Tags: research

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Nostalgia

Shock horror - I've been spending money. Just went and blew $1.99 on a new LJ user head because it's Rene Magritte and that's all the reason I needed. I've also been feeding my 90's obsession buying old magazines on ebay, if I turn up anything scannable I'll post it here. Then I got sidetracked looking at 90's hairstyles. I love hairstyle models, some of them look so gauche especially this girl, I mean, even I know not to hyper-extend my knee like that in photos, it just looks odd. Oh here she is again rocking a look I'd love to bring back today, ...if not that pose.

I know it's dated but I was thinking about Primal Theory and it's explanation of neuroses as being formed in infancy in reaction to our basic infantile needs not being met. Here's what the wikipedia page says :-

  "Primal theory contends that many or most people suffer from some degree of neurosis. This neurosis begins very early in life (especially in the "critical period"—birth plus the first three years) as a result of needs not being met. There may be one or more isolated traumatic events but more often it's a case of daily neglect or abuse.
Neurosis therefore may begin to develop at birth, or even before, with "first line" Pains. Subsequent Pain is thought to be added on top of previous pain in what is called "compounding" the Pain.
Throughout childhood more elaborate "defenses" develop as the early unmet needs keep pressing for satisfaction in symbolic and therefore inevitably unsatisfying ways."

I dont think everything that's 'wrong' with a person can be traced back to just their early experiences. But I do think there's a part of us that always operates at the level of that baby - a proto-personality who only knows that they have needs which are either met of frustrated. Apparently I was a very needy baby, I wanted a lot of contact and attention. My mother blames her arthritic wrists on having to cary me around so much. Whatever. A study I read about in Just the Way You Are by Winnifred Gallagher found that babies seek out and thrive on physical contact more than anything else, even food. I might have seemed demanding to my parents but from my point of view I was just trying to get my developmental needs met. I wasn't fully booted up as a person yet and my knowledge and feelings about my existance were very black-and-white. I was either happy and having my needs met and the world was great or I was abject and not having my needs met and knew only unhappiness. I didn't have a concept of waiting 'or in a minute', I just lived in the moment and it was either good or bad. That's a pretty dramatic and powerful way to live but that's what babies experience.
And although we are all born with certain innate personality factors, animal studies like the one described in this cool article: "The Brain: The Switches That Can Turn Mental Illness On and Off " suggest these early developmental experiences do influence the adults we become and how we deal with adversity. Blaming the parents/upbringing for EDs is passe and even contraversial these days and I wouldnt for a second blame my parents, they've alwys been awesome. Still, I find it interesting to consider that perhaps as a excessively demanding and clingy baby by nature, if some of my needs (enevitably) weren't met it might have had a hand in shaping the anxious and reserved adult I am today.


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Hilda and Peggy

I've been reading Peggy Claude-Pierre's book The Secret Language of Eating Disorders. It's...very much of its time, it was published in 1997 and the lack of references to genetic/biologicalfactors is pretty glaring. It's interesting how even ED literature for mass consumption is much more aware of the biological findings these days and how much the emphasis was on the psycho-social a decade ago. The blurb to this book promises a revolutionary new cure for AN and BN. I found it frustratingly unscientific and anecdotal, repetetive and much longer than it needs to be. It's one woman's insights into how lots of treatment programs don't work because they're not addressing anorexic patients' intensely negative mindsets. Her solution (which could have been laid out in a book half the length) is unconditional love and 24 hour care. Not a bad book really, just not very useful. The Golden Cage is older but has more useful insights, IMO.
I was interested to read the book because Peggy is quite an enigmatic figure. Her treatment centre in Canada was shut down under contraversial circumstances and there was even an exposé book written (her supporters and critics are at war in the amazon comments section). And now I notice she's back and blogging again with a new book in the works. I doubt we'll ever know the truth.

Speaking of Hilde Bruch, I'm a massive fangirl. If Wasted is the ana bible, Hilde is my Marya Hornbacher. But seriously, she was writing in the 1970s and her interpretations of EDs always ring true and still seem relevant. I don't think theres one book I'd recommend as fully explaining EDs but The Golden Cage is a good starting place for the uninitiated. It does blame family dynamics a bit too much but apart from that, good stuff. Here's a quote I like:-
"It is perplexing that this direct influence of hunger on the psychic functioning of anorexics has been overlooked. (...) Many of the more alarming symptoms - splitting of the ego, depersonalisation, sever ego defects - are directly related to the starvation itself. A meaningful psychiatric evaluation is possible only after the worst effect of malnutrition have been corrected." It's not a revelation now but it wasn't widely practiced when she was writing.

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books

(x-posted apologies for any duplication!)
I'm thinking of buying a few ED books from Amazon - has anyone got an opinion on any of the following?
I'm definately going for The Passion of Alice
Also looking at:-
The Owl was a Bakers Daughter
Eating in the Light of the Moon
The Hungry Self
Anorexics on Anorexia
Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa
Internal Landscapes and Foreign Bodies: Eating Disorders and Other Pathologies
and

Going Hungry: Writers on Desire, Self-Denial, and Overcoming Anorexia

I just re-read Midnight Feast by Martina Evans. It's a fairly short novel about anorexia and bulimia in an Irish Catholic boarding school and I thoroughly recommend it. It's yet another ED book with a deus-ex-machina recovery at the end but it's so well written and the passions and trials of the girls are so compelling I don't mind.
Nothing terribly insightful about EDs but a great story.

I've been away visiting my parents for a few days. I needed the break and although I had to eat there and I'm struggling with the enevitable feelings of losing control, nameless dread etc I think it was worth going. Although I came back to find my mental boyfriend had shaved his head, read my diary and generated a huge pile of washing up. But if making himself look like Romulen Tom Hardy is his idea of passive agressive protest at me going away I'm not complaining.