Myths and Misunderstandings about Self-Harm

  • Myth 1: People who self-harm are attempting suicide
    • Fact: Self-harm is most often used as a way to keep living despite experiencing emotional distress, rather than a way to end their life
  • Myth 2: People who self-harm are just attention-seeking
    • Fact: In fact, they tend to keep their self-harming a secret as a result of feelings of embarrassment, shame or guilt as well as not expecting others to understand or that it is a deeply personal act. It is not ‘just attention-seeking’ however sometimes it can be a cry for help
  • Myth 3: Don’t approach a person who self-harms, leave it to the professionals
    • Fact: Taking time to listen without judging encourages people to get their problems out into the open; the first and essential step along the road to recovery. You don’t need to focus, or even discuss, the self-harming, rather focus on the distress that is underlying the need to harm
  • Myth 4: You will know if someone is self-harming if they have cuts on their arms
    • Fact: Cutting is one form of self-harm; others include burning, hitting, bruising, swallowing, poisoning, etc. There is usually a great deal of effort made to keep the injuries and scars hidden; including actions that leave no mark or a mark in an area hidden by clothing
  • Myth 5: Self-harming is just the latest fashion and young people will simply grow out of it
    • Fact: Self-harm is not a phase or a fashion; read our blog on the different functions of self-harming. Listening to certain music, or dressing in certain ways does not lead to self-harming. People of all ages, backgrounds and of both genders self-harm. Self-harm is always a signal that something is seriously wrong

What is Self-Harming?

In its broadest sense, self-harm describes a wide range of acts that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way, which are damaging; includes cutting, burning, scalding, banging heads and other body parts against walls, hair-pulling, biting, swallowing or inserting objects as well as self-poisoning. It is a practice that has not fully settled on a name with other terms frequently being used; self-injury, self inflicted violence, self-injurious behaviour and self mutilation. Currently the phrase Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) is being used in professional contexts.

Importantly, Self-harm in defined as inflicting immediate and direct physical damage or pain without the intent to kill oneself. The damage can be alarming with the uninformed not being able to understand and, therefore, making the assumption that the act was an attempt at suicide. Self-harming has many varied functions, but it is always a sign of emotional distress and that something is seriously wrong.

It is listed in the DSM-IV-TR (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association) as a trait for diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder and often associated with mental illness, trauma & abuse, low self-esteem & perfectionism and eating disorders.

People self-harm for a number of reasons, for some people self-harm provides the means to cope with overwhelming emotions, a way to control feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. For others, self-harm temporarily combats feelings of numbness to the world around them. It is important to bear in mind that everybody’s experience is unique, and there are no universal rules or reasons for self-harm.

Read further about the different function of self-harming.

Key Tips for Surviving Auditions

Auditions are a big deal! Treat them as such, but don’t let them define you.

Now that’s a difficult balance to get, especially when it’s been a while since your last audition.

Auditions are a few intense moments to prove yourself, often to strangers that don’t know you. Those few moments could be life changing, getting a role that could make your reputation. It all comes down to what you do in those indescribably fast and fleeting minutes. They are the very definition of a high anxiety provoking situation- very high value with very low margins for error.

If that’s not bad enough, expressing your Self and presenting your abilities for all to see can be incredibly exposing, leaving you feeling fragile and vulnerable. So auditions can be both intense and personal. A really daunting combination.

So how to not only survive, but thrive in this knife’s edge space?

  1. Be Prepared

Think of what you can do to prepare, know the situation, casting director, etc. Get as good an idea as you can of what will be expected of you at the audition and in the role. Performing is a job, one that is personal, revealing, emotional, taxing, unpredictable, but it’s is still a job. So auditions are job interviews, in part, so be ready.

Anxiety is the belief that your abilities are not a match for the demands of the situation. Preparation can increase your belief in yourself through being clearer about the situation and, therefore, able to make a realistic judgement of your fit. If you are sure that you are a match for the role, you can go in with greater confidence. If you assess that it’s going to be a stretch and you are unlikely to get the role; you can strategically withdraw or take a shot with realistic expectations. Either way you are more in control or the situation and of your career.

CG Jung: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

  1. Manage your Anxiety

Ok, now that we’ve done the clever cognitive stuff, performing is not an intellectual pursuit. Getting our heads in gear is important, but an audition is not a job interview. To be brilliant in that moment you need to be present and focused, creative and powerful, unambiguous and memorable. Thinking is for the preparation so that you can focus yourself emotionally and creatively when on stage.

Anxiety naturally draws you into your head, but not in a sophisticated and useful way. Anxiety tells us something is important getting us physiologically prepared for action. So the body is in a higher state of arousal and the brain is taking in great stimulus and processing it quickly. All good to a point; your excited and ready. As the level of anxiety increases the body becomes less refined in it’s movements, not good for fine motor skills or hand eye co-ordination, and the brain becomes increasingly focused on danger preparation. So our creative powerhouse starts to run simple well-engrained scripts like jump out the way of that car, look out for snakes as well as everyone is against me, I’m not good enough, I’m not ready for this, etc.

Be honest with yourself! If you struggle with anxiety and self-doubt, this is part of being a human being doing something that is important to them.  That’s not the problem! The problem is not dealing with these powerful feelings. Find ways to calm and reassure yourself so you can be your best for those crucial moments. There are plenty of anxiety management resources online, but follow the key principles of personalise, practise, potent and passion. Generic tools that you haven’t honed won’t help when the intensity starts to spiral; meet fire with fire.

CG Jung: “A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.”

  1. Respect the Experience

Success or failure is secondary to this being an experience in your life; no matter what happens you lived it, you grew as a person and you can learn something. We have a tendency not to process our experiences, but if you want to survive and thrive through the crucible of auditions they need to be a learning experience above an examination. Others’ are sitting in judgement of you, but you are using them as a resource to learn to be better at auditions, as a performer and as a person. This might sound dramatic and philosophical, but auditions are somehow outside of your life – they are an integral part of your chosen lifestyle. Therefore, as much as they are for work they are also the material that make up the days of your life, your resources for growth.

So no matter the outcome, commit to reflect on the learning about the audition process, on your performance and skills as well as reflect on how this affected you, good or bad. This builds your sense of being in control of the process. Also you cannot fail if your primary goal is to learn and improve and that is what you do consistently.

CG Jung: “Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”

  1. Win the War

As the saying goes be less focused on the short term of winning a particular battle, this particular audition, it’s the war you need to win, building a successful career. So treat an audition, even a really really important one, as a part of the process. Don’t shy away from the experience; tell friends and family that you are going for it and how it goes. There is no shame in doing your job, which is going to auditions and winning some while losing others. The shame and embarrassment comes when you have something to hide from yourself and from others. You are allowed to hope and be disappointed, just as much as you are allowed to celebrate. You are a performer with all the ups and the downs that goes with life on the stage/screen/etc.

So be open and plan to go out with friends to tell them how it went. Or have a long walk along the Thames, or play with a puppy in the park. You need to actively process the experience as a learning and as a normal part of the life of a performer. Stay away from self-destructive habits or those gateway activities that always seem to lead you in a dark direction when disappointed. Seek the support you need or be alone or do something you enjoy or read a prepared uplifting script. Whatever, helps you integrate the experience into your life path in a meaningful way and to manage the emotional turbulence. The key is to decide before hand the post audition activity, no matter the result rather than respond to extreme emotions.

CG Jung: “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

In Summary

  • Prepare for the audition and have a plan for processing the result.
  • Expect anxiety and train yourself to manage the effects of increased arousal levels.
  • Treat the audition as an ongoing part of your career progression.
  • You need to find the way that works best for you.