For most people, eating disorders are a great mystery of our time: an enigma to the medical and psychological professionals as well as to those who have had to live with the bizarre and often tragic behavior of its victims and the sufferers themselves to cannot explain their actions. Paradoxically, much of the mystery has arisen less because we lack the knowledge or wisdom to understand what drives people to destroy themselves, but because we are all too ready to explain their behavior in some of the most authoritative and misleading clichés of our culture.
In a world so fixated on images, so prone to reward selfishness, so ready to equate success with self-promotion, it is hardly surprising that eating disorders are often construed as simple vanity taken to an extreme.
I believe that these conditions and the behaviors they engender can be fully understood, provided one takes the necessary steps to look beyond the obvious. There can be an understanding of how the interplay of social situations and psychological dispositions lead people to this particular “rational irrationality.”
My hope is that we can continue to enable, by therapeutic process, these victims to create a new interpretation of their world so that they see that self-destruction—the unconscious impulse toward suicide that lies beneath the symptoms of eating disorders—is no longer a necessary response to their misperceived role in society.
To all of my dear friends who have faced these behaviors and succeeded, I applaud you. To all of my dear friends who are still struggling today, I share with you the hope that you can and will be well.