By: David Epston
For Anorexia to prevail over anyone’s life, its customary practice is to gradually isolate them from others, starting as something akin to a secret lover’s pact and ending up as solitary confinement. During the ‘seduction’ phase, anorexia insists that their relationship not be known to anyone else, maintaining that others would be ‘jealous’ of it’s very specialness. Or it alleges that if they disclosed their relationship, others would want a share of the glittering prizes Anorexia promised them. In fact, Anorexia claims that this their relationship is so exceptional, it must be kept private and if anything, it’s very life depends on secrecy. At the same time, since it guarantees everything a young woman might wish for, it can justifiably ask such rhetorical questions as ‘aren’t I enough for you since through me you will realize each and every one of your desires and ambitions?’ ‘Since I will be everything for you, isn’t that more than enough?’ ‘Who else do you need when I will be your everything?’ It points out all the young women performing on MTV and the supermodels and asks – ‘Are they having a good time? Or not? Are they sitting pretty? Or not?’ These young women are then betrayed into the conviction that such ‘good times’ are ‘just around the corner’ or over the next hill’.
As Anorexia infiltrates the life of a young woman, the relationship transitions from a jealously guarded secret to finally a solitary confinement. How this happens is one of the mysteries that anti-anorexia has on its agenda to solve. Here are some of our leads – anorexia seeks first and foremost to discourage and finally end any relationships with others who care about and love these young women. Quote from Karen – “My mum was the worst because she cared the most. Anorexia made her my biggest enemy. I shut myself off emotionally to her except for anger. Now, needless to say, she and my dad are by far my best friends. Everything just made me feel worse about myself – that I could do more to improve me or I should be doing every single thing concerning diets and exercise that everyone else was doing”. It is frightening to consider how Anorexia has exploited Karen’s mother’s love and concern for her and turned that into an incentive to ‘live up’ to and for anorexia. What are anorexia’s ways and means of discouraging connection with others who are concerned, care about and love these young women? This surely is one of anorexia’s cruelest twists! Anorexia has young women blame themselves for the very acts of concern, care and love their suffering elicits in others. “It is all my fault” is a common refrain. Once gain, anorexia converts what might be considered ‘good’ on the part of partners, parents, friends, etc. into something ‘bad’ – care, concern, love and community. In fact, anorexia finally forbids any human association, alleging that such a young woman is undeserving of any company other than anorexia’s. Soon, the young woman to her dismay finds herself in solitary confinement, a prison cell anorexia has beguiled her to innocently enter. Anorexia will operate most fiercely to dismember her from any relationships in which she is appreciated for her without conditions. Any relationship in which she is regarded differently than how anorexia would have her regard herself are gradually undermined.
By the same token, Anorexia sponsors relationships that ‘fit’ with its take-over of these women’s lives. In fact, these relationships have quite remarkable parallels to the relationship Anorexia has fostered with these young women. Once their anti anorexia becomes available to them as a standpoint against which these relationships can be referenced and evaluated, these relationships are often radically redescribed as abusive. such relationships are often compared to those relationships in which women are battered. Other redescriptions are akin to master-pet, pimp-prostitute, doctor-patient or those relationships in which women are kept on behalf of the vanity of their keepers. What is common to such redescriptions is that disrespect, disregard and violation often figure but can be disguised by everyone ‘looking so good’. In such relationships, women have little or no say, serve the needs of their partners and are required and require themselves to ‘look good’ and ‘sit pretty’. Such relationships ‘read’ from an anti-anorexic perspective, are deemed to be decidedly one-sided. From an anorexic perspective in contrast, any unsatisfactory experiences in the relationship indicate that either their service is inadequate or their sensitivity to their other is insufficient. Anorexia must mock them as they exert themselves to be a better and more compliant ‘patient’, ‘prostitute’ or ‘pet’.
Anorexia can be antagonized by those relationships (parent-daughter, friend, lover, team mate, work mate, classmate,etc.) which can hold on to their belief in and respect and love for such a young woman. This, often, is despite anorexia’s depredations of her body, mind and spirit and the frustrations they experience in trying to keep in touch with them. It is hard to break through to their solitary confinement’, especially when anorexia has convinced them that is what they deserve. In response to such anti-anorexic antagonism, you can expect anorexia to do everything that is possible to disinform them about the nature of such beliefs, care, concern and love. In fact, it very likely will discredit such people and defame them, e.g. ‘they want me to get fat’ is the most common hoax. Or the threat that should these young women choose them against anorexia, it threatens to take away everything they were assured was worth ‘dying for’. After all, anorexia advertises itself as a ‘life worth dying for’. Anorexia has at its disposal incredibly cunning means to dispute and diminish the very motives, intentions and purposes of these who care and love these young women.
Those relationships that can now be considered ‘pro-anorexic’ can now be called into question and consequently are either revised or renounced. Those relationships deemed ‘anti-anorexic’ can be revived and brought to bear on anorexia/bulimia. Often pro-anorexic friendship groups are dropped and these young women engage in new friendships on radically different bases. Those heterosexual relationships organized around male privilege and entitlement to service can now be severely challenged and often terminated. Those relationships, once dominated by anorexia, often reclaim their rights to pleasure, leisure and recreation. Such revisions are some of the most surprising and dramatic results of the anti-anorexification of their everyday lives