Eating Disorder Recovery: Shoulding on Yourself or Others

Eating Disorder Recovery: Shoulding on Yourself or Others

Shoulding on Yourself or Others: How Does this Affect Eating Disorder Recovery? What happens for you when I tell you this: You should lose weight. You should gain weight. You should eat more green vegetables and less carbs. You should exercise more. In other words… You are not OK as you are. How does that feel? Lisa Dion, the creator of a neurobiological-based form of play therapy, says that when we hear a “should,” our sense of Self is threatened. When shoulding on yourself, or when others should on you, your Authentic Self is directly challenged. You’re denying who you are in the moment and not seeing your own wisdom. This can create an internal dilemma between who you are and who you think you should be. The result is that the autonomic nervous system becomes activated trying to handle the discrepancy (Dion, 2015). Most clients in eating disorder recovery are already receiving a ton conflicting “shoulds.” These endless shoulding on yourself voices will often activate the trauma response in the body, especially when their actions don’t happen to match up with their perceived “shoulds.” If clients in eating disorder recovery are hearing endless “shoulds” regarding food, their weight, and following a specific plan, their nervous systems may be over-activated to the point of fight, flight, freeze, or collapse. Because their sense of Self is threatened, they are operating out of fear and are caught in their lower parts of their brain. These clients may not be able to access their prefrontal cortex and cerebral cortex, which are the parts of the brain that can hear rationalization and reasoning. This is why I would...
Core Issues in Eating Disorders

Core Issues in Eating Disorders

What are some core issues in eating disorders? Are there themes that almost always show up in eating disorder recovery? Why is art therapy so effective to explore these core issues in eating disorders? My name is Abby Hansen and I am an EDIT™ Counselor Intern at Positive Pathways. I am currently finishing up my Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Transpersonal Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, CO. I have been working with folks struggling with eating disorders at various levels of care for the past six years. Over time I have picked up on a few themes or core issues in eating disorders treatment that almost always show up. I’d like to share why I believe art therapy can be such a beautiful part of eating disorder recovery, where healing of these core issues in eating disorders can unfold.  1. Identity – “I am sick, and if I am not sick, who am I?” The eating disorder often began as a very useful coping mechanism utilized to help during a difficult situation in life. Over time, the eating disorder becomes less effective as a way to cope, and winds up holding one back from who they really are. Art is innately unconscious – every mark we make on a page is the visual language of our soul. When we take the time to slow down and pay attention to our imagery we realize we have never left ourselves. I believe the more time we spend with our artwork the more time we spend with ourselves. 2. Perfectionism – “If I can’t do this perfectly, I am a failure.”...
Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

Eating Disorders and Art Therapy: Separating from ED

When considering eating disorders and art therapy, how can clients enhance their recovery through the separation from “ED” (what they might call their eating disorder)? Common with clients suffering from disordered eating, is the assumption that the internal dilemma is truly about calories, weight and food (Johnston, 1996). In introducing art to the therapeutic process, we can begin to access that which hides behind the disordered eating pattern (Brooke, 2008). Though there are several effective eating disorder and art therapy interventions that can help access our deeper selves, the “Create an Image of the Eating Disorder” intervention is extremely powerful. Using clay or paper and oil pastels (or any other drawing material), the therapist invites the client to create and image of the eating disorder. They will then invite the client to give this disorder a name, a face, does he/she have a body? How big is this character? This eating disorder and art therapy intervention assists clients in recognizing that they have both an authentic self and a voice of their disordered eating pattern. By externalizing and characterizing the eating disorder, the client can begin to separate their true self from this false self; the disordered eating that developed as a coping strategy. Further, the client can begin to dialogue with the eating disorder, give it a name and express their true feelings about the influence that this character has had on their lives. Additionally, the individual can also thank the character of the eating disorder for the coping methods that were provided during the clients time of need. As the separation process begins, a lot of thoughts, feelings...
Eating Disorders and Trauma: Journaling for Recovery

Eating Disorders and Trauma: Journaling for Recovery

Journaling can offer a cathartic release from issues you are going through in life and also what you are experiencing in therapy – whether it is for eating disorders and trauma, or something else. During therapy sessions with me, clients often bring a notebook or ask for a notepad to write down key points or homework. I also encourage clients to be open to journaling outside of the therapy office. Eating disorders and trauma(s) can elicit a myriad of unanswered questions in which continuous exploration is necessary. So why not keep that notebook or journal handy to document your journey, including triumphs and struggles? Approach journaling with curiosity by becoming a detective on your own life. Too many people overthink the process of journaling, and feel a pressure to write a specific number of words or paragraphs, but it’s much simpler than that. Push aside that critical voice that shouts,  “You cannot write,” “You have awful grammar or punctuation,” or, “Your journaling needs to be perfect.” Be raw! Let it go! Take a few deep breaths and mindful moments, then write down simple one-word answers. If words do not come naturally, you can jot down a picture to answer each question you come up with. Here are a few journal prompts to get you started: I am… I need… I love… I want more of… I want less of… I enjoy… I see… I smell… I feel… I taste… I think… I believe… I wish… I wonder… I fear… I am learning… I am grateful for… Start small and remember nobody is looking at this unless you share it with him or her. Take...
Eating Disorders and Emotions: Inside Out

Eating Disorders and Emotions: Inside Out

If you haven’t seen the movie Inside Out, or you want a chance to see it again and discuss its incredible message, please join us at Positive Pathways for Movie Night on December 11th from 6-8pm! (more details at the end of this post) Movies can be a great way to add context to things that we are going through – like eating disorders and emotions. The journeys of characters can help us gain different perspectives on our situations. To illustrate how we can navigate through the complexities of eating disorders and emotions, the movie Inside Out by Disney’s Pixar offers a wonderful roadmap. Inside Out is a great story about a young girl and an emotional journey. It combines elements of the hero’s journey with important emotional truths about the human experience. For those struggling with eating disorders and emotions, this movie can be a great analogy for the interplay of our primary emotions, and how to allow our emotions to come into balance. All of our emotions have a purpose, and while some may be uncomfortable, it is learning how to feel all of our feelings that complete recovery from eating disorders is possible. Without giving too much of the storyline away, Inside Out shows how we need all of our emotions, and that when we favor one, it can squelch important experiences. The main character, Riley, is shown in her stages of developing memories and personality. One of her dominant emotions strives to keep in control of all experiences in order to make Riley happy. Putting on a happy face even when we are feeling sad or angry or...
Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Art Therapy and Eating Disorders

Art Therapy in Eating Disorder Recovery What is Art Therapy?  Just as “talk therapy” involves communication and support through words – Art Therapy involves communication and support through art. It’s not necessary to be an “artist” to experience Art Therapy, or to be an Art Therapist. All that is necessary is a willingness to explore the use of a variety of art materials as a means of expression. As facilitated by an Art Therapist, the client explores the use of art materials, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to externalize feelings, reconcile emotional conflict, foster self-awareness, manage behaviors and addictions, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.  (Source: The American Art Therapy Association) What are the benefits of working with an Art Therapist? Clients can experience “art as therapy,” originated by pioneer art therapist Edith Kramer who believed art to be therapeutic in itself, and Art Therapy, a given directive or intervention used help meet the specific needs of a client. Art Therapists have a Master’s Degree or higher in a Mental Health field, with specialized training to conduct Art Therapy. My name is Murphy McCracken, and for the past 9 months I have been completing my internship at Positive Pathways, as a part of my Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology – Art Therapy Concentration. My internship intention was to offer the art making process to clients as a means of connection to their experience at times when words would not suffice. What kinds of Art Therapy are helpful for eating disorder recovery? Just as “talk therapy” is unique for each individual, and the therapist guides the conversation to best support...

EDIT Principle #3: Express Your Self

Try this Healthy Coping Skill for Stress: Check-In and Breathe! Stressful situations are a part of life.  You can’t change those situations, but you can change how you react to them.  Be aware of your stress levels throughout the day, and rate them on a scale of 0-10, where 0 is no stress and 10 is extreme stress.  Low to moderate stress levels (2-6) can actually be a good thing, because this can enhance motivation and improve productivity.  High stress levels (7-10) can be overwhelming, which triggers the desire to eat as a means to self-soothe.  Certain foods can actually produce changes in certain neurotransmitters in your brain, to create a calming effect.  But there are other things you can try instead, which will have the same calming effect.  The simplest is a breathing technique.  It only takes two minutes (which is less time than it would take for you to run to the vending machine and eat a treat)! Here’s how it works.  Find a place where you can be undisturbed for two minutes, and close your eyes.  Focus only of your breathing.  Notice how shallow or deep your inhales and exhales are.  Notice how your body moves with each inhale and exhale.  If your mind drifts, gently pull yourself back to your breath.  Think silently the word “calm” as you breathe in, and “peace” as you release your breath. Notice any tension in your body, and breathe into that area of your body, allowing yourself to relax.  Keep breathing consciously for a full two minutes (or more, if you want).  When you open your eyes, how do you...