Anorexia Nervosa And Unconscious Processes
Or… Why NLP works better.
From NLP and other cognitive approaches, we know that our thoughts and how they affect what we feel and do are where big changes can happen. In terms of helping people change, we know that if we change what we think, it will change what we do and how we feel about it.
The Difference That Makes A Difference
NLP takes a huge leap beyond that in recognizing that the modality of our thoughts (visual, auditory, kinesthetic etc.), and the qualities of those thoughts (submodalities) are “the difference that makes the difference.”
And beyond that, NLP has developed a set of techniques that can quickly and easily modify those thinking processes and the qualities of those thoughts to get us unstuck where we’re stuck! And it works even if the thought processes are unconscious.
Platitudes And Empty Advice
Unfortunately, most folks don’t really believe that their unconscious thought processes really affect them that much. And many aren’t even aware of their thoughts. And much of cognitive psychology doesn’t bother to make the distinction between the modes of thought, let alone the qualities of those thoughts.
So, outside of NLP, we’re often left with platitudes and empty advice that has people starting at a mirror and telling themselves they are doing better and better when they know inside that they’re not.
The first step may be in recognizing that the qualities of the thoughts we have, have a dramatic affect on how we feel and act. Some folks are catching up…
Unconscious Representations Drive What We Feel And Do
In Imagining One’s Own and Someone Else’s Body Actions: Dissociation in Anorexia Nervosa (Guardia D, Conversy L, Jardri R, Lafargue G, Thomas P, et al. (2012) PLoS ONE 7(8): e43241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043241) scientitsts found that people with Anorexia Nervosa turned sideways when passing through a doorway that was plenty big to allow them to pass without turning sideways.
And their threshold for doing so was much lower than for people without Anorexia Nervosa.
In other words, they seemed to think they were bigger than they actually were. Their internal, unconscious thoughts of how big their body was, caused them to turn sideways to pass through a door–even though they didn’t need to! They didn’t know they were being studied for going through a doorway.
Now, most of us have distorted ideas about our body shape/size/proportions. Just draw a picture of yourself and measure how big your eyes and hands are in the drawing compared to how big they actually are. But for these folks, the distorted body image can result in serious consequences.
So, either the disorder is causing or may be caused by the distorted body image. Caused or caused by, it’s a system. Change one element of a system and you may be able to change the entire system.
And of course, people with Anorexia Nervosa aren’t trying to produce distorted size representations in their heads–they don’t start out to do it. It’s unconscious.
The rub is that some therapies don’t focus on the distorted body image at all. And many that do, try to change it by consciously focusing on it. That’s a slow and frustrating way to work and often, it doesn’t get results.
Where NLP Comes In…
With NLP, we’re interested in how someone does something–the (often unconscious) process they go through in order to produce a result. We want to know the sequence of thoughts and their qualities that result in any condition or habit. Once we figure it out, we have ways to alter the process to get different results.
A NLPer might ask, “How do we get a person who has a distorted body image to see their body image the way a ‘normal’ person does?” We might also ask, “How can we change the body image of any person, that can, in a healthy way, help them reach their goals?”
PS: Discover more about NLP with my free NLP Core Skills Course.