Right and Wrong: Your inner unicorn

unicorn DomenichinounicornPalFarneseDo you know your values, morals and ethical standards? Do you live by them? Do you have an inner unicorn? (see below.*)

I'm catching up on my continuing education credits to maintain my psychotherapy licenses in California, Florida, Oregon and Utah. Right now I'm in the required ethics class and thought I'd share these definitions with you.

Values are the ideals or beliefs to which an individual or group aspires.
Morals relate to making decisions between right and wrong.
Ethics is the articulation of standards of behavior that reflect those values or morals.

Can you articulate your standards of behavior that reflect your values and morals?
Do your standards support eating disorder recovery or do they support the maintenance of the disorder?

If you think your values and/or morals are questionable, can you develop ethical standards based on a higher road, live by them and make them your own?

And then, going beyond the knowing, thinking, and articulation stages, can you act against what is wrong and for what is right?  So important in recovery work.

I'd love to hear your response to this.

Now, back to class. 

pix: attribution: Domenichino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  The Virgin with the Unicorn, (working under Annibale Carracci,) 1604-1605, Fresco, Farnese Palace.

*I chose the unicorn picture because I found one interpretation of the unicorn as having the ability to recognize the difference between right and wrong in battle. The unicorn is a ferocious and powerful being which would gore the party in the wrong. I think having a well developed inner unicorn is something to strive for.

Psychotherapy with Joanna

Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist



0 # I lived by my standards, but I wish it would stop hurting!shh 2015-11-03 12:07
I've recently found myself in a relationship (the first since my marriage ended 2.5 years ago), it was everything I wanted it to be and more, I had kind of forgotten how good it could feel to be in the right company :)

We got quite close and one day he made a disclosure, he said he felt he needed to tell me as although it wasn't a big deal in his eyes, his previous girlfriend had reacted really badly when it came up (but they had been together a long time by the time he told her), and he didn't want to make the same mistake again. Basically he'd had 3 sexual experiences with guys - the first was teenage curiosity, nothing really happened, they got interrupted; the second he was forced into at uni, it hurt and he hated it; the 3rd more recently that he quite enjoyed, he said he didn't consider himself bisexual though, he still considered himself to be straight, and it wouldn't pose any threat to our relationship.

I know he believed 100% what he was telling me, but I also suspected it wasn't true - the look on his face, in his eyes, the way he lit up when he told me about the 3rd time...I knew, and I suspected it meant he was more likely to be gay than bi. The level of gratitude he expressed because I didn't react negatively - it seemed an alien concept to him that someone would be okay and not berate him for it, I knew it was going to be one of those, 'show someone some love and acceptance and everything will come flooding out' situations. I knew that if I was going to minimise my own personal hurt, I needed to detach and get out of that relationship - but abandoning someone who has found the guts to start to disclose stuff to you - that went against who I am, and my values.

He needed help to deal with that, the level of suppression, the level of guilt and shame he felt. I tried to broach it gently, told him I was scared to get further into a relationship with him because I believed that at some point he would reach a level of self-acceptance where he would realise he was bi, or more probably gay, and I would end up getting hurt... but he was still adamant, he was straight and my fears would never be realised.

I stayed, we talked (lots! over the course of a few weeks), he confessed he had urges that he tried to suppress - the poor guy was in so much pain (it used to make me go away and cry for him), he was terrified that he would be rejected by his family, his community, and that it would ruin his career if anyone found out (family and community I can understand because of his cultural background, career I don't really think would be such a big issue).

At this point we were still in a relationship (although I was holding back, but in hindisight, holding back on the outside doesn't change how you feel on the inside), and I used to bring up that suppressing everything, and living as half a person isn't healthy and that I wanted him to live a happy fulfilled life ...

...and one day he phoned me from work, in a huge panic, "I don't know what to do, I don't know what to do, tell me what I should do"...he'd made eye contact with a guy, but was too scared to speak, too scared of hurting me... and I made him do it - pretty much held his hand (he phoned me every 10-20 mins, "what do I say?..what do I do if?..I can't, I can't do it I'm too scared").

I was happy and heartbroken at the same time - they are still together, he called me about 10 days later to tell me he'd figured out that he was gay, he calls me once a week or so as a friend. I'm still the only person who knows, he still hasn't "come out" - but he's getting there. He feels a level of guilt as well as gratitude because of how it happened, I've told him not to (even thought it hurts like hell, it was my decision to stick with it when I knew what would happen)

I have no regrets, I did what I needed to do... if you love someone, you want what's right for them and to see them happy. I know I will get over my hurt, but I wish it would hurry up and go away!
0 # Standardspinkjoanna 2015-11-03 12:10
Dear Shh,

Honoring your standards protected you from worse hurt.

You've been open about sharing the story of your marriage. I won't repeat it here. I just want to tell you a story based on many true stories.

She is married for 13 years. Her denial is great but finally bursts. She recognizes qualities in him she can't live with. They divorce.

She is free. A man is attracted to her. She likes being desired. They meet. He has the same name as her ex husband....and similar qualities. In fact, he is so similar, even in mannerisms and body type, that she can't see him again.

She is attracted to another man. The energy between them is strong and familiar. They date for four months. Then she finds she is in the same relationship as she was with her husband. This man didn't look or sound the same, but those old qualities emerged in the relationship and she was falling into her old patterns. She ended the relationship.

She is attracted to another man. After three dates she sees she is repeating again and ends it.

Then a man comes along and in one date she knows it's happening again. She stops it.

At a party a man with similar qualities approaches her. She gracefully removes herself.

At another gathering, she sees a man with those qualities walk by. She recognizes him as yet another clone. He glances at her and moves on.

In a few months she no longer sees the clones, nor do they approach her. She's free.

This is when she is able to meet men who are really different from her ex so she can truly explore a new kind of relationship.

Do you understand, Shh? Your unconscious says, "I know what you like. Here it is again."

You say, "no."

Your unconscious says, "are you sure? I can get you a different version."

You say, "I'm sure. no."

Your unconscious says eventually (if you keep saying no), "well, I'll keep them around just in case you change your mind."

You ignore the availability.

Your unconscious says, "ok. I believe you, and I'll let it go."

You say, "yes" to what's really new.
0 # i do get it ...shh 2015-11-03 12:11
Thanks Joanna

I do get it, but you know I was so careful to make sure he wasn't like my ex, and in every other way he wasn't - they were very different personalities, different attitudes etc

My ex knew I'd been seeing someone and knew we'd split up, and she asked me at the weekend why it hadn't worked out, I told her - she was shocked, but then joked with me "how does it feel to know you turned 3 guys gay?" (yes there was another, back in high school), She realised how insensitive and tasteless the joke was and apologised, but still quipped "but couldn't you make a living out of this, like take it up professionally and charge for it?" I see the funny side, but it did leave me feeling like "is this it, is this what I'm destined for? Am I always going to attract the same types of people that turn out to be gay?" Relationships aside, I have always been the person that people choose to "come out" to (at school, at uni), I don't know what it is about me that makes people feel that I'm the right person to tell - and I don't mind, but ultimately there is a bit of me that goes "but what about me? I'd like a relationship that holds something in it for me".

My friend (who is also single) always says to me "it's not fair you attract all the genuinely nice guys, whilst I just get all the idiots, and you don't even see how lucky you are, you're never interested in them" - and it's true, I'm not, I don't know why I'm not, I have tried to be, but I dunno. I'm actually making an effort to go on a date with one of them tomorrow evening in the hope that something happens during the course of the conversation to spark my interest in him - nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that!

But I'm actually sailing pretty close to just enjoying my own company again...I was never really in a rush to meet someone anyway....and just go for the "It'll happen when you least expect it".
0 # Values and expectationsmylifex2 2015-11-03 12:12
Im going to have to break this down into a couple different pieces. I think that most people have values. Now what those values are and how ethical and moral they are may be two different things. I also think that people can have different ethics and morals at different times in their life depending on where they are at.
growing up I was raised in a Christian family with very strict moral values. For instance, I grew up in a Baptist family in the 70s and 80s. The church that I grew up in taught that it was immoral to go to movies or to listen to secular music or to go to dances. So I was raised to believe that those things were wrong, but I did not necessarily believe that myself. So my sisters and I would sneak to movies and sneak our clock radios under our covers at night to listen to pop music. So in this instance my morals and values did not match those of my parents.
in turning this around I can say that as I grew older, and because of this background, I knew what was expected of me as a young adult. I knew that my church and my parents did not think that it was OK to drink or have sex before marriage. Again those were not necessarily The values or morals that I adhere to at that time of my life. At the same time, because I was raised the way that I was I did began to stop and think before I did certain things. I had asked myself would this be something that my parents would be against or would this be something that God would be against. In doing so I developed pseudo-values and pseudo-morals. I would or would not do things based on how I felt others would react to my decisions.
now I have said all this because I think that a lot of people with eating disorders have the challenge of not always knowing who they are to begin with. If you don't know who you are then sometimes it's hard to have a solid base of values and morals and even ethics to call your own. That can cause a ton of problems. I think for me I would question who I was and the things that I would do to gain acceptance of other people. For instance I didn't necessarily think that having sex before marriage was wrong, but I also would find myself in situations where I would either be drunk or high and be very indiscriminate and my morals and values we go out the window. Later I would find myself feeling massively guilty over the things that I had found out I had done or the people I had been with or the things that I had done with the people that I had been with. And then you start to feel guilty and you compensate by acting out on your eating disorder to quell your feelings of guilt and hatred toward yourself and the whole cycle of not knowing what your values are perpetuates a cycle that's unending.

I don't think I ever really knew what my values and morals were until my head was clear enough to know why I felt that those were my values and my morals.
to pull things into a very current scenario, I will use the example of my mom's recent passing. My mom just passed away seven days ago. We just buried her last Thursday. I love my mom dearly. So it's hard for me to write this at this time, but I'm going to anyway. My mom's love for us growing up was quite conditional at times. If we did or acted the way that she wanted us to act then we got love and acceptance. However if we did not then it was the silent treatment or we were guilted into feeling very ashamed.

I have noticed in the past few days as my grief has begun to left just a little and the tears are starting to slow down, that I have this new feeling almost of a rebirth inside of me that at age 46 I'm free to have my own thoughts and feelings and opinions about things. I was joking with my therapist today and I told her that there were some things in my life that I never did because my mom would have stopped talking to me. For instance I never got a tattoo. I never got a body piercing outside of my ears. Well now that I'm 46 I may be too old to get certain body parts pierced or maybe it's not time for me to get a tattoo and it doesn't really matter at this point anyway. But the bottom line is if I want to feel free to do so I can. I am hoping that what will come out if this, and what will come out of continued Recovery is that i will make value decisions based on MY thoughts and experience- not those of others.
i hope this made sense.
# TracyGuest 2015-11-03 12:15
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# testGuest 2015-11-06 12:24
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0 # Deleted postmylifex2 2015-11-07 23:19
It says my post was deleted by administrator. I still see it on here...I don't understand how what I said was offensive.?
0 # errorpinkjoanna 2015-11-09 12:54
Dear Tracy,
Your comment was deleted in error. So sorry!
We are trying to restore it now.

0 # Tracyshh 2015-11-09 13:07
I love what you said Tracy!

2 things stood out to me, firstly about people with EDs not knowing their true self, or even disliking and trying to bury their true self because that self had values and morals that conflicted with the people around her and implied she was a bad person - I think it's very true.

And secondly, that losing a parent who had such a controlling impact, can actually bring about a sense of freedom - that's what happened when my dad passed away, I never really grieved at all, but my therapist said she felt that I had gained so much from his passing, that the net effect left little to grieve about.

I actually came on here because my date with the "nice genuine guy" went really well last week ...although I find him very different to the people I usually end up with, a bit shy, quite guarded (in a relative sense compared to what I'm used to, it's not that he didn't tell me things about himself or answer my questions), I wasn't actually sure whether he liked me or not until he offered to walk me back to my car and kissed it did feel slightly awkward and alien to me. We are going out again tomorrow, and I've been quite excited and looking forward to it, except today ....and that's why I've come on here. I realise that I must have pretty significant fear of abandonment issues. I haven't heard from him for what, 13 hours? It's less than 24hrs since we had a brief conversation.....there's nothing really in that, that's a big deal if I'm being a rational person. But after 5 days of looking forward to seeing him, my feelings on it are now quite numb, I know I'm getting ready to detach, I'm so anxious I can't focus on anything, if I'm not physically pacing the floor, then I'm still mentally pacing it, checking phones, emails....

....this is my answer though isn't it, as to why I choose the, I don't know what you call it...but the ones that are ultimately unavailable, but are very interactive and open with me and need me in some way. I just want to cry, because I hate this feeling so much...the nervous, anxious, debilitating feeling sensible head is saying "you have so many things you need to get done today, just go and get on with them, you'll probably hear from him later"....but physically as well as mentally, I can't seem to move myself off to go and do anything. (But at least I haven't stuffed my face to try to curb it, and I know where the fear comes from).
0 # little updateshh 2015-11-09 14:49
I have been on several dates with "Mr nice genuine guy" now - in fact I think we might even be "dating", we have agreed on the "exclusivity" thing, and when I've tentatively asked if he wants to meet again he's given me the "of course!" like "why wouldn't I?" response.

I'm just so out of my depth! The whole thing is alien to me!

Partly, I haven't done the dating thing since I was a teenager - I met someone when I was 16 stayed with them until I was 20, and at 20 I met my husband, so even back then I didn't do that much of it, and I was so young.
But also partly because I've always attracted men with a fairly strong feminine side, we have always had very similar ways of being and attitudes towards dating and feelings etc, so this is all completely new to me!

He likes sport! both participating and observing (I have never been close to a man who has an interest in sport, apart from my father, and my mother put paid to most of his interests.)

He is more guarded than I'm used to and communicates a lot less...I'm used to guys that chat, gossip, tell you everything about their lives, like girls chat to each other. But I understand that it's just a guy thing.

I have no idea what he thinks of me - which I suppose isn't really true, I just have no really verbally explicit things to go off. I certainly have no reason to think he doesn't or that he's just using me.
0 # little update cont'd - may be triggering (sex)shh 2015-11-09 14:50
It's very physical (although I am just as bad as he is, worse in some ways) - my ex was never really very into sex he had major hang-ups about it courtesy of his upbringing. This is part of the relationship/dating thing where I have no idea what grown-ups do or how long you're supposed to wait before you do - it's not like being an inexperienced teenager with nowhere to go, I'm an adult who's not had sex for 3 years, misses it, has my own home and can guarantee we won't be disturbed (because I'm the one collecting my children the following day).

Thankfully, I do have something about me that senses who it's a good idea to sleep with and who isn't (remember post-rape when I was unfaithful for the only time in my marriage and it was the most tender, caring, sex of my life - it was what I needed?)

Well, similarly with "Mr Nice Genuine guy", even if it never blossoms into a long-term relationship, I will take away the therapeutic benefits of my time with him.
When I was in therapy I journalled a load of stuff about wishing I could lie with someone who accepted my body for what it is, despite the scars, flaws, imperfections and ways in which I've abused it with was an emotional time, I wrote it and cried because I didn't believe that, that person existed. I didn't feel like that would ever be an option for me.

He has changed me from the person who could just about cope in the throes, but then awkwardly grabbed anything in reach - clothes, blankets etc to cover her naked body - I could not lie there naked and let him just look, I couldn't walk across the room naked (to go to the loo for instance), and certain sexual positions were definitely out because they made me feel exposed - but I can now.

I also had issues with trust in a sexual context, (from the rape, and from my ex) a huge fear of people not stopping or carrying on doing something that was hurting me despite me asking them to stop. I never talked about it with him, but I've had need to test him - "I need you to stop, please will you just hold me" - instantly did as I asked and asked no questions, and a few other things, where he has been super responsive.

And the biggest breakthrough for me, which still makes me emotional, is that I let him stroke my stomach - just lay in bed afterwards, and he put his hand on my tummy and gently stroked it, and I didn't do the knee jerk "aaarghhh get off me" response, I was aware of it, but it was actually quite nice, I quite liked it - it's the part of my body that I absolutely hate, my ex was never allowed to touch my stomach, and if he did without thinking, he'd get his hand moved and an angry reminder that I didn't like it; even my children - whilst I'd try not to freak out, I'd find ways to gently move their hands elsewhere.... so this is huge for me!

Bizarrely, whilst I am quite insecure and fear abandonment, there is a part of me that also believes that nothing lasts forever, things often don't work out - and yes you will grieve about it, but if you walk away with good memories and have positive things that you can take from it, then it was worth it. I’m hopeful that things will continue in a positive way with him, but if they don't - I know I have gained enough from being with him to have no regrets and for the experience to have been worthwhile.
0 # We all knew it was coming...shh 2015-11-11 13:05
...I knew by the way I wrote that last comment and I'm sure you knew it when you read it, that my days with "Mr Genuine Nice Guy" were numbered. I have ended things with him today, because as nice as he is, his guardedness is more than guarded, he is emotionally unavailable. He uses sex to feel some kind of connection and closeness, but he can't let anyone in or expose enough of himself to do true intimacy, he can't even speak about it.
I've kind of known this, I've been cutting him slack and making allowances because of it, but at some point, I have to put my sensible head on and replay the conversation in my head that I had with my therapist about my ex-husband; she asked me "if you'd spotted all these signs and you knew all these things weren't right, why did you get into a relationship with him?" and my answer was "because I didn't like seeing him hurting, cos I know how that feels, I believed if I loved him enough I could make him better".
So today I told myself "S, you need to face it, you can't fix him, you've got to let go ...look what happened last time, 20 difficult years of your life", I certainly don't want to go through that again.

Can't stop crying at the mo, it feels unnatural to abandon someone or something that is in such a vulnerable state, but I know it's the right thing, and I know I'll lick my wounds for a while and move on again (I just hate this bit, I feel so lousy, I'm nauseous). But I know that I deserve a whole relationship, not half of one.
0 # How do you stop your infanthood impacting you so hard?shh 2015-12-05 14:40
Nothing ever runs to plan does it?

I suggested to Mr Nice Genuine Guy that we both wanted different things out of the relationship and that I thought we should go our separate ways before we ended up hurting each other my surprise he said no, he didn't want that, he wanted us to stay together, so I allowed things to carry on for another few weeks.

Then last weekend we had a falling out over his lack of communication, as it often comes across like he doesn't care about me at all. I left things, but messaged him the next day to say that I needed a relationship where the people are able to express an interest and care for the other person, and that I wasn't sure whether he just didn't want that, or whether he just struggled with that. I asked him if it was the former to just let me walk away this time but to at least say bye, but if he was truly struggling to express himself, not to let me go. I heard from him the following day to see if I wanted to meet the following day, but then that day came and I didn't hear from him all day and he ignored my texts and calls, and I haven't heard anything since.

I am not handling it well!

It's not the breaking up as such that gets to me - it needed to happen, it's the way it happened - the making plans but not following through, and the not having the decency to say "Thanks for the good times we shared, I hope you have a nice life" type thing. (I have since sent him a message that says words to that effect, as I think it's hurtful not to really).

I can't tell you how hard it has hit me - I'm truly a mess, so much so that I've spent a lot of time journalling and reminding myself that after only a few months most of the stuff I think I'm losing is really a fantasy of what I wanted him to be that I created by projecting my needs and desires onto him, and I'm okay with all that; so then I ask myself why am I still taking it so badly, and I have concluded that he has triggered my "abandoned baby part". Just as my mother used to reassure me and let me get distracted by play or fall asleep before she would sneak off without a goodbye and I would soon realise that I'd been abandoned, and subsequently left to cry (I know this because it's how she wanted me to treat my children as babies, and it makes so much about myself fall into place), he reassured me he was coming round and then abandoned me without so much as a goodbye - and that's the part I can't deal with, I'm crying inconsolably typing this.

It's not the first ex-hubby did this to me when we were younger, but worse - we'd been living together for 2 years, our wedding was booked, and one day he just didn't come home from work - no phonecall, no note, no message - I spent 24 hrs frantic with worry and phoning round everywhere before his mother finally called to say he had gone to her house and it was over. (We got back together about 6 months later, when he said he'd made a mistake and would prove himself to me)

It also hit me when I was journalling yesterday that my fear of abandonment had been in play all along ....I never understood why, but I could never sleep when he stayed over...he would hold me tight all night and I would lie awake with my back to him just listening to his breathing, or facing him just watching him sleep...the nights always seemed so long and wouldn't pass because I was so awake - but that's what I was like as a child, I used to lie awake "on guard" all night long, I daren't sleep - obviously because of how I was treated as a baby and the fear of abandonment.

I feel fed up, I don't want my infanthood experiences to kick in every time I meet someone, and I'm scared that there's something about me that is just going to attract the people that do that to me, over and over, and I can't live like that - it makes me question whether I really want a relationship at all, or whether I'm better off just staying alone
Laura R
+1 # Hang in thereLaura R 2015-12-06 20:57
shh- sorry it is being so hard. I too have little kid stuff that continues to pop up. My team tell me that if I am kind to it, it won't aLways be this hard. I hope for you and for me that is true. Sending you a hug.
0 # Thanks Laura - too much compassionshh 2015-12-07 06:32
Thanks for your kind words Laura!
I'm a mess, but proudly not acting out my ED, I'm resisting desire to numb everything, and letting myself feel it.

I wish I had less compassion though, then I'd be able to feel angry at him, and it would be easier ...but I don't, I just feel sad that he is so emotionally scarred that this is how he protects himself and copes (I only know a little of his background, but there's difficult tragic stuff there, that's definitely unresolved for him).

On a good day I can say that just because I can see why he does things, doesn't mean they don't matter or that he shouldn't own them and take responsibility for them ...but I know he's not strong enough to do that, he's too preoccupied with protecting himself... if he could do that, the relationship might've stood a chance, but the fact that he can't means it's definitely the right thing for me to get out of it.
0 # Clarityshh 2015-12-09 05:10
I asked myself why I do it... why I'm always drawn to the wrong men, that end in tears and heartache. The truth of it is, I choose the ones that replicate my relationship with my mother ..that hold me out in this place where they are unable to care for me, or at least unable to demonstrate it outwardly; and I end up caring too much about them and about why they do it, and want to try and make it better, to try and make myself worthy of their affection. The sad thing is, is that I know that they kind of do care, but they just can't do it.
I've realised that whilst I could see that Mr Nice Genuine Guy used sex to feel warm and close to someone without dealing with true intimacy, I couldn't see that I do it too. But I do, to a lesser degree than him, I don't go around sleeping with people to get that closeness and warmth as such, but I will turn conversations into flirting or talking about sex in order to still feel like they like me, but divert attention away from wanting to know more about me, and avoiding adding more depth to the relationship - because truthfully, I'm a bit socially awkward and I'm scared I will get pushed away if people knew the real me.
And subsequently, I'm deeply uncomfortable with people who are probably quite "normal" - I can't cope when they want interaction, and to be nice and just get to know me a little bit"...everything is just "too much, too nice, I can't cope, I need to get away"
I don't know how...but I think it would probably be a good idea if I learned to tolerate it ...if I can't bear the company of people who would probably treat me well and with respect, then I'm always going to go back round the same old circles aren't I?

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