It is important for survivors to learn how to soothe themselves.
Alterations in the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with childhood trauma and abuse may make it difficult for many survivors to tolerate distress. Many survivors don't learn to self-soothe in childhood. Their parents are often poor at soothing themselves and, consequently, at teaching their children to self-soothe (The Morris Center, 1995). The lack of childhood ‘nurturing’ experiences, and of being taught how to look after oneself or ‘self-soothe’ also contributes to difficulties tolerating distress. Acquiring distress tolerance strategies and self-soothing techniques are important skills for survivors and us all.
It can be helpful to make a list of some pros and cons of tolerating distress (i.e. not acting impulsively)
- Focus on long-term goals, the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember times when you have tolerated your distress (without acting out, being self-destructive or acting impulsively) and the pain has ended.
- Think of the positive consequences of tolerating distress. Imagine how good you can feel if you don’t act impulsively (Linehan, 1993b).
Make another list of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress – that is, of coping by hurting yourself, abusing alcohol and drugs, or doing something else impulsive. Think of the possible negative consequences of not tolerating your current distress and seek help if you are finding it difficult to manage your distress.
Call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380, 9am-5pm Mon-Sun AEST to speak to a counsellor for support.