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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: The Hate that Keeps You Up at Night

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Hate that Keeps You Up at Night

"Over half the females between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five would prefer to be run over by a truck than be fat and two-thirds surveyed would rather be mean or stupid." ~ Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters

I just think this is telling. I think its one chunk of the problem. Our fear of fat, of the fat that represents so much. Of the symptom that eclipses our deeper fears. Over the years that I have worked with women and men, teen-agers and kids who are living with, battling, holding on to, trying to oust bulimia, anorexia, food addiction, compulsive eating, and all shades of food disorders, I have become acutely aware of how relentlessly those who suffer go after themselves. ED folks certainly don't hold the monopoly on self attack but it never ceases to amaze me how big the bat is for certain people.

A guest of mine recently told me that she was having trouble sleeping at night. The therapist in me went ahead asked what was keeping her up. She told me that she was busy hating herself for all the things that feel wrong about her. Not what she did, but for who she is. I hear about this often in my office. I hear about the hate after a binge, or a razor to the thigh. I hear about the hate after a fight with a parent, boyfriend, or friend. It starts off being about the action, (or the fat) and turns into being about the whole self. As if this is all there is to a person.

And often times, I hear this: "If I give up the hate, there will be nothing there. Nothing. And that will be worse than the hate." So then I think: following the hate is fear. It's always interesting how sufferers tell me that it is themselves that they hate, though. Not the one who they are really angry with. As if to say that they really do believe that they are at completely at fault. That when things go wrong in a relationship, including the relationship they have with themselves, that they are expected to have known better, or done better. So therefor they are hateful. Even if there is some truth to this (we can always own our part of things), the hate and blame go inward with a vengence.

Sure on the surface self harmers hate the disorder, or the symptoms, or the one who has hurt them, but peel back the layers, and (often) it's the self hate that is throbbing underneath.

There is some deep belief that mistakes are not allowed, that they are somehow deserving of all the suffering. Even that they bring it on themselves.

True its good to take a look at your own side of the street, but what of all this hate? What of this broken record of "I can't stand myself!"

I think there is a way out. Not that I want to interfere with someone's self hate if they really think its serving a good purpose. But I think it's worth a try. I won't say moving away from it is fast, or easy, but I do believe there is a door. I have seem many of my clients unpack the hate, stop the attack and drop their weapons. And sleep at night.

It begins with these questions: What purpose does the hate serve? What will happen if I stop? What's my philosophy on mistakes? Of course there may be a lot more to it after this, especially for those who are pummeling their bodies to save their souls, or caught in the spider web of addiction, but it's a start. It's one piece of the puzzle.


Harriet said...

For me one of the purposes of the hate is that if I hate myself, the fact that someone else hates me or rejects me or abandons me could never hurt me. It's self defense.

What will happen if I stop hating myself? I set myself up for failure. Now, if I screw up, or if someone criticizes me, well, sure that's to be expected because I'm a loser. But if I feel good about myself and I screw up I'll be a failure. If I feel good about myself and someone criticizes me I'll be hurt.

Or if I'm in a relationship that isn't quite working out I know it's because of me, because I'm the loser; and I'll stay in the relationship, at least I won't be alone. But if I like myself I might discover that the relationship isn't a good one for me; maybe it's the other person and I need to give up the relationship. Then I'll be alone.

Is any of this making any sense? I have a difficult time merging my intellectual rational knowledge of things with my feelings about things. So although all of this seems illogical, it is how I actually feel.

Melissa said...

Harriet, yes! And thanks for your thoughts and comments!


Lisa Marie said...

I'm going to connect this to my weight loss because it's the easiest thing I can attempt to explain.

I used food as a coping mechanism after being abused as a kid. Call it a form of self-hatred. I made myself into a form that I hoped no one would love. Being fat was who I was and I didn't dare change that. It was my excuse for everything.

Literally, one morning I just decided that being fat was not something I wanted to be anymore. I knew it meant that my excuse was going to be taken away from me but it didn't matter because the self-hatred was still there. I lost close to 85 lbs in 18 months and have kept 75 of those pounds off for the past 3 years (working on getting back those other 10 lbs ;))

Now my hate has split into two avenues. The previous hate I had covered by the fat, and the hate I feel when I am unsuccessful at continuing to lose more weight.

So what would happen if I stopped hating? I can't even imagine because the hate has become so much of who I am. It's like trying to predict how you would live life without your right leg.