Virtual Group Experience
JOHANNA AND SAMANTHA
Johanna and Samantha (respectively), would you be prepared to advise me on these statements a young woman who consults with me wrote down last week? I need to reply to her, but feel that you are more experienced than I am in these matters and I want to make sure that I use anti-language to prevent the words I use from being used against our care-process by self-harm, perfectionism and/or anorexia.
JV: If you feel it is too much for you, will you tell me? We can stop anytime you want?
JV: Sue’s statement: ‘You’ve had so many “lapses” or “setbacks” so don’t get too confident. Sooner or later another one will come.’
JL: I found that part of being healthy is being flexible and forgiving myself. A dietitian once told me that it is absolutely normal to have the occasional lapse now and then. We just need to be aware and turn around. Don’t panic. I found three ways of turning around without panic:
- Behaviour: I am able to choose my behaviour
- Weeding: I embark on a process of weeding the roots of anorexia out of my life impurfekly
- Anti-language: I use anti-language as resistance to anorexia and perfectionism’s half-truths
This is amazing. I think it is helping me too. What’s her next statement?
JV: WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PRACTICE OF “VIRTUAL CONVERSATION” THAT YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL TO YOU? I WONDERED WHETHER THIS MIGHT BE A WAY IN WHICH WOMEN WHO ARE ISOLATED BY ANOREXIA, PERFECTIONISM, SELF-HARM AND FEAR COULD BECOME CONNECTED TO ONE ANOTHER AS A FORM OF RESISTANCE TO THE ISOLATION IMPOSED ON THEM BY PROBLEMS? I WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT PLEASE?
JV: Sue’s statement: ‘Don’t hope in anything, or for anything!’
JL: It is a fork in the road – you can choose either to subscribe to the despair of self- starvation and self-harm or to the hope, love, light and life. You have a choice. Your choice is your right. You have the right to choose.
SA: I agree with JL. She needs to make choices. Negative choices lead to self- destruction. My motto is : hope, love, prosperity and success. I think it is my duty to break with the negative factors in my life and to concentrate on staying on course. It is very hard, but I do try.
Sue: This sounds wonderful but where does one start? If I have to believe the things my lecturers said about my talent in the past but here are so many failures that prove the opposite! Every time I succeed I analyse it afterwards and can find faults. It’s never good enough. It’s just never good enough.
JV: HOW WOULD ONE GO ABOUT ENCOURAGING SOMEBODY TO TAKE THEIR RIGHT TO CHOOSE FOR HOPE, LOVE LIGHT AND LOVE? WHAT WOULD THE STEPS BE THAT YOU WOULD ADVISE THEM TO START WITH? WHAT ADVISE CAN YOU OFFER SOMEBODY WHO IS PARALYZED BY FEAR AND PERFECTIONISTIC MESSAGES FROM THE PAST THAT ‘YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH’? IS THERE A RIGHT WAY AND A WRONG WAY TO TAKE HOLD OF YOUR BIRTHRIGHT TO DECIDE OR WOULD YOU SAY EVERYBODY HAS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE ABOUT WHICH WAY WORKS BEST FOR THEM?
JV: How have you exercised you right to choose, Johanna/Samantha? Would you be referring to your Bill of Rights?
JL: YES! Sue should write a Bill of Rights.
Bill of Rights.
- It is my right to cope in real life
- It is my right to use my gifts, resources and support system to cope
- It is my right to take part in the projects I choose
- It is my right to have a certain measure of success with taking part
- It is my right to feel uncertain/confused/stressed when a a lot of things are changing and I am facing a lot of challenges
- It is also my right to relax and let go of stress about challenges
- It is my right to trust that I will cope with life’s challenges – maybe not perfectly, but well enough
- It is my right to use my creativity and resources and support to deal with challenges
- It is my right to fail at certain tasks or projects and still be ok with myself and know that I can never fail as a person in this life.
- It is my right to become ill sometimes
- It is my right to take responsibility for balance when I am ill but not to take the blame
- It is my right to resist Self-starvation
- It is my right to feel and have and struggle with anxiety/TLE/depression and not pretend it is all OK
- It is also my right to carry on in real life despite the above and not go the Self-starvation route
- It is my right to make a choice at this age (33) to go in a totally different direction with my life and not to reverse back to self starvation but to choose to stay on the road of life
- It is my right to make mistakes in this fight against Self starvation
- It is my right to choose against self-starvation as I have done this in the past and it is my right to choose Johanna (Johanna) and life and light.
- It is my right to have small relapses/slips back to self-starvation but to choose not to punish myself by slipping further. (This work carried me through the night).
- It is my right to choose to forgive myself and engage with life and self care.
- It is my right to make a mistake and to forgive myself ASAP
- It is a gradual process of letting go and healing from self-starvation, sometimes I re-enact he self-starvation script from memory even though I have thrown the script away.
- I have the right to let go of and expose perfectionism and self starvation’s lies in all my chosen participation
- I have the right to forgive myself if I lapse into perfectionism
- I have the right to be aware of lapses into perfectionism and self-starvation and to choose to forgive and get back to being OK ASAP
- I have the right to believe that all the challenges are part of my life lessons and that I have the strength to bear all those lessons however difficult and painful and learn from them. I have the right to engage this strength.
- I have the right to fight for my life in the real world
- I have the right to expose the lies of self-starvation eg. Disasters will happen and you will not cope or recover
- The truth is they HAVE happened in the past and I have recovered, I have survived, I have coped. I have repeatedly recovered and engaged my strength and ability to fight for my life
IT IS MY RIGHT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET OUT OF THIS ENCLOSED CUT-OFF DARK FUCKING ROTTEN EGG, CELL,
(Its my right to swear when times are really rough)
So how: I am not afraid of being happy, and successful, and peaceful; and joyful, and a good mother and a loving partner and a caring friend and a brilliant artist I am not afraid of being who I really am but Self destruction is terrified by these “light Ö., lover, life” realities and future possibilities
Seeing as I can’t figure it out for myself now, it is my right to ask advice
It is my right to believe that there is still a world outside of this small dark enclosure
It is my right to believe that by some miracle I will be set free even if its after 27 years like Mandela
It’s my right to figure out a plan on how not to self-implode in this tight circle of commanding hostile voices
It is my right to write a fucked up bill of rights; I’ll write a better one later. This is the best I can do now.
It’s my right to hand Jo all the blades I discover
It is my right to take one sip of water per hour
It is my right to tear up the piece of writing that happened this morning: it said: “I’ve done it! x kg. Only x to go” because I am angry and hungry (I am x cm tall ) and I do not want to starve.
It is my right to feed myself and hydrate myself.
It is my right to take some rest but I can’t do it because I am being terrorized non-stop.
It’s my right to admit that I am now at the point of being unable to stand up against the torture. I am just keeping quiet and taking it and hoping that I’ll survive by holding a low profile.
I’m afraid that if I start acting out my physical rage I will self-implode and once again hurt my people.
JV: How did writing your Bill of Rights help you in any way?
JL: It made me realise that I had choices and rights and that I don’t have to be controlled by anorexia, self-harm or self-starvation. It added to me experience of self-value. She should do it too. What else did she write?
JV: COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN IN EXQUISITE DETAIL THE PROCESS YOU WENT THROUGH THAT ENABLED YOU TO PUT ASIDE THE NEGATIVE CONTROLLING VOICES OF SELF STARVATION AND ANOREXIA AND MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO VOICE YOUR OWN FEELINGS AND DESIRES FOR YOUR LIFE?
JV: The third statement says: Don’t trust yourself!’
JL: Long…..If you’ve been involved with self-destruction it’s going to be a long arduous journey to trust yourself and others again. You need to start taking serious notice of all the things you are thinking and doing that are good for you and self constructive for you. Write them down every day so you will gather concrete proof of facts that you can be trusted by yourself and others
JV: Does seeing and reading your concrete proof of self-worth and self-trust work well for you?
JL: Yes. I can really relate to what she is saying, you know Jo
SA: All the failures eventually try to convince you that you have to lose your belief in yourself. I need more than writing down my self-constructions and successes. I need recognition from people. My friend Mary tells me that I am great, I must carry on, and that she admires my guts. I need to admire my own guts, I think!
JV: I thought you would understand her words well with your knowledge and experience.
JV: WOULD YOU AGREE THAT IT IS OFTEN EASIER TO REMEMBER TIMES WHEN YOU ACTED AGAINST YOUR BETTER JUDGEMENT THAN TO REMEMBER YOUR SUCCESSES? WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU WERE TO REVERSE THIS PROCESS AND HIGHLIGHT YOUR SUCCESSES AND TIMES OF EXCELLENCE INSTEAD? COULD HIGHLIGHTING YOUR TIMES OF EXCELLENCE TIP THE SCALES IN YOUR FAVOUR?
JV: Sue writes: ‘If you have a nice time tonight, you have to remember that despite that tomorrow can go badly again so that the bad times don’t come as a shock!’
JL: Drawing a pen sketch of the dark side and the light side, explaining: “We have to accept that the dark side and the light side exists, and that we need to embrace the paradox of light/shadow, life/death, loss/gain, etc. If you move outside the boundaries of safety of the light or the dark side, you are in danger.
SA: I know what she means but I try to concentrate on the good side and try and stretch it out for as long as possible, but one negative word can smash all my good intentions. It is a hard, lonely journey and I think one’s environment has a very important influence on the way I feel about myself.
There must be a balance. In my own life it elicits many questions, particularly about my faith in God. Is there a God? Is it true that He exists? There is definitely evil, so there must be a good force also.. Evil could not have created the trees and flowers. But where is God’s justice? I also battle to keep my balance.
Sue: Where are the boundaries between light and dark? When I made lists and wrote instructions on what to do with my life down every day and lived by these lists, it worked for a while but somehow I feel as if those to-do and not-to-do lists don’t work anymore. And I feel lost
JV: Could it be that you have actually internalised the to- do and not-to do lists and that you are now at a place where you are invited to decide which of these lists are on your side and which you are able to discard now?
Sue: Maybe, but I am scared. It is FEAR that paralyses me. I keep thinking “what if” and then I am too afraid to make my own choices.
JV: Sue says she needs to be on the lookout for rejection
JL: What would happen if she is on the lookout for who she would like to accept into her life and f…. the rest?
SA: It is so easy when one is as sensitive as I am to feel rejection. Especially when the rejection comes from those closest to you. It feels as if the earth could open up and swallow me in when my loved ones reject me. I can use F the people I am the people but when it comes to my mother I cannot use that ammunition against her. I suppose it’s all about choices?
JV: (laughter)JL MMMM So it’s all about choices again?
Sue: These issues are all so interwoven.
JV: Are you still ok with this process, Sue? Or would you like me to stop? Or would you like to add something else to this conversation?
Sue: No, we can carry on
JV: Sue says: ‘No self-worth thus reject the self!’
JL: “The fittest will survive”, is complete crap! Have you ever seen sparrows competing with one another, and they always have enough to eat!!!1
SA: I would attribute my personal low self-worth to my immediate circumstances. If I can just make a success of my business venture and get myself and my children out of financial trouble I will feel much better about myself.
Sue: I think its more than just physical environment. I feel as if I need to fix something inside of me
JV: Sue says: ‘Expect the worst, the tragic, the traumatic, the terrible!’
JL: There are many biblical proofs that God wants us to be well and happy. Self-starvation uses religion as a tool against us and actually it should be a part of our spiritual armour. Sounds like Sue is being conned into playing the “tragic role”. Let’s find a statement in the Bible (gets up and finds Bible, searches for verse, finds it with a big grin on her face: 1 Chronicles 4:10.
Sue: (laughing) Jabez! Do you know what his name means? His mother called him Pain. Jabez means Pain! I bet he didn’t know he would become famous with such a name!
SA: I agree on the one hand, look in John in the bible, where he talks about God’s promises. But why do some people receive and other don’t?
JV: Sue says: ‘The past has been useless so future will be the same!’
JL: Give her my story about the victories of my life. When I looked at all the tragedies in my life, I noticed for the first time that every tragedy was followed by the most amazing victory.
SA: I think it’s about choosing. I had to choose what I wanted to hang onto my past mistakes and failures or my successes. I reckon it is easier to remember one’s failures, because guilt and failure go together, but everything in my past could not have been bad? I must go and seek the good things, and remember them. Maybe then I will be able to do even better?
Sue: These women speak so easily about choices. Immediately when I hear this I beat myself up and say: “Why can’t you make choices” “Why can’t you decide for yourself?” “Listen to them, they’re doing it, why can’t you?”
JV: Sue, what is it in their words that convinces you that they have “arrived” and that you have “not arrived”. What does one sound like when one “has arrived”? Could it be that Perfectionism is smelling our success and desperately trying to convince you not to listen to your virtual friends’ stories, plaguing you with negative messages to filter out the helpful truths in their words? What would happen if you were to take their advice and use their knowledges?? Why do you think Fear and Perfectionism would like to keep you all to themselves, and forbid you to share your gifts with others and partake in sharing of their gifts? Who would benefit from your total isolation and indecisiveness? Would taking you own decisions hamper the control Fear and Perfectionism has exercised over your life? What would happen if you broke a few of Fear and Perfectionism’s rules? Does it convince you that the world’s going to end?
Sue: I’m scared. It says: ‘Weigh up action: fun, work, etc. If they are of no significance, you stand accused of a useless life!’
JL: My partner Harry says, “Activities of no consequence are a crucial part of being able to work and take part effectively and productively. Time to fart around prevents you from becoming too tired to enjoy work.”
SA: I believe that I have to keep busy otherwise I waste time but I now realise that I need energy for my children and my life and that I end up burning out if I don’t look after myself. I force myself to stay on the go. I am exhausted and this voice just keeps pushing me to keep going
JV: Does this sound like perfectionism’s voice?
Sue says: “Must work hard at fighting. Work hard to show something for your days. “The more I focus on this the more obsessed I become with the idea and the less I get done the more I get beaten or beat up on myself.”
JV: WHAT DO YOU THINK IT SAYS ABOUT ANOREXIA, FEAR, PERFECTIONISM AND SELF-HARM THAT IT PRESCRIBES A LIFE OF HARD WORK AT FIGHTING AND HARD WORK AT LIVING? DO YOU THINK A FORCE THAT LOVED YOU AND HAD YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART WOULD PRESCRIBE SUCH A LIFE OF FIGHTING TO SURVIVE FOR YOU?
JL: Take some time out. Don’t plan anything; only do what YOU want to do. Book time out to yourself and rather direct your energies towards overcoming Perfectionism by flowing with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. You can stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate defeat of Perfectionism. Make haste slowly.
SA: Yes I need to make time to do nothing and learn how not to feel guilty about it.
JV: HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT THE HURRIER YOU GO THE BEHINDER YOU GET? WOULD YOU AGREE WITH ME THAT ANOREXIA WILL NEVER LET YOU GET AHEAD IF IT HAD ITS WAY? HAS IT EVER COMPLIMENTED YOU ON YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS OR LET YOU OFF THE HOOK TO ADMIRE YOUR SUCCESSES? AND DESPITE ITS TYRANNY DOES IT CONVINCE YOU THAT IT’S YOUR ONLY FRIEND?
JV: Sue says: ‘I have to live with the fact that I will always have to live with anxiety, fear, depression, suffering and a chaotic life. I must make peace with it.’
JL: All of life has a dark and a light side; both are real. If we remain in the present moment and retain the balance between the positive and the negative, by choice, Perfectionism gets weaker and life becomes more fun-filled.
SA: I want to play hard too! I’m tired of working so hard!!!
JV: WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU DECIDED TO REJECT THE TRAGIC SCRIPT FEAR, ANOREXIA, SELF-HARM ETC HAVE WRITTEN FOR YOUR LIFE AND YOU RE-WRITE YOUR LIFE SCRIPT IN THE LANGUAGE AND ACTIONS OF YOUR CHOICE? WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU HAD SOME FUN AND ENJOYED YOURSELF THE WAY YOU WANT TO AS OPPOSED TO THE RIGID WAY IN WHICH ANOREXIA AND FEAR WOULD HAVE YOU LIVE?? WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM SOME FUN? WHAT WOULD THE EFFECT OF SOME FUN BE ON YOUR LIFE? CAN YOU REMEMBER A TIME WHEN YOU HAD FUN AND DID FUN THINGS JUST FOR YOU? COULD YOU PLEASE SHARE SOME OF YOUR FUN-FILLED STORIES WITH US?
JV: Sue says: ‘Forget your dreams, aspirations!’
JL: It is your right as human being to embrace your dreams and aspirations and to work towards it in a goal-directed way. It is your birthright. You do not have to earn it by good performance. It is your right to use your gifts. If you are feeling guilty that you were given so many gifts that others did not receive, remember that you can make a difference to society because of your gifts.
SA: NO!!!!! That must be the shittest feeling in the world. Only you can change it! I am also so tired of battling, and being dependent and looking for recognition. Do I really need recognition from other people? I am so tired of battling. I will never be dependent on a man again. I must believe in myself enough, and pull myself over this threshold.. You can too, Sue. Hang on to your dreams! Visualise your aspirations, whatever they are. When I was young I had a poster against my wall and I still remember what it said: “If you can dream it, you can do it”. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.
JV: DO YOU THINK IT IS FAIR OF FEAR AND SELF STARVATION AND ANOREXIA AND PERFECTIONISM TO STEAL YOUR MEMORIES OF YOUR PAST LIFE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT AND YOUR DREAMS OF THE FUTURE? I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY THAT TALENTED, GIFTED, WONDERFULLY CREATIVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE LIMITED BY SUCH AN IMMORAL FORCE.
JV: Sue says: ‘I am not permitted to read certain books or watch certain movies!’
JL: Could you rely on your direct line to God and not on society’s, the church’s and people’s prescriptions? You can trust your own direct line to God like Moses, David and Jesus did. We were created in God’s image.
SA: Sue, surely you can choose as an adult what you would LIKE to read and see? I agree with JL. Trust yourself. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can trust yourself when you start!!!!
Sue: No, this is not a spiritual thing; it is more that I have come to learn that some movies and books upset me and that I refrain from watching too many or reading too many of them.
JV: I must agree with SL that you have started trusting yourself to know what is good for you, and I wonder if you could experience that self-trust as a form of self-care instead of as a life sentence of deprivation? Could we talk about how it feels to look at your CHOICE not to read certain books or watch certain movies as a part of self-love and self-nurturing instead of as a prescription from Fear and Perfectionism?
Sue: I’ve never thought about it like this.
JV: Sue says: ‘I am not allowed to visit past a certain time with my friends because it will influence my nerves.’ So I panic when I stay late at other people.
JL: These sound like concentration camp rules to me? Are they applicable rules or based on half -truths? Are you able to construct a new set of rules for your behaviour? What will your life be like when you are able to construct a new set of rules for yourself that suit yourself and do not reflect concentration camp rules?
SA: These really sound like concentration camp rules! I like that description, and it evokes the rebel in me. Use your choice as an adult. It is your right to choose. Sounds as if the concentration camp rules prescribe that you behave like a girl at boarding school. I don’t think that’s fair. What would happen if you were to live a little???? Who told you that you can’t enjoy yourself? Perfectionism? Bull shit. I was also in the concentration camp if you want to call the hold perfectionism had on my life, and I decided to rebel against it. I still feel guilty, but at least now I have great fun when I choose to.
JV: COULD YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR STEPS OF REBELLION WITH US? SHARING THE DETAILS OF THE STEPS YOU TOOK AGAINST SUBMISSION TO CONCENTRATION CAMP RULES MIGHT HELP THOSE WHO ARE UNINITIATED IN THE PROCESS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY CAN DO TO RESIST AND TAKE BACK THE FUN IN THEIR LIVES?
JV:Sue says: ‘Don’t allow any day dreams!’
JL: “Eat mangoes in the nude
don’t sit still for negative thoughts
buy purple flowers and put them on your hat
rake leaves and quit in the middle
take catnaps because you can.”
SA: Do it tonight as a step of resistance just before you drift off to sleep, Sue!! Visualise your success, and remember if you can dream it you can do it. You have made me feel less isolated. This conversation strengthened my resolve to take my life back. I know it’s not easy but I’m going to try. Thank you JL and Sue. Thanks for including me in this weird conversation.
JL: I read through the transcript of the work we did the other day with Sue, and it is truly amazing how empowered I felt having read through it again.
Sue: (telephonically) I found it rather strange, but good. Like a group session but not like a group session!?