By Laurel Elders, MCC, CEC
I just ran across another disorder called Bigorexia. Bigorexia is a mental health disorder leading to an imbalanced obsession with bodybuilding and body size. It is an extreme form of body dysmorphia, where a person perceives themselves as too small even though they are a larger size. It is the opposite of anorexia.
From an integration and psychological perspective, all disorders and diagnoses represent the hundreds of ways the egoic self can grip our life. The ego is a patterned way of being birthed as a defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are often linked to our first wounding and/or the trauma we experience. They are designed to keep us emotionally safe.
The downside to a defense mechanism, or ego structure, is that in adulthood (or after the threat passes), it can limit our effectiveness and success in life. It can also keep us from feeling happiness, joy, and fulfillment.
In integration work, essential distinctions exist between the ego and the true self. There is the human ego (home to our defense mechanisms and ego-structures) and our Essence. Ego is a distorted sense of self. Our Essence is the truth of who, what, and why we are. We are not our fears. We are not our defense mechanisms. We are not our limiting beliefs. We are so much more.
Then who are you really? You are your Essence. You are a tapestry of unique gifts, strengths, core values, and the consciousness that makes you uniquely you. Your Essence is the true you.
People say, “I need to find myself,” when they get a nagging internal hint that there might be more to them than their ego suggested. They wake up and begin to bump up against the limitations of ego structure. People naturally experience a mid-life crisis when a part of their ego structure is exposed and there is a desperation to remove it. Removing an ego structure and embracing the Essence of your humanity can feel like anything from an empowering epiphany to a year-long internal fight where nothing makes sense, and letting go of the ego feels horrifyingly scary.
On an integral spectrum, we see:
Integration is the process of shedding the false self, the egoic-structure and inviting a relationship with our very own Essence.
How do we integrate?
If a disorder has become larger than we can handle, therapy is the appropriate approach. Licensed therapists are trained to diagnose mental health disorders that have become a patterned way of being. Therapists help us unwind the pattern fragmentation and help us reorient into our wholeness.
When someone is at a point where they are resourced, ego-aware, has agency over their life, and are ready to grow, then coaching is an exceptional approach for integration.
The emotional healing found in the therapeutic process gets people from -10 to solid ground. Coaching gets people from solid ground to their +10.
Because the ego has been the one to provide our safety in life, it generates skepticism about living through our Essence, our wholeness. On the path to integration, it is normal to feel inner dissonance. On the one hand, fears creep up; on the other, the Essence is now spot-lighting new possibilities. The quest begs the question: Can I trust this new inner wholeness I feel?
Being afraid of our wholeness and inner light reminds me of my profound spiritual experience I had. One evening, decades ago, I was meditating and reflecting on a myriad of life questions. Suddenly, the answers to my questions started pouring in, and the more I asked, the more I received such purity and clarity. Each question elicited a direct response above anything I could have come up with on my own.
As this process quickened, I felt an elevated sensation somatically throughout my entire body. This positive, elated feeling kept expanding. The sensation became so intense that it began to scare me. I got up and walked out of the room, uncertain of what was happening. Even though the energy I felt covering my entire body was positive, it scared me. I always wondered what it was and why I feared it when it was so positive.
Marianne Williamson, a teacher of A Course in Miracles, is quoted as saying, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
Being a coach and walking with hundreds of clients on their integration journey, I’ve learned a critical key to life. The truth of what is happening does not define the truth of what is possible. Our diagnosis is not the truth of who we are or what we are capable of. A diagnosis can be the stepping stone to discovering our wholeness.