Finding Healing in Secure Attachments
Eating disorders are not about food. Dieting, overeating, exercise, and other behaviors are the smoke screen for deeper issues. When we are born, we are free. Our souls are brand new, unscathed by the world. We enter this existence with a center that is our home, the place within which we can find peace and joy. As we develop and grow we experience lots of things: joys and hurts, traumas and triumphs. We experience different people, from parents to peers, teachers to extended family, all of whom have lived their own joys and traumas. They form our first glimpse at relationships. They give us messages about everything from emotions to appearance to worldview opinions. It takes a village to raise a child, and our village introduces us to life in the ways they know how.
Overcoming Pain and Trauma
Sometimes the hurts and traumas we experience are too much to bear. We may not have learned ways to cope with them, and when faced with overwhelming pain we may turn to food, substances, sex, shopping, gambling….anything to numb the pain. Eating disorders can also develop from insecure attachments formed early in life. In a heartfelt, sensitive article about healing the root causes of eating disorders, Karly Randolph Pitman (2014) explains how attachment wounds early in life can cause arrested development. People who suffer from this may exhibit symptoms that are common in eating disorders and addiction:
- All-or-nothing thinking
- Issues with impulsivity
- Problems with emotion regulation
- Lack of boundaries
- Inability to say no
- Rigidity and inability to adapt
Pitman explains that these symptoms are not personality flaws; rather, they are symptoms to outgrow. The antidote? Secure attachment.
Depending on how our lives have played out, we may have been forced to grow up sooner than we were ready. In our families, emotions may not have been valued or may have been communicated as something to fear or hide. We may have grown up in alcoholic homes or in homes where criticism was handed out often. We may not have felt heard and validated. We may not have received what we needed in our lives, and eating disorders become the love and validation we never had. Of course, in the end, even the eating disorder betrays us as we succumb to its physical and psychological complications.
None of this is meant to place blame or shame on the people who raised us or on how we have coped with our pain. It is simply to recognize that at the end of the day, we cannot heal on our own. Human beings were never meant to be isolated. We are social creatures, and in those relationships the potential exists to surrender and rest in love offered.
The Road to Freedom
Judy Scheel (2013) clarifies that attachment issues are not the sole cause of eating disorders, nor are they situational in nature. Rather, they develop over time and become a patterned response to life stressors. Seeking help is so important. Do not try to fix things on your own. As you develop secure relationships based in love and respect, and as you work with a treatment team that validates and believes in your recovery, you will be able to set down new roots based in health, love, and peace. You will be able to access your home, your center, again. You will begin to be free.
Pitman, K. (2014). How to Heal the Root Causes of Eating Disorders. Growing Human Kindness