Eating Disorders Today has a name change and a new location.
Please visit Eating Disorder Recovery for Women at http://www.eatingdisorderrecovery.com.
My patients and readers live their own lives with their own agendas and values leading the way.
However, I am not neutral. I want, with all my heart, for them to live long healthy lives. I want them to be well, to have love, joy, satisfaction, confidence and a genuine liking for themselves as they proceed onward to a feisty, interesting and healthy old age.
I especially do not want anyone to break her own heart.
People who come to my psychotherapy practice or writings need a reason to make that entry. Primarily, they come because they have an eating disorder. They also come because a person with an eating disorder is in their intimate circle. They also come because they know someone who benefited from my work and want the same benefits.
Mostly, they come because they experience emotional pain and frustration in their lives and have a spark of hope that maybe another way to live exists.
Ending an eating disorder is a step, a major step granted, but still a step toward creating and living a better life.
In my practice, my focus is on the whole person sitting in front of me. I see the energy poured into the eating disorder. I get a glimpse of what might be possible for this person if that energy were directed toward living a more full life. When we share that glimpse we become a team of two with the goal being to send life energy to life. That means dismantling the eating disorder mechanism and removing the need for the protection given by the eating disorder.
Our mutual goal becomes creating a psychological, emotional and spiritual normal that allows a person’s genuine life potential to unfold.
My job, as I see it, requires me to state my bias and let the person know that her best choice is one that comes from her beliefs, not mine. She also needs to know that I will support her living based on her values, not mine.
A free and healthy person will face difficult choices in life. If an eating disorder doesn’t exist, then an automatic and artificial guiding system doesn’t take over the decision making by default.
For example, someone doesn’t stay home and binge instead of meeting with friends. Or someone doesn’t binge and throw up before meeting a potential employer and therefore meet that person in a partially numbed condition.
If an eating disorder isn’t there then decisions about school applications, career choices, pregnancy (to conceive or terminate), relationship choices (positive or negative), commitments of any kind, are based on personal agenda and personal values. These must belong to the individual, not me.
I do my best to make my bias clear so that the person is free of any sense of obligation to please me. More importantly, my stating my bias helps the individual sort out what she thinks she is supposed to choose based on the agenda and values of others, including the entire culture, as opposed to what she deeply values.
After all, in the end, she lives her life. And a satisfying life is one that is based on living according to her own true agenda and values.
Sometimes self sacrifice is based on deeply held and honored values known and appreciated by the individual alone. I believe a person needs to be free to make such a choice.
However, if an eating disorder is in the way, choices involving self sacrifice can be blurred or seen as required with no possibility of flexibility, change or even a vague sense of the option to say, “No.”
If she is oblivious to her own values she can make a choice that will immediately or eventually break her own heart.
While an eating disorder fades the person is challenged more and more to listen and learn her own truth. Whether her truth is mine is not the issue. I stand for her listening and honoring her own unbuffered self, mind, spirit, body and heart. When she can do that, she is on her way to
living her real life, and that is a joyous and satisfying way to live.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, psychotherapist eating disorder specialist, Los Angeles, CA bulimia, anorexia, compulsive overeating recovery, www.poppink.com