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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


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

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