Listen, Love and Bloom

Eve Listening to her Heart for the First Time
      When your heart speaks, do you listen or turn away?

          Listening to your true self with respect and patience allows you to understand your possible choices and set out on your authentic path in life.  

        When you have an active eating disorder this is difficult and seems impossible.  I say, "seems" because even in the thick of an almost total immersion eating disorder experience, your suffering heart can let a tiny bit of a yearning voice slip through to you.

      You know this is true.  It's happened to you, probably many times. 

      This voice only seems tiny because it's had to travel so far to reach you.  It's had to struggle through barriers of resistance, denial, binges, retching, food obsessing, body obsessing and harsh self criticism. The voice of your true self is big and strong.  It may be tired from working so hard to be heard, but it continues to struggle toward your consciousness.

      Will you meet it with another binge or more starvation, pushing it down as far as you can, or will you listen to your heart?

      The conversation I imagine we are having now goes like this.

      "Of course I want to listen to my heart.  But my heart has nothing to say, and I don't know how to let it speak, even if it could."

      "Listening with impatience or doubt or while double tasking on your i-phone or i-pad won't work. Don't treat this as evidence that your heart doesn't speak.  It does."

      Paul Tillich said,  "The first duty of love is to listen."  That's sounds fine, but what if you've been criticizing and punishing yourself for so long that you think you hate yourself and can't imagine loving yourself?  

John Tarrant, a student/tacher of zen with a PhD in psychology, said, "Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it we bless and are blessed."

There's your starting place. Like yourself or not, love yourself or not, you can decide to give yourself attention. You can schedule a time to be quiet and pay attention to what is going on in your heart.  If you don't hear anything for a while, that's okay.  You may not recognize the voice.  Your heart isn't accustomed to being heard.  Give yourself time.

A caution here isthat you need to learn to listen to your authentic voice, not the inner voice that slashes your ideas, pummels your thoughts, ridicules your wishes and demeans any thought of your being creative in life.

Years ago I was working with a six year old child who was suspected of being deaf but might have been suffering from attention deficit disorder.  She was alwas dressed in frilly immaculate dresses, patin leather shoes and white socks.  She didn't speak.  She didn't play with children on the playground.  To me she looked numb except for an ocassional glimpse of bewilderment, sorrow and mostly resignation.

I suggested that the parents dress her in jeans and a tshirt so she could play on the swings and bars without fear of emmbarrassment.  She started playing, tentatively at first, but gradually developed enthusiasm.

She and I met in a large unused classroom at her school.  I found a record (yes, it was that long ago) of Halloween sounds, i.e. growls, howls, shrieks, creepy music etc.  She stood on one side of the room.  The record player sat on a desk in the middle of the room.  I stood on the far side of the room.  With the record player on I would say simple words like dog, cat, horse, mountain, river, sky.
Her job was to listen through the noises to find my voice and hear the words I said.  

It was a game. It was also work. We were both delighted when she began to discriminate sounds and pick out my words from the Halloween tumult. 

This story has a happy ending.  She learned to discriminate foreground and background in sounds and words when she was in class and during social time with the other children.  She also had new
and much loved freedom wearing jeans and a t-shirt on the swings and balance beam.  Jump rope, tag and dodge ball came soon after.

Can you see how this relates to you?  You know the terrible and ongoing things you say to yourself about yourself.  The self criticism can be non stop.  That's your Halloween recording -- scary, merciless stuff.  Your task is to be still and listen through the barrage for what your heart is saying.  

"I don't want to be so alone."
"I want to sleep uninteruppted."
"I want time to pray."
"I want to go out with friends."
"I want friends."
"I want to go back to school."
"I want to paint."
"I want to work with people who are nice to me."
"I want kind people in my life."
"I want to find out what I can do in life, in the world."

The criticism you give yourself is stimulated by something you say, do, think or feel.  You can learn to catch a critical thought, name it as coming from your eating disorder, and search for what
you were criticizing.  

What you find could well be coming from the voice of your heart.  

Clear the criticism away and create a safe place for your voice to say more about your heart's desires.


With listening comes love. With listening and love comes healing.  With listening and love and healing as part of your normal everyday life, you will bloom into the person your heart always knew you were.

  • What self criticisms lead you to what your heart is saying?
  • Can you find the positive that stimulates your eating disorder negative?
  • Can you clear that negative for a moment to give attention to the positive?
  • Can you protect the positive and give it room to grow?
  • What are you discovering about the voice of your heart?
  • What possibilities are opening for you?
  • Can you give yourself time and quiet to give the voice of your heart attention?

If we did all the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves.
- Thomas Edison

      * Eve listening to her heart for the first time, engraving by 
Nicolas Auguste Laurens


0 # Stopping the negative thoughtsKymL 2013-02-28 18:03
So I really struggled with stopping the negative thoughts long enough to hear my true voice.  I found myself beating myself up for having them which caused more.  My treatment center said to say something positive instead, but I didn't believe the positives so it seemed all fake.

So what worked for me was just responding to them with "I don't believe that any more."  I didn't know what I believed but I had to stop believing the negative ones and by acknowledging them, at least I didn't beat myself up for having them.  They did start to quiet down and I slowly could hear my true voice.  The more I could hear and listen to that true voice the quieter and quieter the negative ones became. 

I still have my moments but it's much easier now to stop myself from traveling down the negative road.  Now when they come up I remind myself of something positive about myself (which is what I was told to do in the first place....just took me some time!)     
0 # negative thoughts: an additional approachpinkjoanna 2013-02-28 18:28
Dear Kym,

Thank you and congratulations.  You are sharing such an important victory with us.  I applaud you.

And I add another perspective.

One effort is to stop the negative thoughts, confront them with your disbelief and wait for your true voice to speak.  That's very helpful.

Another effort is to track the negative thoughts.  What is being criticized, threatend, demeaned in some way?  Then get close to and support what is under attack. What's under attack may well be your true voice.

Thank you again for sharing your fabulous wins on your journey to solid recovery, Kym.
0 # silencing the voicemylifex2 2013-02-28 19:08
I do hear that voice sometimes.  It's the voice that tries to tell me that I am ok just the way I am.  That it's not worth it to engage in ED behaviors. I think I find myself silencing that voice because I am afraid that I will completely let myself go and gain a lot of weight and feel even worse. I hear the voice telling me to stop taking diet pills, but the fact that I have lost weight motivates me to continue. its the voice that tells me not to weigh myself every day, but I cant start my day without doing so.  I guess i keep thinking that i will listen to that voice when i "deserve" to.  When I reach my goal....the one I never seem to reach...sigh.
0 # silencing the voicepinkjoanna 2013-02-28 23:11
Thank you for writing, Tracy.  It's great that you hear your healthy voice.  Now it's time for you to make a decision to nurture and protect it.

You may not be ready to follow it, but you can make room to give it more space in your life. This will allow your healthy voice to grow stronger.

Can you write down the healthy messages that voice gives you?  Can you give yourself some time every day to write down those messages, collect them in a healthy journal, and read them on a regular basis?

You don't have to do what the healthy voice says, at least not at first.  In time, you will gain confidence and courage.  Then you'll make your move.  For now, just give the healthy part of you room to speak and be heard by you.
0 # InterestingPTC 2013-03-02 08:27
I found that post interesting, Joanna.  I'd like to think that I listen to my heart, and maybe I do more than I think I do after reading this post.  Let me clarify, before reading this I thought that I listened to my heart most of the time, after reading it I thought, Hmm, I don't think I do so much, but maybe that thought is wrong. 

I don't know if it was so much my heart that wanted to not get up off of the couch this morning and go to the gym, or the fact that I was tired, but I made myself get up and go and do it.  I would much rather have stayed snuggled up on my couch with my cats.  Is it my heart, body or mind that tells me that I want to take the subway or the bus instead of walking?  I do know my heart is not the one that has me walking in the end, instead of taking public transportation.

Lots to think about.  I think I'll go blog now.
0 # questions lead to questions the questions can be the answerspinkjoanna 2013-03-03 15:18
PTC, you are asking the great questions.  The challenge is not to answer them too fast.  Let one question lead to another.  That's the way you go deeper toward questions you can't even ask yet.

Is it my heart"
Is it my mind?
Is it my body?
Is it my eating disorder?
Is it my fear?
Is it my healthy life force?
Is it my fantasy wish?
Is it my heartfelt wish?
Is it a mindless impulse?
Is it an impulse from my heart that is breaking through barriers?

Just keep asking your questions.  Write them in your journal.  See where they lead.

Great questions, PTC!
Laura R
0 # So many voicesLaura R 2013-03-03 16:19
This week has been hard and I've been a bit overwhelmed by all the voices. ED tells me to protect and restrict. My wise voice says it is in my best interest to eat. My body tells me it is tired and needs rest. Fear tells me to work and not play. My heart tells me to do something creative. It even whispered to me that sometime soon it would like me to go back to my piano. The little kid voice tells me it needs comfort (it's missing T). I'm trying to pay attention to my wise voice and heart voice. Today I found myself humming something over and over and tapping it out on my arm. I think I was needing to distract from all the voices for a bit.
0 # fleeting feelings of reliefmylifex2 2013-03-03 17:17
so over the past few weeks, despite the fact that I have been actively engaging in ED behavior, I find myself having these fleeting moments where I think I will just surrender to acceptance of who I am and where I am at. I had this moment yesterday and again today. Two days in a row, a couple of times last week...more than I have in a long time, to say the least.  My thinking goes something like this. "I am who I am, I can't change it overnight, I am sick of obsessing 24 hours a day, diet pills and laxatives are just a vicious cycle,  I have friends who accept me, I have co-workers who accept me, I am not totally disgusting, just go with it"....this thinking washes a feeling of relief over me that I cant describe.  I would like to think I can work on having more of these moments.
0 # So many voices and the executive branch of youpinkjoanna 2013-03-03 17:21
Hi Laura,

Sounds like you lose your sense of authority based on your identity.  Sounds like you think or feel that when you hear a voice you must obey it.  That would be exhausting!

What about your taking the position of President, i.e. head of the executive branch of your inner constellations?

You listen. You give each a turn and consider the merits of each as well as the practicalities involved.

I want to go into my biology studies right now. It's 5:00 p.m.  I want to take the dogs on a long walk right now. I want to spend time with a friend right now. I want to check in with my family right now. I want a cup of coffee to warm a chill I feel.

My body is tired after a joyous fun filled 24 hours with young children who spent the night here.

I know I may see a patient for a special session later tonight. 

This is not the time to start a new intellectual phase that requires passion nor is it the time
to stride around my neighborhood with two dogs. My mind is a bit foggy. It's not the time for socializing. I don't need caffeine, or even a cup of decaf. 

I used up a lot of energy.  Now I need to replenish.  Rest, get warm, let these desires go into low key. I can do these activities tomorrow.  If I get the rest I need, I'll do them better and have more fun with them tomorrow.

Time to stretch out with my book and maybe fall asleep after a few pages.

P.S.  An important part of living this way is to keep up, as much as possible, with routine tasks so you don't get overwhelmed with tasks and guilt.  E.G. Laundry done. Beds made. Bills up to date. Clutter not accumulating. Environment clean and orderly.  

If I perk up I'll take the dogs to the park around 8:15.  If not, we'll have a little fetch in the driveway.  

See what I mean?  I make the decisions about what voices I respond to and how and when and how much.  I'm the President, and so are you!   :-)
0 # fleeting moments become not so fleeting.pinkjoanna 2013-03-03 17:26
This is excellent news, Tracy.  If you feel something, then you know it's possible to feel it.  It's real.  You are not hoping to feel it or trying to feel it or hearing someone else talk about feeling it.  You are actually feeling it.

This is solid evidence your psyche takes in that you can feel it because you are feeling it or because you have felt it.   One second of feeling this can grow to two seconds or ten minutes.

That can grow to half an hour or half a day or more.

You've started the process of making the turn toward recovery with a glimipse of new possibiities.

"I am not totally disgusting. Just go with it."   Right on.  Just go with a fleeting glimpse of self acceptance and see where the self care and self respect associated with that will take you.

Thank you so much for sharing this, Tracy.
0 # In mindPTC 2013-03-05 11:59
Thanks Joanna, I will keep those questions in mind and look into them further.
0 # I am afraid I may have upset my therapistmylifex2 2013-03-12 19:24
I have felt really gross and fat lately. My doctor has me on yet another medication for my joint pain, which is causing water retention and weight gain. I am trying so hard not to pay attention  to the negative voices that tell me to stop these medications that are so helpful for both my depression and my pain.  But that leaves me with feeling so bad about my body. I canceled my appt with my therapist. I left a message with her on sunday stating that I would not be there wednesday, that i felt too fat to be around her, that I am embarrassed because of how I look. I have stopped going to church, and I have stopped going most places people know me unless I absolutely have to. I didn't hear from her yesterday. I emailed her last night to ask her to let me know if she got my message. She didnt call me this morning or return my email. At noon I called again and her answer was that she has been busy. I hope she is not angry with me for (yet again), messing up any progress we have made. l told her this was not about her, that is was my fear and embarrassment. Now I feel bad.
0 # topic ideamylifex2 2013-03-13 16:44

I have noticed that part of my depression is the inability to see past each day. I live in the moment, but not in the "take it all in, let it all hang out" type of way. I realized recently that my depression is partly dread. The dread of each new day. Not making plans, not looking ahead or forward to anything exciting...because I don't plan anything exciting (because I like to stay home and not go out of my house). 
can you do a blog topic on how to see past today? I don't think I know how. Or maybe i am just scared to.  And if so, why?  That kind of topic. Thanks :-)
0 # thinking about your requestpinkjoanna 2013-03-13 22:38
Dear Tracy,

Thank you for this request.  I'm thinking about it and will write something soon.

In the meantime, the fact that you are thinking about this, can verbalize it and ask for help in understanding how to move beyond the block speaks very well for your determination to heal.



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