I had the privilege of attending a seminar given by Kenneth Perlmutter, Ph.D. founder of the Family Recovery Institute. When the treatment focuses on the addicted or eating disordered as “the problem” that needs fixing, we are speaking about patient centered treatment. Dr. Perlmutter’s program centers on family dynamics. This is because everyone in the family has a role or two they are playing, keeping the illness alive within the family. Until these roles are understood and changed to healthier interactions, these illnesses will continue down to the next generations.
This is a hard thing for many family members to do, to confront the “roles” they are playing, because the family wants to hide the fact that shameful acts occur in the family. Acts that would be unacceptable in other families by the parents assessment. The “blue elephant” in the room needs to be ignored, because to address it, means the family can no longer pretend that there aren’t any issues to be contended with inside the family.
Dr. Perlmutter’s model explains the dynamics that occur in the family where family members can fit more than one of the aspects with “shame” being in the middle, the unspoken “blue elephant” that the addict brings into the family with their negative behavior.
“Escape” is the first type of personality. This is what the addict or eating disordered person is doing to numb themselves in whatever manner is chosen. However, it isn’t only the person who has been labeled with the problem who escapes. It could be a parent who is also abusing alcohol and drugs, eating or not, or maybe overworking to stay away from the home with the excuse that this is what the provider “has to do.”
The next type of person is the “Fixer” who is the person who is going to do everything in his or her power to “fix” the afflicted person. This person may be a martyr living to keep the afflicted one alive, rushing in to “save” the day after many emergencies have come about due to the lack of judgment the addict has demonstrated. This could also be known as the “enabler.” Many times this person “lives” to be the “savior,” throwing all
his or her energy toward the addict, no longer able to take care of themselves.
The “Distractor” is the next type. The one who can be funny, distracting the family from the problems caused by the addicts issues.
The “Blamer” is the one who is usually the very controlling parent who is going to blame the addict for all the terrible ramifications of their behavior. The blamer works to control the situations going forward utterly uninterested in the basic emotional needs of their child.
A distractor could also be the child who gets all the attention for great behavior, getting good grades or being talented in some fashion. Perhaps there is a sibling that has a disability and takes up much of the parents emotional and physical energy, the child that feels left out will do things to numb the pain of the lost emotional connection. It can be with food or lack thereof, drugs and alcohol, over achieving in school, sports or the arts, gambling,etc.
Parents have to learn to be more emotionally available, f they are emotionally blocked off from their children and/or their spouse. Authentic communication has to be had where a connection is created based on what the parent can handle, no longer allowing the addict or eating disordered to control the household through manipulative behavior like making the parent feel guilty for not going along with what the addict or eating disordered desires without that time necessary to demonstrate better judgment and healthier living.
The parent does this by learning about the wounds that the parent has suffered, allowing him/her to “respond” to the addicts behaviors and “outburst,” instead of reacting. The idea that one can control another’s behavior needs to be replaced by the idea that the parent can express what the parent’s needs for the relationship to work. By letting the addict know that she or he is loved, and will only be able to go so far, in terms of receiving what can be safely handled by the parent.
For example, meeting once a week for an hour for an ice cream may be all the parent can handle. This, instead of the addict or eating disordered feeling that, “going home” to the parents is what s/he is entitled to without regard for the parents own needs. Disrupting the family home is NOT in the best interest of anybody.
Though I have my issues with the 12-step programs that Dr. Perlmutter employs, because of my training in hypnotism and the belief that no one has to be an addict for life. I do believe that once parents better understand the family dynamics, the blame and shame can stop, bringing honest communication based on a true feeling of love toward their child. Even the addict understands that a parent cannot protect them. By letting go of the falsehood that the parent can really do anything to protect that child from harm, while allowing the child to make the choices she or he chooses, then dealing with the ramifications of those choices, is the best way to help navigate those choices. In so doing the parents will no longer be used, abused or manipulated. Instead the parent becomes in control of his/her on life. According to Dr. Perlmutter most often this too will allow the addict or eating disordered to stop the negative behavior, allowing the whole family to heal.
This process works most of the time because the addict or eating disordered child knows that the parent wants the best for them. It also becomes crystal clear that the negative behaviors will no longer be tolerated for the right reasons. It really is a win-win for all involved.
Do I have an Eating Disorder? Now What?
Do you suspect that either you or a loved one might be suffering from an Eating Disorder? Find out for sure as well as the best ways to treat Anorexia or Bulimia in "Do I have an Eating Disorder? Now What?", currently available from the Dawning Visions Hypnosis Store.Do I have an Eating Disorder? Now What?
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