Narrative Practice

The following 'conversation' comes from an e-mail forum in which clients and therapists jointly explore the nature of therapy and therapeutic relationships. The names of the contributors have been changed, but otherwise this particular 'conversation' is unedited. It provides by example many of the essentials of the narrative approach as it is practiced, and an explanatory commentary would be redundant.

That said, two minor points that relate to 'local knowledge/practice' within this forum might benefit from some clarification.

First, the term 'therp' is used by a number of participants as a conscious abbreviation for 'therapist', since 'therapist' connotes 'the rapist'.

Second, some messages contain a 'spoiler', and these have been retained here. That a message has been 'spoilered' is indicated in its header by the writer after specifying the topic of the message. The topic of any particular message in this forum is specified quite explicitly, and allows members of the forum to make a decision as to whether they want to deal with the topic in question, or would rather avoid it by not even opening that mail. The 'spoilered' portion of a message then provides a backup way of assisting this, by providing a blank 'screenful' in the body of a message before any material that might contain something the reader just doesn't want to deal with.


Delivery-Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 16:33:24 +1200
From: Alison
Subject: How do I start ???

any therps here experienced working w/ clients that si? I'm currently tryin to figure out how to broach the topic w/ my therp who does not address my si. I want to ask her for help w/out her seeing/hearing this topic or my behavior the same as she obviously does currently.

she doesn't even ask if i'm ok. i have been doing some reading and found some resources that give positive advice but working this thru w/ my therp would really help me to feel safer. hope i'm makin sense here. any help appreciated!

Delivery-Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 18:51:50 +1200
From: Beth et al

Dear Alison,

We hope this ok to ask you: what is si? We have never heard of it.

Have you asked her why she won't address this with you?

Sometimes when we want to talk to our therp about something and we are afraid to do so it helps us to think about it as if we arent talking about us.

Like it's something we are watching and describing on television. Or sometimes showing our therp with toys can be a lot safer way of talking about things. Also talking about what makes it hard for us to talk about something like fear of judgement or shame that we are feeling or lack of trust or whatever it is that is making it difficult to talk about is helpful. Sometimes we just arent ready to talk about something and thats ok as well. When we are ready we do.

Delivery-Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 18:52:40 +1200
From: Chris

Hi Alison

i'm a therp (amongst other things) but have to honestly admit that i don't know what 'si' actually is so can't actually say if i can draw on the resources of conversations with so-called clients about it.

could you, errrr, let me know what it is please?

in a way that doesn't cause any triggers for you if poss

chris (who has finally figured out that there are more abbreviations than he has brain cells)

PS my favorite medical abbreviation is w-p-w syndrome which is short for Wolf-Parkinson White Syndrome. pretty kewl huh? except try counting the syllables in each of them. and tell me which is quicker to say.... who can understand any of this????

Delivery-Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 00:24:31 +1200
From: Davina

Kay,

In the agency in which I work, SI is 'suicidal ideation,' so I am assuming that this is what you want to talk about with your therapist.

I am very surprised that she is not responding to this in a serious way.

That's great that you did some research and came up with some reading materials that have helped. Have you shared those with your therapist? I wonder if doing so would wake her up and get her to take notice. Some therapists (I am speculating) might get a bit numbed out about suicidal ideation if they see a lot of people who think suicidal thoughts often. This is not to normalize what your therapist is doing, or how she is responding.

I would suggest you try to get her attention by telling her how important it is to you for her to take you and the si seriously. If she does not, you have the option to try and find another therapist who is more sensitive to the issue of si, and attuned to you and your needs.

Keep us posted on what happens.

best,

Davina

Delivery-Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 00:50:44 +1200
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 08:50:03 -0400 (EDT)
From: Elizabeth

Thanks for the definition of SI. I'm not a therapist, just a client. But the first time I talked with my present therapist about being suicidal, I felt he blew me off. I was so humiliated when I left his office that I didn't know if I would ever return. (Our relationship now exceeds 3 1/2 years).

Later (much later) I got up the courage to confront him about his minimizing my suicidal feelings, and he told me that he knew that because I had a child, that I probably wouldn't do anything!

Hell, I planned on taking the kid with me! I mean, the child's father was no longer in the picture, and I knew the damage that had been done to my son because of that. I didn't figure my son could handle the loss of another parent, so I planned on taking him with me.

I was angry about this for a long time. I know now that I was intimidated by my therapist because of his vocabulary. Now we are pretty equal because my brain has begun to work again and I can spout the long words just as he can.

But I have learned to speak up for myself.

Elizabeth

Delivery-Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 18:58:53 +1200
From: Beth et al

Dear Elizabeth,

Congratulations on learning to speak up for yourself!!!! Our therp never assumed we wouldnt act on it when we told him about our suicidal ideation. Seems to us that could be rather fatal thinking on a therps end of things.

Do other therapists here think this thought that because someone has a child they won't do anything?

Beth et al

Delivery-Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 19:28:55 +1200
From: Chris

absolutely NOT!! what thoroughly dangerous practice. i used to work in a "mother & baby" service dealing with women taken by so-called mental illness in the first year after childbirth. we knew fine well that if we got it wrong when si was around (and maybe even if we got it right and it still went wrong) we would end up with a dead woman, dead baby and grieving family....

chris

Delivery-Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 19:52:40 +1200
From: Beth et al

Dear All,

We still havent heard from Alison what the meaning of SI is to her and we are still wondering. Suicidal Ideation was one meaning and today in our support group someone used the initial SI to mean self injury and sexual injuring so now we are back to wondering.

Beth et al

Delivery-Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 05:55:16 +1200
From: Beth et al

Dear All,

We have been thinking a lot about Alison's post about SI and Elizabeth's post and to us these are both examples of really big practices and problems that we see in therapies.

No matter what SI means it is a problem for Alison and it is her therapy. So why would a therapist dismiss or not give attention to what's a problem for the client. Is it that expert positioning?

Elizabeth's post as well bothered us for the same reason the therapist knowing better than the client what she will and won't act on or do. We celebrate Elizabeth's learning to speak up for herself, but personally this isn't a lesson that we want to learn from our therapist. We want his support around us doing this and we may want to practice a bit with him since he has proven himself to be safe and trustworthy, but we dont want to learn how to speak up for ourselves in a 'forced' 'survival' kind of way. We'd rather have a therapist who hears and trusts what we say is important and opens a space for us where that is safe to do.

Beth et al

Delivery-Date: Thu, 7 Aug 1997 15:55:56 +1200
From: Alison

when i used the term si i was referring to self injury or self mutilation. i didn't respond sooner because we had a glich and were not receiving mail for 2-3 days. all is fixed now.

So in light of understanding what i mean by "si" please re-respond if you have any ideas.

just an fyi: i am not suicidal.

thanks for the concern for myself and for wondering why my therapist wouldn't respond!

Delivery-Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 01:58:46 +1200
From: Fraser

Alison,

thanks for the clarification ...

I fall in the category of 'therps' and think I have some experience working with SI stuff.

My own experience with it is that there aren't things that sort of always work ... because ... people self injure for all sorts of reasons, in all kinds of mental states, and they usually call for different responses.

Some folks have posted about alternate activities, ice, cutting a doll, rubber bands etc. They work for some people, offend others.

I usually try to work with a client to develop an alternative that resonates with them. I have used variants on the above, sometimes with great success, sometimes with none.

I guess my own experience of what has been most important is that the therapist not panic, not let SI dominate the whole conversation, and not get stuck on the idea that you have to eliminate it.

As for telling your therp, I think blunt, simple, and direct are the best ways to get around difficult issues. But most importantly, tell your therp in any way you can. And I would also encourage bluntness and directness if you would like your therp to respond differently than they do.

I wish you success in this hurdle. I'd also be interested, if you'd care to share it, it hearing about how it goes.

Fraser

Delivery-Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 02:47:36 +1200
From: Gwynneth
Subject: si - spoilered

SPOILERED for si (s*lf *nj*r*)
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Dear Alison,

Thanks for being brave enough to put forth this inquiry and clarifying it for us. I really respect the self knowledge you seem to possess in wanting to raise this topic in order to deal with it with your therp and wanting to feel safe in doing so. I was wondering a couple of things. If you don't feel like responding, that's perfectly OK.

First I was wondering how it might be for you if you gave a copy of this post to your therp? Would this be a safe way to bring the topic up more clearly? Do you think it would help her realize that you want to continue with her and you need to address this issue with her in a way that she will take notice and be able to talk with you, and your feel safe doing so? Your posts here have been clear in what you need. Perhaps sharing your writing would be easier than talking. What do you think?

Secondly, I wondered if you had thought about how si gets you under its control? How does it trick you into acting against yourself? It seems to me from your posting here, that you are not happy with si. Am I reading this right?

I wrote out the following and, after doing so, realized that it might not be applicable or helpful for you and your particular situation. I believe you really are on the right track - writing here to the list and wanting to talk with your therp about this. I came back to this spot and inserted this portion. If the rest doesn't seem helpful to you, please just ignore or delete it or whatever you need to do.

Thanks,
Gwynneth

I used to work with a woman who had a long history of battling against the effects of abuse in her life. Among her battles was a power struggle with si. Si often won - sometimes in smaller, sometimes in larger and much more painful and debilitating ways. By the time she ended therapy with me, si was no longer a winner in her life. She had taken over much of her own life.

When I first met with her, she had seen other therapists for years, and I don't know how much talk was about si. In the beginning of seeing me, she did some 'small' si acts in my office. She picked at the skin around her nails - an act she did at home among other, more serious acts, and picked until her skin bled. I was unable to feel comfortable watching her harm herself. I couldn't concentrate on her words as her actions were too painful for me to stand by and witness silently. I asked her if she could find something else to do with her hands while we spoke, explaining that I could not watch her harm herself. I shared with her my belief that it had NEVER been OK for ANYONE to harm her (physically or in other ways - something she had suffered greatly as a child) including doing so to herself.

This seemed to be a very unusual perspective for her, and we talked quite a bit about it. She was willing to find a substitute in my office and, when the urge to pick at the skin around her fingernails became so strong that she started picking at her skin, she (or I) would reach for the substitute which was a rubbery koosh ball on my desk. Eventually, when she completed therapy with me, she asked if she could take that koosh ball with her.

Don't know if this is helpful or not.
Warmly,
Gwynneth

Delivery-Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 10:04:53 +1200
From: Beth et al

Dear Gwynneth,

We really liked what you said in your post both above and below the spoiler.

Beth

Delivery-Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 13:29:01 +1200
From: Gwynneth

Dear Beth et al,

Thanks for your feedback. And thanks for teaching us on the list how to 'spoiler' a message and why. I had never seen nor heard of 'spoilering' before. But I often wanted to post something and hesitated, as I didn't want to inadvertently harm someone. Since I don't want to trigger unknowingly, and there is no way for me to know ahead of time who or what may find my words triggering, then its great to have a way to warn folks so they can take care of themselves.

Warmly,
Gwynneth

Delivery-Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 18:02:19 +1200
From: Beth et al

Dear Alison and All

Don't know if any of the stuff below the spoiler would help take what you want and leave the rest.

Beth et al

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Hi

we will tell you what sometimes works for us but nothing, really,can replace a good therapist who is willing to explore the reasons behind cutting. Because anything else is just temporary and only works occasionally.

OK, here goes: we run a lot, which exhausts us physically so we do not, literally, have the energy to cut. we draw on our arms and legs with a red marker. we keep an elastic band around our wrist which we can snap if we need to feel pain, or *something*. we call friends and sometimes our therapist if we feel upset by something. we force ourselves to go out and participate in social events, even if we feel like isolating. we remove all sharps from our house *before* we are tempted to cut. we write here or in other safe places. we draw.we have gone to great lengths to identify triggering situations and we avoid them until we can learn better ways of dealing with them. we put bandages on the places where we would cut or burn, we have a tape that our therp made for us with things he siad that help us know we are safe, and not bad, and its ok to have feelings ,we go inside to safe places where we don't *have* to hurt us we do stuff like this and *sometimes*it helps. hope you will find this somewhat helpful too...

Delivery-Date: Sat, 9 Aug 1997 14:10:34 +1200
From: Henry

Dear Beth et al and Alison,

I really liked your post, Beth et al. Alison, are there any things like the things that Beth mentions that have helped you resist the urge to SI? If so, it would be great to add these to the list of alternatives to SI and maybe this could be circulated to other lists and expanded.

Beth et al, I was wondering if you might be willing to share more of some of the reasons behind the SI you used to do and maybe still do. Let me tell you why I'd be interested in this.

I think many therapists believe that SI is equivalent to an attack against the self and often reflects a person internalizing experiences of mistreatment and abuse so that they become self-blaming and self-hating. These therapists often see SI as a reflection of this story of self-blame and self-hate. While I believe this is the case some of the time, I think much of the time it may grow out of a desire for self-protection and resistance to abuse of its effects. If this be the case, I think it would be shame not be in a position to acknowledge and appreciate this form of resistance, even if it is a form that has some down-sides to it.

Henry (a therp)

Delivery-Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 04:03:46 +1200
From: Beth et al

Henry,

For us lots of the SI that parts of us did was for us self-protection and resistance to abuse and to hold onto our own reality.

One example is that we often had to look like we were enjoying our dad hurting us (smile) and if we cried he would choke us into unconsciousness the man voice was born to remember all of the rules like don't cry, so that we could be safe and if a part felt like crying he would threaten them or the punisher would cut them as way of protecting them from all of us being choked or worse. Made therapy rather hard at first when our therp would say it's ok to cry. The very first time a part of us cut it was a way of holding on to our own 'truth'. We had drawn a rather graphic picture in school and our teacher walked by our desk and took the drawing and then asked us to stay in at recess so she could talk to us she then proceded to tell us how all little girls want to grow up and marry their daddy's and we'd grow up and find a man and all these feelings we had were 'normal'. We went home and carved the arm: no one can say we aren't bleeding; no one can say this doesn't hurt; no one can deny this.

There were also a least a few people who came into our lives where if a part cut themselves they wouldnt touch us. Some parts repeatedly carved words into the body - words we couldn't say and be here today if we did, like NO and HELP. For one part of us SI was about thru pain she was rapidly able to go that place where there isn't pain there isn't judgement - kind of spiritual place where things just are.There its like there is sensation - but its not good or bad - and judgements about ourselves and others aren't in that place. But it wasnt somewhere she wanted pain from someone else to bring her to, so she would get herself there thru SI. These are some of the reasons behind some of our SI that were more about self protection and resistance.

Beth et al

Delivery-Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 05:33:46 +1200
From: Henry

Dear Beth et al,

Thank you for responding to my post. I'm really glad you found some ways protecting yourself and finding a way of protesting what was happening, and ingenious ways they were!

I have a couple more questions, and please feel free not to answer them.

When you were engaging in acts of SI (though I'm not really sure the acts you describe were injurious to your selves--they sounded injurious to the body but protective of the self under the circumstances) how were you thinking about what you were doing? did you understand at the time that you were protesting abuse and trying to protect your self from it, or did you look at more as an outsider might , as someone who was weird, or emotionally disturbed, or whatever?

Henry

Delivery-Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 18:41:33 +1200 From: Beth et al

Spoiler
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Dear Henry,

At the time we were doing it it would have been deadly for us to know and think about our own experience. To feel injustice and protest would have cost us our life. Some of our parts did think and understand that they were protesting abuse and they were never allowed out. The rest of us hated them and kept them very away and labeled them as well as ourselves with outsider's views. The man voice at the time he was doing it believed that it wasn't ok for others to cry: they deserved to be cut and threatened. It wasn't until we were safe that we could actually have our own experience.

Beth et al

Delivery-Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 18:59:42 +1200
From: Chris

i borrowed Beth et al's spoiler because why re-invent the wheel mentions of si and c*888ing below

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There follows some comments from someone i used to see:

if anyone has further thoughts i would be more than happy for more material for the archives that could be distributed to people struggling with si lifestyles.

CUTTING -

Steve

16 06 96

I have read three postings in relations to the topic of cutting. I related to bits of all this but felt I should recite my own experience so as to touch those on the fringes of cutting that feel that no-one, even other cutters, understand them. It's taken me a long time to consider myself a cutter. When health professionals shoved the word cutter, or self-harmer, or self-mutilator in my face I rejected it. To me it was a clinical, ritualistic, release of pain, something that I could do for me that I had control over. Other posts I've read from other cutters have sometimes suggested to stop cutting. I am in no position to tell you that. All I can do is relate my experience and let you make your own judgement.

At the time I was suffering from severe depression and personal relationships were going from bad to worse for me. These I had no control over, I suffered rejection from people I didn't expect. I had seen cutters, for sure, and I know what motivated these people but I didn't think as they did and never considered cutting myself (all the cutters I had seen were attention seekers). Then one day while talking it clicked for me, cutting was the physical manifestation of the intense emotional pain that I felt inside. After that I didn't race out and begin cutting, I actually tripped over it by mistake. I was playing with a small blade and used it to scratch an itch on my stomach. It bled and I was fascinated by the flow of blood.

Over the next week I clinically began to 'etch'. For me it wasn't cutting or self mutilation or any of those things but it was a way of showng to the world how I felt inside. It became a ritual. I would listen to music, get drunk, draw words (such as 'hate or 'pain') and symbols on my upper arms, chest, and abdomen, ice the respective areas and then use a scalpel to cut. I would then use biro pen ink and press it into the wounds so that the scars would be like tattoos.

Don't get me wrong. I felt the scalpel cutting, but much of the pain was wrapped up in my fear of the pain, and emotionally I had suffered far greater pain than I could ever inflict physically on myself. I was not releasing just my own pain but the pain of others around me. I know this sounds crazy, but I was sort of a modem-day Jesus Christ taking on the sins of the world. I didn't do it because I hated myself or because I wanted to parade my scars to the world, but because it was a way of releasing n-ty pain. I felt empowered by it. The cuts (which were quite deep), the flow of blood, the removal of fear, it all excited me but what made it so powerful was the fact that nobody knew anything about it but ME!

It only stopped when somebody found me and I was reported to health professionals.

Its power then began to dissipate. Since then I have had urges to cut again, but they have no meaning behind them. I made a pact with myself to never regret or be ashamed of the scars that I will carry for the rest of my life.

Cutting (for that's what I was doing) seems very romantic for it brings short term relief, but it is extremely addictive (I wanted to go further and even deeper!). I was caught reasonably early and if I wasn't I would now be dead. That may appeal to you at the a but I suggest you check on other avenues rather than carrying down the road that you're presently on.

Ka Kaha (Be Strong)

Steve

Delivery-Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 19:49:01 +1200
From: Chris

Spoilered - references to si and eating problems





















Beth et al and Henry-

thank you for allowing me to listen in on your conversation which has been of great help to me. for some time now i have been unable to get past the violence that i witness in acts of si. some time ago i got over the shock and victim blaming that is a usual professional reaction - but the violence would still trip me up.

your conversation helped me see other aspects to it.

could i share your conversation with clients and therps i see here who struggle with si???

one question arises for me.
anorexiabulimiacompulsiveovereating has long been viewed by professionals as a 'coping mechanism' with therps being taught to look for the 'primary' (eg avoidance of sexuality, maturity) and 'secondary' gain (attention from others) to the patient. We have encouraged each other and 'patients' to seek for and acknowledge this deficit in themselves and in the process turned attention away from the torturous practices that a/b/c recruits victims and therps into and the cultural discourses that sustain and nourish it.

how are the other descriptions of si that yous speak of here different from this practice? (because they seem that way to me)

byeee

chris

Delivery-Date: Tue, 12 Aug 1997 06:12:33 +1200
From: Gwynneth

Dear Beth et al, Henry, and others,

Thank you for allowing us to witness your back and forth conversation which reveals so much of interest. I want to share some thoughts your conversation is triggering for me. I am including the spoiler as the content refers to si and c*tt*ng.

Spoilered - references to si and eating problems





















Your words here are so astonishing and reveal so much of inner thought processes and multi-meanings which might not be revealed in traditional therapy approaches. And it shows so much work in therapy! Thank you so much for allowing us to wwitness this interchange. It is powerful and very moving to me.

Your conversation makes me think about the post I sent here a week or so ago about the woman who picked at the skin around her fingernails in my office. When I saw her, a number of years ago, I had not yet learned to ask questions in a different, more curious way. It seems amazing to me how a slight shift in the therp's focus and attention can invite a much more thoughtful and revealing inner source of knowledge and strength. We did develop a good relationship and a fondness for each other - which she and I both spoke about. The ending of our work together was a 'good' ending, and probably one of the few such good relationship endings she had experienced up to that time. I still occasionally see her when I give a talk at a local group once a year. She comes to see me and say 'hello' and catch me up on her life. And her life seems more happy, more stable these days. Although I don't know for sure, I don't think she still cuts. Much of that had stopped before she started seeing me.

I wonder now what more information and knowledge might have been evoked had I been wise enough and brave enough to ask such thought provoking questions?

My dilemma at that time, when we first started working together, was one of feeling so very uncomfortable in her presence when she picked her skin. I am wondering now if it was one way for her to find out if my office would be a safe place for her? I did think then, and think now, that there were many good reasons for her actions. And we did talk about them. But your conversation here reminds me of the one episode in which she did cut herself, while we were still working together. After a very intense weekend with many telephone calls back and forth between us, she carved her lover's name in her leg. And in so doing, she made a decision not to kill herself. So the cutting in that episode was a good thing - a substitute for death - and a way to express the rage and pain she was feeling in the love relationship in a way that both she and her lover could actually see, and a way in which she could take some of it from inside and bring it outside. Cutting, in that case, actually saved her life.

And picking her nails also grew less at home as our four years of work together progressed too. I don't know for certain now how she is about these things, but I recently spoke with her pdoc for another reason and asked about her. She had a long and good relationship with her pdoc and the pdoc told me she was doing well.

Anyway, thanks again for your wonderful exchange. Thanks Henry for asking Beth the questions which allowed her to share such rich knowledge and experience.

Warmly,
Gwynneth

Delivery-Date: Tue, 12 Aug 1997 18:20:53 +1200
From: Beth et al

> Chris:
> >
> > Spoilered - references to si and eating problems
> >
> > Beth et al and Henry -
> > thank you for allowing me to listen in on your conversation which has been
> > of great help to me. for some time now i have been unable to get past the
> > violence that i witness in acts of si. some time ago i got over the shock
> > and victim blaming that is a usual professional reaction - but the violence
> > would still trip me up.
> > your conversation helped me see other aspects to it.
> > could i share your conversation with clients and therps i see here who
> > struggle with si???

Dear Chris,
Fine with us if you wish to share our conversation.
Beth et al

> > one question arises for me.
> > anorexiabulimiacompulsiveovereating has long been viewed by professionals
> > as a 'coping mechanism' with therps being taught to look for the 'primary'
> > (eg avoidance of sexuality, maturity) and 'secondary' gain (attention from
> > others) to the patient. We have encouraged each other and 'patients' to
> > seek for and acknowledge this deficit in themselves and in the process
> > turned attention away from the torturous practices that a/b/c recruits
> > victims and therps into and the cultural discourses that sustain and
> > nourish it.
> >
> > how are the other descriptions of si that yous speak of here different from
> > this practice? (because they seem that way to me)

Dear Chris,

Not 100% sure we understand this question. If we do then it's not some deficit in us that we cut because of if anything it was a strength within us.

Can you help us by asking this in a different way cause we are not sure about your question?

Beth et al

Delivery-Date: Tue, 12 Aug 1997 19:31:42 +1200
From: Henry

In a message dated 8/11/97 11:19:10 AM, Chris wrote:

how are the other descriptions of si that yous speak of here different from this practice? (because they seem that way to me)
Great question. I'll try to respond to it in the little time that I have but I'm sure I won't do justice to the question.

First off, when I talk about SI, I will only refer to my understanding of what Beth et al were describing. I don't want to make generalizations about all forms of SI or the contexts in which it is occuring.

I am very familiar with the professional 'knowledges' about anorexia/bulimia (I won't discuss compulsive eating because I actually don't have much experience with this) that see these disorders as a way of coping with underlying conflicts/issues/pathology within the person. I certainly don't subscribe to this view and I know you don't either. My view of the SI that Beth et al describe is quite different from this. I don't see it as a way of coping with underlying intrapsychic conflicts or pathology, but rather, as an attempt to respond to, survive, and covertly resist and protest against practices of torture, oppression, exploitation, etc. I think in many if not most cases the attrribution of an underlying 'disorder' actually serves to disguise and render invisible the oppression the person is experiencing. Thus, psychology/psychiatry by personalizing, psychologizing and pathologizing the effects of oppression end up supporting this oppression by obscuring its operation. but i know you know all this.

I actually think that people who get recruited into anorexia/bulimia may also be attempting to respond to and resist oppression in their own way. For example, women who struggle with anorexia/bulimia are often really interested in proving their worth and value, in gaining the admiration and approval of others, of excelling, of being powerful and able to exercise superhuman self-control and willpower. All this could be understood as a response to and a protest agianst a society which belittles and devalues them, takes control away from them etc. (I would take all of this with a very large grain of salt as I have never really investigated this with people who have struggled with anorexia/bulimia and they would be in a much better position to say whether or not this fits their experience) Where I think this is very different from the kind of SI Beth et al describe is that SI might actually help a person survive whereas a/b might appeal to a person's desire to survive, cope and even protest, but ultimately it is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and it will kill people while convincing them it is saving them. While SI might be an expression of a person's desire to survive and to resist abuse and oppression, anorexia/bulimia, at best, rather than expressing this desire, appropriates and co-opts it, redirecting it in ways that both support patriarchy, extinguishes lives, and heightens rather than relieves suffering. Thus I would be much more reluctant to think about anorexia/bulimia as having a function or playing a positive role in the long-term. I'd be really intereseted in your thoughts about this

All the best,

Henry

Delivery-Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 21:24:16 +1200
From: Chris

Hey Henry
by the by i just love the way that anti-ab therps can't spell aneroxia!!!!!!!
does this mean even our freudian slips have become anti????

>Thus, psychology/psychiatry by personalizing, psychologizing
> and pathologizing the effects of oppression end up supporting this oppression
> by obscuring its operation. but i know you know all this.

you're right i do... but i always enjoy the way that you put these thoughts into words. i also wanted to raise the importance of that difference

> I actually think that people who get recruited into anorexia/bulimia may also
> be attempting to respond to and resist oppression in their own way SNIP!
> I'd take all of this with a very large grain of salt as I have never really
> investigated this with people who have struggled with anorexia/bulimia

there are league members here who would draw attention to the resistance aspects of abc whilst acknowledging that it is a resistance that renders them voiceless and invisible and marginalised/pathologised... it is there though... it's one of the few things i've heard about abc that i could maybe like.

> Where I think this is very different from the kind of SI Beth et al describe
>is that SI might actually help a person survive whereas a/b might appeal to a
>person's desire to survive, cope and even protest, but ultimately it is a wolf in
>sheep's clothing, and it will kill people while convincing them it is saving them.

this is certainly an impression shared by the league. i guess that i naively assumed the same of si (caught as i was by the violence and apparent insistence on self torture that i witnessed) and have probably been searching in my work for aspects of it that confirm that impression.

as you do....
regards
chris

Delivery-Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 21:24:33 +1200
From: chris

Beth et al wrote:

Dear Chris,
> Not 100% sure we understand this question. If we do then it's not some deficit
> in us that we cut because of if anything it was a strength within us.
> Can you help us by asking this in a different way cause we are not sure
> about your question?
> Beth et al

Did you get the idea of my question from Henry's reply?
what i meant was as a p-doc i was trained to interpret the behaviour of 'anroexics' (sic) as either:

my job then became to assist 'patients' and families in seeking these problems inside themselves, owning their presence and changing themselves.

this seems different from the process that henry and yourselves were describing

chris