DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS
One of the most important purposes of dialectical behavior therapy is to help you stop engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting, burning, scratching, and mutilating yourself. No one can deny the amount of pain you are in when you engage in one of these behaviors. Some people with overwhelming emotions say that self-injury temporarily relieves them of some of the pain they are feeling. This might be true, but it’s also true that these actions can cause serious permanent damage and even death if taken to the extreme.
Think about all the pain you’ve been through in your life. Think about all the people who have hurt you physically, sexually, emotionally, and verbally. Does it make sense to continue hurting yourself even more in the present? Doesn’t it make more sense to start healing yourself and your wounds? If you really want to recover from the pain you’ve already experienced, stopping these self-destructive behaviors is the first step you should take. This can be very hard to do. You might be addicted to the rush of natural painkillers called endorphins that are released when you hurt yourself. However, these types of self-destructive actions are highly dangerous and certainly deserve your best efforts to control them.
Exercise: Distract Yourself from Self-Destructive Behaviors
Here are some safer actions that you can use to distract yourself from self-destructive emotions and thoughts. Check the one’s you’re willing to do, and then add any healthy, non-harming activities that you can think of:
[ ] Instead of hurting yourself, hold an ice cube in one hand and squeeze it. The sensation from the cold ice is numbing and very distracting.
[ ] Write on yourself with a red felt-tip marker instead of cutting. Draw exactly where you would cut. Use red paint or nail polish to make it look like you’re bleeding. Then draw stitches with a black marker. If you need to make it even mark distracting, squeeze an ice cube in the other hand at the same time.
[ ] Snap a rubber band on your wrist each time you feel like hurting yourself. This is very painful, but it causes less permanent damage than cutting, burning, or mutilating yourself.
[ ] Dig your nails into your arm without breaking skin.
[ ]Draw faces of people you hate on balloons and then pop them.
[ ] Write letters to people you hate or to people who have hurt you. Tell them what they did to you and tell them why you hate them. Then threw the letters away or save them to read later.
[ ] Throw foam balls, rolled-up socks, or pillows against the wall as hard as you can.
[ ] Scream as loud as you can into your pillow or scream some place where you won’t draw the attention of other people, like at a loud concert or in your car.
[ ] Stick pins in a voodoo doll instead of hurting yourself. You can make a voodoo doll with some rolled-up socks or a foam ball and some markers. Or you can buy a doll in a store for the specific purpose of sticking pins in it. Buy one that’s soft and easy to stick.
[ ] Cry. Sometimes people do other things instead of crying because they’re afraid that if they s tart crying they’ll never stop. This never happens. In fact, the truth is that crying can make you feel better because it releases stress hormones.
[ ] Other healthy, non-harming ideas:
Here’s an example of using alternative actions to distract your self-destructive emotions. Lucy often cut herself when she felt upset or angry. She has dozens of scares on her wrists and forearms. She wore long-sleeve shirts even in the hot summer because she was embarrassed when other people saw what she had done to herself. But after getting some ideas from this workbook, she made a distraction plan. So the next time she got angry with herself and felt like cutting, she look at her plan for alternative actions. She had written down the idea of drawing on herself with a red marker. She drew a line exactly where she would of cut herself. She even used red pain to make it look like she was bleeding. She carried the mark on her arm for the rest of the day to remind herself how sad and overwhelmed she felt. But then, before she went to sleep, she was about to erase the “scar” and ‘blood” from her arm, unlike the rest of the marks from her permanent injuries.