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Some of them will self-injure so as to generate a strong sensation that is capable of bringing them back to feeling something again. Not all numb dissociated people will use physical pain to "return"; some will use other strong sensations such as are afforded by drugs or sex, etc. Sometimes, people who self-harm are not skilled at using language to describe their inner experiences.This can be because they are not particularly good with words.
She coped with this compulsion by cutting herself, which refocused her attention, however temporarily, away from her suicidal ideation.
This wasn't perhaps the most ideal coping solution in the world, but it was what she had come up with, and it was functioning to keep her alive.
Sometimes an aspect of a person's chaotic internal experience is that feelings and thoughts build up a subjective state of tension or arousal that motivates people to do something to take action to reduce that tension or arousal.
Cutting or burning one's self can, apparently, serve such a tension-reducing function. I read an account of a young woman who was consumed with suicidal thoughts which pushed her towards a compulsive feeling that she should end her life.
This process of physical expression of inner experience is sometimes called "acting out." One rather impulsive and aggressive form of acting out involves inflicting wounds on one's self with the intention of using these physical wounds as a communications device.
The idea is that there is some rough correspondence between easy-to-see self-inflicted physical wounds and internal and thus invisible emotional wounds.
So, a painful feeling associated with a traumatic memory might be detached from that memory such that the traumatized person remembers the event as though it happened in a movie; as though it happened to someone else and they were just watching it unfold, numb to the experience.
We're all familiar with the idea that it is painful to experience pain sensations.
It can be because they never learned (for whatever reason) what words to use to describe emotion.
It can be because what they experience inside their minds is overwhelming to them (due to trauma or abuse) that words can't do justice.
Seizing this control involves shifting the focus of their attention away from something more troubling towards something less troubling.