With mental illness it’s important that you’re able to define the difference between feelings and thoughts. Many self-injurers hurt themselves as a way to handle overwhelming emotions, but when they try to express their feelings, they confuse feelings with thoughts. This makes it even harder to find ways to channel those emotions into something healthier then harming themselves.
When I was struggling with self-injury, I thought I was telling my therapist my feelings when, in fact, I was describing my thoughts. Through my therapist and the book, The Scarred Soul, I found out there is a difference between feelings and thoughts. When I told my therapist, “I feel like my friend is ignoring me,” I was telling her what I thought, not my true emotions. My therapist also told me to use one word to express feelings, like I felt “hurt.” My feelings were made more powerful by my thought that my friend was ignoring me.
My friend didn’t know how I felt, because I kept it deep within me. The more I held them inside, the stronger my emotions became and the more negative my thoughts became. This created more feelings. I became angry, sad, frustrated, lonely, and hurt. My thoughts seem to increase the intensity of my feelings. It was like the match that lit the fire. I “felt like” my friend was using me and I “felt” that She hated me and was only pretending to be my friend. These thoughts increased and raced through my mind. My emotions felt like swords jabbing into my soul, so I would injure.
My therapist would ask me how I felt at each appointment. She gave me a list of feelings such as angry, sad, hopeless, guilty, happy, amused, frustrated, irritable, excited, and so on. Once I identified my emotions then I had to find things I could do to cope with my feelings, such as do a craft, exercise, journaling, call a friend, do relaxation techniques, I made a list of my emotions and then made another list of ways I could express them without injuring. Then I worked on how to change my thoughts into positive ones, like, “My friend was busy; she was not ignoring me.”
Learning the difference between your thoughts and feelings can help you figure out what is leading you to harm yourself and what fuels those emotions. Thoughts can make emotions grow stronger and more intense. If you can pin point the emotions, you can find healthy ways to release them. Each day in a journal write down how you feel and what you will do to release your feelings without self-injuring. Then write down your thoughts and turn them into positive ones. Start taking those steps to stop hurting yourself now by identifying your feelings.
By identifying my emotions, I can now express them without wounding myself. This has also helped me get a better handle on my depression. By telling what emotions I felt, I could find methods to help me find the light and I could express to my therapist what was happening within me. Then I could deal with, first, my emotions and then, my thoughts. By learning how to cope with thoughts and emotions I grew stronger and now I stand tall within the light.
Once again I found some of this information in The Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self-inflicted Violence By Tracy Alderman, Ph.D. In my past blog I gave you a link to get this book. I suggest you get it. It helped me out a lot and became like a Bible to me.