"The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Prov 14:1
I am sure that I have read this many times before, however, it just dawned on me how relevant this is for women in general, and particularly women with eating disorders. (Not to say this doesn't apply to men too, but I'm not going to argue with Solomon at this point in time).
In the Bible, there are many meanings for the word "house" - for example, the literal building that you and your family live in, the church, and our physical body, which "houses" our mind, will, emotions, and spirit. This proverb gives us a fantastic analogy - that of "building up" of our self, thereby deeming it valuable and worthy. In this metaphor, Solomon says that this "building up" is wise. Wisdom is also associated with agreeing with God, that what God believes is worthy, IS worthy.
This proverb also illustrates that "tearing down a house" is foolish. WOW. Foolish is a strong word, and suggests "silliness, wickedness, or disgrace" (Hebrew translation). It does make sense that it would be foolishness, however, to tear down something good. After all, our body is good, useful, and worthy for caretaking, isn’t it? If this is so, what would be the reason or purpose of tearing it down?
Unfortunately, on a daily basis, I see so many women (clients, friends, media) "tearing down" their houses - with restriction, bingeing, purging, cutting, pinching, starving...literally abusing themselves because they are so displeased with what their body looks like. They unconsciously believe that if they change the way they look, it will change the way they feel.
However, I believe it's more about changing what their body contains. Their body may contain anger, criticism, beratement, physical abuse, sexual trauma, horrifying memories, disappointment, or any other form of rejection. For most, these feelings and memories are deeply lodged into their unconscious, and many desire to keep these thoughts and feelings deeply buried, just like a Pandora's Box at the bottom of the ocean. When these feelings or memories surface, an often overwhelming sense of powerlessness (which is a feeling related to the original wound, event, or trauma) emerges. Therefore, women will often attempt to control this sense of powerlessness through controlling their bodies through food, exercise, dieting, liposuction, and any other avenue that gives them a sense of beauty and flawlessness.
I believe that the answer lies in relationships, as I believe that’s why we were created. We all need someone to lean on, trust, and talk to. We need to talk out what is shameful, embarrassing, and disheartening. We need to cry, be heard, and to listen. Oftentimes, those who need to be heard the most also fear sharing the most. If you can’t talk it out with someone who you trust, because you can’t trust anyone, then find a place or a space to share. Write, draw, go out to a mountain and scream. Scream out your pain - at God, at your parents, at your body, and at yourself. But don’t hurt yourself any more. That’s just silly.