Personal disclosure by a psychotherapist is a controversial issue. I thought deeply about revealing my personal history as I wrote Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder.
The major guidance and influence came from the words of wisdom from my great and much loved mentor, psychoanalyst Lars Lofgren, M.D. He said,
“Revealing aspects of your life and struggles can place a burden on your patient. Reveal personal information only if it serves your patient and benefits them in their healing.”I thought about you, my reader, and decided that revealing aspects of my own life with bulimia and striving toward recovery would benefit you in developing compassion for your experience and striving toward your own recovery.
Healing Your Hungry Heart is written for you, to inspire you and to give you tools that work in going for healing. It’s designed to be a friendly companion during many readings as you follow your path to freedom.
Reasons for my revelations
1. To earn your trust.
I thought if I could reveal some personal stories about myself that showed I knew first hand about living with an eating disorder, you might be willing to trust me. Perhaps you would accept me as a guide and companion as Healing Your Hungry Heart takes you to deep and sensitive parts of yourself.
2. To strike an emotional chord as you identified with one or more details in my story.
Eating disorders being what they are, have a certain commonality within the unique experiences of each person. I couldn't anticipate which details would reach you, but I trusted that if I told my story honestly you would find more value than I could imagine.
3. To show that even someone very ill, as I was, could get healing, find recovery and live a rich and healthy life.
4. To “walk the talk” about respecting boundaries.
I hope you notice that while I reveal much about myself I hold to boundaries based on respect and privacy for members of my family. I reveal my story, not theirs.
5. To show how recovery unfolds over time.
My personal story weaves through Healing Your Hungry Heart. You can see that the issues I explore and the compassion and resilience I develop, deepens and expands over time – as will yours.
6. To show you that you can move past guilt and shame, give up secrets and live free.
I wanted to tell you my story to show you that I could. I wanted to show you that the burden of secret pain and shame dissolves when you heal your hungry heart. Yes, you can look at yourself without disguise or artifice, bear your truth with kindness and compassion and build a good life rich with meaning and personal fulfillment.
6. To speak to the young feminine within you that needs loving care, respect and teaching so you can develop into a healthy and sturdy woman.
7. To encourage and inspire you to take on the exercises, tasks and activity suggestions within the pages of Healing Your Hungry Heart.
The goal of Healing Your Hungry Heart is to show you how to "self-help" yourself into eating disorder recovery. Presenting tasks gives you a map which you may or may not follow. Demonstrating my knowledge from my professional experience gives me credibility, but you may or may not listen. But telling true stories of pain, suffering, love, inspiration and healing is a chance to connect with your heart.
If that connection happens your hungry heart will take in the nourishment you need and lead you through your tasks to healing, freedom and the joy of personal fulfillment.
I think Lars would agree with my decision. I miss him, but I carry his wisdom with me. He was so very instrumental in helping me to heal my own hungry heart.
What is your experience as you read the author's personal story? Do you find value in the unfolding of the details? What is meaningful to you?