The writings below are a sampling of my work across the map of eating disorders, addiction, and permission. Each of these pieces represent the intersectional nature of my work that is all encompassing of the dynamic between the individual and systemic human experience.
On Eating Disorders
A split in consciousness happens when there is the presence of strong forces of threat. Fear of reprisal, shame/blame, violence, ongoing manipulation. The creative emerging consciousness shrinks into the background to be replaced by a shell like imitation of the individual. This “false self” as we often refer to it, gets presented to the world. It is a structure composed of a defensive matrix whether that be pleasing or off-putting. It’s role is to fend off or keep others and the world at a safe distance. In eating disorders, one version of the false self structure presents as achieving, caring, pleasing, selfless, competent. This structure is so strong and sometimes formed so early that the individual doesn’t know there is anything to them other than this so they go about chasing the improvement and endless perpetuation of this self through relationships, career, body and food.
Everything becomes a tool of maintenance. Exhaustion and vacancy are perpetual companions. The nervous system is wired in for these interactions. Starting at a young age children are wired into their roles with parents and that wiring guides their relational choices and knowing/believing. If the currency of the family is related from a protected place then the child only knows protection as a relationship and will search endlessly for a person or place to lead them into deeper connection. Even if they find it they will sabotage it’s presence or run from it because it’s ability to call them out of their hiding place is so threatening. Yet they will yearn to be seen.
In extreme anorexia this polarization of hiding and wanting to be seen is illustrated elegantly. The shrinking of the body to disappear and the inner call to be rescued from death are a perfect echo of what’s happening on the inside. Early issues and or lineage issues with lack of trust in being received create conditions for suppression moment to moment authentic expression. The vacancy or void that is created from that abandonment mirrors the abandonment the child experienced from the caregivers. The inner landscape is created from the outer and then passed on through later interactions. Elegant adaptations.
Addictive systems create a closed circuit where they feed on themselves eliminating any external form of sustenance. The threat of vulnerability and feeling secures a container that can become impenetrable.
The body and psyche as one are entrained and reflect this pattern of protection. Lived on for years or decades, the system then creates a form of homeostasis by resourcing forms of escape to tolerate the compression. Eventually, calcification sets in in the form of body inflammation, deep self hatred, rage, illness and depression/anxiety. At this stage the fear of expanding or allowing or penetrating is strong enough to ward off any threat to its survival. This is living death and often where we meet individuals or families in crisis.
To delve further, addictive patterns create structures for relating that span generations. They become agreements that help families keep “safe” and unified. In the process it destroys individual creative expression while amending/delaying/refracting the individuation and maturation process period. They purposely and intelligently both curtail and contain growth. These agreements have a depth of bonding that replaces healthy relating and feels terrifying to step out of; like you will die. The individual system taken over by an addictive pattern will mirror the familial and societal system of addiction.
The cost of stepping out can be exile, alienation and other shame based oppressors. This oppression works in the system as a fail safe to keep the addiction in place. Live in oppression long enough and suffocation/silence takes over. Death is now a daily presence -living death. physical death/suicidality may follow or be a component. So bonding through and with the addiction pattern is strong all while distancing from true expression.
Threat of exile or aloneness and the pain of separation keep the addictive cycle in motion feeding off of itself, its host and eventually consuming those around them. Endless hunger and searching paired with emptiness and delusion represent the center of the addictive system surrounding terror and shame.
Because these patterns in our current society are not only familiar, but accepted as the norm; their predatory/prey/disconnected/threat based template is cloaked in invisibility.
The idea that we need permission from someone outside of our self is encoded in early childhood as a healthy survival experience of learning what is and what isn’t acceptable. The boundaries that get set for our experiences of living and expressing ourselves are found here. When that permission is restricted due to parental shame, their own sense of limiting themselves, or out of punishment or vengeance, we tie our fragile emergence as a later adult to seeking permission from everyone and everything around us before and as we move. If we don’t sense the receiving we pull back into our shell waiting again to be granted entry.
What that “child-part” doesn't see is that permission is given freely by our own hearts and is always available to us as our birthright, not governed by parents or external authorities. This step of widening the framework of permission is part of the movement of maturation. Shifting from external validation (permission) from a source of authority to internal permission from encoded soul desire or longing is the journey away from the bondage that says who we should be and into the freedom of who we are.
This reversal of restriction into permission is what most of us seek from the world, but when we take a closer look it is what we are really seeking from our parents that we never received. If the restriction is tied strongly to shame, then an identity of being lesser and unable to reach for desires or wants is taken on as a part of the wound. Now shame, restriction, immobility and stunted growth have become a core component of the self. If this pattern is present in parents it gets transferred in the space and energy between the generations. If it is a part of the fabric of race or religion it gets transferred at that level as well. Just as a child will look to the parent to finally shift their view and width in order to offer the permission granted and set them free, so too will a marginalized group. This is one of the key roles of white ally-ship. It moves from a stance of authority and entitlement, within and because of its dominance, to a stance of more yielding, exploratory, curious permission. It becomes inclusive rather than exclusive and the room is then made for the other to move towards itself more fully and then into a co-creative relationship.