Watching a friend self-destruct

Sigmund Freud once said, ‘It is mankind’s instinct to survive and keep living in a society, where its morals, rules and regulations helps us to keep our animalistic behaviors intact.’

It is always hard to watch a friend self-destruct. From smoking to drugs, dating jerks to loving and marrying the completely wrong guy…. to even WORSE….inflicting physical pain on themselves. It’s hard to watch, and harder still to watch and do NOTHING. Don’t you just wish you could smack them on the forehead and just snap them out of it? Or call the police and have them fix it? Or write a movie about their life so they see what you see? Well given these are unlikely options… what should you do? First step is to understand what SELF-DESTRUCTION *is* and why people do it.

Why do people self- destruct?

Self-destruction is a psychological phenomenon and the cause is not totally known. A self-destructive person may be aware of their actions, but unable to influence them. Or completely unaware.

In some cases, self-destruction is used as a coping mechanism when life seems like too much to handle. For instance, when a woman is rejected by good guys she may turn to the bad guys so that she is more likely to succeed… and then if she doesn’t succeed the stakes are lower. This is the result of a fear of rejection. Fear can lead a person to self-destruction. Sometimes it feels like intentional failure is easier to deal with than a failed attempt at success.

Another possible cause is depression. Clinically depressed people often have low self-esteem and perhaps feel like they deserve to fail. Manic depression or being bipolar can also cause self-destruction.

Denial can lead to self-destruction. For example if a friend denies that she is addicted to partying and drinking using the argument that she’s enjoying life… while compromising her job performance, friendships and financial health… it can be tough to discuss the problem.

Trauma (childhood or recent trauma) can also be a cause for self-destruction.

How do people self- destruct?

• Eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia are form of self-destruction having to do with a skewed self-image and an obsession with thinness… despite an intellectual understanding of the heath risks and disadvantages of mal-nutrition.
• Drug addiction as a means of escape or boosting confidence.
• Inflicting self pain by a person who is so emotionally detached that when they inflict physical pain they feel a sort of euphoria.
• Driving people away because of emotional turbulence or fear of abandonment. Done successfully… a person can become reclusive and disengaged.
• Suicide. If you suspect someone is suicidal, get them professional help.

How to HELP your self-destructive friend?

Psychologists sometimes say that the mind is a very dangerous place to visit and no one should go their alone. Self-destructive people often spend too much time alone in their own mind.

Step 1: Listen and understand.
If you want to help a self-destructive friend, try to understand the REASONS why they are doing damage to themselves. You can help your friend by observing their behavior and listening to their words when they talk about the situation. For instance, simply ask them why they’re dating someone who keeps cheating. Try to get HER talking rather than talking AT her at first. People are more likely to change if they come to a conclusion themselves. And be patient. Change takes time.

Step 2: Talk it out
First thing is to let them know that there is no judgment on your part- after all if you were in the same situation you might feel the same way. It can be nice to share a similar experience of what your friend is going through if you relate. You can also share that you care about them and are worried about them. Based on your friend’s personality, decide on the best approach: a casual chat, or a face off? Make sure you decide based on what will be most effective in getting results for THEM (not what is best for you). Do your research ahead of time so you have a good understanding of the issue, and the possible courses of action.

Step 3: When talking goes nowhere…
Don’t get upset with yourself, or them. Time to call in the troops! Family, love partners, friends or anybody who cares about that person. Plan for each person to talk to them separately with the same message. Hearing the same thing from many people can help get a message across.

Step 4: Find a good shrink!
Help by doing some research and get some names of resources and doctors that are appropriate for your friend. Offer to take them to their first appointment if they are nervous. Lots of people feel more comfortable taking to an expert, it’s a very useful exercise.

Step 5: Be consistent
If they don’t change right away, don’t panic. These things take time. Stay calm, stay patient and keep your message consistent. Even if they don’t show it, it helps to have someone consistently checking up on them.

Finally take care of YOURSELF. You are no help if you go down with the ship. So stay healthy and strong and you will be a source of strength for them also.

Edited by Jackie English

Have you or a friend ever headed down the path of self-destruction?