Detour of Denial: Accepting Pain of Past Key to Eating Disorder Treatment

November 20, 2013   •  Posted in: 

When someone seeks treatment for an eating disorder, they want help addressing the immediate issue at hand — their anorexic, bulimic, or compulsive overeating behavior.

What they often have a hard time accepting, though, is that there’s a lot more to it than that.

Though there are a number of ways to directly address disordered eating behavior, the key to long-term recovery is delving into something most people are understandably fearful of — a painful past.

“Individuals with eating disorders are often unaware of the source of their pain,” writes A Place of Hope founder Dr. Gregory Jantz in Hope, Help and Healing For Eating Disorders: The Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.

“I believe this is God’s way of protecting us. In order to survive as children, we block out abusive behavior. But somewhere along the line, the adult must discover the wellspring of pain from the past.”

“Denial is a significant detour in that quest.”

The Double-Whammy of Denial

When you deny the truth of your past, you deny yourself peace in the present. Add to that your abuser’s denial of the truth, and that’s a pretty powerful discounting of self to live with all your life.

1) Your denial of what happened to you.

We commonly deny the pain of the past through self-talk that might sound a lot like:

Sound familiar?

If so, it is critical that you know the truth. Your memory and your feelings about the past are valid. You have a right to your anger. You have a right to your pain.

2) Your abuser‘s denial of what they did to you.

While your abuser may acknowledge the behavior that was hurtful to you, they may also minimize its weight in similar-sounding language as your own internal dialogue, much of which takes on tones of blame:

  • It wasn’t that big of a deal.
  • You’re too sensitive.
  • You were a handful.
  • I had to be tough with you.

Then there are those abusers who deny their behavior entirely, hoping a vehement denial will cause you to doubt yourself, your memory, your truth.

Finding Your Way To Acceptance

It’s time to get to the root of your eating disorder. If you haven’t already, seek the help of a professional counselor. With their help you can start accepting the pain of your past. While the person who hurt you may never view their behavior as abusive, it is possible for you to accept their version of what happened, just as it is possible for them to accept yours.

Positive Affirmation: God gives me courage each day as I walk on my healing journey.

For more information on eating disorder treatment, please call The Center • A Place of HOPE at 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form.

Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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