You must have heard me saying that once you clear all the emotional stuff and all the chronic emotional discomfort, the overeating and compulsive need to binge disappears. On its own. Without the use of strong willpower and without any battles. Easily and naturally.
I am not exaggerating.
But there are two things that need to happen. One, you need to have to means to ‘dig out’ what is really bothering you, what is creating emotional imbalance. And second, you need to have some means to resolve the emotional imbalance effectively, not just talk about it. And doing this alone is not easy.
let me tell you a story of Anya. Anya moved here from Europe, alone, living her parents and siblings and even friends behind. I thought that, like so many migrants, she felt split between being here (because she wanted to) and not being over there (guilt). But, as we found out, her emotional discomfort was much deeper and more complicated than this.
It took Anya almost a month to be able to confront a particular memory. A memory of someone close to her dying in a car accident. An hour before he died, she watched him walk out of a house after an argument he had with Anya’s best friend. She remembered herself thinking that this time she refuse to intervene. She was sick and tired of their constant arguments and it felt like a burden to try to ‘save’ them each time. they have to figure this out, she decided and let him leave.
When she found out that he died, Anya felt devastated. Her first thought was that she should have stopped him. From the first moment she started blaming herself. It was, she believed, her fault!
Having someone’s life on your conscience is a heavy burden to carry. She watched her friend going through a gut-wrenching period of grief and remorse, also blaming herself. Over time, the burden of the guilt have become too much and Anya developed bulimia. She told me that she spent a big chunk of her evening bingeing and throwing up. Every single day.
Confronting the memory was not easy for her – but we had done plenty of work beforehand for her to feel strong enough to deal with it. And she did. I used all the tricks available to me to ease off her guilt and to ‘change her mind’ about it. Eventually she saw the paradox of how powerless she felt (I can’t influence what happens) in a face of assigning a lot of power to herself (it was my fault, I should have known, I should have done something).
After this important session, Anya stopped her daily binges completely. I got a couple of emails from her within a year or so after we finished and she was still thriving and happy. ‘I haven’t binged or threw up since I last saw you and I feel confident that even if I ever do, I have tools to resolve it’, she wrote. I doubt whether she ever needed to binge again. But I was also confident that she would have resolved it if necessary.
What is interesting about Anya is that she was neither lacking confidence nor was obsessed with her body image that much – things often associated with bulimia. Yes, she didn’t want to gain weight and so she chose to throw up after each binge, but it was more to do with a heavy judgment she held against herself rather than simply not being happy with her body.
What was even more interesting was that the experience of bulimia gave her an opportunity to clear old beliefs and emotions that she would have otherwise carried for the rest of her life. And even though I don’t mean to belittle her suffering, I also know that it was a blessing in disguise. But if course you can only say this after things resolve.