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Eating Disorders ‒ Permission ‒ 'Not Allowed To’ Blocks ‒ 4 Steps To Eliminate Fear Of Punishment

Written by: JL Keez, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Permission. When permission for happiness finally reigns within the soul. The belief that held the opposite. Has yielded, at last, from despair. To free the one once confined.

Lining the eating disorder are fears that determine the decisions made as to how one lives their life. Recovery involves identifying each fear with the view of turning each into a lesson for learning about how we have interpreted the fear and hence, the role it plays. It also means challenging the fear of truth to see if we are able to redefine this in a way that sees permission reign.

“Permission is the process of allowing yourself to undertake a particular action”

As I travelled the road of recovery I discovered I carried several blocks steeped in ‘not allowed to’. With a controlled up bring telling me what I could and couldn’t do, and with punishment the frightening entity held as the determiner for behaviour, it was not surprising I ended up down a tunnel where permission for happiness was trapped with me!

Endeavouring to climb out and thrive, I experienced great difficulty when asked to replace fear driven behaviours with those that supported and filled my life with happiness; to allow permission to exist so I could live my way. I remember struggling with what I was allowed to do and what I wasn’t allowed to do. This sounds bazaar now. But as I navigated recovery I acknowledged I was overwhelmed with ensuring I made decisions that meant I would not be punished in some way.

To site an example, attending social engagements where alcohol was served was a huge ‘no, no’! I learnt that this was bad. As a child I took this on as a punishable decision should I ever inhabit places like front bars or parties where alcohol flowed. I felt the weight of punishment heavily. As I explored this fear I needed to do some research! I asked those who had lives where alcohol existed. I asked their learnings and opinions. I observed the lack of punishment ‒ unless you include the sore heads endured the next day!

Discovering that, indeed, the consumption of alcohol did not come with a huge stick, I gradually gave myself permission to enter the premises where alcohol was served. Fear accompanied me at first, and I awaited the dreadful repercussion. Repercussion did not turn up. Over time, giving myself permission to make an alternate decision became easier. Eventually, my body relaxed. I recall the moment when challenged regarding alcohol at my wedding ‒ gosh, that was tough. My parents made it clear this was not an option, yet my husband to be’s family consumed alcohol socially ‒ and certainly at weddings! Coming up against family boundaries meant fighting against time held ideals. I did come under fire!

How did I eventually solve this one and give myself permission to have alcohol in my life? Through observation and renewed mindset. I came to understand that alcohol is a choice not punishable for its existence. Consuming such does not come with needing to hide from punishment. Of course, I caution to add, that alcohol has its demons when inappropriately used, but where administered through education I could see I was allowed to decide how this would be in my life … or not! Peace finally found me ‒ on this one!

Where an aspect of eating disorder development is characterised by blocks built upon the heavy hand of, “You are not allowed to”, releasing the reigns of control can be inextricably massive.

How then do we achieve this necessary end?

Before stepping through the process of granting oneself permission, it is a useful exercise to outline what punishment looks like. This will be an individual assessment defined by different words. Each, however, are as important, and real, as the next. For me it was a hand that hit, a voice that yelled, a look that terrified and a berating that infiltrated every cell of my body. I wore punishment like a glove that could not be removed and hence, grew tighter as the years passed by.

Giving punishment a definition allows us to have a starting point for recovery. It provides us with the depth and detail we are working with. It provides those supporting us with a parameter by which to measure the pace we go in unravelling this hold. Through delving deeper into the definition we are also able to begin to identify where the fears lie ‒ exactly what we are up against.

With definition in place, there may well be the need to explore the reality of the description spoken. Pulling it apart to assess the truth of the perception, to replace it with a softer approach, or a more real idea, will ensure the task of overturning punishment will be an easier road to travel.

With punishment redefined to an acceptable level, let’s explore how we can overturn the blocks it creates so we can live a healthy life lined with ‘allowed to’ rather than, ‘not allowed to!’

Where permission is a natural unfolding …

Step 1:

Do your research. Open up the discussion with a range of people prepared to share their views. Do they believe in punishment for certain behaviours or choices? Explore where their ideas generate from. How do they describe punishment? As you do so you will undoubtedly find a whole range of thoughts regarding how we live on this earth. Family beliefs, culture, environment, education and life events will form a strong base for ideas.

Your responsibility, to you, is to apply those learnings and ideas that resonate with you. Remove punishment and see how this changes your thinking and approach to a behaviour you are considering. Design a new approach. Once in place you will then find your lane in life alongside those people who share your truths. This will be your happy place where happiness reigns. And yes, you will develop ideas different to others. That is absolutely ok. As long as you are at peace with your choices, and that big stick remains in the closet, all will be well in your world!

For those experiencing eating disorders, where acceptance is at the top of our agendas, I know and understand from experience, that this is where you will find it. Removing the blocks of perceived punishment, replacing each with, ‘I am allowed to do that!’ sees despair and confinement retreat. Freedom to simply be, where permission is a given, prevails.

Step 2:

Ask permission its purpose; that is, why the need for permission even exists in the first place. All fear-based concerns have a purpose. Many are in place to protect the owner from a fear; initially. I suggest sitting in the silence, clearing the mind of all thought, and quietly asking, “Why am I afraid to allow myself to …?” I found conversing with permission opened the door to understanding exactly why I carried this. I cared greatly for my safety and through adopting and maintaining the messages regarding what I was not allowed to do, I kept safe. Going beyond the confines meant punishment; that was not the preferred option!

Once I redefined punishment for me and explored the associated fear for truth, permission to live differently emerged. The belief holding the opposite thought then had no other option but to yield to the new thought. It was a win win for both of us. I was finding peace in being me, and permission had finally found rest within me.

Step 3:

Give yourself permission to make decisions that align with your recovered life. Give yourself permission to 'trial and error’ new choices ‒ as long as you are safe! Draw up a list of those ‘not allowed to’s’. Start with the easiest. Cross it off once 'trialled and errored’. Design your new list of ‘allowed to’s’. This will always be up for change of course. That is the beauty of life … we can change our minds. Life is not a stagnant journey.

Take deep breaths should fear arise, and do it anyway. Your confidence will grow as a punishment simply does not eventuate.

Step 4:

This was the step that finally found me letting go of punishment and the ‘not allowed to’s’. Ask yourself, is what I am about to do infringing upon the rights of others? Will it adversely impact those I connect with. Where the answer is “No!’, enjoy! Where the answer is “Yes” I suggest you give this choice some serious thought. Chances are, if this impacts others it may well ultimately impact you; and not in a good way! What I call ‘educated allowed to’s’ as opposed to ‘uneducated allowed to’s’ will be your guide moving forward.

Eating disorders are entities consumed by an array of fears influencing the depth and detail of the eating disorder. Our task is to identify the array pertinent to our individual experience. Permission may well be high on the list. Seemingly insurmountable, it does not need to be the defining end to recovery. Educating the self in how to release the hold of ‘not allowed to’s’ so ‘allowed to’s’ reign is imperative.

Establishing understanding to gather useful tools and skills to eliminate your list is the method to be followed to remove the blocks; permission then yields to desired freedom sought. The tunnel of despair falls away.

When happiness becomes the experience this is when you know permission is guiding you in the right direction …

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JL Keez, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

J.L Keez survived a nine-year struggle with anorexia nervosa. She endured years of mental illness, including suicidal depression, OCD and depersonalisation. Today, she is the Director of JL Keez Anorexia Unlocked, a passionate speaker, author and Thought Leader in her field. In her role as a Reality Therapy Coach and influential teacher she empowers others to heal their lives through delivering the understanding required to do so.



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