This post is by Toni Jackson.
Toni is a psychotherapist, counsellor and creative therapist in Fremantle and Mundaring, who specialises in working with women around the issues of self-worth, anxiety, body image and personal power. She is a certified Gestalt Therapist, with a BA Psychology and a Grad. Dip. Women’s Studies. Toni has a strong interest in the areas of trauma and eating disorders and uses both body awareness and art therapy in her work.
“Inhabiting the body develops a sense of self-possession, and a sense of there being ‘someone at home’.” Judith Blackstone
When we inhabit our body, we have a felt sense of being in our body and of actually being our body. As Somatic Psychotherapist Judith Blackstone describes it, when we are embodied, rather than living in our heads, we have the sense of “existing everywhere in [our] body at once.” Our experience of our own body, becomes a self experience. For this to occur, we need to become just as sensitive to our bodily sensations – our insides – as we are to our thoughts and our outer experiences. To be embodied, is to be conscious and aware of the whole of ourselves – our body, our mind, our emotions and our soul.
In most western cultures, our understanding of the various aspects of ourselves have been separated and compartmentalised. We live in a society and an era where it is considered normal and appropriate to live outside the wisdom and experience of our own bodies. Most of us live in a fast-paced world where our thoughts and our outward appearance are valued well above the rest of ourselves. When we habitually attribute more importance to certain parts of ourselves than others, we are not living as our whole selves, and those neglected parts of us suffer.
If you consider it now, how much time do you spend in your body? This may seem like a strange question at first, however, many of us are prone to spend the majority of our time in our heads. Our thinking, and being with our thoughts, is for most, our dominant way of being. We have become very good at rationalising and controlling ourselves with our thinking – listening to our thoughts and ignoring what our bodies have to say. For example, we may feel unwell, but still go to work; we may feel hungry, but we tell ourselves we don’t need to eat; we may have tight shoulders from stress and yet we continue on as if it doesn’t matter.
What if we stopped and listened? What if we slowed down long enough to hear ourselves? To listen to how we truly feel, in our bodies?
“Our language encourages the distinction between body and “I”, we have no single word that allows us to say, “I-body”. At the most, we might say “my body” in much the same way we might refer to “my car”, implying that one’s body is property but certainly not self. Our language supports the notion that our body is an object: something that happens to me, rather than the “me that is happening.” Ruella Frank & Frances La Barre
Often when we do pay attention to our body, we experience it through our thoughts and opinions, rather than through our inner sense. For example, we might look in the mirror and decide our belly is too round. Very rarely in this situation, do we experience our belly from the inside. More often, we see it with our thoughts – with our prejudices and our self-critic. We may decide we need to exercise more, eat less, or eat only green beans. It is not our body telling us these things, but our thoughts. That is, our thoughts, informed by how we think we ‘should’ look; our thoughts informed by our own external gaze of our body. But where are we in this scenario?
“We tend to think of body as this ‘other’ that does its thing somewhat without us, and that if we ’treat’ it right, it will make us ‘feel good’. Many people treat their bodies as if the body is a slave, or perhaps they even treat it well but demand it follow their wishes and whims as though it were a slave none the less.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes
If as a child or adolescent, we received messages from others that our needs were not important, that we were not enough, or were too much, or if we were shamed or abused or experienced trauma, there is a good chance we learned to leave our body as a way of coping with the painful feelings we experienced. Often, we take these same coping strategies with us into adulthood. We may leave our body in an attempt to make ourselves ‘invisible’, or less ‘seen’ or because we are experiencing emotions that feel too big, scary or overwhelming. Some signs we have disassociated from ourselves are: feeling spacy, vague or confused. By leaving our body, we are more easily able to block our feelings. This can be an extremely useful coping mechanism when we feel unsafe or trapped. However, when we are largely unaware of our bodily selves for extended periods of time, we lose touch with who we are. When we do not know how we truly feel, deep within ourselves, it can be difficult to know what we need and want, or to be able to get those needs met.
We hold our emotions in our body – in our hearts, our guts, our bellies. Numbing ourselves to our body, also numbs ourselves to our emotional feelings. Some people speak of pushing their feelings down, or away; of swallowing their feelings; of running from their feelings. We may numb our physical body with alcohol, drugs, or food; or we may try to leave ourselves behind with excessive amounts of exercise, sex, shopping, gambling or television. Some people hide from themselves through keeping constantly busy and distracted with work, social media or socialising – never allowing themselves time alone. All of these behaviours keep us from feeling our feelings and from being in our body. When we do this, we are increasingly more and more focused outward, rather than inward.
There is so much joy to be found in being fully present to our bodily selves. Deep body awareness can be a bridge to our soul. So how do we begin to get back in touch with our body? Following are some exercises designed to explore our relationship with our body.
Trigger warning: The following exercises may not be for everybody. For some of us, it can initially be very scary to be in our body. Particularly if in the past, it was safer to leave the body. However, once we begin to slowly explore being in our bodies, it can feel safer and more solid and grounding than not being in our body. Living in our body provides us with a natural boundary between ourselves and the rest of the world. Having said that, these exercises can be deceptively powerful. Go slow with yourself. If you begin to feel distressed, unsafe or overwhelmed, please stop the exercise and focus on your surroundings (what can you see, hear, smell and feel around you?). Take some long, slow, deep breaths and think about a person or place that makes you feel safe and calm. Call someone if you need to.
How do you experience your body in space – in your environment? How do you hold your body posture? Without moving, notice how you’re holding yourself right now. Do you allow yourself to take up space? Or do you keep yourself small? What do you notice about your particular body-in-space habits? What does it feel like to notice how your body exists in space? Maybe you’d like to experiment with how you hold yourself. You can do this by either exaggerating how you naturally hold yourself, or by doing the opposite.
For example, if you tend to protect the front of your body (hunched shoulders, arms crossed), try first exaggerating this posture. Really hunch over, bunker down, wrap your arms right around yourself. Take the time to notice how you feel in this position. Now, try the opposite. Open yourself up – push your chest out, open your arms wide, put your shoulders back and hold your face up. Notice how you feel now. Relax back into a natural-feeling posture. From doing this exercise, what did you notice about yourself and how you take up space? Take care not to judge or criticise yourself – the exercise is simply about becoming more aware of yourself – there is no right or wrong way to be.
Felt sense is a deep, visceral awareness, from inside our body, of the sensations we experience in our body, in the present moment.
Sit or lie somewhere comfortable, where you won’t be disturbed.
Close your eyes and take a few long, slow, deep breaths in and out.
Feel the weight of your body touching the chair, floor, or bed. Feel your clothes against your skin, and the air on the exposed parts of you.
Bring your awareness into your body. Right into your body. To start this process, I often begin by looking at the inside of my eyelids. For me, this really gives me a sense that I am indeed, in my body. I then spread that awareness to other parts of my bodily self.
Notice how it feels to be in your body – from the inside, rather than from the outside looking in. Rather than from the perspective of your thoughts, experience your self from the perspective of your feeling. Keep breathing. Take some time to explore your whole body, from the inside. What do you notice? Are there areas of your body you avoid? Are there parts of you that seem unremarkable? Are there parts you are drawn to?
As you slow down and pay attention to yourself, you may become aware of parts of you that feel: hot, cold, tingly, numb, tense, painful, loose, soft, hard, furry, spiky, a particular colour, small, large, itchy, fast, slow, rough, smooth, solid, airy, empty, full, or something else. Spend some time exploring these different parts of yourself. Try describing each sensation in as much detail as possible.
If you come across a part of you that feels scared, or overwhelmed, please send it some love if you can and move your awareness to a neutral or positive part of yourself. Breathe.
It is important to take your time. As you slow yourself down, you may notice increasingly subtle sensations. It’s okay to move in this exercise if you feel the need. For example, if your legs feel like kicking, or your head feels like turning, or you want to wrap your arms around yourself, do that. As we begin to listen to ourselves on a deeper level, we often find we have needs that we were not aware of. Listen to and trust yourself.
Listen to your body. What does it want to tell you? Sit quietly for a moment, close your eyes and take a few long, slow, deep breaths. Are there any parts of you that you seem especially drawn to? That pain in your knee/stomach/neck? What is it trying to tell you? You could ask it. “Hey neck, is there anything you’d like to tell me?” Then really listen to what that part of you has to say. Maybe it says, “You work too hard” or “I’m worried about such-and-such” or “Why do you ignore me?”. Once we allow ourselves to stop, be quiet and listen to our own selves, what we hear can be truly remarkable. However, we so rarely give ourselves the time and space to do this. The messages of our “I-body” are drowned out by our constant thinking and doing. I understand that some of you may feel a bit ‘silly’ asking your elbow if it has anything to say. But why is that? Why should we feel silly about listening to our whole self? My guess is that it’s our rational, adult mind that thinks it’s silly to listen to our body. But our rational, adult mind is only one part of us. There is infinite wisdom to be found in our playful side, in our body, in our creativity, in our dreaming and in our emotional and bodily feelings.
If you are interested in exploring other ways to really feel and consciously be in your body, here are some further suggestions:
No Lights No Lycra.
For further support, you may wish to see a body-centred, or soul-centred psychotherapist or other health care professional. This article provides general information and cannot respond to the needs of specific individuals.
Image Credit: Canstock
I recently contributed to an article in PsychCentral, Understanding Perfectionism, Eating Disorders, and Body Shame by Sharon Martin LCSW. If you struggle with perfectionism, head on over and check it out- it is a great read with tips for recovering self-worth.
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Eating Psychology Specialist + Transformational Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
With both willingness and the right environment every human being is capable of change
There is a common misunderstanding that eating disorders and other eating issues are about food, body weight, moderation or just learning to eat well –at Nungkari Treatment Centre they understand that the issue runs much deeper than simply food or weight. Nungkari recognize disordered eating is a complex and serious issue, often the symptom of a deeper psychological struggle or trauma and serves as a coping mechanism for painful thoughts and feelings. At Nungkari they work to help you to find out what it is that you are really hungry for!
The holistic program offered at Nungkari Treatment Centre provides an avenue for you to explore and create a meaningful way of life, beyond current destructive patterns of thoughts and behaviours. You will be supported through their program by an expert team of multidisciplinary practitioners from both the medical and alternative models of health care to achieve your treatment goals. Nungkari provides clients with a safe and nurturing environment far removed from the clinical atmosphere of a private hospital setting.
Butterfly’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is newly developed and based upon the highly successful Monte Nido eating disorder treatment centres from the USA.
The IOP consists of a small and dedicated team of professionals and trainees who have a background in working with disordered eating behaviours and have been trained personally by Carolyn Costin in the Monte Nido approach. In upholding this approach, the key aims of the IOP is to empower each persons’ “healthy self” and to instill the belief that recovery is possible.
The Butterfly Foundation’s vision and mission is to live in a world that celebrates health, well-being and diversity. They are dedicated to bringing about change to the culture, policy and practice in the prevention, treatment and support of those affected by eating disorders and negative body image. Butterfly provides support for Australians who suffer from eating disorders and negative body image issues and their carers.
via Geneen Roth
Geneen Roth has recorded two audio courses, The Principles and The Eating Guidelines, based on her #1 New York Times bestseller Women Food and God. Each course offers eight 90-minute sessions. This online course can transform your relationship with food and your body in ways you never thought possible.
Your relationship to food, no matter how conflicted, is the doorway to freedom. The 8-part program, outlines the basic principles and many practices that are the foundation of Geneen’s program for change and transformation.
At the heart of Geneen’s work are her seven Eating Guidelines. When you learn to incorporate them into your life, you will experience moving from “possibility” into real-world results. With this Online Course, you can easily learn how to understand and use Geneen’s Eating Guidelines, taking yourself down the path to wholeness and joy.
In The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D. reviews over 160 studies of psychodynamic psychotherapy. He provides a considerable amount evidence to show that not only does therapy provide symptom improvement but through developing inner resources, self-knowledge and awareness, you can continue to improve long after your therapy ends – in fact – the tools and awareness you develop will last you a lifetime (Read more here).
When looking for an individual psychotherapist, choose one who does not pathologise the eating disorder because your eating disorder is a symptom of something much deeper that needs thorough exploration. It is crucial that the practitioner works in a truly holistic manner – body, feelings, mind, sexuality and soul/spirituality.
Psychotherapy takes time and you may need 1-2 sessions a week. Good therapy is worth its weight in gold…and you’re worth it!
Please contact me for a list of clinicians who I am currently referring to.
Sydney soul-centred psychotherapist, therapeutic counsellor and life-coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Jodie is the Disordered Eating Consultant for Nungkari Treatment Centre, former Assistant Clinical Director at a Sydney Eating Disorder Outpatient Treatment Centre, an approved service provider for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Her experience includes a dissertation on eating disorders titled Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis, a journal article, Eating Disorders: A Search for Wholeness; post graduate training in addiction and Indigenous sacred women’s business; work experience in the Eating Disorder Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London; the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation); Riverglen Mental Health Unit and Women’s Health NSW. Jodie has been supervised by Dr Anita Johnston, Dr Sue Austin and other leading specialists in the Eating Disorders field.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy and helping women to find value, meaning and purpose out of their suffering.
After 20+ years preoccupied with yo-yo dieting and disordered eating, a recovery journey and then training as a psychotherapist – in 2008 – I completed my Master’s thesis, Call off the Search: Eating disorders a symptom of psychospiritual crisis.
The context that I hold throughout my research is that eating disorders are a serious sickness of the soul – not a disease, mental illness or mental disorder – these are terms that are widely used within a disease and medical based model; a model that is seriously pathologising at times and failing many who suffer not only with eating disorders but those who struggle with other food and weight issues – such as yo-yo dieting, obesity and addiction to excessive, brutal and self-punishing exercise regimes.
Viewing eating problems in this way is not a new phenomenon – transpersonal and psycho-spiritual schools of thought have held this context since at least last century! The great news…there is an increasing base of evidence to support this way of healing and working with food, weight and body image issues.
As part of my own recovery and later research, I have read countless books on dieting, weight, body image and disordered eating. Although not limited to these, here are some of my favourite books because they consider the soul sickness as well as the emotional and spiritual hungers that underlie eating problems. The tips you will find in these books for recovery are based on self-exploration, care of the soul, intuition and mindfulness.
by Anita Johnston Ph.D.
Anita Johnston has helped millions of women around the globe through her eating disorder treatment programs, conferences, retreats, online women’s circles and her soulful book, Eating In the Light of the Moon. She weaves together multicultural myths, folktales and legends with depth of insight and practical, transformational exercises. Eating In the Light of the Moon will nourish your body, mind and spirit.
You can participate in the Light of the Moon Café online.
by Geneen Roth
Geneen Roth, one of my favourite authors on eating difficulties, writes that food, diet and weight related issues are an attempt to fix something that has never been broken. I couldn’t agree more – we are already good and whole; our journey is to realise this!
Women Food and God comes with guidelines to help you change your relationship with food for good. This book is a great resource regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs.
by Marion Woodman
I first heard of Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman throughout my psychotherapy training and have personally attended her BodySoul Rhythms® Intensives. Woodman’s work holds the context that a hunger for spiritual fulfilment is at the root of all addictions and eating disorders.
Addiction to perfection addresses the hidden causes of compulsion through case studies, dreams and myths. Woodman teaches that through discovering the wisdom and power of the feminine, it is possible to find freedom from addiction and eating disorders.
by Susie Orbach
Suggested to me by my therapist many years ago, Fat is a Feminist Issue is the first book that I read about fat that wasn’t a diet book! It will change the way you think about fat by challenging dominant mindsets about dieting, weight and body image. Susie Orbach discusses from a feminist perspective what it means to be feminine, nurturing, sexy and confident. Fat is a Feminist Issue will help you on your way to body acceptance as well as helping to calm your anxieties about food. I also love her other books: Hunger Strike and On Eating.
by Linda Bacon
‘Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size (Amazon).’
Based on scientific evidence, this book will show you how to give up the battle with fat, tune in to your body, boost health and self-esteem, find joy in movement and feel good in your body right now…regardless of your size.
Health at Every Size turns what you think you know about health and weight on its head.
by Margo Maine
Many books on eating disorders have largely focused on the relationship with the mother – this is only part of the story. In Father Hunger, Margo Maine explores the emptiness experienced by women whose fathers were physically or emotionally absent—a void that leads to unrealistic body image, yo-yo dieting, food fears and disordered eating patterns. I love this easy to read book!
by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
This book is full of feminine spirit; it is nurturing, compassionate and provides essential tips for overcoming your obsession with dieting, weight and food. Written by two nutritionists with over 30+ years of experience, Intuitive Eating will guide you towards rebuilding a healthy body image, making peace with food, honouring your hunger and coping with your emotions without using food.
by Susan Albers PsyD
50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, is jam packed with mindfulness skills, practices for relaxing the body in times of stress and ending your dependence on eating as a means of coping with difficult emotions. This book will help you to distinguish between emotion-driven hunger and physical hunger. The layout makes it a great book for snacking on!
by Carol Normandi & Laurelee Roark
If you are struggling with worries such as what to eat on a daily basis, dieting, loathing your body, looking outside of yourself to feel better – then this book is for you. It’s Not About the Food will help you to understand your relationship with food, your feelings and your thoughts. You will learn how to honour your physical body as well as your spiritual self.
For years eating disorder sufferers have heard that they are ‘difficult to work with’, ‘stubborn’ and that their ‘disease’ or ‘mental illness’ is for life. This is not my experience personally or professionally. Over the last fifteen years I have witnessed many women heal, blossom and grow. If you are suffering – it is imperative that you find a treatment program with soul and a psychotherapist who can work at depth with the underlying issues. For residential treatment, check out Nungkari Treatment Centre
For more resources on eating difficulties – you can follow my Eating Disorders page on Pinterest.
Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and Master’s qualified psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Jodie is the Disordered Eating Consultant at Nungkari Treatment Centre, former Assistant Clinical Director at Eatfed, an approved service provider for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Her experience includes a thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here); post graduate training in addiction and Indigenous ‘women’s business’; work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London; the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation); Riverglen Mental Health Unit and Women’s Health NSW.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy and helping women to find value, meaning and purpose out of their suffering.
In our size 0 and diet obsessed culture, feeling shame about our body is no longer only the domain of those suffering with an eating disorder. Increasingly it has become the norm for both women and men to be over identified with their body and uncomfortable in their own skin.
Join me every day this week as I share my favourite quotes, images, blogs and organisations in support of The Butterfly Foundation and their Body Image Awareness Week.
Body Image Awareness Week aims to raise awareness about disordered eating and provides an opportunity to celebrate our bodies – unique, diverse, strong and beautiful! (The Butterfly Foundation).
Head on over to ‘Join The Revolution and make positive body image your focus – spread the word far and wide! Join together with others to challenge how we should look, feel and think about our bodies!’ (The Butterfly Foundation).
Loving my body is a radical step towards health in a sick society.
‘We are dominated by everything with which our self becomes identified. We can direct and utilize everything from which we dis-identify ourselves.’ (Roberto Assagioli, 1969).
Check out the full version of Roberto Assagioli’s Body Feelings Mind Mindfulness Meditation.
Check out Anita Johnston’s Light of the Moon Café online retreat
Let’s shift the focus from weight to health at every size!
We’re losing the war on obesity. Fighting fat has not made the fat go away. However, extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, weight cycling, weight discrimination, poor health. . . . Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat. It’s time to withdraw the troops. There is a compassionate alternative to the war—Health at Every Size—which has proven to be much more successful at health improvement—and without the unwanted side effects. 1, 2 The scientific research consistently shows that common assumptions underlying the war on obesity just don’t stand up to the evidence.” Linda Bacon (HAES).
1.Bacon, L., et al., Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic dieters. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2005. 105: p. 929-36.
2. Provencher, V., et al., Health-at-every-size and eating behaviors: 1- year follow-up results of a size acceptance intervention. J Am Diet Assoc, 2009. 109(11): p. 1854-61.
If only they knew they had such sweet bodies.
We are beautiful image via Pinterest.
Loving my body image via Balancing States of Mind.
Linda Bacon. Health at Every Size: The New Peace Movement.
If only they know they had such sweet bodies image via Pinterest
Sydney counsellor, life-coach & psychotherapist Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
One of my favourite mentors in the field of food, weight and body image issues is Geneen Roth, author of Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, When Food is Love, Feeding the Hungry Heart, When You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull Up a Chair, Women, Food & God and Lost & Found.
In my private practice as a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist, I have worked with 100s of women from all walks of life; many of them have suffered with food, dieting, weight and body image issues. Alongside therapy, I often recommend this Raisin, Chip & Chocolate exercise to learn how to eat mindfully by Geneen Roth featured on Oprah.com.
As with any psychological exercise /visualisation, this exercise can evoke strong feelings. Please make sure you seek appropriate support if you are suffering with disordered eating/ an eating disorder.
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
This meditation was devised by Roberto Assagioli and is in his book, Psychosynthesis (1969). It is now widely used in mindfulness based therapies including ACT: Acceptance Committment Therapy. It should take about 20 minutes. This meditation is useful for fostering and observing, authentic self and helps to move away from being overly identified with body, feelings or mind and thoughts.
Put your body in a comfortable and relaxed position, and slowly take a few deep breaths. Then make the following affirmation, slowly and thoughtfully:
I have a body and l am not my body. My body may find itself in different conditions of health or sickness, it may be rested or tired, but that has nothing to do with my self, my real I. I value my body as my precious instrument of experience and of action in the outer world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well, I seek to keep it in good health, but it is not myself. I have a body and I am not my body.
I have feelings and I am not my feelings. My feelings are diverse, changing, sometimes contradictory. They may swing from love to hatred, from calm to anger, from joy to sorrow, and yet my essence—my true nature—does not change. ‘I’ remain. Though a wave of feeling may temporarily submerge me, I know that it will pass in time; therefore I am not this feeling. Since I can observe and understand my feelings, and then gradually learn to direct, utilize, and integrate them harmoniously, it is clear that they are not my self. I have feelings and I am not my feelings.
I have a mind and thoughts and I am not my mind and my thoughts. My mind is a valuable tool of discovery and expression, but it is not the essence of my being. Its contents are constantly changing as it embraces new ideas, knowledge, and experience. Sometimes my mind refuses to obey me. Therefore, it cannot be me, my self. I have a mind and thoughts and I am not my mind and my thoughts.
Who am I then if I am not my body, feelings or mind I am a centre of pure awareness, love and will. This is the permanent factor in the ever-varying flow of my personal life. It is that which gives me a sense of being, of permanence, of inner balance. I affirm my identity with this centre and realize its permanency and its energy. I realize that from this centre of true identity I can learn to observe, direct, and harmonize all of my psychological processes including my body, feelings and mind. I choose to achieve a constant awareness of this fact in the midst of my everyday life, and to use it to help me and give increasing meaning and direction to my life.
I have a body and I am not my body
I have feelings and I am not my feelings
I have a mind and I am not my mind
I am a centre of pure awareness, love and will.
NB: Some psychosynthesis practitioners prefer to use ‘more than’ instead of ‘not’. I use both. If you are a Psychosynthesis practitioner, feel free to comment below regarding ‘more than’ or ‘not’.
Which aspect were you most identified with?
Is there one part that you barely know?
How could you build a better relationship with these 3 aspects?
What was it like to realize that you are a centre of pure awareness, love and will…and not in fact your body, your feelings or your mind/thoughts?
This is a powerful exercise. You may want to find a psychotherapist experienced in this kind of meditation to help you work through an over identification with the various parts of who you are.
You can change this to suit any area of your life that you wish to separate and disidentify from.
I have a mother and I am not my mother
I have work and I am not my work
I have an eating disorder and I am not my eating disorder
I have things and I am not my things
I have a victim subpersonality and I am not my victim subpersonality
Jodie Gale MA Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, Dip Therapeutic Counselling, CMPanzA, CMCAPA has a wealth of personal and professional knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’ (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat.
10 million women in the US are suffering with anorexia and bulimia. This is more than with breast cancer.
1 in 3 Australian females cite body image as their major concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2010).
I remember the first time I fat talked – I was 5. For the school photo, I stood next to the ‘fat’ boy so that no-one would notice how fat I was. The next fat talk etched in my memory was at 8 when I put a t-shirt on to go swimming in our backyard pool – I didn’t want anyone to see my fat body. I wasn’t even fat. On both occasions, I was a normal weighted young girl. 20 years of food issues, yo-yo dieting and body/self-hatred followed.
I was fortunate enough at 27 to find a psychotherapist who specialised in disordered eating and body image issues. Over time, I worked through my chronic low self-worth and self-loathing. It was a long journey back to health and well-being. It was also the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist and what Jung called, a ‘wounded healer’. Through my own experience, I now help women transform the way they feel and think about body and self.
Nowadays, I practise being compassionate and kind to myself. I no longer excessively exercise to burn calories as I did for most of my 20s and 30s. Rather, I swim regularly because I enjoy being held by the water. I have redirected my focus from a torturous longing to be skinny to being healthy and accepting of every size.
Recently I went Christmas shopping online for a doll for my 3 year old daughter. I felt overwhelmed with fear as I searched for one that did not have insect sized legs and a size 0 waist. Although I don’t subscribe to measuring BMIs, from a medical perspective – if Barbie were a human being, her BMI would be 16.24 and would therefore fit the weight criteria for medically diagnosed anorexia.
Internalized images from children’s dolls and the media are in no way solely responsible for society’s eating and body image issues. But…they do make up part of our critical inner voice. What hope do women and girls have when the majority of dolls on the market and the images we are bombarded with, mirror such distorted and unhealthy body sizes. Fat talk reinforces these unrealistic beauty ideals.
Fat talking to ourselves and with friends and family doesn’t just affect women and girls suffering with eating disorders. Unfortunately, fat talk has become a part of our everyday lives. Due to the widespread use of technology, even third world countries are no longer immune.
If we are stuck in fat talk, it frequently starts on waking as we look in the mirror and get ready for the day. The mirror and/or the scales become a harsh critic that determines what kind of day we will have. A single pound can start a tirade of punitive, self-abuse that can torment us until the next weigh in when hopefully we have lost it again.
The crazy thing is, ‘I am fat’ cannot even be; Roberto Assagioli suggests that this is psychologically, grammatically incorrect. ‘I’ (self) cannot be fat! The ‘I’ is the essence of who we are. At the core – we are whole, unbroken, beauty, love and ultimately, a spark of the Divine (or nature, goodness, oneness if that fits better for you!). Our work is to realise this.
If you are willing, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. Now say to her in your best fat talk tone,
‘You are fat’
‘You are disgusting’
‘You can’t wear that’
‘No you can’t go to the party because you look too fat’
How do you feel when you talk to the child in this way? You wouldn’t dare say this to a child. Yet…every time you fat talk to yourself, you are being self-critical and hard on yourself. Often what follows is a binge, a starvation diet or excessive exercise to soothe or punish yourself even further.
Now try this version in a loving and compassionate tone,
‘I love and accept you just as you are’
‘You have so many wonderful qualities’
‘Your body is sacred and you keep it in balance’
‘What does your body need right now – sleep, food, to dance, a swim?’
Now how do you feel? Can you feel the difference? If not, keep practising, it takes some time to shift a strong inner critical voice.
Fat talk free week was conceived by Tri Delta. Check out their 2012 youtube clip about Fat Talk Free Week.
Following are some suggestions to help you on your journey. Start with small steps…
Stop Dieting & Weighing
Since writing this article yesterday, I have just seen this article via the Butterfly Foundation’s FB page about realistic dolls for children
‘MOVE over Barbie, a new range of fashion dolls has been launched in Australia to address growing concerns about the impact on young girls of negative body image issues associated with dolls such as Barbie, Bratz and Monster High.
Unlike her now 53-year-old counterpart Barbie, the new Lottie doll has a childlike form, modelled on the average nine-year-old girl’s body shape and has practical clothes, realistic hair and healthy outdoor hobbies.’
Read more: http://bit.ly/Vff4UM
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction, Eating and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
To cite this Journal article: Gale, J. (2011). Eating Disorders: A search for Wholeness. The CAPA Quarterly, Journal of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association of NSW (4)pp. 14-17, retrieved from http://jodiegale.com/eating-disorders-a-search-for-wholeness/ (updated 2011 & 2012)
‘At the heart of every eating disorder, whether it is compulsive eating, bulimia or anorexia, there is a cry from the deepest part of our souls that must be heard. It is a cry to awaken, to embrace our whole selves… It is a cry to deepen our understanding of who we really are. It is a longing to know ourselves in mind, body and spirit’ (Normandi & Roark 1998: 119). Continue reading