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How to Resolve Self – Conflicts in Eating Disorder Sufferers.

January 12, 2010 – 2:55 pm

Eating disorders are rooted in emotional struggles. These struggles are deep emotional conflicts within the sufferer, these are called self-conflicts.

How the conflicts started in the first place?

This process begins by fantasizing at a very early age. People fantasize a script, for example like a Hollywood production focusing on TV stars or other celebrities. Then they start rehearsing their part. As they go, they either give up on their initial part and take up a new one, or they practice the first part and role -play that script out until it becomes who they think they are. Practising the script automates their behaviour and it becomes fixed.

For example, a young girl perceived that she is overweight. By looking through magazines, watching TV and movies she finds herself a role- model that is slim, polished and glamorous and play out this picture in her mind. From the same source she gets a script to follow to achieve this kind of unattainable look. She rehearses it until it becomes automatic and turns into an eating disorder, anorexia or bulimia.

Her imprinting environment plays a significant role in the alternative scripts available to her. If her parents happen to be too strict or uncaring, she would be unable to develop a positive coping strategy to counteract her developing problems. In some problematic families being warm and friendly is seen as an embarrassment, so the child becomes cold and aloof to compensate.

Self-conflict is a conflict between different “selfs” inside one person. There are 4 different “selfs”:

1. The actual self.
It is the private self. This self consist of thoughts we wish we didn’t have and actions we wish we haven’t done. It also contains our self-esteem, our attractiveness, and our secret ambitions. Eating disorders sufferers may dream of looking like a slim movie star, or a sport champion etc. Her/his self-esteem is really proportional to a degree of how alike she/he looks compared to their famous role-model they are trying to emulate.

2. The ideal self.
This self is built by culture and society. Ideal self is about living a perfect life, without any mistakes and therefore without room for growth.

3. The ought-to-be self.
This self is about our “should” and “oughts” which have been learned from our culture and our society but they are not ours. For example, when a swimming coach tells a young girl: ” You should lose weight immediately in order to fit the criteria for the swimming completion.” Initially the girl was probably OK with the way she was and didn’t think she needs to lose weight immediately. Her swimming coach installs the “ought-to-be self” in her. Her “ought-to-be self” may go into conflict with her “actual self” after the coach’s comments and if she is vulnerable she will develop an eating disorder in order to comply with the losing weight rules that have been set in her mind.

4. The desired self.
This is a self we believe we could be and desire to be. This self is especially obvious in young people when they plan for the future. Later in life this self can be a source of discontent if the desires have not been fulfilled. For example, a woman after 30 suddenly develops an eating disorder. This eating disorder is very likely to be a consequence of discontentment due to her unfulfilled desires of an earlier time (or the “desired self”).

What is a solution for solving this self-conflicts? Emotional healing would be the answer and you can put it into 5 steps:

1. Realize that one has emotional conflicts and they are probably the cause of the eating disorder.
2. Believe that one should and can solve these self- conflicts.
3. Accept that emotional healing is the only way to solve these internal conflicts.
4. Go through the emotional healing process.
5. Follow the emotional healing strategies as a way of living your life.

Emotional healing is the only answer to resolve self-conflicts in eating disorder sufferers. If emotional healing does not occur during a particular treatment – there is little hope for this kind of treatment being helpful.

Maybe in this case the person ought to look for different alternatives. Mindfulness training seems to prove itself as a great emotional healer for these kinds of ED sufferers. It has been proven that if one is mindful and aware, one can experience true freedom and liberation from all their self conflicts.

Dr Irina Webster MD is a Director of Women Health Issues Program. She is an author and a public speaker. To read more about mindfulness for eating disorders go to http://www.meditation-sensation.com

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