Self-Harm: Identifying the Source and Moving Through the Urge

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What does it feel like?

There is an internal experience that I live with that I get both before and after self-harming. It is as if this experience drives me to self-harm, and then is also triggered because I have self-harmed. It feels like a pressure, a desperation, a searing burning in my solar plexus, where I am so angry with myself for what I have done, so remorseful, frustrated, yet also helpless and victimized, and it leaves me in a state that simply continues the cycle of self-harm.

What effect does it have on behaviour?

This pressure, with the searing, crawling feeling seems so big, like it will take me over or destroy me somehow. I can feel it physically, and I want to get it out of my body by scratching, squeezing, picking, tearing and digging it out. It is confusing because the thing seems so big, terrifying and unbearable on the inside. On the outside, I see regular life going by, but it is like a blur that I am completely disconnected from, as if I had lost access to it. Then I look inside and it is like a pit of torment, like the world is coming to an end.

Where did it come from?

I wonder, how did I go from a child that would never think such things about myself, to this internal disgust and loathing, feeling like I need to be punished, or harm myself to get it out?

When I look back I can see and associate several memories that carry the same ‘feel’ to them. Being bullied, reprimanded in front of the classroom by a frustrated teacher, basically, the times where I would be on the receiving end of emotional outbursts from others, with emotions that I did not express externally and so did not understand.

I remember feeling completely confused as to why this was being ‘done unto me’, taking it all very personally. I felt as if I had no cover or protection from the pain it would cause, and eventually I felt somehow that I deserved it.

After having experienced this quite regularly, as happens in school, I began to fear it. It was as if I never knew what might set it off, as I was not intentionally being ‘bad’ or misbehaving. It was like lying in wait for ambush at all times. This became my protection, the cover of constant fear and hiding, withdrawing within myself and internalizing the emotional pain, while on the outside, I was stoic.This often led to triggering people even more as they thought they were not getting through to me (as it was explained to me once when I was later found hiding and crying).

I also mostly hid from adults in my world. I became distrustful and did not want to let my guards down when I was begin treated nicely, because I knew at any moment it could turn. My internal reality became a lonely and isolated place. And with the internalization of all the emotions, I began to reprimand and attack myself in my thoughts and internal conversations.

How to define it?

I began to believe it all as if it were all my fault. I was worthless, despicable, unbearably intolerable, no good, unable, disgusting and so on. And so it became a cycle of talking to myself in these ways, and creating an unmanageable and unbearable internal reality that I did not know how to cope with, and it began to manifest physically. I remember self-harm OCD starting when I was about 6-7 years old. I caused myself pain and it felt good after, like a relief and release for me – a way to release the internalized emotions.

What is it today?

Fast forward to today, and although I have found many ways to cope and get by, the main patterns and thought processes are still there at the foundation of my self-relationship. What it feels like is tip-toeing throughout the day, but any time I am required to check with myself and look inwards, I am met with this wall of pressure, searing fear and self-damnation.

I can see how I connect this fear to a multitude of situations throughout my day.

What will happen is, as I move throughout my day, there will inevitably be moments of challenge, uncertainty, not knowing, and moments that require decision, self-introspection or looking inward. But instead of looking inward and finding a nice, quite open space within myself to play with ideas, I am confronted by what seems like the fiery pits of hell.

It is like trying to find solutions while being under attack.

For example, if I am writing and I don’t know how to express what I am physically experiencing within myself, I will look inward and be met with this unbearable searing wall that prevents me from seeing, from finding the words or from understanding what is going on. In these moments, OCD is triggered, and I look for relief through self-harm.

How to Manage?

Self-harm seemed to be my only solution, because I thought that I should not go towards, move into or through something that feels so bad. But throughout the process I have been walking, I have been challenging this. I have during my process, moved through that wall many times, and as unbearable and endless as it has felt, I have always come out on the other side empowered.

What I have found is that on the other side of that wall is forward motion, continuation and self-direction. It is normal to, throughout the day while doing tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or while working, find oneself in a position where some problem-solving is necessary. There are always times when it is not easy and I don’t know exactly what to do. These are the moments where I will often hit the wall and go into OCD.

OCD is like a bottomless pit where you go in thinking you will find the bottom, some ground to stand on to get your footing, to find a safe place in the ambush, but instead you just keep falling. However, there is comfort there, because it is a distraction, a focused-attention elsewhere. There is the illusion of control. There is the aftermath of pain found there as well, that is endorphins that can be used like a drug to feel good, if only for a moment. It is a momentary, absolute lostness.

But what I have realized in pushing myself so many times, is that I do in fact have the creativity to find my way. I just, at the moment, have to find it within or beyond this searing self-hatred, anger, frustration and remorse that sits there in wait. It is like a trap, where many of my answers hide inside, or just on the other side of this emotional wall. And each time I have to pass this wall it fools me into believing it is all real and true, unless I stand up from within it. Stand up and be the authority from within this experience.

How to stand up from within it?

The take-away here is that when and as I see OCD is being triggered, it is because I am being confronted by something that requires me to find a solution and act on it. I challenge myself to, in these moments, take a moment and make a space for me to define in words what it is I am looking at. To actually have a look at what it is I am telling myself. I know I have the creativity to find a solution and a way forward in any situation, it is just a matter of weathering the storm that I know will be there. It is no longer an ambush, it is now simply a process of repetition until I prove to myself that I can stand through it.

 

Resources:

Introduction to Self Bullying and Self-Hatred

Interview Request – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Part 1)

Interview Request – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Part 2)

Who Are You When Challenged – The Future of Awareness – Part 91

 

Tracing the Source Patterns of Skin-Picking (part three)

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I have written these these self-commitment statements to support myself to change how I learn. Learning has been a hostile and laborious process for me throughout school, which seeped over into my working life.

I have been using the process of writing to de-program this perception I have held regarding learning and the learning process, and am re-scripting through words the way in which I would prefer myself to experience this process.This is related to skin-picking because I am dismantling trigger points that cause me to go into the disorder. One of these trigger points is being confronted/presented with a new concept I do not immediately understand.

I am looking into why this triggers skin-picking within me, and have discovered so far that the learning process overwhelms me. I need to look into this further to figure out why and how this is, how I created this in the first place, and how I have morphed it over time into something completely different that the initial experience/memories.

I am using my own self-realizations which I derive from writing self-forgiveness and self-corrective application statements in these blogs: Tracing the Source Patterns of Skin-Picking and Tracing the Source Patterns of Skin Picking (part two).

The following is based on this self-forgiveness, although more points opened up as I was writing, and I included them in the current self-corrective applications.

“I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want/need/desire to understand everything immediately, in other words and furthermore:

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think/believe/perceive that concepts are only understandable if I can understand them right away/immediately and without effort. Within this:

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to ‘shut down’ within myself when and as I am confronted/presented with a concept that I do not yet understand, due to the belief that I will never understand accompanied by frustration, confusion and self-judgment.”

When and as I see that I am ‘shutting down’ within myself as a form of self-defeat when/as I am confronted/presented with a new concept which I do not initially understand, I stop, and I breathe. I direct myself to take a step back and stop my participation within/as these reactions in order that I may clear my mind and starting point, and to look at the concept with ‘fresh eyes’, meaning, from a changed starting point; moving from “I just don’t get it”, to “how does this actually work/how can this make sense” – understanding that, within asking myself questions and looking at the concept for answers, I am essentially teaching myself the concept.

 

When and as I react within fear and self-judgment due to being confronted/presented with a new concept that I do not initially understand, and one which I can’t figure out on my own, I direct myself to utilize any resources available to me, such as documents, the internet, or individuals in my environment. I remind myself to remain present and to open my ears and my eyes to see and hear what is being explained to me, so that I don’t distract myself with thoughts/worries/beliefs/emotions that I might get it wrong or that I am being judged for not immediately knowing/understanding the concept. I see/realize/understand that this is my very own self-judgment that I am projecting on to others/my environment, causing me to feel like ‘shutting down’, when I can simply change my perception to create a learning environment that is open, accepting, supportive and enjoyable.

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Tracing the Source Patterns of Skin-Picking (pt 2)

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I am going to share an excerpt from my last chat with an old mentor of mine, within which I asked for insight on how I can assist and support myself within walking through and out of the point of OCD. The following structure was provided:

“Memories, for instance could be a series of memories that started at a point and then mutated through the imagination into an other-worldly memory and eventually into a memory that facilitate a feeling or a presence, which then transfers into for instance an action like skin-picking. Here you can for instance, walk it backwards – when a point of OCD occur, then you look at the feeling, dissect it, then you look at the pattern of the feeling, then look at the memories related to it, which are the circumstantial activation points. A Memory will be a reflection within your environment that cause a repeating pattern. Then look at how you have, through repeated views of the memories as thoughts, as thinking about it, as feeling about it – mutated it. Then, search for the original memory, the event, which started it all and then compare the original memory with the memory as it now exist to realise how you have changed it to support the particular repeating paranoia.”


I utilized these points to write this blog: Tracing the Source Patterns of OCD. It is from this blog that I am continuing to investigate how past memories have come back to haunt me – so to speak- because I have used them to create an alternate or other-worldly reality/experience of myself that is not actually completely aligned with the reality that I actually live as myself. The following excerpt comes from my previous blog, which I suggest be read for context. These are the words I will be working with to begin my self-forgiveness:

“I was not able to, at that age, consider that there is a learning process. I did not realize that I was being actively taught something, and I thought that I was already supposed to know these things that the other students knew. I didn’t realize that it was ok that I didn’t know the language yet, or that I was not the only one in the position of not knowing. I reacted to the situation in a state of fear and confusion, and instead of remaining in the present moment and enjoying the learning process and simply listening to the new words, I searched into the past as if I had forgotten to do something or missed something along the way, and I remained utterly confused and frozen with incomprehension as I searched fruitlessly for this knowledge I was apparently supposed to have. Obviously I did not have this knowledge yet, and my search for it was in vain”

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want/need/desire to understand everything immediately, in other words and furthermore:

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think/believe/perceive that concepts are only understandable if I can understand them right away/immediately and without effort. Within this,

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to ‘shut down’ within myself when and as I am confronted/presented with a concept that I do not yet understand, due to the belief that I will never understand and there is something wrong with me, accompanied by frustration,confusion and self-judgment.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to look inwards, to direct my attention internally, desperately and frantically searching for knowledge and information pre-existent within myself as a means to comprehend or understand a concept that I am not familiar with, instead of seeing, realizing and understanding that the answer is not in my mind, my programming or my understanding, at least not yet, it is in the physical and thus it takes physical time and patience for the process of learning and integration through common sense and a step-by-step process of practice and understanding, much like what I am doing here as self-understanding.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to react to confusion within/as fear and avoidance, within/as self-defeat expressed as “I just don’t get it”.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing the thought “I just don’t get it” to exist within and as me as a form of giving up and shutting down, and then dis-associate to void the negative feeling inside myself.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to connect the energetic experience of fear and panic to the thought “I just don’t get it”, and then dis-associate so as not to experience them ,thus suppressing them inside of me, where they grow and evolve and come out later on in my thoughts, self-beliefs and then actions such as skin-picking.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to make the decision within and as myself, that when I don’t ‘get’ something, I will never get it, and within this, I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to judge myself as inferior to the knowledge and information, and inferior to those who do get it faster than/before myself.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to judge myself as less-than and inferior during the learning process, which causes me to fear and avoid the learning process.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear and avoid the learning process due to my own accepted and allowed self-judgment regarding who and how I am within learning.

To be continued…

Tracing the Source Patterns of Dermatillomania (part one of three)

I had stopped writing and within that time a point had been mentioned that OCD reactions within myself are caused by becoming overwhelmed by patterns that are triggered by memories which are triggered by my environment. The difficulty here is that these memories may have occurred very early on in life, and it may be close to impossible to recollect the particular memories in any other way than the emotional energetic experience they create. The reasoning behind this would be that experiences in early life occur before language is understood, therefore there is no way to describe and comprehend the experience, not even within oneself.

Memories that affect us in the present moment can have happened too long ago to recall, wherein one did not have the necessary means to communicate about the experience, or even be able to give it a name. However, when the experience triggered by the memory occurs again in the present, it can now be named. The experience can thus be captured in words, words within which acceptances and allowances and associations can be forgiven, released and/or changed. In other words, who self is within these words can be changed. The way one lives the words can change, quite simply, yet at the same time, with much effort as consistent application in every moment. This may seem daunting or exhausting, except the fact of the matter is that we each and every one of us already do apply ourselves in such a way. The only difference is that we have done so in unawareness, in falling into patterns and habits that have become so habitual that they have become automatic.

I have already proven to myself that such automation can be changed. Using the tools of self-forgiveness, self-honesty, self-commitment, and self-corrective application, new habits and patterns can be developed, and become the new ‘normal’.

Within OCD, for me, I become overwhelmed by the patterns. I create an entire energetic experience connected to the patterns which looks to be released, and which I find a release for within obsessive compulsive behaviours. This happens daily.

What I’m going to do is identify the patterns that overwhelm me my taking a look at my day to see where the overwhelmingness begins, and describe with words the energy that was created. I will be using some suggestions that were provided to me by a member of the Desteni community. These were words I could relate to and I used them to figure out the patterns that cause them. They are: dizzying uncertainty, intense isolation and self-damning depression.

Looking at the day:

This morning I had agreed to assist with some children wherein I was only required to be present in the early morning. Everything was stable as I had a very predictable and clear set of tasks, such as: make breakfast, eat with the kids, help them get dressed, put away my bedding and pack my belongings, and drive home. The overwhelmingness began as I was driving home. I am living I a new city and do not yet have a routine. The prospect of having a day wide open with no routine is something I would long for while at work or while doing my studies. However, in this situation, it was only an overwhelming prospect for me. The trigger is thus then being in a position where I have to take steps to accomplish all the things I want to get done over time.

As a child I would have used the time doing whatever I wanted: watching television, playing with friends, playing with my toys, drawing etc… doing whatever pleased me. Now things are different, Now I have responsibilities and I have to structure my ‘time off’ in order to be able to create a balance between getting things done and putting time aside for enjoyment. So, I would consider then , that the shift occurred when I began to have responsibilities in my life, or things that I was supposed to do and I didn’t know how to do them, or how to organize myself to be able to begin them, or discipline myself to see them through.

I’m recalling chaos, confusion, and dizzying uncertainty. I’m recalling a memory of nursery school where I was first learning French. The teacher was reading a book and asking students to name in French the images she was pointing to, such as ‘caterpillar’. I recall the student calling out ‘chenille’, and I was struck and dumbfounded by the fact that these students knew these words I had never heard before. I felt as though I could not participate in the activity, and that other students were pleasing the teacher and I could not. I didn’t understand where or how I was supposed to have known these words, or where or how the other children had learned them. I didn’t understand that some of the students were just learning the language for the first time, while others may have already been exposed to it in their homes or in other programs. I felt I was at a disadvantage, I felt embarrassed and like I wanted to disappear because my perception was that all the other students knew and understood something that I did not. I was not able to, at that age, consider that there is a learning process. I did not realize that I was being actively taught something, and I thought that I was already supposed to know these things that the other students knew. I didn’t realize that it was ok that I didn’t know the language yet, or that I was not the only one in the position of not knowing. I reacted to the situation in a state of fear and confusion, and instead of remaining in the present moment and enjoying the learning process and simply listening to the new words, I searched into the past as if I had forgotten to do something or missed something along the way, and I remained utterly confused and frozen with incomprehension as I searched fruitlessly for this knowledge I was apparently supposed to have. Obviously I did not have this knowledge yet, and my search for it was in vain.

I can relate this experience to my present experience, wherein, when I was presented with an open day in a new living situation, I did not have any past experience to tell me exactly what to do; I did not ‘automatically know’ the best way to set myself up. I di dnot immediately consider that this is not exactly true- I have moved many times, I have had to find a new job, and I have set up utilities before and I have directed myself through scheduling a day, the only difference now is that I’m in a new city and country that I am not yet familiar with in these regards. What happened was that I immediately went into the reaction of confusion, fear and uncertainty, within the belief that this understanding is unattainable, not because it is in fact unobtainable, but because I had created this pattern which produces a dizzying confusion when the knowledge is not already there. Within this energetic experience it is very difficult to think straight or make a directive decision. I fall into the pattern of helplessness within the belief that ‘I don’t know how to do this’, which is a belief and a pattern and not my living reality.

Looking at this pattern now, I can see that it could have begun way earlier than this pre-school experience. Being the younger child, I would have grown up with a sibling that would seemingly have known may many things that I did not yet know how to do, such as speaking and walking. Even simply being a child, new to the world, one would be presented daily with beings that know things and are doing things that are well beyond the child’s ability to grasp. Until the child realizes what learning is, and grasps the idea that repetition over time equals new skills and understanding. Learning, as I recall it as a child, was not something that was consciously done, I would simply engage with something and I would explore and experiment and it would be fun and fascinating. But this recalling foreign words and memorizing them was not something I would have ever thought to do, nor was it a process I understood.

Previously, I had written a blog series called ‘Fully Committing to My Studies’ within which I touched on ‘Becoming an Effective Student’ and ‘Learning How to Learn’. Within this series, I realized that I did not have a working understanding of learning. I would simply be pushed along this process of memorizing and reading and never considered of contemplated the actual process of breaking down the learning tasks or information into steps and walking through each step to completion.

This pattern is connected to other patterns that together create energies within me, such as dizzying confusion, self-damning depression, intense isolation and extreme frustration. These energies are obviously very uncomfortable and unpleasant to say the least, and instead of investigating them and changing the patterns that cause them, I had accepted them as Who and How I Am, and lived with them until they literally drove me ‘crazy’ in that I developed OCD to cope, and OCD is a mental disorder and we tend to call people with mental disorders ‘crazy’(although it can be argued that everyone has some form of mental disorder or another).

The other patterns that are connected to this pattern of dizzying confusion when confronted with a task or set of tasks is actually fighting the learning process. This stems from the experience that I am being forced to go through a process that I do not understand, that makes me feel lost and confused, and one that, as a child, I felt I did not have any say in why or how I should do it, but felt as though the entire thing was forced upon me. Within this I felt trapped, and reacted within constantly looking for escape. Instead of throwing a tantrum as many children do, and instead of trying to communicate to others what I was experiencing, I would internalize the reactions and go into fear. I would submit to this fear by seeking to escape rather than trying to learn or understand. This escape I found within myself within imagination and fantasy, my internal world which was the only place I experienced safety and self-expression that I was not able to experience in the real world. This eventually contributed to the intense isolation I would create by giving myself only two options: either submit to the will of others, or be alone. I would, over time, experience intense isolation to the extent that I could escape within myself even while in the presence of another. This would appear as ‘aloofness’ and ‘airiness’, which can create all sorts of reactions because it would appear as though one does not care, when in reality, one is so deeply within one’s own mind as an alternate reality of escape that one is almost not at all present. It becomes difficult to retain details and converse or become fully engaged with another because one is actually isolated behind thick walls, even while in the presence of another.

I recently read about this dissociative state (in fact, the day after I wrote this), in the book called The Tao of Equus, where the author relates the trauma of prey animals to that of human trauma victims. The following excerpt is from the work of Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.: “Physiologists call this state the ’immobility’ or ’freezing’ response. It is one of the three primary responses available to reptiles or mammals when faced with an overwhelming threat. The other two, fight or flight, are much more familiar to us.” Levine continues to explain that this dissociation “protects us from escalating arousal” and then that “[t]raumatic symptoms are not caused by the ‘triggering’ event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved or discharged.” Levine continues with the actual experience of this state: “In its mildest f forms, it manifests as a kind of spaciness. At the other end of the spectrum, it can develop into so-called multiple personality disorder”.

I can relate to the aforementioned ‘freeze response’ and have blogged about my experiences with this in the manifestation of ‘aloofness’ within myself. Within this frozen state, or ‘aloofness’, active participation is limited, decision making is difficult, and self-movement is next to impossible. Mostly, I recall being moved only by outside forces in my environment, such as the fear of reprimand. The “frozen residue of energy” Levine describes is relatable to me as the internalization of the emotional energetic experiences which are not dealt with, but rather remain stagnant and fester within self. Whereas some children would well up with the energy and then lose control as an explosion in the form of what we call a ‘temper tantrum’ where the child will display an emotional outburst, others like myself, would internalize the entire experience, and dwell with it. The term ‘dwell’ is interesting because the energy is literally dwelling within the physical body, along with and as the beingness of the child (or adult, or being). For me, I see that both the energetic experience I would seek to escape, as well as the escape itself, existed within me. As I had previously described the escape mechanisms I used where that of introversion, wherein I would ‘escape’ into my mind and create alternate realities and other worlds where I would experience myself completely differently. Within this understanding, there are in fact multiple personalities dwelling within the body. What is also interesting here is that I have written about OCD as a personality, as an entity existent within and as me, which takes over and possesses me at times, sometimes completely. This relates to Levine’s description of the experience of the dissociative state as a ”spaciness” at the lesser extreme, and then “multiple personality disorder” at the other. There are, of course, many degrees of these experiences in the middle. Although I cannot recall any particular traumatic event in my life, I do recall experiencing fear reactions which, over time became a dominant experience and at times a form of ‘petrification’, which would cause me to ‘over-react’ in fear to situations which others might find only slightly unpleasant.

I a related part of the book, author Linda Kohanov describes the following effects of a particular tactic used to ’break’ disobedient horses: “the act of forcing a prey animal to lie down by tying up one of his front legs , dragging him to the ground, and sitting on him in this vulnerable position until he submits causes such an intense fear reaction that the animal’s entire nervous system short-circuits. The result [is] a sudden change in personality. The horse acts like a zombie, which to people who prefer a machine-like mount, appears to be a miraculous cure for chronic disobedience.” The author continues on to explain that this technique is used for even mildly disobedient horses that work for commercial trail riding stables where the horses are forced to repeat monotonous behaviours such as riding the same trail day after day.

This description reminds me of the ‘breaking’ of children in order to force them to sit and listen in class for hours on end, absorbing and repeating information day after day. In my own experience, being brought to the front of the class and criticized for my poor performance placed me in a vulnerable position where I eventually submitted. It felt like the teacher yelled at me for an eternity. Previously, this had occurred to me in kindergarten, where the teacher called the class’ attention to my work and briefly asked for a consensus that it was not good. The experience was not enjoyable, but it ended so quickly that I was able to bounce back and move on. The first experience I described, where the teacher kept me in the experience for longer, had a different effect. I recall feeling myself shrinking within myself, feeling very confused, fearful and humiliated, until I finally ‘broke’, wherein I began to cry, and something within me submitted, and from that point I constantly feared the event ever happening again. I carried the experience with me within the belief that it was ‘deserved’ because the teacher knows best . It helped to confirm pre-existent beliefs about myself as ‘not good enough’ in comparison to my class-mates. Over time, I utilized this experience as part of my self-definition of Who I Am in this world and this reality, wherein it still comes up and limits me in some ways to this very day.

The “zombie”-like state achieved in breaking horses, as described by author Linda Kohanov, can also be prevalent in the human species. Within the education system, this zombie-like behavior would be preferred, where spirited young children that ‘misbehave’ are seen as disruptive to the education process. Children are broken with punishment, humiliation, fear, bad grades, disciplinary actions, etc… In the past, and even still today in some areas, children are beaten to achieve this effect. Nowadays, it is more and more common to simply medicate the children to sedate them into compliance.

To be continued….