I Will Hurt Me to Punish You

Something minor happened today which left me feeling like I wanted to cut myself. The event itself doesn’t feel important now; what I am more interested in is how quickly and automatically I jumped to self harming as a possible solution. 

(I feel like I am at a stage where I can manage the low/moderate urges pretty effectively, so it’s not like I wasn’t safe or anything. I was actually pretty effective in how I went about the next few hours, despite wanting to physically attack (either her or myself!) for a while.)

So, I was very mindful of the thoughts and urges I was experiencing, and was even able to start thinking about what was going on for me with curiosity and distance as opposed to impulsivity and willfulness. 

My thinking amounted to a realisation I have had before: that if someone hurts me, upsets me, shames me or angers me, I end up wanting to hurt myself in order to punish them for their wrongdoings. 

I think that generally I really struggle with anger and it’s much easier for me to turn it in on myself as opposed to onto other people – even the person who has provoked it. So one way of getting back at them is by attacking myself. Make total sense, right? 😉

These instances are absolutely not the number one trigger for me to want to harm myself, but when I do feel this way, it is a clear indirect mode of communication – to both myself and the other person. I think during these times, what I’m really meaning to say is something like this:

“Fuck you for hurting me. How dare you shame/ anger/ upset me. How dare you have that power over my world. If you think you can get to me, look how much worse I can get to myself. I can hurt myself (physically) far worse than you will ever be able to hurt me (emotionally). I will show you how much you hurt me and then you will suffer. Then you will see what you have done and why you should listen to my needs – so that I don’t have to show you so tangibly. I am the one in control here. And now it is your turn to feel the helplessness and powerlessness you inflicted upon me. And I on the other hand will feel liberated.”

Edit: ironically, this applies when the person has absolutely no idea that I have engaged in any behaviour, let alone that I am hurt or struggling because of them. The only people I ever told (and very indirectly at that, or they found out via other more dramatic means) were my therapists/ people on my treatment team. Then it really did apply. I will give an example later. 

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18 thoughts on “I Will Hurt Me to Punish You

  1. I know that one reason I self-injure when angry at are hurt by someone else is because then *I* control the pain, not them. I usually don’t inform when I SI, so the “hurt them” mindset is less applicable to me. rather, it’s about Control for me. just a thought. ::shrugs::

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  2. I think this is such a valuable, open and honest appraisal, and so mindful. It is wonderful to be able to observe those thoughts and urges without acting on them. I think it is really normal to want to hurt people who hurt you, and to want to be in control of a situation – especially your own pain. It’s only when that leads us into behaviours that we don’t want to do that it becomes a problem, so catching it early and just looking at it can really help put a space between the itch and the scratch. Thank you so much for these insights.

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  3. I was extremely upset with my boyfriend a while back and was overcome with an intense urge to cut. There was a voice in my head urging me to hurt myself so that all my pain would come from my own actions, not his… so that I wouldn’t feel so helpless and at his mercy. I’m guessing it might be some sort of control issue as well.

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  4. I cannot describe how much I relate to this. In fact I couldn’t have written it better myself. Your whole reasoning behind why you turn to self harm when someone has made you feel angry is exactly the way I have felt in the past. Reading blogs has really helped me recently and it helps to know that I am not alone, so thank you.

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