When a loved one comes to us and lets us know they're cutting, our reactions back to them are extremely important. How we respond will determine how often this person comes to us in the future with important information.
Do Not Over-React or Invoke Shame
When told someone is cutting, do not act surprised or overwhelmed with this information. That can be hard to do, but as little of a reaction as possible is best. We want to acknowledge we heard the information, but we want to respond in a way that encourages more sharing to be expressed.
If we respond in a way that communicates Something is wrong with you! or Why on earth would you do such a thing?, our loved one will shut down and probably never speak of such serious things to us again.
Think of yourself and how you need others to respond when you share important, serious information with them. Do you want them to look at you as if you have a third eye? Or as if they're deeply concerned and want to hear more from your heart?
Responding in a shaming, condescending, condemning manner may increase the likelihood that a loved one will cut even more. It will stir up feelings of rejection in the cutter and overwhelm them to the point of needing an emotional release.
At the same time, having a shaming or negative response will feed into existing issues for the cutter. If we respond to a cutter in a shaming way, we become unsafe to them, just like so many other people in their lives.
The best thing we can do is to demonstrate positive coping skills by managing OUR emotional reactions. If we're struggling with emotions that we're feeling, then we need to express them to someone other than the cutter. We can find a trusted friend, pastor or counselor to discuss our feelings surrounding the cutting. When in conversations with the cutter, we need to be in control of our emotions, and our main purpose is to listen and listen some more.
Written by: Tamara Portee MA, LMHC, LCAC
*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.