Female patients use their bodies as a canvas on which to express their distressby Anna Blundy / June 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
I started putting on weight during my second analysis seven years ago. At first this felt like progress—I wasn’t trying to be perfect anymore. I was beginning to be happier in my skin, not worried about how I appeared in the anyway creepy male gaze.
I thought I was accepting my femininity and allowing myself to be softer in a literal as well as a psychological sense. Then my analyst asked if my eating felt “out of control.” Oh, here we go, I thought. He is a man, as are all three doctors who have felt free to advise me to lose weight. I should stress that I wasn’t ever fat in a “pass this to the fat, blonde lady over there,” kind of way. Just podgy.
Unhappy women so often seem to be obsessed with their bodies. Female patients use their bodies as a canvas on which to express their distress. An early patient of mine lifted her t-shirt mid-session to show me an appalling map of scars, scratches and an open wound.
It is shocking to hear about the endless diets and the absurd rules for appearing attractive to horrible men, the cutting and biting and the enthusiastic self-mutilation via ostensibly beautifying surgery and treatments. Addiction to “enhancing” surgical procedures is, of course, an addiction to self-harm.
The thinking is that women’s bodies equal mother, so women take their mother issues out on their own bodies and men take their mother issues out on women’s bodies. Though an over-simplification, it explains why female bodies are subject to so much negative and positive attention.
Another patient who self-harms speaks to her mother regularly by telephone—it took us a year to work out that she does it during (!) or immediately after these calls. Years in, she is much better and lately reported an irritated conversation with her Mum. “Instead of internalising it I actually snapped at her and told her I had to go because I was late for work.” Yes!
The same patient grew up with a father who “had an eye for the ladies” and “was a ladies’ man,” that is, wanting to have sex…