Escaping the Self-Harm and Self-Hate Downward Spiral
Individually, hating yourself and hurting yourself are difficult things to cope with. Simultaneously, though, self-harm and self-hate create a vicious cycle that can be challenging to break—but doing so is vital for healing and growth.
Which Came First, Self-Harm or Self-Hate?
Often, it feels like the old chicken-and-egg question. Did you start self-injuring as a means of coping with negative thoughts and feelings about yourself? Or did your self-harm lead to self-hate born of shame and guilt?
Both are possible. In fact, for many of us, both may be true at the same time. For example, you might start hurting yourself to cope with hateful feelings, only to find you hate yourself more because of your self-harm—maybe you hate that people who love you worry because of what you're doing to yourself, or maybe you hate the way your scars mar your skin. Or you might start hurting yourself for other reasons, then hate yourself for it—and then that hate becomes yet another trigger for your self-harm.
Whatever the case may be, struggling with both is a heavy burden to bear, and freeing yourself from this cycle can be difficult—but it's an important step on the path of self-harm recovery.
Healing Self-Harm and Self-Hate Simultaneously
For many people, the best way to break the cycle of self-harm and self-hate is to do so with professional support. Someone like a therapist or counselor can offer invaluable insight into the underlying causes that led you both to hate yourself and to hurt yourself. With the right help, you should be able to sort through your triggers, identify healthy coping mechanisms that work, and begin to build habits that will serve you far better in the long run. In short, recovery is easier with help.
But if you don't have access to professional support for some reason (or aren't ready to take that step yet), reaching out to a support group or even just a trusted friend or family member can help a great deal. The main thing here is to get perspective. Most of the time, the reasons we give ourselves for hating (and hurting) ourselves aren't based on reality. Having someone in your corner who can point out the flaws in your reasoning and help you see things in a better, more realistic light can be incredibly useful and empowering.
That being said, there are also some things you can do on your own to mitigate and, eventually, eliminate both self-harm and self-hate from your life. Here are some things that have helped me cope with triggering intrusive thoughts about myself in the past:
- Journaling exercises
- Art therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) workbooks
- Writing down negative self-talk and then responding as a friend would, with compassion
- Incorporating regular self-care into my daily routine
- Developing empowering mantras to recite during difficult moments
- Box breathing
- Mindfulness techniques like urge surfing
These are just a few of the options available to you; there are many more. Any healthy habits or hobbies that help you challenge your self-hatred, gain a more balanced perspective, and feel better (physically and/or psychologically) can go on the list. Feel free to share more tips or ideas about the self-harm/self-hatred cycle in the comments.
Kim Berkley (2022, May 5). Escaping the Self-Harm and Self-Hate Downward Spiral, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/5/escaping-the-self-harm-and-self-hate-downward-spiral