Shame and emotional abuse
This client feels guilty about her body size. Her pattern is feeling bad about herself, eating, then feeling guilt, shame and anger about eating and food choices. And it all stems from emotional abuse.
"I feel ashamed of my body, and what I am doing to myself. I eat because I feel worthless." "Every day, I meet people I went to university with, who knew me then, and I know they remember my behaviour. People are still judging me for what I was then".
"And what were you?" "At Uni, I was the party girl, the girl who got drunk at the student bar most nights, and went off with anybody. I was always first up for the wet tee-shirt competition, the one who struggled with every assignment. A loser. A waste of time. An embarrassment."
History of emotional abuse
We discussed her upbringing at some length. I wanted to try to identify where these feelings came from. Her mother was mentally unstable, a prescription drug addict, only focused on herself.
She told one story of when she was eight years old. Playing with her brother and a knife, she cut her finger badly. She preferred to let it bleed rather than risk another outburst from her mother. Eventually her brother made her go and tell her mother. The mother immediately screamed, "Look what you have done to me, my day is ruined, now I have to take you to the hospital!"
All her life, she was told "Stop crying, get on with it, harden up". She was not allowed to show emotion growing up, and now she can't. My client grew up feeling not wanted or valued. She always felt not good enough.
Reacting to emotional abuse
After a while she began to realize that how she feels is the result of the emotional abuse she went through. She is now examining the effect it had on that child's beliefs about her self. It explains why she was the class drunk at uni. She wanted love and affection and would do anything to get it, including throwing herself at anyone. I told her there is no basis for guilt about that, "You were merely trying to get what you never got at home".
Reversing feelings of emotional abuse
She said she feels angry all the time. I did the WHY-WHY-WHY exercise on why she resents her mother. She was not able to get any image or memory but liked the exercise. I told her to do it when she gets some spare time.
Then I did Metaphor Replacement Therapy MRT on her feelings of anger. She got a feeling of boiling lava. Seething, red, constrained in something. She said it was like in a beaker. Then she said "there is more, much more, huge outside as well".
I decided to do the therapy in stages. I got her to change the smaller flow of lave, the one in the beaker. After guided suggestions, the lava in the beaker got dark, and solid. Then she broke the chilled rock into pieces with a hammer.
Then I turned her attention to the massive lava flow. After a lot of persuasion, she got it to shrink and cool and go dark. Again she broke it up into pieces with a hammer.
It is early days yet, but she said afterwards, "I am feeling that I have made progress and I understand my own feelings better now."