Self-Harm Alternatives

Emergency Relief

By Grantley Morris

<font color=#cc0000>*</font> <font color=#cc0000>*</font> <font color=#cc0000>*</font>

Urgent Help for Self-Harm

Ask yourself:

* What triggered this latest increase in your desire to self-harm?

    It might, for example, have been a memory, or a song, movie, website, smell, sound, taste, what someone said or did or the person’s physical presence.

    Are you able to remove the trigger – by switching off the radio, moving to another room or some such thing?

* Do you remember feeling this way before?

    If so, did you find an workable alternative to self-harm? Would it, or a modification of it, work this time?

* Try to identify what you are feeling. If you cannot do so, go to General Alternatives but if it is one of the following, click the appropriate link:

General Alternatives to Self-Harm

Real Healing


    * Play and/or sing anger music

    * Use a pillow, punching bag, or some such thing that you hit with a stick or punch

      The most healthy option is to avoid thinking of the object you hit as being yourself or any person.

    * Use a Wii

      You might choose a boxing game or some other form of combat or simply something to help you expend energy.

    * Tear up rags or old clothes, or perhaps books you no longer want, or choose something else you can safely expend energy destroying.

      The advantage of tearing rather than cutting is that it is important to lessen any connection between stress and cutting. If, however, you feel that cutting these things is the only alternative to cutting yourself then it is obviously preferable to cut them rather than cut yourself.

    * Write an angry letter

      Address it, perhaps, to the person who hurt you, detailing the injustices you have suffered and how wrong he or she was. Then, perhaps, tear it up and burn it or cross it out until it is illegible. Or you might write an angry poem or entry in a journal and preserve it.

    * Hard Physical Exercise

      Provided it is not so excessive that it endangers your health, hard exercise can be extremely helpful and positive.

    * Play and/or sing soothing music

    * Learn How to Scream or Shout

    * Make a Deliberate Effort to Relax

    * Get Angry at the Real Cause of Your Torment

    * For more options, see General Alternatives to Self-Harm

    * Don’t forget that this webpage offers only temporary relief


    * Reassure yourself that you are in physically safe surroundings

      This might include checking that doors and windows are locked and closing curtains. Alternatively it might involve visiting a friend.

    * Clothing

      Some types of clothing might make you feel safer than other types. Sometimes it can be helpful to ground yourself in the present by noting things about your surroundings that affirm you are no longer in the location and/or time in which you were mistreated.

    * Play Soothing Music

    * Use Touch

      Hugging a pillow or stuffed toy or snuggling into a soft blanket helps more people than you might imagine. Patting or playing with a pet might be helpful.

    * Connect with Nature

      It might be a hike in a wilderness area, or a stroll along the beach, or gardening, or playing with a pet or whatever is meaningful to you.

    * Anti-Anxiety Medication

      It is regrettable that, in some circles, medication has a stigma it does not deserve. Anyone tempted to self-harm is under extreme stress and if the stress has been there for long, your body is almost certainly suffering from a chemical imbalance that medication could help restore. That does not mean that what is currently available will work for everyone. Different people react in different ways to different anti-anxiety medication. Your doctor can only take an educated guess as to what will work best for you, so finding the ideal dosage and type of medication for you is likely to require a little trial and error.

    * Make a Deliberate Effort to Relax

    * For more options, see General Alternatives to Self-Harm

    * Don’t forget that this webpage offers only temporary relief


    * Boost your Self-Esteem

      Almost certainly, your low self-esteem keeps you from recognizing your achievements and good qualities, but try at times when you are not so depressed to build your collection. If you have any trophies or diplomas then, of course, include them but your achievements might be less tangible. You might keep in your box such things as a record of encouraging things that people have said about you, and a list of your accomplishments.

    * Dress up

      For women, another help to feeling better about themselves might be to paint their nails, fix their hair, put on makeup and perfume and get dressed up. Perhaps get a professional photo of you looking your best and keep it in the box.

    * Photos & Mementos

      You might have pictures or mementos that remind you of happier times or that help you imagine yourself in a happier or safer situation. Sadly, not everyone has loved ones who make life worth living but those who do might use photos of these people to inspire them to resist destructive behavior for their loved one’s sake.

    * Play uplifting music or sing bright songs. Consider dancing to such music. Praise and worship music is particularly powerful if you let it move you to become actively involved.

    * Connect with Nature

      It might be a hike in a wilderness area, or a stroll along the beach, or gardening, or playing with a pet or whatever is meaningful to you.

    * For more options, see General Alternatives to Self-Harm

    * Don’t forget that this webpage offers only temporary relief


Emotional Numbness

    If you are feeling emotionally numb there are ways to assure yourself that you can feel without resorting to self-injury. A cold shower is an extreme example. Some people have found it helpful just to run warm water over their hands and gently wash them, focusing on the feelings in their hands. This can be soothing, as well as reassuring that one truly can feel.

    * Use Touch

      Hug a pillow or stuffed toy or snuggle into a soft blanket. Pat or play with a pet.

    * Use Your Sense of Smell

      If you have at least some sense of smell, consider sniffing smelling salts, perfume and so on, to remind yourself that your senses are truly alive.

    * For more options, see General Alternatives to Self-Harm

    * Don’t forget that this webpage offers only temporary relief

Urge to Punish Yourself Feeling a Failure/Extreme Low Self-Esteem

    Like the “ugly duckling,” you have been battered by ridicule and false accusations with such devastating frequency that you now find it beyond belief that you really are a beautiful and highly capable swan. You are far more valuable and capable than you dare imagine.

    * Note the web address of this page so you won’t get lost, then go to Why God Loves No One More Than You

    * Don’t forget that the webpage you are reading offers only temporary relief


    No matter who you are or what you have done, the moment you come (or return) to Christ, all guilt feelings are nothing but false accusations, as slanderous as accusing the spotless Son of God of moral failure. The person who did those awful things is dead. You are gloriously alive but a totally different person – “a new creation” – mind-bogglingly pure and innocent. Your only problem is that the transformation you have experienced is so unbelievably dramatic that your conscience hasn’t caught up with spiritual reality. Instead of needlessly caving into false feelings, note the web address of this page so you won’t get lost, then discover who you really are by reading Forgiving Yourself and the pages it leads to.

    * Don’t forget that this webpage offers only temporary relief


    * Ground Yourself in the Present

      Take special note of your surroundings to reassure yourself that you are not in the time or place where you suffered past trauma.

    * Contact a friend or counselor

    * For more options, see General Alternatives to Self-Harm

    * Don’t forget that this webpage offers only temporary relief

General Alternatives to Self-Harm

Keep an Emotional Diary

    It can be very helpful to keep a journal in which you record your overwhelming emotions while you are feeling them. It can also help you get more in touch with your feelings if you feel numb. Should you are worried about people reading it, you can develop your own codes that just looks like doodles. For details, see The Idea God Gave Emma.

Make a Deliberate Effort to Relax

    Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down or take a warm bath. Once settled, breathe deliberately and calmly. Every time you exhale, picture the tension leaving your body with the breath.

    Visualize what for you is a deeply soothing scene. It might be sunbaking on a secluded tropical beach. Make it as real as you can. Involve all your senses. See, for example, the gentle lapping of the sparkling sun-soaked water. See fish in the water and palm trees slowly swaying in the refreshing breeze. Are there any butterflies? Feel the soft white sand and the cozy warmth of the sun on your relaxed body. Hear the sea gulls and the soothing rhythmic lap of the sea. As you inhale, what do you smell? Is it the aroma of food cooking on a fire nearby or is it something else?

    Consciously relax every muscle in your body. Perhaps start with your jaw, then your forehead, then your hands, then your tummy. These are parts of the body where stress is often focused, but gradually move on to other muscle groups as well. Every time you breathe out, relax even more. Feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into whatever your body is resting on.

    As you luxuriate in these feelings, assure yourself that you deserve this peace and ease and comfort. Know that through your union with Christ, God is smiling approvingly upon you, his precious child.

Get Angry at the Real Cause of Your Torment

    Despite the appalling frequency with which the apostle Paul was slandered, betrayed, slapped, punched, stoned, whipped and tortured by humans, he wrote:

      Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    Expose the real enemy. Get to the heart of your distress by directing your anger not at yourself, nor at the human drones who treated you so criminally, but at the spiritual entities who instigated and empowered the evil directed at you.

    Majestically rise up in holy indignation, exercising the terrifying authority invested in you through the Spotless Son of God bearing in his own body the full guilt, degradation, punishment and wrath of God incurred by the atrocities of the entire human race. While snuggling into the comforting, protective embrace of your holy, compassionate, omnipotent Savior, angrily attack every demon that has ever opposed you until they flee from you in wide-eyed terror.

Fight Lies with Truth

    Instead of letting negative thoughts churn through your mind, exercise sheer faith by telling yourself over and over the very opposite of your concern. For example, if you feel useless, keep telling yourself such things as, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (adapted from Philippians 4:13); if you feel guilty, keep telling yourself such things as, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). A most effective way to counteract devastating lies is to keep thanking and praising God that the exact opposite is true. Rather than wallowing in hurtful, depressing lies, fight back by doing your best to rejoice in the truth – even if the lies feel far more real than God’s truth.

Let Yourself Scream or Shout

    This is a helpful, natural way of releasing pent up emotion and yet many find it very difficult to do for either practical reasons – the neighbors thinking you are mad – or because you feel too inhibited.

    A practical suggestion is to play loud music and scream into a pillow. Another possibility is to hike/drive into some isolated place. If you feel inhibited, you might consider practicing in a place where shouting is considered socially acceptable, such as a major football game.

Learn to Weep and/or Wail

    I explain in my full page about self-harm how, despite the false impression given in some cultures, there is nothing weak or unmanly about this natural expression of emotion.

    By what has been said or done to them in the past, many people have been robbed of the ability to shed tears freely and without shame. That, in itself, is abuse and should not be tolerated. Fight back. Letting yourself cry in private is a way of not letting such an abuser win.

    In the Bible and a wide range of other cultures, people skilled at weeping and wailing were paid to visit those whose mourning the death of a loved one. I believe this is psychologically sound in that being surrounded by actors expressing deep grief through tears, shrieks and bodily movements is likely to help those suffering a loss to feel less inhibited about doing the same. It seems these cultures have correctly understood that such emotional release speeds recovery from grief. Those who stifle their emotions are likely to remain deeply affected by the loss for a much longer time.

    I suggest considering trying something similar to those who use professional mourners by finding videos of people weeping and wailing. Locating suitable material will be challenging but you might be able to find examples on the Internet, and TV news reports often show highly expressive displays of emotion at Middle Eastern funerals and tragedies.

    Many hurting people fear that if they start crying they will tap into something so deep that they will never be able to stop. This fear is quite unfounded.

    For a little more about crying see Crying.

A Little Creativity

    Express your feelings in scribbles or more artistically. Besides painting or drawing, possibilities include cutting out a shape in paper or creating something with play dough or clay. Then, perhaps, angrily destroy it or, alternatively, carefully preserve it as a monument to what you have suffered.


    Keep a journal or notebook in which you can express your thoughts and feelings in words. Or you might write a poem, or short fictitious stories. You don’t have to be articulate. Even scribbling single words could help. Or you might write an e-mail detailing your distress and what you have suffered and send it to someone who cares or even post it to yourself.

Worship music

    Worship music can prove powerful when you allow it to take you into the presence of the divine Healer whose compassion and devotion to you is boundless.


    Read special quotes or words from others that can re-direct your thoughts to something more positive and more in line with the loving way God sees you. You might print out pages from the huge website, record the web address of comforting webpages, put quotes on the walls of your house, and so on.

Mental Gymnastics

    A friend of mine sometimes finds it helpful to distract herself by doing crossword puzzles. For you it might be a computer game or something more in line with your own interests.

Contact Helpful People

    They might be trusted friends, family members or a pastor/counselor who can help distract, comfort or support you during this difficult time.

Prayer so Profound and Passionate that it Breaks the Language Barrier

    When the King James Bible says, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD,” (Psalms 100:1), it is translating the normal Hebrew word for a battle cry – a blood curling scream of such ear-splitting intensity that it is intended to unnerve the enemy. Note, however, that what makes so special this scream from the depths of the soul the psalmist urges us to release is that it is directed to the Lord. “Deep calls to deep” says another Psalm (Psalm 42:7)

      Lamentations 3:55 I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit.

    Charles Finney (1792-1875) had a divine encounter so intense that he says, “I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart.”

    Like a famous detective seeking to solve a mystery by seeing known facts in a new light, let your mind run wild chasing the implications of these Scriptures:

      Romans 8:26  . . . the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

      Mark 14:33-35  . . . he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. . . . Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed . . .

      Hebrews 5:7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him . . .

    Paul spoke of prayer that is so deep that it by-passes the limits of one’s mind. It is so extreme as to be incomprehensible to one’s intellect and yet it is divinely effective because one’s very spirit is praying; uttering mysteries in sounds that one’s mind can’t make sense of (1 Corinthians 14:15-15).

    So let yourself go. Don’t limit yourself to words, or to your own understanding, as your pour out your heart to the heart of God. Don’t hold back as your heart connects with the divine heart that breaks for you. Merge with the heart that feels your anguish with divine intensity and knows you more intimately and exhaustively than even you can know yourself.

Use Blood-like Substances

    The problem with this option is that it reinforces an undesirable link between blood and temporary stress-relief. So I don’t recommend it except as a very last resort when the only alternative seems to be spilling your own blood.

    * Get ketchup in a plastic container and squeeze hard and repeatedly, letting it flow out. A mostly empty container of somewhat dried up ketchup might be too frustrating for you but it has the advantage of requiring the expenditure of more energy and so allowing you to focus your feelings in that direction.

    * Squeeze the ketchup on to your body – especially the part you are tempted to injure.

    * Use your creativity with a red ball pen or whiteboard marker or red paint or beetroot juice or other reddish liquid or the blood from meat.

    * I know one person who has even found watching a medical show helpful.

If You Must Inflict Pain

    If you feel utterly unable to stop yourself inflicting pain, put a rubber band on your wrist and use it to sting yourself. You do not deserve this but at least it is better than causing physical damage and/or risking infection. Before doing so, however, could you please read the next paragraph.

    If only you could see yourself through God’s loving eyes you would understand that no matter how atrocious your sins might be, you deserve not pain but comfort and understanding. Whatever you have done, it has been utterly cancelled by what Christ has done for you. It breaks God’s heart that things have become so distorted in your mind that you would choose to hurt yourself when Jesus let himself be tortured to death to render your self-inflicted pain unnecessary. God believes in you. I beg you to talk it over with him.

Real Healing

    If you were in physical pain, the real answer is not to find ways of coping with the pain but to cure the cause of the pain. And the same is true for the inner pain that tempts you to self-harm.

    To be freed from the urge to hurt yourself, it is important to work on healing the inner turmoil that drives you to seek relief through self-harm. This takes courage and time but is deeply rewarding.

    For the first steps on this exciting journey to wholeness, see Cure for Self-Harm.

* * *

Personalized support

Grantley Morris:

* * *

Not to be sold. © Copyright 2011, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.

E-mail Grantley Morris: