You Don’t Have a Soul. You Are a Soul.
This is perhaps one of my favorite quotes because it succinctly describes what I believe it means to be human. Working with clients with eating disorders means working with people who have inaccurate views of their body. No matter what size they are, when they look in the mirror, to them, the results are not good. And then they step on the scale and the results are even worse. What they are looking for is some measure of their worth. They want something, anything to tell them they are ok, good, enough, worthy of love OR they want something to validate how terrible, ugly, disgusting they feel. Our job as therapists is to help people detach their self worth from their bodies, to help them stop putting so much focus on what they look like as this ends up distracting them from who they are.
But obviously this is a difficult task. We are fed and refed messages that tell us that who we are is very much related to what we look like. The size of our waists, especially for women, correlates with the size of our worth. Small, firm, compact and all other synonyms, in our society, are synonymous with good, worthy, deserving. If we buy into these messages, if we buy the magazines, movies, advertisements, then we are saying we agree. For those without eating disorders this leads to an ever-striving, less-than-satisfying life. For those with eating disorders this leads to more disorder and possibly death. My hope, and my goal with clients, is to facilitate soul growth, to help them connect with their inner being and let go of their outer being. The letting go does not mean that the body just goes to waste. It means that by focusing on the soul, it becomes strong enough to take care of the body. We say that our bodies are our “Earth suits.” Our bodies are the way our souls get to walk through the world. Valuing our souls means that inevitably our bodies get valued too. But valuing doesn’t mean changing; it means honoring. At Monte Nido we have a weekly group called Body & Soul where we explore and expound on these issues. The goal is not to detach clients from their bodies but rather to attach a soulful meaning. We work at healing body image by improving soul image. We discuss soul moments. We define soulfulness. We find soul in everyday things. In doing this, we find connection, appreciation and even love for these things we call bodies. This happens because they are the vessels for the connection, appreciation and love.
I am a soul. And I have a body to protect it.
That is a powerful statement. And I feel empowered saying it. Say it out out loud. See how you feel. See if looking at yourself from this perspective changes things.
monte nido treatment center
photo courtesy of Tim Farrell and The Walking Hospital