Self-Hate and the Body

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My last blog addressed the topic of a self-hate attack--a sudden, intense mental episode of self-condemnation. Alternatively (or in addition) self-hatred may be expressed through the body in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. (For more detail, please refer to my blog of June 1).

Picking up on the theme of self hatred, the same kind of self-loathing can be expressed through bodily abuse. One of the most common manifestations of body-directed self-hatred is addiction, such as drinking, smoking, and eating disorders, common methods that numb our negative feelings, and in addition to causing harm to our bodies may also prevent us from tackling underlying problems.

Dr. Allen Berger, author of 12 Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery focuses on Dr. Karen Horney's theory of the idealized image as the source of self-hatred underlying many addictions and the need to replace hate with compassion.

Ms. K. punished her body by overeating and under-exercising. As a child people compared her to her beautiful mother. Most likely unaware of their cruelty and the negative impact of their words, friends said to her, "Too bad you got your father's big nose instead of your mother's good looks." Recovering this past memory helped her understand and transcend the intense feelings of self contempt.

The body is our most valuable possession so it behooves us to uncover the sources for self-contempt in order to replace it with compassion and acceptance.

The mnemonic DESERVE reminds us of benefits that accrue when we treat our bodies with respect.

D =Delight
S=Service-a healthy body serves us well
R=Reserve with energy and ability to enjoy
V=Verve enthusiasm, and vigor
E=Enthusiasm, enjoyment, joy in Movement

Conclusion: Self-hatred lies at the source of many addictions and the subsequent abuse of our bodies. We reap the rewards of good health when we replace hatred with compassion and treat the body as our most important asset.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.