Tao-Te-Chi - Exploring Body Image Disorders

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Most of us have at some point in our lives have seen someone say that they look "fat, ugly or other comment" when we did not see it; even if just on TV. The reality is that this is the mark of a major mental dysfunction that affects the lives of a large percentage of the population. A dysfunction that is entirely correctable and completely avoidable.

A Body Image Disorder is defined as "viewing ourselves as we think we are, not as we actually are." This is the underlying reality of why someone who is all skin and bones can look in the mirror and see a "Fat Cow" looking back at them. This is not something that is good in life; it is not something that should ever happen. Yet sadly it happens all the time in our world.

It is important to understand that this dysfunction affects more women than men yet does not exclude anyone. Sadly however, it affects young girls more than any other group. In fact most of the women that suffer from this condition generally carry it forwards for their teen years. This does not mean this is the only option for getting this dysfunction; merely that it is the most common.

As a result "Body Image Disorders" are in truth the number one leading factor in most people feeling they are "Less Than" in this life. The complication in all of this is that it can happen as the result of feeling less than or can result in gaining the feeling of being less than. This means that a Body Image Disorder does not merely impair are ability to "See" what is really there, it also destroys our self worth, self identity and can lead to major social dysfunction as well.

Body Image Disorders are not fun things to have and put more stress into our lives than just about any other individual dysfunction. This is not to say that it is the worse thing that can happen, however because of its nature it destroys other good things in our lives until there is little left.

The hardest thing to deal with when it comes to Body Image Disorders is their origins. This is not to say that the cause of them is hard to deal with. What it means is that their cause is almost impossible to find. As a result it is best not to deal with their cause; instead we should focus on working to remove the symptoms and rebuild our lives. The reason for this is that with most Body Image Disorders the cause was generally something that individually may not have been very big. It could simply have been the result of an off-hand comment by someone at the age of five. It could have come as a result of someone we care about saying one wrong thing at a time we were vulnerable; or any number of other options.

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The reality is that with a Body Image Disorder it makes no difference where it came from. This is really one of the only mental dysfunctions where this is true. However, because of the nature of the dysfunction there is likely little chance we will ever come to the reality of the root cause. The reason for this is because of the workings of the mind itself. When we have a problem occur our mind evaluates it. If we see it as being too painful to deal with we try and ensure that we do not have to deal with it ever again. This results in the creation of an issue in our minds. This issue if left untouched would simply stay as it is; however each time something happens to remind us of the issue it grows.

What is happening is that the mind, on the idea that this is too painful to deal with, needs to better hide and protect it from coming out. The more times it is touched the harder the mind will work to protect ourselves from it. Eventually the defences reach a point that the cure becomes worse than the disease, as it were. When this happens the results of the defences becomes the bigger problem. This is exactly what happens with a Body Image Disorder. The original issue, generally being very small, grew and grew until it overshadowed the original problem. When this occurs it then triggers the same defences in the brain and a new, bigger and more powerful issue is created - The Body Image Disorder itself.

The worst part about this situation is that the mind actually feels that by having the Body Image Disorder it is protecting us from something worse. This however is not the reality of the situation. What has happened is that the mind has simply taken a minor problem and blown it way way out of proportion. I am sure at some point in our lives we have all done this and know that in the end the real problem was no where near as bad as we thought. This is also true for the Body Image Disorder.

All of the problems and complications have occurred simply because the mind did not have the ability to look at the situation. This was because to the mind if it did look at it, then things would become worse. As a result it simply piled on the defences without ever looking at what it was defending. In truth this occurs with a great number of issues and mental dysfunction, however in most others the root of it all can still be discovered. This is really why Body Image Disorders are so devastating to our lives - the root is either too small to find or no longer exists or matters.

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In all of this however, it is actually relatively easy to fix and remove a Body Image Disorder from our lives. This is not to say that it will not evoke strong emotions, produce a powerful amount of fear or generally feel like it is very complex. These will likely happen when we being to work to remove the dysfunction from our lives. What is important to note is that all off those things are merely the defences we already talked about coming out.

In truth that is what makes up the majority of the bodies internal defences when it comes to issues and dysfunctions. The mind generates strong emotions, fear, and stress; all of which are in truth fake. The mind is the thing that produces these feelings in the first place and as a result can fake them just as easily. This complicates matters because most of us can not separate fake emotions from the real ones. As a result we can easily be tricked by our minds into thinking that the problem buried beneath the defences is a real and serious one; when in fact it is merely one that the mind believes to be serious, even though in reality it is not.

This is important to understand, because without this idea firmly in your mind the whole process is a lot more difficult. If you hold to the reality that all of this is not as bad as it seems, it causes the mind to actually "look" at the problem. It does not want to waste time and resources on something it should not. If you hold the idea long enough and strong enough it forces the mind to investigate the amount of resources dedication to the situation. As soon as this happens the mind will realize that it has gone overkill and will stop trying to defend the issue. When that happens you are already half way to removing it.

Again, this is not to say that that it will be easy to do. The mind has put a lot of time and effort into hiding the situation. It may take some time to finally get through. However, the more that you remind yourself every day that it is not as bad as you think it is, the more quickly it will happen. This is the first part of fixing this problem; programming your mind that it is not all that bad, while at the same time empowering yourself with the idea that you can handle it all.

Two simple things that we generally overlook in our lives, "It's not all that bad!" and "I can deal with this!" By simply reminding these two powerful things to ourselves each and every day, we can totally cut the power and defences of the dysfunction. This alone will generally have a profound impact on the situation and make it so much better to deal with it.

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However as our goal is to try and remove the impact of a Body Image Disorder, one of the easiest and most simple places to start to do this is called "Mirror Time". What this involves, as the name suggests, is spending time in front of a mirror. The problem with the Body Image Disorder is that we do not "see" the reality of what we look like. Mirror Time is an excellent way to correct this lack in our lives. For this to be effective we actually have to dedicate separate time each day to just look into the mirror. The reason for this is that if we are busy doing out hair, brushing our teeth or anything else then we can not focus on what we really need to be doing.

To be successful at this we need to be able to look at the person looking back without cringing. Once we can do that then we can begin to actually "look" at them; do they have kind eyes, nice hair, good bone structure, etc? What is it that we like about them? This is an important step as we want to start off on the right foot. If we start with negatives we generally have a huge way to go to get to zero before we can move into the positives. If there is nothing that we find we like then we can always reserve judgment till we get to know this person a bit better.

The main goal in all of this is really just to get to know this person looking back at us. Once we have positive things to focus on then we can begin to build on them. What else do we find we like about them; even if only just a little bit. The more time we spend doing this we may start to realize that this person is really funny. They may turn out to have a great personality or sense of humour. We may even begin to decide that we like things about them that at first we found annoying.

Just like spending time with anyone, the more we get to know them the more we begin to see who they really are. The important thing in all of this is that the person looking back is us! All the things we find that we like about them we really like about ourselves. This is then very easy to transfer to ourselves directly. We can begin to make these same judgments outside of Mirror Time and carry them into the rest of our lives. If we find that we are funny, then we can begin to be funny in the real world as well as in the mirror. Things naturally have a way of spilling over like that.

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The great thing about this is that as we begin to like the person we see looking back it becomes very easy to remove the veil from our eyes. If we like what we see, then there is no reason to hide it anymore. The more that this happens the more we will be able to see. All of it working together to spark a Domino effect in our own lives. The upshot of which is that we get to rid ourselves of the Body Image Disorder. All it takes is a willingness to keep trying, a dedication to doing it every day and the goal to become better.

With Mirror Time all it takes in the beginning is to spend just five minutes a day looking in the mirror in this way. The more we do then the more we will benefit; however we only need to start small to create large effects later on. It is important not to time it however, more just guess how much looking feels right for five minutes. It is also important to understand that in the beginning it will likely feel stupid, dumb, fearful or scary to do this. In truth that means that you are doing it right. With this technique it is also important to ask yourself things like "Why do I feel dumb spending time with myself?" or "Why am I afraid of myself?" This is important because that is the reality of the situation. Do not worry about the answer, it is not important, what matters is that you ask the question and think about it for a second.

Over time it will become easier and you can extend the amount of time you spend doing Mirror Time. As a guideline it is recommended that you spend no less than five minutes a day for the first week. At which time you can have a look at yourself and see if anything has begun to change. Regardless of it there are changes or not, on the second week take it up to ten minutes. Once again, after the week is up have a look at yourself. Then for the next two weeks after that try for fifteen minutes a day. Each week stopping to have a look at yourself and anything that has changed.

If at any point you notice things changing be sure to give them proper credit. Do not pawn them off as just your imagination. Even the smallest change today can become a profound one for tomorrow. The more you acknowledge and celebrate any positive changes the more they will grow in your own life. However, if at the end of the first month you see no change at all then it is time to stop. There really is no point continuing if nothing is changing. This is a powerful technique, even in its simplicity, however some people simply have far too powerful of defences set up for this to work. After a solid month of doing it you will have an idea if that applies to you or not. If is does then you may need more direct professional help; whereas if it is working for you then simply keep doing it. After the month is up simply keep at the fifteen minute mark. There is no harm at all in going longer each day, however 15 minutes is generally more than enough.

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It is also important to note that if at any point you miss a day you do not quit. It is however important to see why you missed the day. There should be no excuse at all that should stop you from spending time looking in the mirror. The reality is that the Mirror part is only half of the situation. What we are also doing is showing ourselves that we are worth the time, effort and hardship of spending time with ourselves. If we skip days we will be missing out on this important part of life.

Do your best and don't worry too much about the exact amount of time you spend doing this every day. What is most important is that we do it every day without fail and without excuse. When we can do this then we can work to becoming whole and complete in our own lives.

Copyright April 2005
ISBN 0-9739566-2-3


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