Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's Your Purpose?

I've been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between spirituality and eating disorders.  Namely, can a sense of spirituality be a ("a", not "the") curative force in recovery?

I'm not talking about religion per se, but more a sense of what your purpose is here on Earth.  For some, it's to be a good person, live a good life.  Others may believe they need to learn a valuable lesson.  Those who are less spiritually inclined may think that they're here simply to continue the species.  For many with eating disorders, life becomes so constricted (restricted) that the purpose becomes eating less, weighing less. . .and a sense of greater purpose is ignored.

I keep circling back to the idea that if you are to get in touch with a greater purpose, that can help with recovery.  I'll often say to someone that I'm not sure what her purpose here is, but I just know it can't be to restrict, maintain a certain weight, or hate her body.  That's can't be the point of life, and I'm sure of it.  Nearing death, it just can't be that you look back over your life and evaluate your stay based on weight.

Can getting in touch with your greater purpose, or at least being open to the idea that it has to be more than this, help you?


Jenny said...

I remember visiting someone I cared a great deal about in prison. He was at the time preparing for his parole. He said to me that the only thing that would bring anyone out of that live was getting "saved" on something - that might be God, or a man or woman, or stamp collecting, or whatever - it just needed to be something important enough to give the person enough focus outside of themself.

I think maybe this can be where spirituality comes in with ED as well. It's not important what we believe in, the importance lies in having something be important enough for us to manage to achieve what would otherwise be beyond our strength.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how close-minded we become within an eating disorder. Sometimes I just catch myself and say "wait! put this into perspective!" I think focusing on bigger and greater things really does make a difference.

I Hate to Weight said...

i'm working thru a lifetime of eating disorders. and i've recently joined AA to get sober. the whole spiritual aspect, which is new to me, is keeping me sober and helping me feel a new purpose. and i'm running to work and meetings and my sponsor and doing the 12 steps and..... i say i don't have time for my eating disorder, which is bizarre since it used to own every moment of my life.

i never connected w OA. too bad, because AA has changed my life.

Lucie said...

(sort of a lurker, so hi!)

oh my gosh, this is the shortest and most concise way you could possibly sum up the last three and a half years of my life, and yes, i completely agree with you. the process of my recovery has also been the process of me finding my purpose in the world. they are one in the same. wow. thanks for this. :)


screaming fatgirl said...

I don't think that having a spiritual focus is essential, but it tends to help people, especially if they operate from an external locus of control. If you feel powerless over your eating disorder and have an external locus of control, placing the power in the hands of some greater external force allows you to take control by proxy. Even if you can't quite give yourself the power directly, a spiritual connection can give you an indirect way of gaining that power.

For me, my purpose has not been about power, but about psychological growth and control. I don't like not being able to make the choices I want to make based on my psychological issues. I see this as part of a process of self-actualization and personal growth. That is both linked and not linked to spirituality. As an aside, I think conquering such issues is something which can enrich the spirit (if indeed such a thing exists), but I don't have any strong sense that that is the reason for doing what I do.

The purpose is to create the person I want to be psychologically. That's a person who is free from the burdens which have led me to be overweight during my entire adult life. I don't want to be thin. I don't want to hate my body. I simply want to be able to say "yes" or "no" to food without any negative emotional consequences.

Ashley said...

I definitely think that getting in touch with one's purpose can aide in recovery - recovery from anything, really. When we discover that our lives can be more than counting calories or struggling to get the next prescription to abuse, our perspective shifts.

Cupcake said...

For me, finding purpose has helped. I agree that it doesn't have to be God or Allah or some(thing)(one) of that nature, but it has be a force that pulls you in and makes you want to focus on that. I think it can be multiple things, depending on how you look at it.

Once we remove food as our god, we need a new focus. I also think it's important to understand that the new focus needs to be positive.

azusmom said...

I also have come to realize, over the past few years, that I have a purpose in life.
I grew up (like many here, I'm sure) as a perfectionist, berating myself for every supposed mistake, no mater how small, convinced I was worthless unless I was perfect. And that, of course, included having a "perfect" body.
Then, a few years ago, both of my kids were diagnosed with autism, and any idea of being a "perfect" mom with "perfect" kids went out the window. Suddenly it became far less important what others thought of my kids and my mothering skills, and all about getting my children the help they need and keeping them as happy as possible.
Being a good mom to them is more important than being seen as a perfect mom.
Today my kids are healthy, happy, and thriving. We have a wonderful support system, and I've even returned to my former profession (teaching acting to kids) because it makes me happy.
Perfect? Hardly. But imperfection is so much more fun!

Momo said...

I think that the idea of purpose definitely influences eating disorders to a large degree. At least it did (does) for me. When I was 15 and severely entrenched in Bulimia, I got "saved" in the Christian sense and it almost stopped my eating disorder completely, although I did still struggle at times. The change was incredibly drastic. The idea that my body was the temple of the holy spirit really stuck with me. I was living for something bigger, something outside of myself and my body. As I grew up though, I realized that my Christian perspective was very limiting even though it had helped me a great deal. I eventually lost my faith and had a relapse into my eating disorder, although it has never been as severe as when I was 13-15.

Without a clear answer to the question "What is my purpose?" I think that an eating disorder can almost be like a substitute answer to this question when it seems too big and overwhelming. Instead of looking for something beyond yourself, it becomes easier to focus on something concrete- the body and the numbers on the scale.

I like what you said about how this cannot possibly be the reason that we are here. So true.

Anonymous said...

Spirituality helped my friend Liz hurdle her eating disorder. She just shared her story with me