Compassion is powerful yet has a light touch.
Eating disorders overwhelm a person's life. A person with an eating disorder needs compassion for herself and compassion from others.
I wonder, and ask myself and you and anyone who will listen, why is compassion so difficult to achieve in this or any culture? We all need it, and the benefits of sharing it are huge. Or better yet, we can skip the why question and get to the more practical one: how can we develop compassion?
Compassion and eating disorders
Eating disorders are on the rise. We need, as a culture, to meet people with eating disorders with understanding and compassion. Only then can we address the underlying need for the eating disorder. Once we do that we can encourage, support and nurture people of all ages, ethnicities and economic levels to develop a way to be self caring in a healthy way.
Yes, eating disorders are horrible. But the people suffering from eating disorders are not. If you have an eating disorder you are using eating disorder behaviors to cope with stresses, pain and even danger that you cannot bear. Often the eating disorder prevents you from even having conscious awareness of your fears.
Real help is postponed, ignored or not seen
Psychotherapists who specialize in treating eating disorders have rich knowledge in how to bring healing to someone with an eating disorder. But, when you suffer from an eating disorder and feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, afraid of humiliation because you don't appreciate that you have a disorder than can be treated, then you can't access the help that exists.
You don't seek professional help. You try through will power to stop on your own. You then feel even worse about yourself because you believe you've failed. It's like feeling and believing you are a failure because you couldn't stop pneumonia through will power.
Compassion challenge to our culture
If, as a culture, we see through symptoms to the suffering and often valiant person behind the symptoms, we may reduce external criticism and support people in reaching out for the psychological help they need.
Call to courage
And for you who have an eating disorder, you need to rally courage to rise up against the false criticisms of this culture and reach for the treatment that can truly help you. Yes, you can be free of your eating disorder. And yes, it takes determination and courage to find your true recovery path.
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Six Habits of Highly Compassionate People
Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specalizing in eating disorder recovery. All appointments are virtual. For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at
* Image by Ronny Overhate from Pixabay