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You’re Only Hurting Yourself

shutterstock_188024033People do self-destructive acts all the time.  Sometimes it’s because they don’t realize they’re doing it (self-sabotage, where your unconscious is driving the car) or because they don’t see an alternative (cutting, for example, releases endorphins and offers immediate relief from pain.)  Here are some questions to ask yourself, in order to recognize your patterns and begin healing.1)  Do you feel you’re actively making choices about your life, or are you on autopilot?

Often, we allow our basest instincts to take over.  We abdicate our volition.  Think about whether you are blindly following your impulses, and if so, whether those impulses are healthy or not.

2)  Are you doing what’s healthiest, or what’s easiest?

Sometimes people stay in relationships that don’t benefit them because they don’t have the energy to end it, or because they’re afraid to be alone.  Fear-based decisions are often self-destructive ones.

3)  Are you thinking short-term or long-term?

Maybe you’re continuing to overeat, or to cut, or to do other self-soothing behaviors that are negative long-term because you don’t have other coping mechanisms immediately available.  It might be that you don’t have the time or the financial resources to seek therapy right now and learn other ways to handle things.

Self-harming behaviors are treatable.  I’d recommend a good dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) workbook.   It offers a lot of alternative tools you can try.

4)  Do you believe that you can change and that your life can improve?

If not, then you’ll continue to engage in self-defeating behaviors.  Hopelessness breeds poor choices.  It limits your imagination, and narrows the possibilities you can see for yourself in the short-term and the long-term.

If you are feeling hopeless, seek out resources.  Those resources might be financial (perhaps you’re feeling dependent on someone, and stuck, and you need to see about housing or jobs.)  Or they might be emotional, and you need to get the support of friends and family.

5)  Are you isolating?

That can be a sign that you know something’s wrong and aren’t ready to face it.  You know that what you’re doing is unhealthy and maybe you’re ashamed ot admit it to others.

There’s an AA saying: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”  Once you tell the truth, once you bring things out into the light, you’ll find things will become much brighter.  Not immediately, but soon enough.  Sooner than if you continue to do what you know in your heart will only bring you further pain.

Man punching himself image available from Shutterstock.

You’re Only Hurting Yourself

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). You’re Only Hurting Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Oct 2014
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