Eating Disorders and Attention

Weight carries symbolic language; wait; tight; loose; overweight; heavy and flat: it is almost a dialect full of symbols of distraction and of personal and social interpretation. If you pay attention to the weight, what are you not paying attention to? What is weighing you down? Why, your feelings. “Metaphors transform unconscious patterns that hold and reveal deeper truths,” said Dr. Anita Johnston at a workshop Tuesday in Chattanooga, TN at the Center for Eating Disorders at Focus Healthcare of Tennessee. When your attention is more about being flat than being self-attentive, then what is abandoned in your soul? Carl Jung said that metaphor is the healing symbol on the emotional level.

What does this have to do with attention? Everything! It’s all about mind/body connection – and our ability to be fully in our body and fully attentive all at the same time. Dr. Johnston promotes the conceptual use of mythology and symbolic language as an entry point to consciousness. And consciousness is an entry point to attention. We need our consciousness in order to pay attention to the world within and the world without. She reminded us that in eating disorders there is a point of departure from full consciousness, often a trauma is the distraction to full attention.

Symbolically the disorder is like filling your home with many flags – ‘the flag is a symbol of the experience of being free, but you’re not more free because you have many flags’ Dr. Johnston explained. The eating disorder is like the number of flags, it is the symbol of nourishment but the resulting fat/thinness does not mean you’re more/less nourished.

How do you get someone back in their body? Use laughter to disconnect the Left Brain monologue long enough to feel again. Feelings are waves of energy said Dr. Johnston, suggesting the metaphor of water, the language of one who lives in Hawaii. Feelings pass like waves on the shore.

This body/mind disconnection is like a war against the body and the soul of the person.Dr. Johnston reminded us that we humans have a body, a mind and emotions, yet we are much bigger than the sum of all the parts. The body becomes the vehicle to take me places. The mind is the co-pilot and emotions help me understand all the parts. Recalling the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia, don’t fall asleep while all the brooms (Left Brain monologue) work to drown you (keep you under or over-nourished). Feed your attention.