Insightfulness 14 Oct 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Eating

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Insightfulness

To better know and understand our feelings few would disagree that insightfulness is helpful. But in and of itself insight changes very little. Unconscious, psycho-biologically driven behaviours are not much influenced at all by how much we know about them.

Clients and patients make this clear to me over and over again in their struggles with eating disordered symptoms.

Many of them say the urge to over-eat and then to purge totally overwhelms them and it does this so quickly and routinely as a response to stress, although it did not start that way, that they come to The Surrey Centre in despair, feeling powerless to resist it despite knowing, i.e., having insight into the fact, that over time succumbing to it over and over again can and does cause awful damage to their bodies. And their minds, already struggling with self-respect, come to feel more and more despair about it. They therefore need to know that I know resisting it is infinitely easier said than done.

At the other end of the spectrum the constant state of being split-off from their emotions and feelings, characteristic of so many people who come with problems of self-starvation, is a much slower, but in many, often more subtle ways, just as overwhelming an experience. If not more so because of how completely it affects their thinking and behaviour so that no amount of insight affects that at all. Their anorexia thrives on starvation and these women, and it is usually women, know, i.e have insight into the fact, that it does. But their insight doesn’t change it at all.

They tell me what makes a difference is feeling they are in a therapeutic relationship. Feeling understood, feeling helped, feeling they can be honest, feeling they can be in a relationship with someone who knows from experience that normal thinking and eating patterns can be recovered.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre For Eating Disorders

mediation-image 14 Oct 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Eating

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Duty and Being True to Yourself

Duty. It is an old-fashioned concept. It describes a weird yet familiar combination of feelings somewhere between care for others and care for oneself. It is about doing the right thing.

But when someone is unhappy and fighting herself trying not to binge or not to starve or not to cut herself when she would rather do all three of these things, and more besides, if only doing so would help her avoid her own terrifying feelings which actually feel as if they are much more likely to crack her up than eating problems or self-harm is, it is so very hard to know what the right thing to do actually is.

When things are this difficult the idea of duty to oneself somehow seems completely irrelevant. We want to clutch at any straw – from self-harm and eating problems at one end to psychotherapy or religion or both at the other. But woe betide a psychotherapist who fails to understand that when we start to do something harmful to ourselves it feels at the time as if we have no choice. If the therapist’s duty is to understand how awfully, frighteningly stuck and despairing a person is in this situation.

Most psychotherapists do actually understand it and they/we respect the courage and trust people invest in coming to see us.

So if you are thinking about seeing a psychotherapist or dietician at The Surrey Centre than consider this: however confusing it may feel you must, above all, try to be true to yourself. Wherever it leads. This is what duty is – being true to oneself. If it means laughing or crying or withdrawing into silence or staying with the awful feelings that threaten to drive you crazy or even kill you, please use our help to help you feel safer being true to yourself.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

 

dreams_blog 14 Oct 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Eating

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Getting Better

Mixed feelings. Patients and clients at The Surrey Centre often admit that they both do and do not want to get better. Both/And! They see this as a fault, as a failing, and too often they feel ashamed of it when actually it is a truth of the human condition that we often, if not always, have mixed feelings. So ‘I like having my eating disorder, it gives me something to control’, can exist side by side with, ‘I can’t bear my eating disorder it has taken total control of my whole life’. We are full of contradictions!

So how can we learn to stop judging ourselves negatively for having mixed feelings? People coming here often say they previously found this too befuddling to think about on their own. For example, a woman may have initially started restricting her food intake and perhaps, begun to exercise rather too much, for perfectly good, legitimate reasons such as feeling a dress size too large and wanting to get fit. She often hasn’t noticed why over time she actually began using these activities to help herself cope with, even distract herself from, difficult feelings around relationships, work, depression etc,.

But sooner or later people who come to The Surrey Centre for help often say they found their dietary and fitness solutions to these relationship, work or depressive problems which were helpful at first have themselves now become a problem. Eating too little, using laxatives, even being sick after meals and exercising too much, began to take them over.

They need help to allow themselves to be human! We all do! Often, for people with eating disordered problems, this means having the courage to ask for dietetic help to eat healthily as well as psychotherapeutic help to think about the relationship problems, the work problems and/or the deeply unhappy feelings which triggered their eating disordered symptoms in the first place.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre For Eating Disorders

 

teen-girl-with-angry-grimace_surrey-centre 14 Oct 2018

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Binge Eating

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Binge eating and perfectionism

I’ll start by stating the obvious: eating disorders all exist in relation to the consumption of food.

The first persons to give us food, other things being equal, are our mums when we are born and put to the breast.

Swiftly moving on (to some years later): people who have developed a binge eating disorder often seem to struggle in their compulsive overeating with somehow having lost inner touch with their experience as babies of that physical and emotional nurturing which is part and parcel of the cuddles and milk from our mums in early infancy. Sometimes some of us never really developed that nurtured (loved and held) feeling in the first place anyway.

And because we don’t feel that early experience, that lovely but forgotten nourished and cared-for feeling, now only biologically remembering it, the state of being physically and emotionally nurtured gets idealised – idea-lised! – as perfect, but this happens at the same time as it gets forgotten about or dismissed and, by being forgotten about or dismissed, relegated to what we call the unconscious.

And it is from this unconscious part of ourselves that that state of not feeling fed emotionally (which may or may not be a fact – your mother will know!) takes control of our behaviour when we are feeling stressed and adds to our feelings of emotional emptiness. When we become habituated to bingeing to try and fill the hole of emotional emptiness inside, we find that the fuller we feel in our tummies the emptier we feel in our hearts.

It is an awful irony that habituated bingeing patterns and the associated unwanted weight-gain accompanying it, usually developed out of ‘comfort feeding’ ourselves in the first instance. We needed comfort because of feeling imperfect and unconscious, (meaning unaware), of our inability to feel the authentic self-confidence that comes with having felt perfectly nurtured and loved during infancy and early childhood. The self confidence that is free of the desperate drive to feel perfect.

I must emphasise that in no way am I blanket-blaming the mums (or/and dads) for their child not having ‘internalised’ their comfort and love when they were younger. Often the parents could not have been better at the loving and nurturing task. It is far, far more complicated than that.

In psychotherapy we can look at all the complicating factors together and try first to discover, and then to find a way of letting, the past let go our present.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre For Eating Disorders