults now and can handle this…even though it feels like we can’t. I do switch and numb out. When the pain comes on I feel as tho I am back there again and a helpless child and I have to work hard at reminding myself that I am not back there…it just feels like I am. Does that make any sense? I bet all of us DIDers could use some beefing up in that department. I have to let the pain from back then wash over me now as an adult so that I can reprocess it in a healthier manner now and then help put it to rest. “
It is very confusing to me when strong emotions from back then overwhelm me now. I know I am “here” but I so feel like I am back “there”. I have not yet begun to address this the way it needs to be addressed. On the outskirts of it. It is almost like I feel my head go from one dimension in time to another and it is such a weird feeling! My T has assured me that one day my memories and emotions will be continuous and flow evenly. And that for now they feel choppy and in fragments. Someday the puzzel will fit together and make a picture…for now I am just working with pieces. It gets frustrating at times cuz I just have pieces and no real picture of my life.
It also feels like I have never gone our found home….like a place that belongs to me that is comforting and safe. I have a beautiful home now and family but I can’t get a feeling of warmth and belonging. Is this also “normal” for DIDers? The other thing is…even tho my T and I have never hugged or anything like that…everytime I see him, when I leave I feel like I have been hugged and comforted. I wonder if this would be the ultimate compliment for him to have? I don’t know how he’s done all of this but I have been with him for over 3 years now and just recently all of these things have come to light for me. I have never experienced this stuff before..that is why I write about it…I am a little stunned by it and maybe it is simple but I can’t help but be in awe over it.
i started SI’ing when i was 8.
usually when i got hurt (a lot, because we’re all clutzes) i got made fun of and laughed at. for being cluzy and not being able to do things right. stuff like that. it never really mattered to anyone if i got hurt. it still doesn’t. it was sort of like everyone thought, well its just her body, its just pilgrim, it doesn’t really matter. i didn’t matter to my family and my body certainly didn’t matter to my family, so why should i care either right? and besides, cutting and burning and all the other things i started to do made me feel better.
but i do wish i could stop. theres a big part of me that wants to stop, and i’m not talking about everyone else inside. i’m talking about just me,jo. someday, i have to figure out how to stop. its seems so complicated now after all these years when i have about a thousand reasons i do this.
One time it happen. This big guy, we not really know him, but one time, I dunno, but he gave me gentle hug and i wasn’t scared, and i felt enveloped for a moment in safeness.
This only ever happen once.
It was weird.
But I remember that safe feeling, it was a good feeling.
For a moment, everything was ok.
I felt clean and ok and cherished and safe.
Never again do I feel this.
Kathy Broady says
I am glad that you have been able to feel what it feels like to feel clean and ok and cherished and safe all at the same time during a gentle huge. Genuinely safe touch can be really comforting. I really hope that you get to experience this again some day soon in your life. Feeling safe during a hug means being hugged by someone when you can feel very sure that they will not hurt you or do anything inappropriate. Safe, gentle hugs are good!
And I think the falling snow will be coming back soon (at least I hope so!!!) It was an option provided by WordPress itself. I’m glad you liked it – I thought it was fun too.
Keep doing your healing work – things can get better!
We liked it when we come here and there they were, the snow!!! Made us happy everytime, and sometimes we just look at it cuz it make us not think. Maybe there’s other things you can make it do here? I dunno, like rain? or flower petals fall off trees in spring?
Its nice to have stuff to look at.
OK I go now.
You gonna make it snow here again?
We liked that 🙂
“justgimmeaname — yes, yes…. that’s exactly it…
I hope that a safe, gentle, compassionate, comforting someone will be able to give you a hug someday soon…
thinking of you ….
But some dunno HOW to ALLOW that.
WE not let nobody do that.
Wow. My T never spent too much time on this, tho I SI sometimes. BUT he led me to the self soothing part very cleverly. I never shed a tear until I was 50 years old, now I cry (for happy) looking at puppies.
Kathy Broady says
Hi Ivory –
I appreciate your comment, and it is good to hear from someone who has been able to reach the ability to cry and feel their feelings, even the happy ones. Sometimes it really does take years of time…
Keep working on all those self-soothing ideas!
Thank you Kathy for your response. I so look forward to and embrace the healing process! I know it will be hard but not as hard as trying to live in the world being symptomatic and never fitting in anywhere. I have a very difficult time with trust…especially with women after all that my mother did to me. No offense to you or anyone else…trust is huge for me. I have never had a trust level like I do with my therapist and it is an incredible experience for me. My therapist is a he and I am working well with that. We have done so much good work.
As for the pain….hmmmm it is bad at times. But there are things about the pain that I have to remind myself of regularly (maybe you could write about this too?). That is…this pain was bigger than us when we were children…as a child dealing with the things we did…we had no resources and no one to help us so it did wash over us like a tidal wave and it was really bigger than us. When we feel those feelings again now…they come with the same dynamics and full force as they did when we were young…BUT we are equipped to handle them now because we are not a helpless child anymore. So while the pain is not different we need to keep in mind that WE are…we are adults now and can handle this…even though it feels like we can’t. I do switch and numb out. When the pain comes on I feel as tho I am back there again and a helpless child and I have to work hard at reminding myself that I am not back there…it just feels like I am. Does that make any sense? I bet all of us DIDers could use some beefing up in that department. I have to let the pain from back then wash over me now as an adult so that I can reprocess it in a healthier manner now and then help put it to rest. This is the hardest thing I have ever done but I will. I must continue to challeng myself to be logical while feeling overwhelmed emotionally. AND if that doesn’t work…there’s always xanax…haha.
The tragedies and traumas we faced as children were horrific…however, we are adults now and no longer helpless and dependent on grownups who won’t take good care of us.
Thanks again for your response…I really enjoy your blog and having you respond to my posts. I have my own blog and it is email@example.com. Love to have you stop by sometime. 🙂
Kathy Broady says
The links for your blog aren’t working correctly – so I did a little searching and found your blog.
Here is the link if anyone else is also interested. 🙂
I see that you are relatively new to the blog world — welcome, welcome! 🙂
we dint cut last nite kafy
we did be supost to for talkeng bout bad things
but we say thats a bad idae
the bully say you relly pusheng it litol girl
and he be so mad
but we be so tierd.
so we dint do it
jodie or caroline ggona rite more later here cos them likt this you rited.
Kathy Broady says
I’m glad you didn’t cut because you really don’t have to cut, and you are allowed to talk about the bad things that have happened to you. And just in case you didn’t know this…. it is especially ok to talk about those kinds of things in your therapy sessions, and no, you don’t have to cut yourself afterwards.
Keep saying NO to cutting!
You don’t have to be hurt anymore – you can learn how to do NICE things with yourself.
thanks for the post, kathy. it was both illuminating and sad – my household was in constant chaos of “Revolving Normal” – realities changing hourly. It makes it hard to tease apart things like neglect, abandonment, abuse when since the parents were constantly changing parts to accomodate the dad and his alternating realities that we also had to change and morph constantly. Your post reminded me that the messages i got around pain were usually “get a thicker skin, buck up and deal, oh that’s nothing, you cry over molehills, if it’s not broken then you’re fine”. And at the same time, when things seemed serious, they asked me – the child – if i felt i needed a dr, an x-ray, a splint.
Reading everyone’s posts reminds me of other things – and seeing so many reasons why there has been self injury over the years (which now I can look back and see – after 7 years of therapy – all the ways in which our childselves injured before we “learned” to use our current tools). Anyway, ppls posts reminded me that we injured to:
to be the abuser (the world, the normal one)
parts punish other parts for still being alive
to shut up other parts for speaking out about abuse
to reset the emotional chaos to “normal”
to use the “chemical addiction” of adrenaline
to harm after someone was nice to us – esp t.
we’ve gotten better with this, but omg this is a timely post for us – we relapsed because -often this happens- when t is away (will be back monday) and then relapsed on the relapse because now the clinic ppl are all worried and it rialed up a lot of “sleeping” parts and confusion.
For comfort, we hold on to items t’s have given us (over the years). Right now is a special stone, shell, a toy, and a stuffy (all things she had around). Oh and a special necklace that she actually brought me from a trip! I (we?) did better this time – made it a whole 5 days before sliding downward (usually we don’t make it even before she actually leaves town). And a whole 8 days before really falling and needing serious help.
I’m grateful, Kathy, you understand DIDers. Someone has to. They won’t even take me into a hopsital program because…? i suppose they’re afraid of me? Makes us feel like a freak. Like you say – we’re just hurting! We just need to be taught in compassion, and guided during that time to LEARN that compassion to self is not the enemy. Why is that so difficult to the rest of the world?
Kathy Broady says
Thanks for your comment and your kind words. You added a lot of helpful bits to this conversation (and many others) and thanks for that.
I really don’t know why people out in the world act so afraid of DIDers — I write it off to ignorance, mostly. Y’all aren’t scary, and you’re not freaks. There’s nothing about DID itself that is scary…. I think that there just isn’t enough proper education out in the world, especially with the mental health professionals. “Scary behaviors” can come from anyone in the world, and they certainly are not exclusive to dissociative disorders… In my opinion, it’s not the “DID” that causes the questionable behavior anyway – it’s when the person (regardless of their diagnosis) uses aggressive or violent or sadistic type behaviors. Inappropriate behavior can happen whether a person is split or not, and even if someone is dissociative, that does not mean that they will automatically behave in scary ways.
Sorry this has happened for you Kiyacat. I can say this much… you haven’t shown one thing ever that looks “scary” to me.
I hope things get better soon –
Perfect timing on this one Kathy.
In my experience I’ve had to become really good at faking the ability to feel pain. People on the outside comment on my pain tolerance and mostly think it’s a good thing.
My wife is what some might tirm a wimp. She’s stubs her toe and it’s the end of the world. But I’ve learned to pay more attention when she does hurt herself because I know now that it’s what people expect when they are in pain. I still don’t feel the necessity of it for myself. I hurt myself, I might squeek for a second and then I suck it up. Most of the time I don’t feel it anyway. My wife will coo and ask if I’m okay and I say I’m fine. It kind of annoys me when someone thinks they have to show concern for the smallest of injuries. So it’s a life lesson to even have to help soothe other people as well as yourself. Still working on that.
Thanks for the post Kathy.
I have been struggling with this more lately and don’t feel in control of it. I had a big bout of self harm after visiting family. I had as usual not much memory of the visit and the usual reaction after is self harm which I also am not present for. I just thought I was getting a grip on it again and then just recently I have had a big rejection and again am losing control of the self harm. I just try to be busy so that I not listen to what’s going on inside because if i listen its all just that I am worthless and bad etc and it builds and builds and thats when I lose that control.
Thanks for your post its telling me that I need to learn to self soothe and its good because you wrote some ideas too. A timely post for me(:
Kathy Broady says
hi vickilost –
I’m glad that my post has some helpful ideas for you and thank you for your comment — you’ve brought up some important points. Visits back with people (family or otherwise) where there are lots of keep unresolved conflicts can, very easily, stir up a lot of negative feelings which really can lead to more self injury. Significant memory loss, increased switching and increased SI issues are all indicators of having re-surfacing unresolved issues pounding on you after recent contact with people that clearly stir up your feelings of emotional pain. The visit itself may have knocked your “grip” out of kilter, so take a little time to increase your feelings of safety, reassure your insiders best you can, find ways to soothe their pain, and with some effort, you’ll be able to re-stabilize again.
Also… have a peek back through time, and see if this is a usual pattern for you after visiting with whoever it was that you saw…. If it is, I encourage you to work with your therapist about the effects of and/or necessity of ongoing visits with people who clearly have a negative impact on your emotional stability.
It sounds like a rough patch for you, but dig in deep and hold tight — you can get your grip back, but you might have to address a few painful issues on the way. I wish you the best …
Sam Ruck says
You are welcome on my blog. I’ve tried to condense the things I’ve learned and put them on my blog in case there are other husbands who want to help the healing.
Be left alone to self-smoothe with all this suffering inside is extremely hard. I’ve often self-injuried just because I wanted a safe hug.
Kathy Broady says
justgimmeaname — yes, yes…. that’s exactly it…
I hope that a safe, gentle, compassionate, comforting someone will be able to give you a hug someday soon…
thinking of you ….
Sam Ruck says
One thing I like as a husband concerning my wife’s DID, is that I am able to soothe and comfort the insiders just like my wife’s parents should have when the original trauma happened. And it’s been really cool to see the insiders respond to my comfort and appropriate affection. Now they know to come to me when they get scared and feel like hiding under a table and most of the biting has stopped, too. And I think it has also taught them how to bond with another person appropriately.
Kathy Broady says
Yes, providing safe – gentle – patient comfort is so incredibly important for the healing process, and your helping to provide those corrective emotional experiences for your wife’s insiders is extremely helpful. For trauma survivors, healing includes having at least one safe person in their lives, and knowing they can turn to someone for help during times of fear or upset is exactly what’s needed. And yes, once a relationship with a person can be seen as safe and supportive, it becomes more ok to actually bond with them. It sounds like you are doing a lot of good for your wife – well done!
Thanks for your comment –
I am learning, or s’posed to be learning to ‘sit’ w/emotions.
I dunno bout that yet…
But self soothing stuff is not so easy cuz that too can cause fear. Some things can.
Also, then you can get recriminations from parts that don’t want you soothed.
Or maybe you like being messed up and all on edge cuz thats normal to you.
Or maybe it just feels good to SI.
Maybe I don’t deserve comfort, maybe comfort is weakness.
Comfort doesn’t last, its not real.
Makes parts angry.
I dunno, I be trying to work on this stuff and it hard cuz not all parts are on board so they fight.
Sometime parts SI to make other ones shut up.
When somebody be nice to you, then maybe it go wrong.
Its not easy.
Kathy Broady says
It’s good to see you again. 🙂
Sitting with emotions can be very difficult, yes. And you have brought up some very good points — almost nothing happens in DID therapy that doesn’t also get a response from others in the system, including from those that want to sabotage progress. In situations like that, it is important to work with those parts too, and one of the biggest things is to offer them some kind comfort as well, so they can experience it for themselves. That’s easier said than done, but it is possible, and even important to do.
I will refer to the article, Working with Difficult and Destructive Alters, for further discussion about that.
And yes, the reasons for SI are many and varied, but the more you work thru’ the emotional messes connected with each of the different reasons, the more you’ll be able to find healthier options.
Thanks for your comment, muffledones – it’s good to hear from you again. 🙂
This made me want to cry. It so described me and at I am still struggling with self injury. Mostly I am not aware I am doing it and I have some alters who are more punishing or hurting than others. My new therapist is working with me though to try and help me not to and maybe it will work this time. I am learning to cope with my emotions for the first time but I am still not so good at self soothing. Thank you Kathy for your posts. They really make me feel understood. I wish you were my therapist.
Kathy Broady says
Oh maddie… thank you for your heartfelt response. I am glad that my blog and my writings are showing you that yes, you really can be understood. Absolutely, you can. It takes a lot of listening to the inner feelings to understand others, including understanding the feelings of your insiders. The more you can work to truly understand them (meaning… go deeper than just looking at their surface behaviors), the more you will feel understood as a whole.
Maddie – if it would be helpful to take a copy of this blog article to your therapist, please do so. And / Or please let your therapist know about Discussing Dissociation, and maybe they will have a read through the articles that are the most meaningful to you.
I wish you the best on your healing journey –
The Maggie™ says
before we cames to terms with being a multiple we were dx’d with borderline PD and went into a DBT class. is was there i met alot of other multiples and started to accept my own multiplicity. but the point of bringing this up is that the things we learned in DBT are helpful to us, i think it really is a class everyone should take lol but especially trauma survivors. it teaches about how to interact with people in a more normal way, teaches how to self-soothe, decrease emotional intensity, and staying present….even though i went into it kicking and screaming i am glad i did it.
i love your blog. thanks so much!
Kathy Broady says
Thank you for your kind comment, Maggie. I agree with you — DBT classes can be very helpful. Good point! I hope you continue to find this blog helpful for you. 🙂
I wish you the best in your healing journey –
Sam, how did you learn to do this? Did you read a book? I know my husband would like to learn more about this stuff. He is great but limited at this point. Thanks. Nansie
Very nice post Kathy! I got alot of comfort from your explanation of why we didn’t learn how to self comfort. I like understanding how it came about that I can’t self sooth…it sounds so simple..like something everyone should know how to do and just do automatically. But for us it isn’t an available tool. Trying to learn the tool from scratch is hard too after decades of using tools we had to create ourselves even tho they are unhealthy. Recently I have noticed some things I do that do make me feel better. I have hung onto those thoughts for a future plan.
It is also a comfort in itself to read and hear someone else talk who doesn’t have DID but “gets” it. Your info on children being totally alone to figure things out and have no one to comfort them is right on the money..for me anyway. I was so alone for so long and so many painful things happened. When your a child that young and being treated that way it is almost like your abuser is representing the rest of the world too. I was very young and I thought my abuser was the normal one and something was wrong with me and not them. SO because I saw them normal I also saw them as representing the rest of the normal world too. I really felt so alone.
I am working on staying present more and more. That is where I am but in therapy we are uncovering alot of pain. I don’t feel comfortable enough to sit with my pain yet outside of therapy. It is too big and scary for me right now but I know it won’t always be that way.
But all in all…thank you for this post…very informative and comforting.
Kathy Broady says
Hi Nansie –
I’m glad you liked this article and I’m especially glad that you found it comforting (how cool is that? I didn’t even think of it having that kind of effect!) I’ll admit that some of your earlier comments got me to thinking further about this topic and led to the writing of this article, so thank you for being the inspiration of this post.
You are right, there is so much new learning to do during the healing process — letting go of what worked for you in the past in exchange for new, healthier options can certainly happen, but it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time to figure out how to do the new stuff.
And yes… the healing process does uncover a lot of pain. I think one of the main points of dissociating in the first place is to separate yourself from the pain. Most dissociative survivors have defended themselves from years and years of pain, best they could, and healing all those deep tender wounds…. well, it’s very painful. The healing process will reconnect you with all that pain, but the healing is and will be worth it. Otherwise, you’ll just continue to carry all that pain with you…
Keep working at it. It sounds like you’re doing good work.
Kathy Broady says
Our Life with MPD / DID —
Thanks for the positive reference! I’m glad you thought this was a good article!
Kathy Broady says
Thank you, mmaagnnaa, for including my blog in your Post Round-Up. I’m glad that you were able to see value in this article. 🙂
Much appreciated —