Bias confessions of a psychotherapist: overeating recovery

Bias clarity in psychotherapy is key for a successful alliance between therapist and client

Bias Clarity and the Therapeutic Alliance 

Bias in psychotherapy needs to be on the table. This is critical for a cooperative alliance between client and psychotherapist.

With or without an eating disorder, we all live our lives based on our agendas with our values and perceived survival needs leading the way. If we balance our emotions and stress levels with overeating we will get short term benefits. If we let overeating continue to balance our tolerance for stress we move into isolation, self-criticism and loneliness break our own hearts and can't save ourselves from our pain.  

My Bias

As a psychotherapist I am expected to have a neutral stance with my clients. However, I am not neutral. I want, with all my heart, for you to live a long healthy life. I want you to be well, to have love, joy, satisfaction, confidence and a genuine liking for yourself as you proceed onward to a feisty, interesting and healthy old age. I especially do not want you to break your own heart.

Your Reasons for Entering Psychotherapy

You have a reason to come to my psychotherapy practice or my writings. Primarily, you come because you are an adult who binge eats or overeats or has another eating disorder. You also come because you care about someone with an eating disorder. You may also come because you know someone who benefited from my work and want those same benefits for your life.

Mostly, you come because you experience emotional pain and frustration in your life and have a spark of hope that a better way to live exists. You believe your suffering is your fault as you break your heart with health, social and professional ramifications of overeating. Ending binge eating and overeating is a step, a major step granted, but still a step toward creating and living a better life.

Establishing Goals for Therapy and Life

In my practice, my focus is on the whole person in front of me. I see how much energy you pour into food and eating, plus worrying about food and eating. I get a glimpse of what might be possible for you if that energy were directed toward living a more full life. When we share that vision we become a team of two with the goal being to send life energy to your every day life.

That means dismantling the system you have evolved around your eating. Together we remove the need for emotional protection given by overeating habits. Appreciating bias helps establishe agreement on our mutual goal. That goal  becomes creating a psychological, emotional and spiritual new normal that allows your genuine life potential to unfold.

Priority of Your Goals

My job, as I see it, requires me to state my bias and let you know that your best choices come from your beliefs, not mine. You also need to know that I will support your living based on your values, not mine.

Neither of us will make or honor decisions based on the distorted thinking and value systems that are stem from the voice of an eating disorder.

Goals Based On Eating Disorder

A free and healthy person faces difficult choices in life.

When you have an eating disorder of any kind, an automatic and artificial guiding system becomes your default decision making apparatus. It has nothing to do with your true values, desires, goals and authentic yearnings. It's only about pretense, hiding and false safety.

Without an eating disorder, you don't stay home and binge instead of meeting with friends. You don't binge and throw up before meeting a potential employer and therefore meet that person in a partially numbed condition.

If an eating disorder isn't there then decisions about school applications, career choices, pregnancy (to conceive or terminate), relationship choices (positive or negative), commitments of any kind, are based on your personal agenda and values. These must belong to the individual, not me. And neither of us want them to be determined by an active eating disorder.

Discovering and Honoring Your Genuine Values

I do my best to make my bias clear so that you are free of any sense of obligation to please me. More importantly, my stating my bias helps you sort out what you think you are supposed to choose from what you genuinely want to choose. You understand decisions based on the agenda and values of others, including the entire culture, as opposed to what you deeply value.

After all, in the end, you live your life, not anyone else whose choices you choose to be your own.  And a satisfying life is one that is based on living according to your own true agenda and values.

Sometimes self sacrifice is based on deeply held and honored values known and appreciated by you alone. I believe a person needs to be free to make such a choice.

However, if an eating disorder is in the way, choices involving self sacrifice can be blurred or seen as required with no possibility of flexibility, change or even a vague sense of the option to say, “No.”

If you are oblivious to your values or put the demands of your binge eating before your own highest priorities you can make a choice that will immediately or eventually break your own heart.

As an eating disorder fades you are challenged to listen to what's within you and learn your own truth.

I stand for your listening to and honoring your own unbuffered self, mind, spirit, body and heart. When you can do that, you are on your way to living your real life. That is a joyous and satisfying way to live. 

Questions for You

Can you identify ways or instances where you contribute to breaking your own heart?

What would it take to honor what you truly care about?

Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice serving California, Arizona, Florida, Utah and Oregon. All appointments are virtual. Serving adults only with a minimum age of 24. Seniors welcome.

Author of 
Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder. 

To schedule a free telephone consultation write: 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


0 # I hadn't read this before, Joanna. I cmylifex2 2012-02-05 22:49
I hadn't read this before, Joanna.
I can identify many ways that I contribute to breaking my own heart. Often all of them boil down to one thing. Not feeling that I am as good as everyone else.
I don't feel pretty enough, so there have been times that I did nothing to improve my self-image. there are times that I leave the house and go to work without my makeup, and with my hair carelessly thrown into a messy bun.
I contribute to breaking my own heart when I refuse to work on my recovery because it is : too hard, too demanding, too uncomfortable, etc. When I stay sick because I am too scared to get better. Because I am too scared to feel. I contribute to breaking my heart when I lack the courage to try.
I contribute to breaking my own heart when i don't ask for help, or when i refuse help offered, when I put myself down, when I call my self names.
I contribute to breaking my own heart when i let other people tell me how to feel, think, act. When I don't say "enough" or "stop".
I am starting to mend these things as I am feeding my starved brain, and taking my meds. These two steps have helped me to be able to absorb everything you have written in your book, Joanna. Now I can start to process things for real.
what did it take for me to start eating better? A racing heart, feeling faint all the time, fatique, kids who deserve better. A desire to figure out how staying sick is going to benefit me..(because it won't).
I am working hard on recovery at this moment. I am taking it day by day.
0 # oh, wow. I just wrote the previous commemylifex2 2012-02-06 19:00
oh, wow. I just wrote the previous comment yesterday. Twenty-four hours later I am sitting here feeling very scared and in a much different place. I am becoming quite overwhelmed by this direction I am wishing toward recovery. I swear, I really have made some great strides over the past week. I am not going to give up, but I am so scared to let this go. I am so scared to gain weight, to fail, to give up control of this aspect of my life. I have allowed myself to go easy and have not beaten myself up for this past week, where I had decided NOT to "diet". I am starting to feel out of control, like I could just as easily start eating too much. I am working out most days, but I have seen a few lbs creep on. I feel in panic mode. I feel I should not eat....i start to degrade myself, call myself names, tell myself that I am bad. I can't do this to myself..I have to get better...I feel such a great pull today...instead of "tomorrow is a new day for recovery", my thoughts are "tomorrow is a new day to get back on track with weight loss"...I know this isnt supposed to be easy. I wish I could just be ok with being me. I know I am not the fat person I used to see in the mirror...I have come some ways with body image distortion...but I am so scared that I will let myself "go" if I recover. I don't want to be scared of this. Oh me...why? I want recovery. That pull is so very strong. Why does it have to be so strong? I will get thru this, I know I will..why tonight? what is going on? what is so wrong with gaining a couple of lbs? really? does anyone even notice? but I know.
"you can't do anything right", "I told you that you would cave", "watch what happens now. you will let your guard down. You will get hurt, you wont be watching".
these are my journal thoughts...I am so scared to let go and just be. I know that i am just so scared to let my guard down. i don't want to be hurt ever again. My thoughts are very juvenile right now. I almost want to erase this. but i wont because its exactly what I am thinking and first and foremost I want to be honest with this process.
0 # Tracy, Sounds like you are in touch wpinkjoanna 2012-02-06 19:20

Sounds like you are in touch with the young and frightened part of yourself who needs care, understanding and protection. You can move from one part of your psyche to another and experience each part emotionally as if that were all there is.

You are writing down what the frightened part of you has to say. Now respond to her.

"You can't do anything right." response: I'm here and an adult. I've been doing many things right every day or I wouldn't have come this far in my life. You are scared. You think you are right in what you see and feel. But you are little and frightened. I can do enough right to take care of you and not let you hurt yourself.

"I don't want to be hurt ever again." response: no one wants to be hurt. Pain is part of living. But I will do my best to make sure you are protected.

"I told you that you would cave." response: You think that my caving will protect you by keeping the eating disorder going. And you think that if I cave that means I can't take care of myself and that means I'm not reliable enough to take care of you. Please know I will have weak moments. I'll be tempted. And sometimes I'll listen to you so thoroughly that I can't hear my own thoughts. But I will show up for me, and I will show up for you.

You think I'm wrong if I disagree with you. You think I'm wrong if I don't do something to stop your feelings. But I'm doing something right so you can find out you can feel what you feel and discover that nothing bad is happening. I'm doing something right so we can find ways to communicate with each other. I'm doing something right because I know how frightened you are, and letting you show me how frightened you are, and still be here for you and me too.

How's that for a start, Tracy?
0 # yes, Joanna, this makes sense. It made mmylifex2 2012-02-06 19:55
yes, Joanna, this makes sense. It made me cry. I don't know that I have ever been that kind and reassuring to the child in me.
I feel that if I starve myself i will eventually disappear and I wont have to deal with people or things or issues...
I guess i am scared that something bad WILL happen. I want to put my wall back up.
I need to hang in there..I know I feel this badly because I am doing something right...or atleast that is what I am trying to convince myself of.
something has triggered this and all I can think it could be is what shh is going thru right now. I can't stand the thought that someone else is going thru that awful time of beginning to process such bad things. I am trying to be supportive but it is bringing up tough memories for me. In no way do I want you to feel bad, shh...this is a forum for us to talk about anything...i dont want you to hesitate to process your stuff...I think for me, it is important that I talk about how it impacts me because it is huge when I can pinpoint a trigger, hang with it, and reach out for support. I wish I could let this stuff go. It hurts less when I am behind my wall. I feel that with recovery i am running thru open fire. I don't know if that is normal. i feel raw.
0 # Raw means exposed and suffering from exppinkjoanna 2012-02-06 20:08
Raw means exposed and suffering from exposure. If my hands are exposed too long during cold weather, my skin will get "raw."

If you are feeling raw then you are seeing and feeling what's been under your protective covering. The protective covering is the eating disorder.

As you learn new and better ways to protect yourself you can heal that rawness and live more wisely in the present. The young you doesn't know about being wise. That part of you gets frantic.

What you are experiencing is inevitable in recovery. It doesn't last forever. Keep on with your recovery practices.

Triggers happen in this forum. Triggers are not bad. They abound in life. The goal is to be wise and balanced in dealing with triggers and not bombard yourself with more than you can bear.

If you are feeling your feelings, you are bearing them, even if the feelings are painful. And you are growing stronger and more healthy every second you can bear what you feel, think and write at the same time.
0 # yes, this is a different kind of vulneramylifex2 2012-02-06 20:26
yes, this is a different kind of vulnerable. I know I am moving in a different direction. It is the right direction, but unfamiliar, so scary and "dangerous", and threatens all I rely on to "protect" me. Thank you for taking so much time to walk thru this with me...I will go back and read this often in the next while as I struggle thru this part of recovery. I don't think it will benefit me to go backwards...and yes, it is a frantic feeling....just tell me it gets easier...thank you again, so much. so feeling is
0 # Tracy...I'm really sorry that "my stuff"shh 2012-02-06 22:23
Tracy...I'm really sorry that "my stuff" acted as a trigger for you.

I really hope that it comes as a "blessing in disguise", in that maybe if you can somehow tolerate all the things that are coming up for you now and manage to continue on your recovery path, that, that may become something really empowering for you.

I don't like the thought of how uneasy and unsettled all this makes you - it's a horrible feeling, I know, but I do agree with what Joanna says in that triggering situations are always going to be part of our lives, and that a big part of recovery is learning how to deal with them.

I am really grateful for all the support you've given to me in recent months Tracy, it's really good to log on here and see your responses, I take a lot of comfort from them - they are much appreciated - but I don't want you to feel like you have to support me, although it's appreciated, I also understand how it is to need to "pull back" a bit sometimes and take care of yourself, and I want to make sure that you know that I understand, and that it's okay, in fact better than okay - if you need to do that sometimes, as it means that you are placing the value that you deserve upon yourself...and that would make me just as happy, as seeing your responses to my comments :-)

Thankyou Tracy for being there for me, and thankyou Joanna for being there for both of us!
Much love xx
0 # shh, I so hope you are not hurt or offemylifex2 2012-02-07 04:17
I so hope you are not hurt or offended. It does not seem you are and I appreciate your understanding. Sometimes I don't know when something is brewing below the surface. I definitely had no warning at the time I was writing to support your situation. Perhaps it is a good thing, as in the past, I may not have been even able to read your post, much less respond. I still didn't know until I was writing last night and reading Joanna's responses and felt a horrible panic inside. When I identified what that panic was....when I placed it's origins- I realized it was all about the pain I have surrounding my abuse. Joanna mentioned me as my inner child and that did it for me as far as taking me back to the feelings of that time and placing them in the present. taking me back to that place then took me to your post for some reason. I so appreciate your support. I take ownership of my posts and the times i choose to support others. I think this is a good opportunity for me to see that I can be confronted with triggers, identify them, ask for support so I am not alone, then bear the feelings...and still be ok...
thank you for your comment. I will talk with you soon!
tracy xx
0 # Tracy, I'm not hurt or offended, I'm a lshh 2012-02-07 05:53
Tracy, I'm not hurt or offended, I'm a little bit upset that my feelings have had that impact upon you - but not in a way that you need to be concerned about - I wouldn't be human if I wasn't a bit bothered by it, would I?

I guess really I'm just a bit sad that we had to go through the things that put us in this position in the first place...but teven then, there is a little part of me that thinks, well they made me who I am, and te core of who I am, I actually quite "surviving" has it's positive side too.

Take Care Tracy - I think you are dealing with all this in an admirable way! xx
0 # if I could just rid my mind of the imagemylifex2 2012-02-07 06:10
if I could just rid my mind of the image of myself as a little's a constant image...I am alone, I am scared and I am silent. It feels like I am drowning sometimes when I see this image. It is so profound to me. I think if that image would go away, I would be fine. It's amazing how powerful that image is.
0 # this connection between eating and beingmylifex2 2012-02-07 07:57
this connection between eating and being bad just amazes me...I am really trying to think through these thoughts today so see how I can make the healthy choice.
0 # Tracy, have you tried journalling fron tshh 2012-02-07 08:07
Tracy, have you tried journalling fron the perspective of the little girl - it would probably be very emotional, but asking her how she feels and why she feels that way etc, might be helpful?

And maybe even journal a letter in response, from your adult self, telling her what you would like to do for her - scoop her up and give her a bit cuddle, take her out of that place etc???

I dunno...just thoughts that came into my mind, when I read your comments.
0 # Just to let you're not alone,shh 2012-02-07 08:12
Just to let you're not alone, I struggle with the "badness" too (((hugs)))xx
0 # I think that part of the difficulty in emylifex2 2012-02-07 19:29
I think that part of the difficulty in eating today was not being able to get a good workout in. I had a jam packed day with no opportunity to slip in an extra hour of intense exercise. Usually, I find a way to do it, juggling various I usually put working out near the top of my list of you have to know how packed my day has been. If I can't work out enough then I feel badly eating..not a good way to live, but just the facts right now. So I think this was also playing a part in my feelings of being overwhelmed the past 24 hours. so, my challenge is to not let one dictate the other. I feel so much better when I can get the work-out in AND eat normally...I would guess this is healthier than being hungry because I can't work out. but the mind games are the same i guess. atleast i am exploring the fact that this is crazy and that I need to figure out a way to be more rational. I know this way of thinking is not healthy and keeps me stuck.
I need to figure out why I am too scared to give this all up.
0 # Dear Tracy, I responded to one of yopinkjoanna 2012-02-08 12:01
Dear Tracy,

I responded to one of your comments in a full article now running first on my home page. You are not alone in your feelings about the frightened child imagery.

Thank you for your concise and honest post. You helped rally my thoughts so I could speak more clearly to this issue that plagues so many people working toward recovery.

We are all helping each other here. I love it.


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