Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Illusion of No Choice

When my daughter suffered from anorexia, I was startled one evening to realize the existence of two minds. It became very apparent that who was my daughter, was trying, unobtrusively, to let me in on a secret without the other part of her mind realizing she was doing so. Quietly, covertly, she was attempting to teach me how to help her—how to fight the ‘Negative Mind’. So, she whispered; she wrote so small that I could hardly read it; she hid these messages in containers that she knew I would dust; she would never allow a normal-sized plate to be put in front of her, instead, she ate small bits from mine. In this way, the ‘Negative Mind’ could never accuse her of having had a meal. For instance, she could not make even simple choices because she was not allowed to—such as if she would like to go for a walk, to a coffee shop, to a movie, what clothes to wear—it would always have to be my choice. Yes, she is a kind, sensitive person who always wanted to please other people, but this was more intense. She was so small mentally—so fragile in her mind, she needed someone who understood, to guide her, to help her develop to a place of strength. She was not allowed to expose what her mind was telling her. I understand now that she was not even permitted to participate in normal events for fear of recrimination from her internal, mental enemy. It became obvious that she had to inform me, instruct me, without actually saying the words.

In order to be onside, to be a team player with the sufferer of ‘CNC’, I had to be aware of every nuance she or he was trying to deliver to me. An example of this is of a twelve-year old boy who did not have the courage to eat until he called me. Though he was with someone twenty-four hours a day, he needed extra permission from me to eat so that he could not be accused by his mind of deciding this for himself.

This is what he said, “Peggy, will I have to go back into the state psychiatric ward if I do not eat?” My answer was always the same, “Well--so they tell me, honey.” Being with us was, to him, the preferable option. He then said, “Thank you! Thank you, Peggy! Alright then, I will have my lunch.” The relief in his voice was unmistakable.

He was creating the ‘illusion of no choice’ for himself as a means of fooling the ‘Negative Mind’. In this way, he was able to enlist me to help him help himself. This is a very good indication and example of people wanting to be well, but not thinking they deserve it. If what they are going through is appropriately understood, a sufferer is very willing to form a liason with therapy for their betterment. Understand that this is a exceptionally brave move on the part of the host person because it does not go completely unpunished by the ‘Negative Mind.’

Big hugs to everyone--peace and love.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What the Secret Language is All About

I was going to name my first book The Language of Eating Disorders, because it is a separate language, one that is obscure to normal logic. But to those who understand what is going on in the mind and the motivation of the behavior, the illogical logic makes so much sense. Shortly before publication, I received a fax from a sufferer asking me, “How do you know the secret that we are not allowed to tell?” So, I immediately changed the title to The Secret Language of Eating Disorders, which was definitely more apt—more appropriate.

The idea of that book was to translate, to all that could not understand at first contact, what eating disorders are all about—their source and what was necessary, from my perception and experience with my own two children, to reverse ‘Confirmed Negativity Condition’.

The sufferers of CNC—eating disorders and other anxiety manifestations—are not allowed to seek help. The ‘Negative Mind’ forbids them the right to bother people because they are not worthy, because in their minds it is ‘their fault’ that they are ‘crazy’, ‘worthless’, ‘selfish’, ‘needy’, reliant, ugly, fat, useless, etc. When they do, somehow, reach out, they are immediately punished, often unmercifully. Everything they do has to be with some compromise to the ‘Negative Mind’. If he or she does not comply with the order of the ‘internal enemy’, it can (in the mind of the sufferer) even threaten the well-being family members. Because the victims of CNC are so caring about everyone else, the threats, depending on the individual, relate to that individual’s biggest anxieties. In reality, at least from the sufferer’s point of view, they are held emotional hostage by the ‘internal enemy’. In my experience, the only way to relieve them of that responsibility is for the therapist (or other carers), with the patient’s agreement, to become the negotiator and the mediator, to assume responsibility for the interim, until the individual begins to regain his or her strength.

If this mind-state is not recognized by the therapist, I cannot imagine how he or she can experience success.

I hope your day is better than the last one. Always look for and find the positive, even if it is elusive. We are there with you. With hugs and so much love.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who Will I Be Without 'The Negative Mind?'

Oftentimes I hear said, “But if I give up anorexia, who will I be? I won’t know myself, I won’t know HOW to be.”

When emotional development is arrested, an individual has little direction in that area. The ‘self’ is lost. Therefore, during this time, it is difficult and almost impossible to make positive choices about anything. Most things become a panic of indecision. The sufferer feels she can never do anything right, and everybody else’s opinions are more valid. The negative way she feels about herself is subjectively encouraged and, over time, compounded, so that ‘anorexia’, despite its detrimental consequences, becomes an interim identity.

“I haven’t got rid of my demons yet...but its kind of hard...it feels like half of me doesn’t want to...I feel protected as this anorexic woman now, it feels like its me and its my illness/excuse/protector, it hides everything that’s wrong with me. I just don’t know where to go and what to do now...”

She has been like this for ten years.

When I read these words and hear these questions, I am reminded of when I talked to battered women in a shelter, ‘a safe house’, who for a long time kept going back to their abusive situations because it was ‘the known’. The difference between this and ‘Confirmed Negativity Condition’ is only, that, their abusers are external rather than internal. Either way, with compassion, consistency, love, trust, and presenting possibility, the victims can be gently persuaded to see a more positive side for their future—and, to then, begin to work to repair the damage that has been done.

Most people are afraid of change—‘the unknown factor’. Despite the repercussions of remaining static, they cling to familiarity, even at the risk of their lives, and certainly, with the possibility or probability of living unnecessarily, painfully compromised existences.

With CNC, the ‘Negative Mind’ attempts to convince the sufferer that it is its friend, its protector. “In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims” (wikipedia.com). With CNC, and hence, its manifestations, e.g. eating disorders, one part of the mind, the then diminished, logical part, watches helplessly as the emotional mind is taken hostage.

Here are quotes from a poem written by one of my past patients (from my first book).

I hear cries from the shrinking self:

“No one can see me or

Watch me watching myself walking

Into walls.”

I hear the despair:

“Scuffed faces stained with defeat observe

The still existence of themselves and others.”

I love you all so much. Take care of yourself in a positive way each day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Rivers of Feeling"

I am introducing a story today that will touch your hearts. I wish the world could run faster to stem the flow, the pain that exists in humanity. I go to bed every night feeling that if I could, I would trade places with those suffering—to give them solace—even for a day. Here is an example of acute sensitivity. Fortunately, there are those of us who are solid in recognition of ourselves and we are able help from a strong, secure place. Then it becomes ok to feel this much. We do not need a shell to protect us because having feelings is human. Emotional health is balanced and tempered with logic and objectivity.

i want to share what i remember from you being here, while doing your book tour. you won't remember me, because there were so many people, but there is beauty in here somewhere and i just want you to know what i remember. you are so much braver than me, that much is obvious.

~~~velvet black casualish dress, a zipper up the middle bugging me slightly. i'm overdressed, typical, there are others here in tanks and jeans. sit up front, good students sit there. her eyes, my gosh, her eyes. so much more she speaks with her eyes than with her words. i've read the book so i'm paying far more attention to what her face says because i'm enthralled. i clutch my book tightly, making notes on a bit of paper, to not sully the pages within.

weird little world here. i wonder why there are so many of us. [My town] is relatively small but the ED units are always busy. my friend works there so i know. my own little rural town full of competition consciousness churned out many patients. i hope i don't see anyone i know.

so many people, the pain is so real, so big, and suddenly i am very, very small. though up front, i wait for the middle of the line, to not stand out and i succeed i think. people usually stare at me but not as much tonight. i hurt for those that are being stared at, i know that discomfort. the table is wide, and she sits in the center. i turn over my book and wonder why i didn't leave before now.

i must have asked something, she says something loving and sweet to me. do not cry, do not cry, hurry up. my face must be purple even in contrast to the dim room and black dress. there is more there in her eyes because she sees the pain, she feels it, she must get exhausted with it all, and i break that contact. she scans the line, the room, the ones waiting behind and to my right, the ones who need her most. i can feel what she's feeling. it hurts so much. it makes such little sense. it was never supposed to be like this.

it will be another six years before i can make some sense of it,

even if it doesn't make sense to the world.

i slip silently away, back to my car in the garage.

To [Me] with much Love and Hugs, Peggy Claude Pierre

the Love and Hugs capital, interesting. a fax number in the binding. she writes a lot bigger than me. her P's much different than mine. the tears slip down my face, rivers of feeling that nobody has succeeded in understanding. isn't pain just pain? what's wrong with me? why doesn't anybody understand?

i pray for the others in that room. i pray that things will wrap up soon, it's already late. i pray for Peggy to be okay, to not feel so intently, to be able to sleep. i shove back my tears because i have to drive now, to go back to my life, not telling where i've been, smiling on the outside.~~~

i've never forgotten that night, Peggy. you may have been more comfortable that night than anyone. it was hard to sit there and not want to slip into a pocket in your shirt and go away to some soft place. i cried while i listened to you, silent tears quickly caught with tissue. i had other people counting on me. i always do. the soft place wasn't for me. being in that room it was so obvious. there's a lot of internal conflict in my brain and heart. i'm tired a lot lately so it makes it a lot worse. i'll try really hard to not judge my feelings so much. when you say nice things to me it's like a trip wire that sends a barrage of negativity back to me because, well, i don't know why exactly, it just happens.* it was easier to hope back then. twelve years is a long time for an erosion of hope. even one drop per hour on a large rock over that time would cause a deep fissure.

i will remain watchful of your blog and i am always grateful for you telling the truth.

*At this point, in this stage, if anybody is kind to the sufferer, the ‘Negative Mind will fight back with a vengeance to retain its status. As well the sufferer is always the last to deserve anything. In his or her mind, every other person is more worthy than she is. Because of this way of thinking, it is VERY difficult for the CNC sufferer to ask for help.

With love, understanding, and persistence in caring for each individual sufferer from her community of support, strides can be made to alter negative thinking.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Responsible for the World

Dear Friends,

I remember a very little girl telling me years ago, just as we started the clinic, that the pain in her head was so frightening that sometimes she did not know what to do, but to let me hold her. I said, “Darling, I wish I could take that nasty voice out of your head right now and put it in mine, because I am not at all afraid of it, and I would scare him away forever.”

She started to cry inconsolably and scream, holding on to me so tightly, “No! No! No! Don’t ever let him into your head! No, I can’t ever let him hurt you—you are too nice! Don’t ever say that, don’t ever invite him in, he says he will never go away. He will hurt you too much.”

I remember being shocked at the intensity of her fear and pain. It made me realize, yet again, how so very terrifying this inner, controlling voice of the ‘Negative Mind’ was (and is—in others), and how responsible for the world these sufferers feel.

Here are some recent examples of the power of the ‘Negative Mind’ and of how kind and caring about other people these sensitive individuals are--and why it is impossible not to love them or ignore their cause.

“I don't think I'm a martyr at all. It's just that the world hurts and I have to help shift it. Maybe that's naive or even inept. I've tried my whole life to figure this out and nothing changes, except the world seems to hurt more. I know some people just feel this, because I can sense that when I meet them, it's just that it's very uncommon. It seems some of us were created to absorb the pain for others so they will hurt less.

“But it makes me sad that you do know [the secret language] - in some ways because I feel like for you to know you had to experience this pain on some level. I worry that if I opened up to anyone that for them to understand the depths of this...they would have to feel it on some level. I would not willingly allow anyone anywhere near this. Never.”

These sentiments keep me humble. I am honored that I have the opportunity and the mandate to make their ‘actual’ voices heard.

Please help me to positively profile these people who are silently suffering.

Thank you and have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Your Brother's Keeper'

Today I would like to write specifically to a group of sufferers who daily condone, and therefore confirm, the negative mind. In my new interaction on facebook, and for some years past, I have sadly come across many Pro-Ana sites. A Pro-Ana site makes a shrine to anorexia—and all eating disorders. Though I have the deepest respect for people’s right to express themselves, I have also some serious concerns that I would like to share with all of you.

In my understanding, an eating disorder is one symptom, of many possible symptoms, that come from a devastating, seriously devalued sense of self. This lack of, or diminished, self has taken time to develop to the point of its manifestation. I call it ‘Confirmed Negativity Condition’. CNC is the incorporation—the end result—the culmination of negative thoughts about one’s self over time. The then ‘Negative Mind’ repeats daily—hourly—in every moment—its conclusion about you—to you. It is never nice. It is an internal, incessant enemy of one’s potential self. It is a LIAR—An ABUSER of the worst kind. It attempts to deflate any dream, any possibility. It grabs the innocent.


Through ignorance and unawareness of this mind-state, all of us in the world, at one time or another, have been guilty of irresponsibility; of not understanding; of bystander apathy--for all the apparently best reasons—such as: to not interfere in somebody else’s life, not knowing what to do, mixed messages from the experts, contradictory messages from the media, not understanding the motivation behind the behavior, fear of the drain, the time, and the commitment of such emotional involvement, etc.

Most people with an eating disorder have a negative dialogue, a ‘voice’ or negative pressure, internally. Pro-Ana sites, hopefully unwittingly, continue to confirm this dialogue externally. Perhaps this happens from a feeling, initially, of helplessness, which over time becomes a hopelessness. I hear from so many people who have suffered terribly for years, and then--years again. Can’t reach out without being blamed. The other sufferers are the only ones who can relate. What to do? A sub-culture? No way out? Can’t beat it, so join it? So, therefore, be together in order to not feel alone—to validate your compromised existence in some distorted, destructive way? Is this really, in your minds, the only option we have left you? “Misery loves company”? Have we failed you so? Because…………………….

I cannot imagine that what can appear to me as unconscionable under the guise of camaraderie is actually intended by you:

Comparison of weight-- “I ate only this many calories today, sweetie, how about you? Did you stay under that number? Did you meet your goal? Let’s set a lower one for tomorrow.”—therefore, lessening the chances of survival of your fellow sufferer, and sometimes, your best friend.

Comparison of strategies—“How many laxatives did you use? How many times did you purge today? How many miles did you run?”—therefore, lessening the chances of survival of your fellow sufferer, and sometimes, your best friend.


I can only hope that the Pro-Ana sites exist out of desperation—because of the inability to reach out to loved ones for help. I just wish you to know that you are feeding the ‘Negative Mind’ which, in turn, increases its power over you. Would you not like it stopped? Would you not like to know who you really are?

Most people in life are followers. You have the ability to be a leader in a constructive way. You are beautiful, thinking, precious, individuals who have not had a chance to know or believe in yourselves. There is another way, albeit much harder. Re-train your brain—in a positive way. Spend every day thinking in contrast to the messages you have in your head. Do this for your friends as well. Encourage them every day, and they will do it for you. Compare notes to wellness. Use your imagination to your own and your friends’ positive benefit. You ARE your brother’s keeper, and they are yours. Start a new trend. Use your energy in a way that will extend life, not shorten it. You are not the ‘Negative Mind’. Then, see how you feel—being well. At least, give yourself the choice—do not sell yourself short. Do not accept defeat.

We love you, and we need you in our world as who you really can be—as who you really are.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The 'Negative Mind' is a Manipulator

The ‘Negative Mind’ is a MANIPULATOR.

A curious and heartbreaking example of the manipulation and strength of persuasion of the ‘Negative Mind’ became clear when my daughter was deadly anorexic. I used to drive her around our city to distract her from her emotional pain, usually from one to four o’clock in the morning. Of course, she could not sleep, her body was hunting for nourishment.

One night, much to my dismay, we passed a man who was in a wheelchair. I hoped that my daughter would not notice him because she worried about everyone, as most sensitive people are. I glanced at him, but then looked quickly away—hoping my daughter would not see the direction of my gaze. After a moment, I looked sideways slightly to see if she had seen him. Silent tears were streaming down her face. I choked, and said, “Honey, look at him. He is so well dressed. His white shirt is cleaned and ironed. His black pants are immaculate. Somebody loves him and is taking care of him.”

She answered with a sob, “I see that mom. But his time, I am not crying about him. I am crying about myself—his pain is evident—nobody will ever know about mine.”

This is one testimony only, to the fact that anorexics oftentimes cannot realize how physically compromised they appear to the rest of the world, but not to themselves. As we all know, the ‘Negative Mind’ convinces its victims that they are selfish in order for it to stay in control. To keep them in a starving, diminished mode, it is necessary for the ‘Negative Mind’ to make them think they look normal, or even bigger than normal.

‘Confirmed Negativity Condition’ initiates an overbalanced negative tape that berates incessantly inside its victim’s head. It is a culmination of negative thinking about one’s self over time that must be reversed over time.

DO NOT believe anything negative that your head tells you about yourself. Cling to those people who you have always trusted. Listen to what they say, and talk to them. Tell them what is going on. Surround yourself with people who are optimistic and positive. You are not guilty. You are not crazy. You are not undeserving. You have a kindness towards others that needs to include yourself. The world cannot do without your sensitivity, in its proper place. You are loved and needed.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No Symptoms

After a lecture I had just given, some years ago, I was speaking with a woman who had been waiting in line to meet me. Her eyes were filled with tears. She was forty-two years old and she had been suffering from CNC—hating herself since she was a child—since “before the age of ten.” She said, “You are talking about me. What you described tonight is inside my head—is me--but look, I appear normal. I am not an anorexic. I feel so ashamed, and I loathe myself as much as anybody possibly could. So, does this mean that you do not treat people like me—that I am undeserving of that kind of caring?”

Subsequently, I became more aware, that though I had primarily been dealing with people with eating disorders, the subject was really much bigger and broader than I had ever supposed. I was a little perturbed at myself that I had focused so markedly on the symptoms of eating disorders rather than placing more emphasis on 'Confirmed Negativity Condition' and that hosts such manifestations using the 'Negative Mind'.

Many more people came forward in the next few years discussing themselves, or their child, describing a similarly, powerful, negative mindset without an obvious symptom. One example particularly, stands out in my memory. I met parents who had an exceptionally artistic son who had a history of ivy-league schooling. He had compiled pictures that painted his internal agony. Though he seemed never able to explain their meaning when asked, he kept making these black and white depictions evident to them. His parents were distraught with their child’s obvious anguish and had no idea what it meant, and therefore, no idea of how to help. He was not able to ask for their support in any other way than to make them aware of his pain through his drawings. He was not anorexic--rather, his drawings illustrated his inner turmoil.

I have recently received several other similar letters—stories. It brings me to the realization that I have to make one point very clear: There are many manifestations of CNC.

‘Confirmed Negative Condition’ can exist as wickedly or as profoundly with the ‘Negative Mind’ as its tool, without obvious symptoms. Many incredibly sensitive people around you live in quiet agony. Many write to me. I hear you.

Thank you for your help. Thank you for caring about humanity and for trying to do something about it. Thank you for your positivity and your inspiration. I love you all.

As a darling girl told me today, "You never know how strong you are - until being strong is the only choice you have."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Inside

Last week we were discussing the subject of Ethics. I have just remembered a good example of the courage to stand firm despite consequences which might not always be pleasant. For me, sometimes, movies are a good way of teaching concisely what I might be long-winded in saying.

Russell Crowe played in the movie Insider. His personal ethic would not allow him to cover up a crime, a white-collar crime against humanity. His character was a good example of what I mean of being true to one's self--one's internal ethic. The reality is that to ultimately be at peace with one's self, it is necessary to have a self, to have developed a self--and then to honor it. This is a journey we begin when we are born, and hopefully realize in time to enjoy our lives. To deny what you know is right for you in the way you are in the world, means to live externally, bowing to other people's opinions, any given societies' mores, pressure of convenience--therefore compromising your own potential--your own individual possibility. Follow your own good sense--your emotional intelligence--the only stipulation being to respect and not harm yourself and others.

Have patience with your journey. Know that I love you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Happy Easter Everyone.