As an ex-self harmer, how can be supportive to someone that self harms without allowing it to trigger me?
Last Updated: 01/19/2016 at 4:41am
Jennifer Geib, LCSWR
Clinical Social Work/Therapist
1:1, daily chats. - My therapy is non-judgmental and focuses on emotions and motivation to accomplish your goals or overcome your struggles.
Top Rated Answers
You shouldn't feel pressured into helping someone who self harms, if you feel like it will trigger you. Take things easy, and if you feel triggered, step back from the conversation.
The big thing to remember is to look at the person like they were old you. Allow this to be an experience in which you can pass what you've learned down to someone else. :)
Triggers keep us self-aware. It is important to be in a place in your recovery as a supporter where you can discuss hardship openly without feeling it has power over you. As an ex-self harmer, I often support others by empathizing, relating in a human way, and then directing the conversation toward more healthful coping mechanisms. I understand this is a difficult topic, and even after the unhealthy mind-set has recovered, self-harm can still rear its ugly head as a plain and aggressive addiction. Self-injury is always an opportunity to encourage someone to seek help outside 7 Cups.
As an ex-self harmer, I look at my personal path and how I have healed and progressed. Hold very tight to this path to use it to empathize with the person who needs help. But at the same time never forget how much I have evolved myself. I will see the different steps to recovery and how it is very possible to get out of the negative situation.
For experience I can tell you that sometimes taking care of someone else is the best way to take care of yourself. Try to support someone who self harm can be triggering but it also can help you understand the importance of staying clean. You double the reason to avoid self harm: there is yourself and there is another person who rely on you. I think that an important part of this deal though is to be honest with this person about your past struggles. It would be helpful to the other person to know that you've been through what he/she's going through and surely it's helpful to you that he/she knows that you might be triggered by some of his/her behaviors or discours. I strongly suggest you to avoid looking at scars or wounds, I think it would be dangerous to you both.
It is okay to set boundaries when we help other people. Sometimes its a good idea to say, "I cannot hear about the graphic details of your personal experience with self harm, but I am here to listen and offer support." Whenever I've sought someone out who personally knows what it's like to go through something, all I really want to know is that I'm not alone. That's all we really want, isn't it? To know we're not alone.
It really takes a lot of practice. Especially after you first quit, everything can be triggering. Learning to compartmentalize and set boundaries is really important. By compartmentalizing we can engage in someone else's story without taking it on. And by setting boundaries we can protect ourselves by ensuring the person who is sharing with us doesn't share graphic details or any of those things that will trigger you. Each person has their own triggers.
Separate yourself from the situation. Be able to offer sympathies and give a listening ear, without putting yourself or your feelings in to the situation. I'm an ex-self harmer, but I listen to and help those struggling with it all the time. I believe there's a difference in being sympathetic and a good listener, and putting yourself into their shoes and allowing yourself to be triggered. You also need to know where you are with yourself. Are you ready to listen without being easily triggered? If even listening or reading about self-harm triggers you, I think you need to focus a bit more on healing yourself before you can listen to others. Just know your body and your thoughts, and look after yourself before looking after for others. You cannot help others if you're struggling yourself.
You could tell him or her how you felt. But stay in your comfort zone. Realize that you're okay now. And that they will also get better.
Everyone has different triggers, so navigating this will mostly be up to you and your comfort level when talking about self harm. Be open with other people and let them know when you feel you can or can not talk about something. I think that one way to support someone who self harms without talking directly about self harm, which could be triggering, is to speak with them about their feelings and daily life. Be a person that is there for them, talk to them if they've had a rough day, let them know about your healthy coping mechanisms and help them come up with their own. Having someone that cares can make a big difference, and you don't have to talk about the actual act of self harm/wanting to self harm to show you care.
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