Material of the report to the symposium “Clinical aspects of gestalt therapy” of the tenth Ukrainian gestalt conference (November, 2014).
There are many theories and approaches that describe the dynamics of a disordered relationship with the body. Psychodynamic theories shed light on the problems of eating disorders from anorexia to psychogenic overeating in relation to the life of one person. But all these difficulties and the rejection of one’s body occur in a certain environment, in a certain social background. (It affected women mostly). And eating disorders often begin precisely with dissatisfaction with one’s own body and the first diet.
The body, being an instrument of socialization, turns out to be the means by which we present ourselves to the world. More precisely, if about modern reality, by those with whom we want to be seen.
Attitude to the body, shame and hate for it are formed in certain conditions.
First, the “official” woman’s body weight over the past decades (with the help of the beauty industry, the media, etc.) has been artificially reduced by at least 5–7 kg. Natural forms of the female body are regarded as excessive. Therefore, the desire to eat according to the needs of the body is estimated as gluttony and intemperance. And to be weak, weak-willed, indulging oneself (which is often projected on overweight) are those parameters that are rejected and depreciated. Even being thin is not enough unless discipline is attached to it.
I can do everything, nothing is impossible – you just need to try. And my body will be a confirmation of this – This is the main trend of the era of illusionism.
Appearance seems to be a sphere in which it is easy to control the reaction to oneself and to other people. Women live with the idea that they need to do something with their bodies: to lose weight, swing, dry, change. Natural bodies are not good enough to be accepted as they are. Natural changes in the body — pregnancy, childbirth, aging, stretch marks, and tone — appear as what needs to be overcome, made invisible.
If we get the message: “You can’t be like that, you need to change”, “As I am, I’m no good and I won’t be accepted,” shame appears. The “Who I Am.” shame.
And the “your body does not fit, change yourself” message gets to the very center, makes you doubt your confidence in your body and creates the need to create a body that will shape the appearance of who I am through a change in body form.
And then the way to deal with shame is to present the form, not to show yourself.
Hide yourself, be “as if” and instead of the rejected self (or aspects of yourself) show a form that is not rejected. For example, there is an idea that a slender body will be approved and then you need to bring yourself into a shape that corresponds to this projection and show it. “I will lose weight – I will show. I will show a slim body, but I won’t show myself. ”
Shame sealed the horror of being unworthy of another or others. And in one way or another, working with bodily shame is always associated with the ability to cope with rejection and depreciation, to recognize one’s own needs, and not to try all the time to meet other people’s expectations.
One of the ultimate goals of therapy associated with a negative image of the body and bodily shame is to experience one’s own worth and the ability to respond with a refusal to toxic introjects “You are wrong, become different.” But, in order to take risks like this, it is important to gain stability and become more oriented in the areas of one’s shyness and shame.
How does the introjection of shame take place?
What is important to notice during therapy?
There is always one who jurges. For starters, it’s important to help identify a judgmental person or group of people.
We are born with trust to the body. But over time, we perceive the reactions and evaluations of people to our bodies, take them serious, and begin to perceive them as our own. Gradually, we move away from the body, more and more noticeably cease to feel it and begin to correct the so-called deficiencies.
I will give an example in a food metaphor.
Someone said “you have fat legs.” A poisoned idea. Which it would be good not to take, but to spit it out, i.e. detect aggression: “It does not suit me. My body is my business. ” And instead of noticing that this is disgusting, this introject is placed inside, as if eaten. There is an aversion to such a depreciating description (as to poor-quality food). But since disgust with oneself for a long time in its pure form is impossible, over time it transforms into shame, “something is wrong with me.” Or, if on the example of the given introject, the idea of “I have fat legs” becomes my own shameful conviction.
It’s possible to forget who was the author of this wonderful message, but the shame for some part of yourself or for yourself remains entirely inside.
According to the attitude to the body in today’s world, depreciating comments, we can receive a huge variety, not necessarily from relatives, but also tangentially, being in a certain environment. By the way, the largest number of girls with anorexia come with experience in rhythmic gymnastics and less often in other sports and dance schools. The cult of thinness, work on oneself and fear of “extra” pounds has been active among girls for 8-9 years already.
So in this way the “disgusting foreign” becomes “my shame.”
In therapy, it is very important to regain the ability to recognize disgust. Consider to what ideas it was not noticed. As well as the risk of returning other people’s grades by showing aggression. Remember: “My body is my own business?”
For the critical perception of comments, it is important to form your opinion about your own value, presenting yourself from your own value. All people need evaluation criteria, it is necessary to develop respect and sufficient attention to the ability to evaluate independently, based on their your own perceptions.
On the other hand, there is rejection or loyalty to the environment. Is it possible to ignore the environment? Probably not. But the internal locus of assessment gives stability and the ability not to reject oneself under the influence of the environment or introject. Living in the risk of disappointing the other and your own ideal.
The difficulty of the work in this topic is that a shy person does not feel the body, he is absent in contact with his own feelings. In therapy, work on the return of bodily sensitivity, the return of the body, as well as the integration and restructuring of the body image is very important. The image of the body determines how a person experiences and cognizes it, what kind of connections and relations exist between them and their own body, how he treats it, with themself and others. This is also what a person has absorbed within thir family, environment, culture.
So, work in this aspect begins precisely with the awareness of bodily experience, in order to allow a body image to arise from it by supporting the process of integrating the body image and emotional aspects, detecting and creating an image of yourself in contact with other people.