ONLINE MINDFULNESS THERAPY FOR EATING DISORDERS: BULIMIA & BINGE EATING DISORDER
Eating disorders revolve around compulsive reactive impulses. At the core of these impulses there are core emotions of emptiness and abandonment that yearn for our attention. Mindfulness Therapy teaches us how to listen to these inner feelings with complete presence of mind and heart and this more than anything else facilitates inner healing and allows us to break free of the grip of our patterns of habitual reactivity.
Eating disorders including bulimia and anorexia have a complex origin and an equally complex effect on psychology and behavior. Although complex, the core driving force that underlies eating disorders are the compulsive emotional impulses of attraction or the compulsive impulses of aversion to food. Treatment should always involve your GP, but it is also very beneficial, if not essential, to work on changing the underlying emotional drives that compel you to either over-indulge or to have extreme aversion to food. There are a variety of cognitive therapies available that can be very effective at changing the underlying patterns of reactive thinking and self-beliefs such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or the newer Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapies, of which Mindfulness Meditation Therapy is an example.
Mindfulness is a very specific type of awareness skill in which you learn to be the observer of thoughts and emotions as they arise in your mind. In this way you establish a conscious relationship with the contents of your mind. It is the art of listening, without indulging in thinking about what you are experiencing or reacting to your inner feelings by wanting things to be different than they are. It’s about being completely present for what is in a very direct way and watching very carefully for any tendency to react that may take you away from that direct experience. This is actually diametrically opposite to the usual state of things in which we are consumed by our habitual reactions of liking and disliking and the endless proliferation of thinking, planning and trying to fix things. There is a place for these activities, but it is always better to allow them to emerge later after establishing the ground of mindful listening.
Mindfulness is just good listening, and the benefits of being fully present with your experience are immense, just as being fully present with your partner or friend is an essential of good communication. We have all had the experience of people who are not present and who do not listen, but simply react to what we are saying with their opinions and solutions. They may have good intentions, but what we need most is to feel that someone is listening. Well, it is exactly the same for our inner emotional pain. These inner parts are in need of our care and attention; they need us to listen in the same way, with a mind that is completely present and not reactive. Learning to listen inwardly and to be fully present and engaged with our feelings is a central focus in mindfulness meditation therapy. This is quite different from most forms of talking therapy because the activity of talking, like thinking about our feelings actually takes our attention away from the direct experience of the feeling. So, in mindfulness therapy there is not so much talking, but more intuitive listening to our inner feelings. This creates an inner space in which emotions can unfold and become more malleable. This state of inner plasticity greatly facilitates the process of transformation and healing. We literally create an inner therapeutic space through mindfulness that allows things to change in a natural way.
At the core of the compulsive drive that underlies eating disorders you will very often find feelings of emptiness, sadness and an overwhelming sense of abandonment and the hurt that accompanies abandonment. This is what we need to embrace with the spacious presence of mindfulness. When we can learn to be fully present with these raw feelings, without getting caught up in the contents, the story and thinking about the feelings, then we create a fertile ground in which change can take place and in which the core emotions begin to loosen their grip on you. As they heal, so the reactive impulse to indulge also lessens and in time a new balance emerges in which there is real choice in how we relate to food.
It all begins when we learn to “sit” with our inner feelings rather than react to them out of habit, and this is what is taught in Mindfulness Meditation Therapy.
Online Therapy is becoming more widely accepted as a valuable adjunct to traditional in-person psychotherapy and there have been several controlled studies that support its efficacy. The focus of online therapy/coaching is on teaching clients the skills and tools that help them break free from the grip of depression and anxiety or other difficult emotions, and we can all benefit from that. It may not be the first choice for those with a clinical condition, but most of us do not have a mental disease; we just need someone to talk to who understands and can teach some practical tools for handling the stresses of life and the emotional challenges inherent in a marriage or other personal relationship. In fact, the demand for good quality counseling and therapy, including the very popular mindfulness-based psychotherapy, far outstrips the availability of quality providers, which is yet another reason why you should seriously consider online counseling as an option.
Peter Strong, PhD is a Professional psychotherapist and Online Therapist, teacher and author based in Boulder, Colorado, who specializes in the study of mindfulness and its application in Mindfulness Psychotherapy for healing the root causes of anxiety, depression and stress.
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