Intrapsychic versus Interpersonal Conflicts
A common issue for disregulated eaters is how parental and cultural messages to be a certain weight or eat “right” can actually backfire miserably and create mixed feelings about whether or not to be that weight or eat healthfully. You even may be vaguely aware of feeling conflicted but, more likely, you’re mired in contradictory emotions and don’t know it! The only way out is to discover the origin of the polarity and resolve it.
In psych parlance, this type of conflict is termed intrapsychic and happens when we’re at odds with ourselves in an ongoing, persistent way that’s difficult to break out of. We feel opposing sets of emotions or have mutually exclusive wishes which create a tug of war or stalemate within us. When parents pressure us to be a certain way (with weight, food or otherwise), when they’re regularly rigid, controlling, demanding, or non-validating and exert pressure on us to not feel what we feel or not be who we are, we become conflicted. Here’s how. Craving their approval and fearing to disappoint them, we desperately want to please them. However, doing so makes us feel confused and angry about negating our own wants and needs, that is, if we go along with what they want, we lose our sense of self but win their approval and love. Alternately, if we go along with what we want, we retain our sense of self, but disappoint them and lose their approval. This is what therapists call being placed in a no-win situation or double bind.Conflict begins interpersonally (between persons), in this case, between us and our parents. As adults, whether they’re in our lives or not, whether they're dead or alive, because we’ve deeply internalized their messages, what develops is an intrapsychic conflict (between aspects of self). Stuck in this double bind, we continue to struggle with honoring both sets of wishes—eat “right,” be a certain weight, please our parents, but feel as if we’re “giving in”…or abuse food, be at an unhealthy weight, and “show them,” but remain unhappy with ourselves. We may think the problem is with our parents, but it is now within us. The only way out is to identify and resolve this conflict, step outside of it, rise above the double bind and say, “What is best for me now?”—then do it.
If you suffer ongoing inner discord, you’ll have to work through it until it’s resolved on the side of health and happiness. You’ll have to relinquish the desire to defy your parents (or society) and prove them wrong and abandon the wish that they will love you as is. Emotional maturity means separating your wants from those of your parents or others, not caring so much what they think of or about you, but following your own star and deciding how you want to eat and what weight is best for you.