“She’s freed the prisoner…”, these were the first thoughts I had as I read my friend share about her body image struggles this morning.
My beautiful friend wrote me she had found some old pictures of herself, looking thin, frail, emaciated.
At that time she had been dieting extensively, managing to “fit” into a smaller body.
Today, as she was looking at these old photos, and she was overwhelmed by emotion, feeling just how harsh she had been with herself.
I remember going through that same process, and really facing the inner damage. Had I not reconnected with the parts of me that were imprisoned by my ideas of what my body should be, I don’t think I would have ever found peace with my self and peace with food.
I too, like my friend, spent many years trying to fit in a smaller body. One much smaller than I would naturally inhabit, I believed.
I too, like many of my students, could not inhabit the fulness of being, feeling, expressing, that wanted to burst forward.
I too, had no idea what to do with the underlying tension and fear, and memories and experiences stored in my body.
I too had no idea what my emerging adult female body was, or how it deserved to be received, or how I could fully inhabit it and feel safe at the same time.
So, like many of us, I created fragmentation to deal with the pain. Separation was the only possible route.
My body and I would need to split and face each other as two.
One of us a prison guard, the other one, a prisoner.
This is what so many people don’t get about body image issues and objectification. That it’s not so much about attaining anything – acceptance, love, validation, admiration, belonging. It’s so much more about avoiding – avoiding pain, fear, separation. Avoiding what already happened to us.
If you want a shortcut to healing from body image suffering, it’s not acceptance, or fighting the culture, or raging against the patriarchy (while all those factors contribute, and are honestly shit to be conditioned by and live with, focusing on them can be a distraction from what’s really going on inside).
It’s healing the inner fragmentation that we created to survive what was impossible to face. It’s witnessing, it’s reconciliation. It’s repair.
It’s a wholecoming, a homecoming, it’s freeing the prisoner.