A Safe Place for Cutters Blog

Isolation the Third Mortal Enemy of a Cutter
March 28, 2009, 22:32
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Individuals with self-harm behavior usually have painful backgrounds that include physical abuse emotional and/or sexual abuse. Growing up in an environment in which your original caretakers could not be trusted makes it very difficult to trust anyone later in your life. This of course causes one to turn inward for comfort and solace and this often includes self-harm behaviors such as cutting.*

Trust vs. mistrust is first of the eight developmental stages of Erik Erickson. If we pass successfully through this period of life, we will learn to trust that life is basically okay and have basic confidence in the future. If we fail to experience trust and are constantly frustrated because our needs are not met, we may end up with a deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and a mistrust of the world in general.

Such mistrust results in what one young woman described as having “all these walls around me, and I don’t want to have someone close to me. I keep this distance with everyone, and even if I wanted to break free, I don’t know who to choose to trust.” This results in feeling like an “outcast” a common descriptor cutters use to depict themselves.

Although cutting can initially feel like a safe place to go to for solace, it has the destructive consequence of distancing oneself from others even further. One cutter stated, “I had cut a “R” into my hand. I felt like a reject and no one around me ever liked me. I’ve been a really quiet person for a long time now, never able to trust people around me. My friends saw my “R” and the one hit me a few times with a book and the others just made me feel more rejected’.

Another danger with isolation is that it cuts one off from valuable resources, namely people.  Interacting with others enables us to see solutions to problems. When we shut ourselves off from others we only have our own counsel and that can lead to disaster.

“One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1

What helps is to interact with safe non-judgmental people. This is where having a good therapist is important. That is why I created my private group on Facebook in order to allow cutters to have opportunities to validating experiences. (If you are interested in joining my group please find me on Facebook).

* Since the majority of people that I work with are cutters, I use that term exclusively when referring to self-harm behavior although most of the information applies to all self-harm behavior that mainly includes (but not limited to) eating disorders, swallowing and burning with cigarettes in addition to cutting.

To a life worth living,

Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend.  Click here!


Feeling Like a Victim the Second Mortal Mistake
March 24, 2009, 21:04
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I spoke about negative thinking in my last blog.


Negative thinking has a number of offspring one of which is feeling like a victim. That is people with a malevolent or negative worldview take a victim stance, seeing life as a continuous succession of problems and a process of unfairness and oppression. They don’t expect a lot and they don’t get much. When things go wrong, they shrug their shoulders and passively accept that this is the way life is and there isn’t anything they can do to make it better.


I am reminded of one of my former individuals (state hospital term for patient) T. C. who was discharged recently. Last summer she was in my walking group and I would highly suggest (ok, I admit that I took on the tone of a drill sergeant left over from my days as a navy nurse) that they walk around the park at least twice which would be equivalent to a mile. Miss T. C. would whine and moan, complaining bitterly. “Dr. Forbes, I can’t walk that far. I have a lot of medical problems and you can’t expect everyone to be the same. You’re cruel Dr. Forbes.” Once she realized that the cigarette break didn’t start until everyone had been around twice, T. C. managed to muster up enough energy to drag behind the rest of the group.


She was on a stroll with me and some others a few weeks ago and I was amazed at the difference. She was full of vigor and leading the pack. It is amazing the energy that comes from empowerment. More on that later.


To a life worth living,


Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

The Insidiousness of Negative Thinking
March 22, 2009, 23:09
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Negative thinking is the first of the three mortal mistakes that I spoke of last week that cutters make followed by isolation and the  feeling that one is a victim.

Negative thinking is rather insidious in that it often feels normal and justified. Negative thinking by the way, is a major contributing factor to depression. Depressed people feel that their negative thoughts are accurate and therefore have the right to nurse their destructive thoughts. And they are correct! They indeed may have had a dismal childhood, there is lot of poverty in the world, the economy is not doing well, etc.  Negative thinking is like a car stuck in the mud. The more the driver tries to drive the car out of the ooze, the more the tires just spin and dig in deeper into the muck.

There are two ways to look at the world: the benevolent way and the malevolent way. People with a benevolent or positive worldview see the world around them as filled with opportunities and possibilities. And they are also correct! They believe that everything happens as part of a great process designed to make them successful and happy. They approach their lives, their work, and their relationships with optimism, cheerfulness, and a general attitude of positive expectations. They expect a lot, and they are seldom disappointed.

What you focus on expands. The more you think negative thoughts the more you feed your destructive self. Health, happiness, abundance and peace of mind are natural states of being once you break the bonds of negative thinking. The fact is that negativity is always there, acting as a resistive force. Negative thinking encourages us NOT to upset the status quo. It immobilizes us with fear of the unknown. It reminds us how much easier and more comfortable we will be if we remain with our old familiar routine. It causes us to want to survive rather than succeed.

Let’s face it. When you cut you are thinking negative thoughts. So how do you change that? It starts with not being so hard on yourself. More about that later.

To a life worth living,

Foresteen Forbes, Psy. D.

*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend.  Click here!

Three Mortal Mistakes that Cutters Make
March 7, 2009, 21:33
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I have observed that in my work with cutters that there are three mortal mistakes that they make.

By mortal…I am referring to  ways of thinking that keeps them stuck and prevents them from moving forward.

These include: focusing on negative thoughts, thinking of one’s self as a victim and existing in isolation.

They are all related to one another. For example, isolation increases one’s negative thinking and reinforces one’s identity as a victim. Negative thinking increases isolation and one’s identity as a victim.

Thinking of one’s self as a victim is the ultimate of negative thinking and becomes the perfect excuse to isolate one’s self from all the real and imagined ills of the world. Although the latter can appear like a safe harbor on the surface, it prevents one from connecting with those who can help us and further distancing oneself from resources.

It is like three puppies chasing each other’s tail and running round and round. Who knows which one started it and it hardly matters any more.

If I were to pick the original sin it would be negative thinking which will be the topic of my next blog.

To a life worth living,


*If you would like to be a member of my Facebook group “The Safe Place for Cutters,” please find me on Facebook and invite me to be your friend.  Click here!