(Part 1- Qualitatively Measuring your Self-Destructive patterns)
Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 5-2-2022
“In the quest to heal ourselves, we often and unintentionally, hurt ourselves instead.” –EaE
There are many measures, screeners, and scales we use in the world of mental health, but I recently started to express a concern that the measure of self-destructiveness is lacking. In the age of our society preaching self-care, holistic health and balance, I found myself compulsively reminding people, that first it’s important to gauge how self-destructive someone is. Why? When you tell abused/ traumatized people to “self-care”, they may not even understand what that means. Did anyone teach them? Did they live in a world where they were allowed to care about themselves? Did they develop healthy habits in childhood? Or, were they left to fend for themselves as children, and in turn, had to pick up on some habits. These habits may have been acts that would ‘sooth’ them in the short run, but harm them in the long run.
The most important take away is that we start to understand that self-care, is not an innate and natural thing for people. We are born helpless, and in need of help to survive. We are completely left at the mercy of our caregivers. And caregivers, as we know, range in what they are capable of, and what they are willing to do for us. This has a lot to do with what we will then learn to do for ourselves (or not do) as we grow older. Part 1 of this blog is about asking questions and helping people measure and gain an understanding of just how ‘self-destructive’ they are in daily life. Then, in part 2, I will go over interventions and ways to reduce self-destructiveness, for those that are in need. For this measure, I will not be using numbers or getting anyone caught up in being ‘evaluated’ and assigned a percentage. I will simply put the self-destructive categories and questions out there for you to answer yes or no to, and go in as much or as little detail as you would like at this time. This is for people to learn about themselves, and its judgement free. As you get to decide if you ever want to share these answers with anyone.
Are you Self Destructive? (Answer and reflect on the Q’s below)
- Do you suffer from Self-inflicted Verbal abuse? Do you verbally abuse yourself? This can be a result of having verbally abusive caregivers, either that you were the victim of verbal abuse or perhaps witnessed caregivers verbally abusing each other. This could also be a result being a victim to a lot of bullying in school. Verbally abusing yourself looks like: Name calling, belittling, self-shaming, self-guilt tripping, perfectionistic language etc. Do you find that you are doing this on a regular basis? Even daily? This internal dialogue can start to feel ‘normal’ when it becomes a habit. But, it’s not normal or inherent. Humans do not naturally verbally abuse themselves. Often times, our inner critic dialogue comes from our external critics.
- Do you suffer from Self Neglect? Do you ignore important humanly needs such as your physical/ medical needs, emotional needs and/ or spiritual needs? Do you forget or neglect to feed yourself or hydrate? Do you move your body enough? Do you allow yourself to have what you crave in moderation? Do you forget to set doctors’ appointments and/ or go to them? Do you suppress your emotional/spiritual needs and focus in on practical/ logical day to day matters such as work and bills? Do you neglect your home environment and fail to make it a comfortable place for you to live in?
- Do you Self Sabotage? Do you often ruin or neglect important opportunities for yourself? Either subconsciously or on purpose? Have you consistently been late or not shown up to important life events such as: job interviews, college finals, anniversaries or other important engagements that could boost/ help your life? Do you want change and yet fear it at the same time? Do you fear change to a point that you may hinder or delay your progress? Have you missed out on some pretty ‘huge’ opportunities due to this fear of change or fear of the unknown? Have you missed out on potentially great relationships because of it?
- Do you engage in heavy Drug abuse patterns? We all self-medicate, but do you engage in heavy use of harmful substances? Do you find yourself using these substances for any/ every reason you can think of? Such as: celebration, sadness, guilt, anger, boredom, stress and more. Are you experiencing negative consequences due to this drug abuse pattern? Negative consequences such as: financial strain, medical side effects, emotional side effects, strained relationships, difficulty at work and so on?
- Do you engage in compulsive behaviors that result in chronic negative consequences? These compulsive behaviors could include regular unprotected sex with strangers, heavy gambling or shopping. Other behaviors could include chasing adrenaline filled activities such as driving extremely fast, shoplifting, dangerous stunts etc. Do you find it hard to quit? Do you find it hard to sit with yourself in either the boredom or other heavy emotions of what you are experiencing in the moment?
- Do you accept and even sometimes chase abusive relationships? Any/ everyone could potentially fall victim to an abusive partner, this is not a blame game. Predators do exist in the world. But this question is tailored more toward people that have a repetitive abusive partner history, with a tendency to go back to the abuse. Or chasing the ‘highs’ that follow the lows of the abuse. Do you find the ‘high’ after the abuse a hard thing to get away from? Does it feel like a magnet? Do you find yourself intrigued by the extreme ups and downs that some of your prior abusive partners offered? Do you feel like you must suffer through it to be ‘worthy’ or to finally ‘win’ the affection you worked/ suffered so hard for?
- Do you engage in restrictive, binge and/ or purge cycles with food? Do you find that you have a difficult relationship with food? Do you find that it leads to the urge to either restrict your caloric intake or purge what you have eaten? Or do you find yourself binging and then hating yourself for it? Are you doing all of the above or maybe parts of it? Are you obsessing over how you look and how others perceive your looks? Does obsessions with losing/ gaining weight haunt your daily thinking? Have you fell ill due to these unhealthy habits with food or experienced negative physical, social or emotional consequences?
- Do you engage in Non suicidal self-directed violence? Do you harm yourself on purpose? Not for the intent of dying, but for the purpose of ‘soothing’, ‘coping’, ‘feeling something’, attention and/ or unknown reasons? Do you burn yourself? Cut yourself? Obsessively skin pick? Pull your hair out? Do you binge on drugs? Does it relieve you temporarily but you find that the issues you experience always come back? Do you want to stop, but find it hard due to this coping style now being so ingrained?
- Have you had any suicide attempts? The question is already there. Have you had attempts? Have you sought out help for this? Have you processed this? Do you find yourself not wanting to die anymore but having lingering thoughts about it? Ideations or even plans?
This is a heavy blog, please take the time to decompress. If anything stands out and you have a therapist already, I encourage self-reflection, and also to discuss with your therapist in the next session. If you never had a therapist and want to start therapy, that is always a YES answer from me. The purpose of this blog is for psychoeducation, but cannot replace therapy. In part 2, I will break down/ discuss possible self-interventions to combat self-destructive patterns. Stay tuned, and stay safe.
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