Here’s part two of my interview with Susan Kleinman, the dance/movement therapist for The Renfrew Center of Florida, which specializes in eating disorders and other mental health issues in women.
If you didn’t read it yet, check out part one of our interview, where Susan offers her insight into dance/movement therapy (DMT) for eating disorders. She also lists several great techniques inspired by DMT for readers to try at home.
Below, she talks about dealing with emotions, seeing your body and yourself positively and much more.
Q: Many people with food and body image issues struggle with identifying and expressing their emotions in appropriate and healthy ways. Can you talk about the healthy ways individuals can get in touch with their emotions and manage them?
A: Developing strategies to cope that are based on one’s strengths can help to give form to feelings in healthier and more satisfying ways. Essentially, the old adage, “Make a friend of an enemy and you’ll have a friend for life,” is a good one to keep in mind.
For example, if you are having a bad day, instead of picking on yourself, you could treat yourself like you would a friend. Being kind to yourself might allow you to relax a bit and that might in turn, give you new energy to problem solve.
A struggle may represent a conflict and if you explore what that conflict is about, then, you might be able to take charge of the situation by choosing different, more productive ways to express yourself.
Q: It’s not uncommon for women to see their bodies as enemies or even strangers. How can women reconnect with their bodies and start seeing them more positively?
A: It is so easy to get upset with yourself and that can provide a distraction from whatever may really be bothering you. Also, treating yourself as a stranger is another way of rejecting yourself, your needs, feelings and thoughts; while treating yourself as an enemy, may have roots in anger or frustration that you aim at yourself.
For both, I think the challenge is to recognize that when you are responding to yourself in these ways, it is a signal that needs to be understood. For example, how might treating yourself as an enemy or a stranger reflect feelings you are having that need to be understood and accepted? How might new understanding help you feel more positive?
Q: You also help women strengthen their sense of self, which is important for eating disorder recovery and for body image struggles, too. What are some of the ways you help individuals gain a more stable and positive sense of self?
A: It takes a great deal of courage to examine one’s struggles and the role they have played in the creation and maintenance of an ED. I believe that trust in oneself is critical to developing a positive sense of self.
I encourage women to accept and increase awareness of themselves without imposing judgment, and to explore ways to build on their strengths.
I love what someone I worked with in the past has developed into a special “mantra.” She sings it and it is very catchy and uplifting. She also shares it with others in recovery to help them risk change. It goes like this: “I am who I am; I am my own special creation.” She believes that accepting this notion and building it into strength can help lead a person to increased self-acceptance and new growth. I agree with her.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about dance/movement therapy, expressing their emotions or a related topic?
A: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share about dance/movement therapy and what I believe to be important regarding treatment for women with eating disorders. For further information regarding dance/movement therapy and my work at The Renfrew Center of Florida, you might read these articles that are posted on www.eatingdisorderhope.com, a wonderful website with lots of articles and interesting information:
Thank you, Susan! I’m honored to share your wise words with Weightless readers. Stay tuned tomorrow for a helpful activity from Susan on processing experiences.