Article by Jillanna Babb
I want to tell you about something that is helping me. Maybe someone needs this idea. If you have ever had self-destructive thoughts, whether you would ever act on those or not, please read.
I teach in dance the concept of replacing a habit with a new, intentional action. For example, if you have what we call a "concentration face" that comes over your visage during times of uncertainty, try to replace it with a smile or a wink or something else of your choosing. Eventually you will not have to think about this replacement of facial expression. Not only do you become more aware, but you escape self-conscious roadblocks by creating a chosen new habit. The expression of confusion can make you feel more lost, and also your audience feels and may feed this.
I have also applied and taught this concept for practice discipline and in getting rid of bad habits in daily life. For example: instead of lighting up a cigarette, practice your shimmy!
Most recently in my life, hard times have caused some self-destructive habits of the mind to increase. One of my regular attacks on myself is a visual imagining of cutting myself with a knife. I am not going to do this to my body, but my mind throws the image at me in times of distress. It is a disturbing flash of the mind that in the past has led to actual self-harm, and then just became an intermittent annoyance as I refused to act on it.
I have also learned through dance studies that visualization can trick the body and mind into thinking that what you visualize is real. Parts of the brain that react when you are actually doing what you imagine become activated the same as if it was really happening. This may be especially true of movement and visceral types of actions. It may be more true of dancers and other physically-focused people, but I think it exists in everyone to some degree.
I decided to try to help myself using this concept. I decided to replace the knife with a feather. Instead of cutting, I imagine sliding a feather across my skin. It is working. It feels better. It is subverting that negative self-attack, slowly but effectively. I do this all in my mind, because the impulse happens anywhere, and I do not even know the trigger every time.
Our bodies are innocent. Be kind to your animal. Take care. It will thank you. I did not even realize how much I was hurting myself until I began using a feather instead of a knife. I am grateful every time, and relieved. There is no escalation. There is only merciful recognition and calm introspection.