Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Go
Search posts:

Ari, when we deepen our work on ...

Posted Feb 02 2009 11:41pm

Ari, when we deepen our work on ourselves (take on new issues, explore more deeply things we already are aware of in ourselves, challenge ourselves in new ways...) it does have a tendency to get the eating disorder more activated.


That shouldn't surprise us because the disorder is a major coping skill. When it "sees" that the work we are doing on ourselves is provoking feelings (anxiety, for instance), it immediately thinks it can (and should) help. It only knows how to help in one way, though- manipulating food and weight. I understand how tempting it is to fall back into the dramatic behaviors of the ED, but try not to, at least not significantly and dangerously so- it really only makes things worse (and doesn't solve anything). 

So, let's see what we can do with this ambivalence thing. I know it's a tough one to deal with- we are conditioned to be so afraid of it. 

Listening to ambivalence (or its inherent "sides") doesn't mean we automatically have to follow anything it "tells" us. If we approach this diplomatically it can help. Say we imagine we are the mediator in a meeting where all our different emotions, thoughts and beliefs have come to be heard. The fair thing in a meeting like this is for each "side" to have time and space to speak, and to be respectfully listened to. 

We often become afraid that if we let a "side" speak something bad will happen. Ironically, something "bad" is much more likely to happen when we don't allow all our voices to be heard. It's been my experience that so much of what people want is simply to be heard. So often when I meet with families and we let everyone say their truths, things calm down. This isn't always true, but many times people have gotten into what look to be huge relational problems, when really what has happened is that people just don't feel like others are listening to them- and what started as something simple to remedy then leads to bigger and bigger problems.

The various aspects of ourselves are the same way, so if we can allow them all to be heard and taken seriously, they will likely calm down and not make noisy, increasingly demanding statements.

So, how does this actually look in terms of work on ourselves? I suggest we work on this not inisolation - especially at the beginning when we are learning to listen to "all sides." My vote is for working on it in therapy, but there are other places that can be perfectly safe too. 

Then, we just have to try to listen, and not get in the way of what different aspects of ourselves are saying. There will likely be a range of things we "hear," things like: I'm sick of feeling so sick and tired all the time, I don't know any other way to be in the world except for with the ED, I'd have so much more time if I wasn't using the ED so much, I like how it feels after I purge, I'm lonely and wish I had more friends...

Our job is to let all these seemingly disparate thoughts just be there. Not to do anything with them or about them. Just let them be. (I know, I know, easier said than done...). Deciding what, if anything, to do with them is "step B." Step A is simply to acknowledge everything that's true for us at that moment.

Developing tolerance for ambivalence happens as we gain experience listening to everything we have to say to ourselves. But I do really recommend everyone works on this with help- it can feel formidable to take this on by ourselves. Once we get good at it, we can practice by ourselves- that's fine- but not until we feel some confidence in our ability to tolerate these emotions and thoughts. 

Post a comment
Write a comment: