self-harmThe beauty is the pure, amazing vulnerability that defines our very humanity. That vulnerability only has harming effects when one tries to escape it and run away from the sense of being open and exposed to the world. The harming effects come from the self-sabotaging attempts of desperately proving that one is not the beautiful and loveable person that he or she truly is. The self-sabotaging behaviours also serve in keeping people at a distance, to avoid the potential pain of rejection and the fear of actually experiencing true joy and connection.

I am currently working with a group of six teenage girls. Four of the six are cutters, one is battling with severe drug addictions, and the other opened up last week about her eating disorder. What’s the difference? There is none. Cutting, eating disorders, addictions, gambling, depression, anxiety… The girls and I are starting to talk about what it is that makes us all one and the same. People just have different ways of experiencing their vulnerability and dealing with those moments of panic and fear. The way we each experience it and deal with it has everything to do with things that have happened to us in the past when we have felt helpless and vulnerable. Are you someone who has been shown that the world is a safe place and that everything will turn out ok? Or are you someone who has been slapped in the face, humiliated, abused, and put down every time you tried and allowed yourself to believe?

Every animal has these weird and obscure ways of puffing themselves up and intimidating potential predators. Certain species of birds puff up their feathers, spread their wings and squawk. Cats round their backs. Porcupines, Skunks, Jelly Fish, Snapping Turtles, Poisonous Snakes… For many, there is a defense mechanism built into their biological make-up to ensure their survival. Humans are not much different. Our defense mechanisms exist within our emotional reactions, psychology, and nervous system. We fight, blame, justify, accuse, scare, intimidate, hide, deny, and more. For some of us, those defense mechanisms work. Over time, we are taught by those that we love to let down our guards and let go of the perception of threats in moments when the threat isn’t actually there. For others, the defense mechanisms haven’t served them well in times when they were most important. Some have learned that there is no way of protecting oneself and the only way to get through the pain and sense of helplessness is to cause self-harm before someone else inflicts the pain… at least that way, you’re the one in control.

If you wish to have a better understanding of what it is that motivates one to cause self-injury, become curious about their story and what vulnerability has felt like to them. If you wish to take a stand for what people are actually worth, connect with them on a human level and look beyond the behaviours that are meant to mask the beauty that may be so hard for them to embrace.

Join me in taking a stand for those who have been abused, bullied, and taught to think that they are not worthy of being loved.