Many of you must have faced challenges that tested your emotional strength and adaptability. Our challenging emotions should not dominate us. Let the emotions flow freely within and master them as effectively as possible. A healthy attitude toward your emotions makes you better equipped to get through life’s problems.
People impulsively react to a situation and even resort to an unhealthy practice called “self-harm” to deal with their unacceptable emotional upsurge. A Butterfly Project is aimed at avoiding self-harming tendencies in teenagers and adults. It helps them to identify their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
What is a Butterfly Project?
Butterfly project is a procedure followed by the self harmers to heal their emotional wounds and avoid self harming tendencies.
Butterfly project is an avoidance technique created for self-harmers who need motivation and support to cope with emotional disturbance. It is a project where the person simply draws a butterfly on their arms, legs or hands to remind them of the important people in their lives. Those people love you and want to be with you. You are special to them. Each butterfly is symbolic of courage, hope and a fresh start to live and enjoy life to the fullest.
It helps people to cope with depression and hopelessness. If you cut the area, where you have drawn a butterfly, it means you have killed that person who loves you. But if the butterfly fades on its own, it is symbolic of success and achievement. It means your loved ones are with you, they survive and in a way, you were successful in avoiding yourself from harming tendencies.
What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is also called self-injury or self-mutilation. It is a deliberate and intentional act of cutting, scratching, bruising of body skin or tissues with a motive of hurting oneself but not committing an actual suicide. The common form of self-harm is cutting one’s skin with a sharp object.
In most cases, self-harm is a non-suicidal tendency done to abuse and torture oneself physically and emotionally. It is used as a coping mechanism to provide relief from intense feelings of anxiety, depression or a sense of failure. This tendency is found in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorders.
Warning Signs of Self-Harm
There are few signs of self-harm which are as follows
- You may see fresh cuts or scratches, wounds, and bites in arms, legs or the wrist.
- Old scars, often in patterns which you try to hide under long sleeves.
- Your excessive rubbing of the area makes the wound worse.
- Keeping sharp objects nearby always.
- The person reports it as an accidental injury.
- You have poor interpersonal relations with family and friends.
- There is a feeling of loneliness, guilt, and shame.
- You are impulsive and emotionally unstable.
- Carving symbols or words on the skin.
- Self hitting or punching oneself against hard objects.
- You pierce the skin with sharp objects.
- Burning of self by using lit matches or cigarettes.
Causes of Self-Harm
There are various causes of self-harm. Few points are discussed below.
- You tend to self-harm to release your extreme unresolved anxieties, overwhelming thoughts, and tensed emotions.
- Self-harm can be caused due to excessive guilt feeling working within. You tend to punish yourself.
- They feel they were able to control their chaotic emotions and thoughts by cutting or bruising the body tissues.
- You have poor coping skills to deal with your psychological pain.
- The person may have difficulty dealing with complex emotions. They feel lonely and rejected.
- Feelings of self-hatred, panic and anger attacks can cause self-harm.
- Traumatic life events such as physical abuse, hitting by parent or experience of rape and sexual assault.
- Bullying at school and college faced by a teenager.
- Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.
- Breakdown of a relationship that was hurting and difficult to accept.
Relationship of “Self-Harm” and the “Butterfly Project”
The butterfly project is a symbol of hope, remembrance, endurance, change, and life. Self- harmers hurt themselves because they are unhappy with their lives. They are unable to cope with emotional turmoil and resort to the unhealthy practice of self-harm. The butterfly project aims to make them aware of their loved ones around them thereby resisting their self injuring tendencies. Butterflies are symbolic representations of life.
You draw beautiful butterflies on your hand to signify courage, will power, positive attitude and a love for life. It means you can let go of all your negative thoughts and emotions easily. The project teaches you endurance and strength in times of emotional upheavals. Self-harmers who feel that they cannot resist their urge to cut or harm themselves are reminded that they are loved and cared for by their families and friends.
How Does the Butterfly Project Work?
Butterfly project has been created for the self-harmers who are ready to stop and need the motivation or support to do so. It is to make them aware of their inappropriate coping styles against depression and other emotional disturbances. The butterfly project has the following steps:
- When you feel like doing a self-harming act, such as cuts or burns, you draw a butterfly with a pen or marker over that area. You can draw as many butterflies as you want.
- You have to name the butterfly after a loved one. It can be your family member, or a close friend, spouse or any relative.
- You must allow the butterfly to fade away naturally, without rubbing it off.
- When you cut before the butterfly fades out, it means that you have killed it and the person who was associated with it.
- If you don’t cut, it means the butterfly is alive and as such your loved ones are with you. It gives you a sense of achievement.
- If you cut or harm yourself while the butterfly is still visible, you can wash it off. Start again by drawing a new butterfly and follow the steps again.
- In case you have drawn multiple butterflies, cutting off one butterfly means that you have killed all.
- Another person may draw butterflies on your hands or wrists. These butterflies will be special and you need to take more care of them.
- Even if you do not cut, feel free to draw butterflies on your arms to extend your support for a social cause. It will motivate the self-harmers who need support and proper guidance to do so.
Benefits of the Butterfly Project
Butterfly project works well with people who deliberately hurt themselves physically and emotionally. They feel they are ready to give up their unhealthy practices. Few benefits of this project are as follows:
- It teaches you to stay close to your negative feelings such as guilt, shame, hopeless feel and also helps you to accept such feelings as they are.
- It teaches you hope and endurance. You are ready to fight back, if necessary.
- The project helps you to understand that life is beautiful and worth living.
- There are other better ways to cope with emotional problems. Hurting of self cannot bring in any lasting solution to your myriad emotional overwhelm.
- You can learn to be patient and accept success and failure as a part of life’s journey.
- The process is helpful to tackle self-harming tendencies. As the drawn butterflies represent important people in your lives, you will seldom feel like hurting them.
- You learn to never give up and try again, till the tendencies fully go away.
- The mission of the project is to teach positive techniques to deal with stress and emotional trauma.
- If you master the art of positive living, you should draw a butterfly in your name to remind yourself that “you are special” and “your life is precious” for you and your loved ones.
- It teaches you to love and respect yourself so that you can live a happy and worthy life.
Self-Help Tips for Self-Harm
It is not an easy job to stop self-harming especially when you do not have alternative methods to minimize your urges. For many, self-harm is a way to let out feelings of self-disgust and poor self-esteem. Few self-help tips, just like the butterfly project may reduce your harming tendencies.
- Use a red marker and make a circle where you usually cut.
- You can apply ice cubes when you might usually cut or burn.
- Avoid taking alcohol or drugs as these substances may cause more damage than you intended.
- You should know the basic first aid, in case you harm yourself badly and require immediate medical attention.
- Engage in creative activities like art and craft, cooking or baking.
- Join a meditation class and strengthen your mental power.
- You can scream or cry to relieve yourself. It will give a vent to your unresolved agonies.
- Listen to good music for a feel-good factor.
- You can even join a self-help group for self-harmers and share your experiences with others. This will help you to deal with your emotional problems in a better way.
At times, you may feel like giving up, as the pressure is immense and intolerable. But remind yourself of all the good things that life has bestowed upon you. You have so many lovely people to relate to, with whom you must have shared precious memories to ponder and cherish. There is no doubt that life struggles will help you to emerge as a better person. Have trust in yourself and keep going.
A teacher by profession, postgraduate in applied psychology and a former school psychologist, Chandrani loves to live life simply and happily. She is an avid reader and a keen observer. Writing has always been a passion for her, since her school days. It helps to de-stress and keeps her mentally agile. Pursuing a career in writing was a chance occurrence, when she started to pen down her thoughts and experiences for few childcare and parenting websites. Her lovable niche includes mental health, parenting, childcare and self improvement. She is here to share her thoughts and experiences and enrich lives of few, if not many.