Topic Tuesday: Recovery

“You Are Not a Floating Head” (By: Kathryn DeFatta, M.Ed., NCC & Sarah Norris, MA, LPC-MHSP)

“I don’t have a full length mirror for a reason.” These were some of the first words spoken by a dear client of mine a couple of years ago as she described the rule she created to keep her safe from her eating disorder. “If I only look at my face in the mirror, I won’t get sad and angry at my eating disorder because I won’t be able to judge my body.”

In this moment, she shuts herself off from the rest of her, and she feels better, but only for a moment.

Unfortunately, she is not alone. This phenomenon where humans live only from the neck up, has become standard. At times it feels comfortable, satisfying, and appears to be working.

The only thing is, we are not floating heads. We are three dimensional beings created to live out of a spiritual, emotional, and physical self.

We were made with a body that moves, a heart that beats, and a soul that cries out desperately for connection, love, and attention. To cut ourselves off from that is detrimental.

It happens all the time. When something shows up that we don’t like, we zip up, go straight to our head and try to think our way out of feeling. We separate the parts of us that make us whole.

What happens when we compartmentalize our humanness? All three parts suffer.

  1. Emotionally– When we cut off connection to our feelings, we ignore or numb out with unhealthy coping mechanisms (drinking, isolating, binging, excessive exercise, sleeping, etc.). Our desperate grasps for control cut off our ability to be in authentic relationships with self, others, and our Higher Power. We are disconnected internally and externally. We are hiding.
  2. Physically– When we cut off connection to our body and stay in our head, we forget the purpose of our body and all that it is intended for and all that it has carried us through. We turn our body in to an aesthetic thing instead of a spiritual thing and we end up hurting ourselves.
  3. Spiritually– When we cut off spiritual connection within our hearts and souls, our Higher Power becomes someone we know about and not someone we experience. This is the essence of pursuing knowledge rather than relationship. We intellectualize our relationship with our Higher Power. We try to do life on our own, forgetting we are spiritual beings created to be in spiritual relationships.

For my client, her eating disorder survived off the neglected shame she carried in her body. Her eating disorder was “fed” every time she told herself “Do not look in the mirror, and do not acknowledge your body.”

How do we live three dimensionally? We LEAN IN to our imperfections. We stay connected. We acknowledge that pain, suffering, and fear are part of us, not a malfunction. Authentic living happens when we stop pushing away what is real to obtain a watered down version of what we want life to look like.

We acknowledge that we are more than our emotions, we are more than our bodies, and we are more than just creations of a high power. We are all three integrated. Oddly enough, when we allow ourselves to look in a full length mirror we give less power to the inauthentic parts of us that say we aren’t good enough.

Take a deep breath into knowing we can live fully from the tips of our toes, through our bodies, in to our hearts, inside our brains, and up to the tops of our heads.

About the Authors

Kathryn is a Franklin, TN native with an M.Ed in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt. She has unique experience from working in residential treatment centers focused primarily on eating and exercise disorders with men and women. She now practices private out patient therapy at Sage Hill Counseling in Brentwood specializing in body image, eating disorders, and exercise addiction in men and women.

Sarah is also a Franklin/Nashville native with a Masters in Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary. She previously worked in the treatment field and gained experience in comprehensive recovery support after primary treatment from substance abuse. Sarah is currently a private out patient therapist at Sage Hill Counseling helping men and women connect with their stories, become more mindful of their hearts and thereby experience emotional freedom.

We both offer a women’s body image group in Brentwood on Monday nights from 6-7:3pm. We also co-host half day food retreats to create open dialogue about the stories we hold around food and our bodies called “At the Table.” The next meeting is June 28th.