Cutting and Self-Injury

Cutting and self-injury is a very serious topic touched on in this story. People can't incur a lot of trauma without having some fallout. Sookie's character's dreams were her mind's way of dealing with her trauma and when those were removed, her mind sought some other outlet for her trauma and anger. Sookie's use of cutting in the story framed a serious and really awfully way that she regained control of herself, but it was not a subject that I could just toss off lightly. I've known people who cut and it's a very emotionally-laden topic. So I wanted to provide just a bit more information about cutting and self-injury in case any of my readers know someone who does it, or suspect that someone they know does it. (Many people who cut don't do it in an obvious place). There are a lot of resources out there on cutting. Here's just a smattering of information that fits the context of this story. But be assured it's a serious problem and requires a professional fix. Overriding the urge to self-injure once someone has embarked on that coping mechanism can be a lengthy process that requires a lot of support from loved ones and no small amount of professional help.

The person who self-injures may not recognize the connection, but the behavior often occurs after an overwhelming or distressing experience and is a result of not having learned how to identify or express difficult feelings in a healthy way. Self-harm serves a function for the person who does it. If you can figure out what function the self-injury is serving then you can learn other ways to get those needs met which will reduce their desire to hurt themselves.

Many people who cut themselves feel that it's the only way they have to maintain control over their body because they can't control anything else in their life. They feel that self-injury can regulate strong emotions. It can put a person who is at a high level of physiological arousal back to a baseline state. Deliberate self-harm can distract from emotional pain and stop feelings of numbness. Self-inflicted violence is a way to express things that cannot be put into words such as displaying anger. Self-injurious behavior can also make the person feel that they can exert a sense of control over their body if they feel powerless in other areas of their life. Self punishment or self-hate may be involved. Some people who self-injure have a childhood and adult history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Self-injury can also be a self-soothing behavior for someone who does not have other means to calm intense emotions. They lack the necessary skills to express strong emotions in a healthy way. Sometimes there is a limited social support network and the person feels isolated and that cutting is the only means they have of controlling their own behavior and dealing with their unhappiness with other areas of their lives. And sometimes family may not know that their loved one is doing this. The families of those who cut are usually shocked to find out that the person they love is harming themselves.

Some helpful tips in dealing with someone who self-injures:

Understand that self-harming behavior is an attempt to maintain a certain amount of control which, in and of itself, is a way of self-soothing.

Encourage talking through emotions and recognize the fact that it is hard to shift the pattern of wanting to self-injure. Be patient but firm in supporting healthier expression.

Encourage expressions of strong emotions, especially anger, in other ways and recognize that these emotions need a positive outlet.

Seek positive alternatives to cutting and self-injury with the person in a non-judgmental fashion.

Don't make judgmental comments– people who feel worthless and powerless are even more likely to self-injure. Oftentimes, people who cut feel deeply isolated and ashamed by the fact that they feel this is the only means they have to control their body or their emotions. Being judgmental doesn't get to the root of the problem- that their feelings need an outlet that is healthier.

Making the association between self-injury and particular feelings or emotions may be best left to a professional so you don't create more negativity.

Offer to help them find a therapist or support group.