Eating Disorders fill in the blanks for people. When you can't cope with something you use your eating disorder to get through the situation.....even if you don't understand what the situation is. Mmm. Maybe especially if you don't know what the situation is. So often an urge to binge or a terrific anxiety seems to come out of nowhere, and your eating disorder behaviors seem like the only way to take care of yourself.
If something is missing in you and has been missing all your life, you won't know it. You will feel a sense of inexplicable bewilderment or fear or terror, as if you were falling down an endless black hole, but you can't reach inside you for what you need because it isn't there. In so much of my writings I talk about the need for development. Specifically you need to develop what got stalled because your eating disorder rushed in to care for you before you had a chance to develop essential inner qualities and strengths.
Much of my professional life is taken up with the challenge of trying to make this point clear and showing you how to develop beyond the need for your eating disorder. It's a huge challenge for me because every person is different. Different qualities got stalled at different stages in your life. There's no one simple description or "how to" for everyone.
So, I've undertaken Gracian Maxim Project. I imagine an emotional and psychological structure of a complete person. Throughout the structure are 300 qualities. (I choose 300 because that's the number Gracian came up with. Maybe when this project is done I'll find another group of qualities to continue this project.) I write about each one as it could relate to a person with an eating disorder. You might find one or two - or more - that relate to a missing piece of your inner structure. If you recognize one and nurture growing awareness, you will be developing what you didn't know needed developing. What's more, you will be making your eating disorder less necessary.
So here we go. Baltasar says, "Knowledge and courage take turns at greatness."
How does that elate to you and your situation? He says that your eyes are judgment and your hands are strength. I love this. It's so simple and right on. We go through life making decisions based on what we see. We use our strength to honor those decisions.
But if our vision is limited because we lack knowledge we will be making poor decisions. And if we lack courage we will not be able to rally our strength as the occasion requires.
You know that your eating disorder and the fears and urges that go with it have pushed you away from knowledge that is new to you. You might have trouble concentrating on a book or a class. You might feel such pain at an insight about a close companion's true character that you block out the insight (the knowledge) with your eating disorder and continue on the same hurtful path with the person.
Knowledge inspires courage and courage inspires knowledge, or at least that's what I take from this maxim. If you see a need, like a chasm you need to cross, then knowledge will help you build the bridge and inspire the courage to cross it. Or your courage provokes you to cross the chasm will inspire your ability to learn how to build the bridge.
You need both, but they can help you as they take turns in being powerfully present in you.
Your recovery work invites you to develop your ability to take in and use knowledge and to develop your courage. How will you go about doing that?
For me, I am in an improv class once a week. I originally joined this class for entertainment. I knew I was guaranteed some genuine laughter at every class. And that's been true. But I know now that every class is a demand for me to be more brave than I think I am. I have to use the courage I have to put myself in situations where I can only succeed if, once in them, I become even more courageous. This is a safe way to work on courage. You don't have to join the French Foreign Legion to prove yourself. What are ways you can develop your courage?
If you are following along on this Gracian Project you are taking an active step toward increasing your knowledge. How can you deepen that experience? One possibility is to journal about it. Another is to learn something new. Please write in and let me know what you have chosen for yourself.