Book Review: Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors by Lisa Ferentz

“Hold on to the belief that you have power and you have choice” from a “place of self-love, self-awareness, empowerment …with a sense of hope for the future” – this is wonderfully delivered message that Ms Ferentz weaves through her workbook. This is a well paced step-by-step guide for anyone who is wanting to start a healing journey from self-harm. It is also valuable guide for any yoga teacher on navigating surfacing emotions by their students.

Letting Go

It was during my yoga teacher training that I felt a sudden up swell of emotion. I started crying during the practice. I had touched a place of hurt in myself and  it surfaced. Luckily I was in a safe place with my fellow yoginis. I have since learned that this is quite common. Past traumas will come out when you are getting in-touch with yourself. I recently reviewed a book on the benefits that yoga has brought to those with trauma.

Ms Ferentz addresses and guides, through a series of exercises, journaling and introspection, people who self-harm as an alternate communication to their inner hurt. Self-harm such as cutting, anorexia and alcoholism are attempts to externalize the  struggle and trauma that is happening internally. This book is an excellent resource for those who are wanting to make the first steps towards healing – but yet are timid about seeking help or even admitting that they need help. It brings them step by step on the beginning of their healing journey. She states that “this workbook is not meant to be a substitute for therapy.” It is “designed to keep the work safe for you.” You are guided by compassion for yourself and curiosity into your strengths.

There is particular emphasis brought to the practice of yoga in helping the healing process. “Yoga breath work an be a relatively easy way to get quickly grounded and feel an immediate connection to the body, which increases the sense of safety. Practices like yoga… offer you non-threatening ways to re-connect with body sensations, increase state of mindfulness, and create a healthy sense of power and control.” Ms Ferentz goes on to describe several examples of breathing exercises to reconnect with yourself.

The CARESS method is introduced near the end as an alternative to standard safety contracts to stop hurting yourself. It is designed to help people achieve positive outcomes in healthier ways than self-harm – to provide a different way of dealing with the internal emotions coming out. Before moving ahead with the protocol, a person is asked to center themselves – with breathing meditation for example.

The CARESS model has three stages:

1- Communicate Alternatively – to bring out the trauma by painting, journaling, sing a song that expresses your emotion – instead of using self-harm behaviours.

2- Release Endorphins – to give you the natural pain killers that are released when using self-harm – but doing so by exercise (eg Yoga), watching a funny movie, stroking a pet.

3- Self-Soothe – by caring for yourself to decrease anxiety in the future by taking a bubble bath, listen to soothing music, read positive affirmations.

I highly recommend this book for those wanting to explore a way out of self-harm and for yoga teachers to understand the cycle of trauma and self-harm that may emerge in a practice.



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