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Anorexia: 2 Ways to Explain

Published on Wednesday January 9th, 2019

Dealing with anorexia is not easy, especially because the phenomenon is not well known. One often hears reports from the media, that a celebrity has become anorexic, without knowing whether this is a fashion, an aesthetic trend, or a disease with its apparent symptoms.

Like everything that we do not know about, anorexia scares us. Sometimes, we must admit, that the subject of anorexia is taboo. This is all the more unfortunate since anorexia is indeed a disease, that is to say an illness that causes suffering to the person afflicted with this disease. At least for this reason, it seems necessary to shed some light on this unknown area, by presenting you with two lines of thought to understand anorexia, without actually going into an exhaustive analysis.

To begin with the thorny problem of a definition (thorny because defining leads to limiting), anorexia is a behavioral disorder. Let us understand these words in the most literal way: a behavior capable of sowing trouble in the life, the mind, and the surroundings of the subject. This behavioral disorder is expressed through the refusal to eat. We are talking here about a desire to impose suffering on one's own body, knowing the inevitable consequences, especially the feeling of hunger, as we will see.

Having laid down the principle, let us now try to explain anorexia.

To say it directly, anorexia has a certain link with the fantasy of omnipotence, that is to say with the illusion of an immense power over the world that facilitates a well-placed ego. To understand this, one must be aware of a general principle that can be confusing when one discovers it. This is the "profit" that the subject derives from his psychic or behavioral disorder.

The word, 'profit' is clearly disconcerting in such a context, and it must not be taken literally. How could a sane person benefit from a process that causes him harm? This is exactly the point, without any judgmental implications, because this person is not sane. They are suffering. Their troubled mind, confuses what is good for them and what could cause them harm. In their representation of the world with altered landmarks, what they view as "profit" or progress is pure destruction. But a person suffering from anorexia does not see this. In their confusion, this person triggers a mechanism that causes him harm, whilst he is persuaded otherwise.

Anorexia is one of many examples. In this behavior, the subject values himself through his own eyes, which in itself is not wrong, except that his valuation is helped by an abnormal process. The control of his body, of his physiological needs, allows him to nourish his ego. That is his 'profit'. It is the ideal of the self that touches on the fantasy of omnipotence: my body is too perfect to lower itself to ingesting and rejecting matter. My body is too sublime to function like the bodies of others, mechanically, predictably, to the point of becoming almost vulgar.

Let us now look at a very different way of understanding anorexia.

Anorexia can start following a difficulty to invest in the world. In a previous article, we discussed the need for a human being to interact with what the world has to offer. The desire, the object of desire, the investment in the object of desire, the sensation of fulfillment, are part of life and are linked in this order. Initially, a person desires (that is to say, dreams, aspires, projects), he then focuses on an "object" in the broad sense (circumstance, other person or actually inert object), and the personal investment that follows crystallizes the link with the object and the realization of its inherent potentialities, and, finally, this investment leads to a state of happiness, and fullness, because then the being feels that he has fulfilled his desire.

But in a being who, for various reasons, has a hard time getting involved in the world, the pattern is quite different. He does not succeed, or he does not know how to connect himself to the potentialities that the world has to offer him. For him, the norm is non-connection, non-possession, non-pleasure, a permanent lack. It is there, in the non-investment, that such a being is likely to... paradoxically, invest.

Anorexia provides this person with this opportunity, since this mechanism reproduces in a "closed circuit", on his own body, what he experiences in everyday life and to that which he has become accustomed. The lack of investment, the denial of external input, has become his lot.

Then, he expresses it through his body, because the body is ultimately the only object on which he manages to exert some control. According to this second explanation, it is not so much that the anorexic person refuses the right to eat, but rather, it expresses the fact that the world "refuses" him the right to eat, so to speak. From this point of view, anorexia is the metaphor for an overall existential unease, far from being confined to physicality. Basically, whether he has succumbed to an illusion of perfection or has resigned himself to cutting himself off from the world, it is there, the "profit" of anorexia. It is there, his pain. To find satisfaction in dissatisfaction.

David BENKOEL - © Torah-Box

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