More about relapse: balancing development with behavior

Museocieloabierto indigenasGoing back to eating disorder behaviors days, weeks, months or even years after being free of the behaviors or even the desire to act out can be disheartening at the least and frightening at the worst. Understanding what you need to restore your balance helps you through this challenge and moves you into an even healthier place.


I find in my work with others, and from my experience when I look back at my own recovery journey from bulimia, that the recovery process is twofold: active behavior and psychological development.  These parallel aspects of recovery need to be in some kind of balance.

When psychological development does not keep pace with behavioral changes, you may not be able to function without the eating disorder behavior.  If, at the point of so called "relapse" focus is placed on behavior, the imbalance and accompanying feelings of guilt, failure and despair increase.

If the developmental aspects of your psyche are addressed so thatyou grow psychologically you will be more capable of dealing with your current challenges.  These are challenges you could only cope with in the past with the numbing or emotionally blinding effects of your eating disorder behavior.

With ongoing development your dip into old behaviors becomes a call to learn and grow in new ways.  There's no guilt or shame in that.  In fact, a relapse, addressed in this way, can be a positive pointer to a more healthful and developed way of living.

If you are in therapy, then the therapy deepens.  The energy of your guilt or fear or despair can be harnessed and channeled into the new work that actually creates more wisdom, competence and justified self confidence.

If you are no longer in treatment, the relapse is a signal to increase your self-care work and perhaps go back into psychotherapy, maybe intensely and for a short time.

Through new personal work you can face and get through your current challenge. You can learn to recognize that challenge. You can develop what might be large or small aspects ofyour psyche that need to be supported and nourished. Then you will no longer need the eating disorder behaviors to cope with this kind of challenge. You will have found the right balance for you now.

Are there more such challenges ahead? Maybe. We can never know for certain. But we can know how to recognize them when they occur and take steps to grow in time to care of ourselves and what we hold dear.

* Español: Mural del Museo a Cielo Abierto de San Miguel, representante de culturas nativas de Chile

This mural shows, in a vibrant way, what I'm attempting to describe. When all the components of the being's life is in necessary balance, the core self is stable. 

But, life is fluid, not rigid.  So the components will shift.

If they don't stay in balance with each other as they move the core sill be unstable.  That instability can lead you to eating disorder recurrence.  It can also lead you to investigate what is throwing you off balance and what you need to understand or do or both to bring you to a new level of stability.

You will have grown beyond your previous limitations so you can discover new strenth, courage and sources of joy.


0 # I just had my baby and I can't believe hM 2009-08-21 21:08
I just had my baby and I can't believe how fast I fell back to old behaviors... but how can I even make the time for thearpy with a one month old and a husband that works 6 days a week....
0 # thanks for your response. I've made anM 2009-08-25 15:05
thanks for your response. I've made an appointment with my tx. your right new beginings, changes are scary but i have a great inspiration right now... my son. i just need to keep reminding myself that. thanks.

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