Tag Archives: abuse and eating disorders

The Weight of Sorrow

“Compulsion is despair on the emotional level.  The substances, people, or activities we become compulsive about are those we believe capable of taking our despair away…Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental, is a lack of self-love; it is an expression of a belief that we are not good enough.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

For many abuse victims, food takes on an importance far and above its ability to nourish.  We eat our anger, stuff our guilt (misplaced though it is).  We use food both as a reward and a punishment.

The smallest morsel can set in motion a binge.

Weight issues feed into the sense of loneliness and isolation abuse victims already feel.  The life opportunities of which weight deprives us should be penalty enough.  But our losses generate regrets, and we carry those regrets forward, along with the pounds.

Purposes Behind Compulsive Eating

Like drinking to excess, compulsive eating serves two basic purposes.  While ostensibly numbing our pain, it actually recreates the emotional experience of abuse – our fear, our helplessness, our shame, our rage.  And it re-affirms (albeit in a dysfunctional way) that we deserve to have our needs met.

Self-Blame

“We had nothing to do with the reasons our parents abused or left or violated us.  We believed we did because blaming ourselves for the sorrow gave us some measure of control over it.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

Though we were not abandoned, neglected, or abused because of what we weighed, weight issues become a “safe” focus for the emotions associated with our abuse.

We can now blame ourselves for the negative feelings the abuse caused, rather than blaming the loved ones who inflicted it on us.  But the least dieting failure feels like a sin, as well as a defeat. Continue reading

15 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Rescuing Ourselves

“The Rescue” by John Everett Millais (1855), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (PD-Art l Old-100)

There was finally a point in my teens when I realized that I would never be rescued from sexual molestation [1].

The shock of that revelation was overwhelming…as if all my trauma had been condensed into a single instant.  It felt, at that moment, as if I had been struck in the chest by a sledge hammer.

Trauma Beliefs

Traumatic childhood events (especially those involving a parent) can give rise to false core beliefs [2].  Often, such trauma beliefs are not articulated.  They may never be identified and consciously brought to mind.

But trauma beliefs can be enormously destructive – not only damaging our self-image, but crippling us.

Here are a few versions of such beliefs:  I am stupid; I am ugly; I am unlovable; I do not deserve to be cared for; I must do everything perfectly, or I will be rejected; I should be punished; I will be abandoned by everyone I ever love.

Self-Hatred

Deep inside, I concluded that I was unworthy of rescue, because I would never be the woman my mother was.  I would never be as kind, gentle, or generous as she was.  Most especially, I would never be as vulnerable or petite.  This translated into self-hatred.

That I developed weight issues in high school seemed “proof” of my deficiency.  Clearly, I had an innate flaw that went through to the bone.  So it appeared to me.  I became a perfectionist to offset this.

Acting Out Trauma Beliefs

Weight problems can be a source of torment and discouragement, especially in our culture.

Those of us with problems involving our weight try diets, weight loss programs, and gyms.  We buy expensive exercise equipment, and gadgets guaranteed to change our dimensions.  Some of us even have surgery, and still the weight comes back.

Weight issues are the symptom, not the disease.  Weight issues are a constant source of shame which is why, with some part of ourselves, we cling to them.  They reinforce our trauma beliefs.  That these false core beliefs were laid down so early in our lives gives them added strength.

Perfectionism is likewise a harsh taskmaster.  Perfectionism (another way of acting out trauma beliefs) insures a sense of inadequacy which is the reason it is so tenacious.  The bar is constantly out of reach.

What these two have in common is that they preserve the feelings we had as children.  Those feelings have simply found a new focus. Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse