For a long time, I was angry with myself for my self-destructive actions. I drank too much, smoked and was a drug abuser. I went into many abusive relationships. I also hated my physical appearance. For weeks I tried to persuade the plastic surgery clinic of how ugly I was and that they must understand that I need to be “fixed”. By the way – I am not ugly. I have been a food addict, both by binge eating and dieting. I also workout obsessively, abusing my body, training for hours upon hours. What do I train for? I do not know – mental health, perhaps? I will not even start talking about how many hours I can work a day. Sleeping? No, it is so not for me! Self-destructive! Self-destructive! Self-destructive!
It is often difficult for individuals to understand why self-destruction occurs. It is confusing. How can I do this to myself? The voice of self-blame strikes like lightning: “I hate myself. I am mad at myself. I have no character. I am destroying myself. I am a bad person. I eat all the time. Of course I will be fat. Why do I not stop drinking after two glasses of wine? There is something wrong with me. Why do I not love myself? Or do I?” These are all statements and self-talk by people who do this to themselves.
I blamed myself for my self-destructive actions. So does society, perhaps rightly, if you like. What we all miss is that the behavior is an attempt to alleviate an “inner wound”. The wound can consist of anything; grief, divorce, trauma, abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, negative emotions, unemployment, stressful situations or psychiatric diagnosis. Or how about a nice combination of all of the above?
People who are self-violating attempt to heal the “inner wound”, for a brief moment or for an extended time period. They seek relief from a negative emotional state. Does this mean that the person is self-defeating in the truest sense? No. The action and behaviour itself is destructive, but NOT the individual. The distinction is significant because it means that the person actually loves himself even if he or she does not appear to at all. People do not deliberately try to make themselves suffer. They are trying to heal, but lack the correct tools or positive behavior to reduce their negative emotional state. Often, the individual is not even aware that the negative action is an attempt to heal the “wound”.
Suicide is the most extreme act of self-harm, maybe the most extreme. Many see this as the final step of abandoning of self and the largest form of self-hatred. It is possible to look at this through a different perspective. The individual cannot stand to suffer anymore and because of the love for oneself the person wants to end the pain. Therefore, the conduct could also be seen as an act of love to self. Suicide is not positive and I am not advocating for this form of self-destruction. I am simply stating that the love is always present, but the behavior must be changed.
When I realized that my love for myself was intact, but my way of trying to heal became negative in the long run, I could finally break my patterns. My actions were not there to harm me but to give me relief. My realization was that I finally was able to forgive myself. I replaced the previous, destructive behavior with new, positive actions.
If you are a person with self-destructive patterns – stop blaming yourself. Understand that you are trying to heal and that your love for yourself is there. Your positive intention behind your actions is to feel good. Examine where your “wound” or negative emotional state originates. Find support for change and try to heal through awareness. If you are a person looking from the outside and feel that you are unwilling or unable to take action, separate the person and the action when you see someone acting destructive. Understand that the individual is doing his or her best to heal. Make every attempt to not judge. One of my favorite quotes that represents this concept:
“You cannot love others without loving yourself” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
I have good news: Everyone already loves themselves! The road to healing begins for all of us – even for society as a whole – by YOU realizing that love is already within you, both for yourself and for the world.
Pärnilla Zigher, September 2012