This semester, in my work as a college counselor, I’m facilitating a weekly group for young women with body image concerns and disordered eating. Some of the issues brought up in that group mirror my own concerns during my journey towards recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder some eight years ago. One theme, though we haven’t explicitly called it this, is the idea of “body trauma”, or painful, frightening events in our lives that feel overwhelming and relate somehow to our physical bodies.
In my own counseling work, my therapist and I have talked about “big ‘T’ Trauma” and “little ‘t’ trauma”, both of which impact our body image. I’ve read the research about the correlation between “big T Trauma” (such as childhood sexual, emotional, or physical abuse) and eating disorders. And I don’t think of myself as someone who experienced any such abuses growing up. But, I’m less familiar with the research about smaller events that could be considered traumatic, which add up over time. According to my therapist, these “little ‘t’ traumas” become stored in the brain, much like larger traumas, and impact our body image for decades unless they are addressed.
So, my therapist has encouraged me to start a list of all the “little ‘t’ body traumas” in my life which may have contributed to body criticism or body loathing. Of course, this has not been easy. It’s painful work. It requires a willingness to look back into the unchangeable past and recognize times that I subjugated my body’s needs in order to please someone else or times when I intentionally hurt my body or put my body at risk. However, as difficult as this work is, I know there is healing to be found at the end of it. I know that sharing these past events and decisions with my therapist will give me the freedom to let go of them.
Trauma-informed therapy is a specialty unto its own. My therapist is trained in trauma therapy, as well as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). If you feel that your own body image concerns or disordered eating habits are impacted by “big T” or “little t” traumas, I highly recommend talking to a therapist who specializes in this field. It just may help you find the freedom you seek. Send me an email (megansbook2006[at]yahoo.com) if you’d like more information.
Peace, joy, and health.