April 28, 2012

The Marshmallow Mother

Describing her self as a “marshmallow,’” Cindy, a mother with a chronic eating disorder came to me with the complaint that she had no control over her four children. The more difficult they became, the more her eating problems worsened.

This can be a common problem where people, for fear of hurting others or of conflict, don’t want to assert themselves. The fact is however, that this lack of action does end up hurting people and harming relationships – including yourself – as your eating disorder becomes worse.

For the mother above, she found that to the extent that she avoided conflicts, there was a cascading effect for both her and her children. As she failed to create boundaries and responsibilities for her children, they floundered; and the more distressed and angry she became, the worse her eating disorder became.

She blamed herself for all of the problems in the family. The fact is that no problem is ever all one person’s fault. If you take on all of the responsibility and guilt for everything, it is much harder to see a solution and it is much harder to change.

When this mother started asserting herself with her children, the family members benefited. For example, when she told the children to clean the dishes, not only did she have one less chore, her children felt more empowered and were much happier as their mother was happier. And her eating disorder improved.

In families, as in all human systems, everything is connected. Even if those around you don’t seem to budge, there is always one part of the system that you can modify – yourself. And when you change yourself, the rest of the system will change, as in the case above when the Mum changed so did the rest of the family.

Please give us you experiences.

Yours in being true to yourself,


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