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Anorexia: The System

Creative Self-Destruction by Karen Kellock PhD
Please help the author with a generous donation:
Karen Kellock, Box 1512, Borrego Springs, California 92004
She's also seeking a publisher for her 400-page book:
The Fruit Path to Spiritual Sanity -- of which, this is just one chapter.
If interested, contact Karen, or her agent, Bob Silverstein, 
at Robert Silverstein Literary Agency, Box 694, Keaau, Hawaii 96749 (808) 965-9494

No one has power but that which comes from God. All we see around is false power—ego displays and tyranny. Ego and despotism is the compensation of false power, which seeks to smash the meek which it reads as weak. This is the entire basis of anorexia psychosa --- a dominated, victimized ectomorph in the Land of the Big, Brutal and Brusque.

At the basis of false power is social hypnotism: strength-in-numbers, also known as consensus—the “WE” vs. “ME”.  The misfit constantly collides with the prideful majority and is rarely accepted on her terms; because, like all genius, hers lies in contrary instincts and deviant associations couched with austere simplicity. To the “dull normals” around her, she seems inanely simple and mad. She has the tragic ability to see through the contradictions which “everyone knows are true.” Having things on her own terms is only her REWARD for having come through these group (tough-as-steel) resistances. She must forge enough strength and character to define her own way and go forth freely as Queen—for every day. But, until that time she has to learn how to deal with those in power. Anorexia is an example of what occurs in the conflict between the emerging self and the POWERS THAT BE.


She is born energetic and creative but meets a hard wall. As her creative self-expression is blocked it turns inward to creative self-destruction. Those with the dominant view are always jealous of God’s power in true genius, as they think they are the Godly, because “everyone knows” the consensus is God—or true reality. The power of group thinking, or consensual reality, is the HERD.

The more energy she has at birth, the more energy can be blocked and the more self-destructive she can become. Energy wells up, ready for expression, and meets an obstruction. If as a child your drawings drew ridicule that creativity turned inward, and thwarted creators become bad or mad. Since the energy must go somewhere, it is misapplied to sin, recycled in outworn channels of bad habit. There it is locked in a trap of despair. The most energetic become the worst when warped.

Picture it: As a child you are looking out the window, pondering. You’re in a beautiful state of meditation and contemplation. Suddenly someone attacks your reality and calls you “lazy”. Your wonderful reverie is smashed and blocks inward. To adapt, you curtail your own desires and act by rote. The striving to be  is blocked and neurosis sets in to act out the false self and submerge the true one.

ENERGY is the same as SPIRIT—it cannot be held down without severe and dire results. This energy when finally released brings self-expression—the talents of the true self—and perfect success against overwhelming odds. If you feel EXHAUSTED, then most likely someone is robbing you—of energy, your most precious asset. PEOPLE—they can’t leave well enough alone. If it ain't broke, they still wanna fix it! They want your attention—if it’s elsewhere, they rebel. You may meet someone and all is congenial. Then they discuss you with someone else, gossip degrades your image, and they side against the Great, as your new “friend” rejects and projects the mess back onto you. This is just human nature, as it adapts in groups, the fodder of soap operas: constant treachery in the pecking-order system.

I have seen this conflict--between truth and social falsehood (or spirit and group tyranny)—so often in psychologists. who may know psychology but still want the approval of people. Despite their head knowledge they seek the approval of the herd: Dichotomized, they lose their psychology and become more blind than their patients. Having lost truth they work through the image instead, insisting on being called “Dr.” to underscore their status in that system. Split, true power is gone, while the image is staunchly maintained. Owned by the herd, they persecute the loner like the anorexic who prefers privacy.

These “pros” are outer-adaptants, caught up exclusively in an outer journey of negotiated meanings and current fads of thought. If the patient won’t truckle to their promptings to become worldly, hostility emerges. We are now approaching a very dangerous situation, with the “authority figure” in control and angrily wanting to make the other adapt. The “pro” must stay on top to confirm her image; and while linking with the family she gains the tragic power to institutionalize the stubborn victim. This split between truth and image does not occur in a Spiritual and Creative Society.

So what can one do? Just self-educate and insulate.


We are all born whole and unique. So too, the anorexic has a natural biological striving to Be—and meets an obstruction: A sudden, searing shock called EARLY TRAUMA. Suddenly all creative energies block and mobilize-for-emergency. The brain then makes a TEMPLATE of the situation in a drive to correct it. From that point on, she repeats the same mistakes to correct the problem, but never can. That, in a nutshell, is neurosis: pure repetition, acting in the present as if it is the past, and never learning from mistakes. Not learning—the low “C” factor of all neurotics—is due to ANXIETY which we know PREVENTS LEARNING. The anorexic perpetually falls into the same old traps—of the group, and her own.

For everything there is a season as the normal evolution of the person takes place. But NOT SO when a template is involved: things are stuck and stagnant—pure repetition. This stagnant redundancy is further frozen with sin—habits to avoid anxiety from the template, the unfinished business of the past. To succeed, one must be apt to receive. But the victim is not receptive to this whistle, for she is drowning in the siren within from fear and self-doubt.

The sins and the system’s template intermesh. They become one, just as when drinking falls in with lower companions, Her answer is to release this wall of concrete and fly above like a bird--—at all times looking down  on the system and the world. She finds that fasting, or just being thin allows her to transcend time and place and from this new vantage point (and still being stuck in a sick, sexist and stultifying system) becomes more powerful. The group can never be superior, for in all eras its just consensus: “the extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.” All through history, the group was wrong, the individual right. Only in the fasting state can she partially prove this out. Eating, she is completely overcome.

The best example of early trauma, templates, systems and cycles of sin is the anorexogenic family system—the system surrounding the disease of anorexia psychosa. Since anorexics are perfectionist-overachievers Great Success occurs when eliminating the influence of these systems and sin cycles. When purified, it is now down to the attraction between like elements:


The young girl is not born with a “power drive” like some writers say. The power drive results from the thwarting of the naturally expansive biological striving to become; and the feeling of lack of ability which compels constant improvement. This thwarting comes from dis-confirmation in a sexist system. From this early frustration of the need to be, to feel, to have power; a “power drive” results to compensate for this deep, gnawing sense of powerlessness coming from early frustration of expansion. Later acculteration only adds to this sense of powerlessness.


The anorexic constantly re-experiences the tyrannical constraints of relationships: imprisonment and frustration. It is vastly oversimplified to see this as “rejection of femininity” or “reversion to infancy.” What she shows is a keen desire to become an autonomous adult; rejecting the part of femininity that brings the terror of being a passive vessel.  What she escapes, then, is the negative part of social existence. It is the  stronger intellectual patients who seek emaciation and fasting as the magic key to greater power in society:



Exposure to lustful glances

Critical remarks


Sexual advances





Having endured the anorexogenic system which is so disconfirming, the anorexic finds fasting a blissful state of well-being and overcoming. Body and spirit are now set free—the whole body-mind is agile and nimble. Material worries and irritations drop away. Her confines of reality are “YES” rather than “NO” as her horizons grow ever-wider. The spirit becomes sensitive, far-seeing and acute; the conscience quick and lively. She fasts to transcend the system burying her alive.

At this point, she is hospitalized. Mere admission to the hospital, a rigid and regressive atmosphere, causes grave emotional crises as nurses and doctors assume the role of severe parents. Her escape into “symptoms” , her only means of preserving her autonomy from symbiotic and destructive relationships, is blocked. When older, the “crystallized anorexic personality” is considered “incurable” by the socialized pro who can’t sympathize with her need for reclusive isolation.   After a lifetime of encroachment, sweet solitude—precious privacy—is all she wants! To understand this syndrome, let’s look at the family system, the most extreme example of all such systems.


The home of the anorexic is a conspiratorial climate.  All disorders are surrounded by sick systems but the anorexic patterns are magnified. These systems have no true leadership, block communication, show secret alliances and coalitions, and always shift blame when problems arise. To the anorexic they say: “I reject what you say and your definition of yourself (and myself) in this relationship.” No matter what she says or does, her image stays the same in that system. The family constantly stresses her “pathological” state of mind, discounting all her messages while ignoring her improvements. 

They do this by mutual agreement. This psychotic confusion between past and present is the RULE. As she refuses to be stuffed with food they’ll say “she’s reverted to a grave form of anorexic behavior,” though the consequences are invisible. Let’s look at the characteristics of families with these marked communication disorders, to see how they maintain sickness in one member, the victim-patient.


There is no real leadership—it’s the GROUP DYNAMIC which leads. Here we see that the COALITION (siding of the group against one) IS THE LEADERSHIP. The group must maintain its identity (as having had the right, in its superior position, of mistreating the patient in the past) by maintaining the status quo. Thus, everything the patient says is ignored or disconfirmed.

No one leads because each feels a need to blame decisions on the others. About the illness they all say “there is nothing that can be done about it.” The subject is not the patient—she is ignored—but the illness. The result is pathology in leadership, for if nothing can be done, there is no reason for anyone to take the reins and change with new circumstances. Thus the anorexogenic system is rigid like none other: a leaderless but rigid group mind. Here we see the principal of nonsummativity in systems theory: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In a sense, it is the system  which rules, and the members are only mindless robots.


The most serious problem is the system of alliances, the basis of a large number of secret rules that are never mentioned or hinted at but distort all patterns of behavior. Without true leadership, there’s just the group-mind goal of keeping her down, and GOSSIP MAKES THE SYSTEM RUN. Any mishap instantly shoots through the family grapevine. The group mind says punish, misjudge, label, institutionalize. She is conspicuous against the ground of the pronounced sense of family, the collective identity, with her excluded.


The anorexic’s symptoms appear after a change occurs in her link to the elders, her only protection from peers.  Her siblings perceive her as having “special privileges” so as they grow in power and the parents recede, the family equilibrium changes along with her presumed “privileges.” As her siblings take control, she is thrown down to the ground and her sickness takes on psychotic proportions. At this point, self-starvation and bulimia become unconscious devices just to maintain sanity in this system—to carve out her own self-nurturing, protective niche and park there. But, she is filled with shame—and if one feels shame, people will always take control.

The patient begins in isolation from the others in her family. Far from being allied with anyone she is secretly detested by all. Her fatal loyalty to the older generation makes her a stranger and a resentment to her siblings. Friendships (her only allies) are never incorporated into the group but only criticized for being too intimate, gross, dull or morbid. Any new associate they will quickly dissuade against her—“how can you like her—don’t you know what she is?


The mothers see themselves as completely dedicated to the good of others. Their avowed generosity crushes all criticism of their constant encroachments, preventing the victim’s privacy or boundaries. Anyone who refuses to see the mother in this light is attacked. Her constant invasions are the very things driving the anorexic into cerebetonia (lifelong desire for privacy) and isolation, Due to lost boundaries, and after such unrelenting harshness of her sisters;  everyone seems intrusive and invasive. Bulimia is a perverted attempt to establish these boundaries: By absorbing herself in food and cooking she is finally flourishing in her own self-nurturing reality, which is normally “swallowed” by the family system. Food means “mother”—she is mothering herself since no one else will.


In a system where her every word is rejected, rejecting food maintains this interactional style. The therapist, since he’s the “professional,”  incorporates into the system where all play morally superior. But, in joining the superior group he is made impotent as he confirms their false view about the patient and her illness. He is paid to lie, to succumb to the tyranny of the group.

The whole communicational repertoire—rejection of messages, disconfirmation, invasion of boundaries, blame-shifting, and secret alliances—are all HIGHLY REPETITIVE PATTERNS geared to keep things the same.  The anorexic system—the system to which anorexia is the only appropriate reaction—is the most rigid and repetitive of all systems—whether psychotic, depressant, or alcoholic. There are so many interesting facts: e.g. with dual alcoholism in the parents, 95% of daughters become bulimic. The eating function becomes disturbed in the context of constant arguments at meal time. No system shows more clearly how creative energy is blocked when the normal drive to become, to be, and to be confirmed is lost. Energy blocked turns self-destructive. She fasts to become invisible, since she already is in that system. Subconsciously her body seeks to reflect her missing selfhood.


Humor becomes the system’s defense mechanism: “intelligent,” witty exchanges and funny faces. These evasions are performed so subtly and with such “good will” it escapes detection, becoming a secret weapon to confuse and further degrade the patient. Humor can be very destructive, along with their other devices to maintain this system. The alert therapist should say “how can you stand these people who degrade you constantly?” But the outer psychologist who only wants to join the powers that be—and pay—says “why are you so bad or mad? Why can’t you eat right? Why can’t you have congenial relations with your family?”


If the therapist could be the substitute father, the generation gap could open and the daughter could finally start living her own life. But, kept in her maligned position, even far-off separations keep her obsessed with her oppressors; in her thoughts, jealousies and resentments—and her transferences. She will see the same system played out with new people, with her one-down. Her only solution is to embark on an absorbing inner journey, which she already desires this with all her soul. But due to low self-esteem, fear of being “alone”, supposed need for protection or “advice” or a need to feel confirmed; she gets involved, stays down, feels invaded and often reacts with the same old devices of bulimia or starving. She must face and resolve the old system and her place in it. The outcome is a mature lady in the new town or family.

The greatest therapist would become an intelligent, effectual father for the patient. Her own “ineffectual father” was the product of the same system—of the co-op between the other members. Humiliation of the father was required to avoid changes, for a strong father requests change, or adaptation, to new needs but a group-controlled male tows the line—only to eventually be written off and his role given to a son or son-in-law. This changing of the guard is pure disaster on the already invaded and despicably mistreated anorexic. The sons-in-law have had it  with her and now that they rule, their aim is to fix her for good.


To better combat perverse triangles, the goal of therapy must be to EXPOSE them. These are secret coalitions, never acknowledged, against one. Whenever the behavior of two betrays their secret compact the treachery is instantly washed over by meta-communication. For example, one older sister gossips to the other about the victim, who can always tell when they’ve talked as the first sister becomes mean. If the victim confronts the pattern, she is called “paranoid.” This is the main pathology of the sick system: the coalition and the simultaneous denial of it.

A “coalition” is joint action against a third person, in contrast to an alliance in which 2 out of 3 people make common cause. Such dualities as good-bad, positive-negative, and sick-well have no place in this cybernetic model of homeostatic systems. There are no “causes” just here and now, the entire family collaborates to maintain the status quo and any accusation just hardens their self-defense (putting her down). They treat the victim’s symptoms as “badness” leading to instant disqualification for respected membership in their morally superior family.


What characterizes the family as system are the transactional patterns repeated with high frequency. These REDUNDANCIES become RULES maintaining rigid stability: and the outcome are SYMPTOMS.  Redundancy is most extreme in this system, and thus the victim feels there is NO HOPE—things will never be any different.  She is literally made by these system etchings in her brain—she is programmed beyond her control. She wants to get out, to get well; but is strapped in her chair, while simultaneously being “hit” by what feels like outside forces demanding she binge, starve, seclude, go moot, and suffer.


What these redundancies do is not “make her eat” so much as starve her of her identity—refusing to confirm her. The meaner they get the more compulsive, unconscious, and essential her eating device used to keep some sense of self, Starving—becoming invisible—makes things congruent with her missing self-esteem. She constantly makes new resolutions to act right only to relapse into the same unconscious state. Bulimia or starving simply makes things better. And, problems and embarrassment aside, it has long since dropped into the unconscious. It’s just something she must do. But, since bulimia is chaos, causing more dis-order in the system and her perception; she only gets worse and the system becomes more condemning, caustic, controlling and contemptible. 

There are many who would judge the bulimic anorexic. To those judges I would ask—have you ever been in total anxiety all the time, amidst a hostile environment—your own family who hates you? I myself would rather fast at my enemies, never “eat at them”. But the weak and sickly patient, through the reptilian brain, just slides back into whatever works, the only “slot” there is. With anxiety or anger, the brain auto-regresses into previously successful strategies. There is no thought to such regression—its an automatic response to fear by slipping back into the slot that “works.”


The anorexic is blamed for all that goes wrong—everything is due to “her illness.” But a family is a self-governing system based on RULES established through a series of trials and errors. All members are elements in a circuit in which no one element can have unilateral control over the rest. The behavior of one member is not the cause but rather the effect of their behavior. Family systems theory is the study of fixed behavior responses and their repercussions—SYMPTOMS.

But the whole system thinks the patient, because of her symptoms, wields power over the rest, rendering them helpless, never thinking their own interactions may be causing her noxious behavior. This is a common error of Western culture and psychiatry: the idea of “self” transcending the system and hence being in control of that system. And thus their reducing the victim to impotence is just the due and right response. Their tight and hostile siding against her is condign punishment—and they cannot see it any other way.

Overprotectiveness, encroachment, and prevention of autonomy would irritate any alert therapist.  They also see how those in power dispense punishments, prohibitions or occasional presents to make their presence felt. Mixed signals from all the pretense abound, so the victim mistrusts her own feelings.  For example, The older sister, backed by the mother, is envious of the patient’s good looks and treats her with a mixture of concerned affection and GREAT CRUELTY. This behavior sears deep into the anorexic’s sensitive system—if her sisters seem spiteful and nasty it is because she deserves  it. Binging and starving is all that lets her know she exists, that she can feel, even still enjoy.


The more intense the COLD WAR waged by secret coalitions:  the more secret. These pathological systems are governed by secret rules that shun the light of day and bind the family together with pathological ties that depend on the victim’s one-down state. Her “symptoms” develop in systems threatened with collapse, in which they act as submission rites to ward off aggression. The system gives her no choice but to escape and take refuge in her symptoms; for she has no avenue to creatively self-express, but only to self-destruct.

In systems theory, we SHIFT THE FOCUS from the individual to the wider relationship. Here we see pure REDUNDANCY; anorexia is monotonous repetition as each member rejects the others’ messages. The illness is always shrewdly presented in the same old moralistic and sacrificial tone (it is called “symmetry through sacrificial escalation”). Without leadership there are only alliances against her combined with blame-shifting. As time passes, these patterns extend from the nuclear to the extended family (the sister’s children are trained to hate her too), and any new acquaintances of the patient, to whom the members “tell all” to dissipate their admiration. The victim learns to expect this, and even in later years will never introduce any new contact to her family.

The collective sense of the family is so pronounced with her excluded that the lonely anorexic is increasingly pushed into the background. The family tends to stick together like a brood of ducklings. The grandmothers can play a major role in the family disorder, and the father is unsure of himself, so afraid of independent women he married someone with shortcomings. However, intelligence, adaptability, culture, imagination and interests appeals to the father so he admires the over-achieving daughter but hides it when mother is around, who becomes hostile and envious. This engenders more mixed signals and interlocking jealously patterns. Female competition is very cruel in this world—“there is no house big enough for two women.”

Sexism is a suffocating obstruction to achieving females as the energy turns inward. Perhaps they would have “chosen” alcoholism or drugs as their sin of choice—but the loss of control, and sure institutionalization or further degradation by family—would have been intolerable to these types. Anorexia and bulimia are the only ways to recycle their enormous energy, ingather their forces, create their own reality, use their own time in their own way; and still stay relatively in control of their situation. Anorexia is usually a feminine illness from well-to-do families. Why? Because these families often ensure smooth-running solidarity and harmony through authoritarian set-ups and the subordination of women.


Having absolutely no control of the sexist system around them, the anorexic drives this energy inward to absolute control of her own world—herself. If she can learn to turn a lemon into lemonaid, and overcome this greatest obstacle—the stubborn system keeping her down--she builds a perfect battleship for war—the power to manage a huge world corporation. So great is her energy, when held down and turned inward, her self-improvement reaches monolithic levels. If she can learn to harness, tame and redirect this enormous energy she can greatly benefit the world. When she transcends all disorder (beyond mere eating patterns) and attain EMACULATE ORDER in all areas of life, all that energy is now directed outward into world success. For those survivors, the sky is the limit as the held-down energy bursts forth and catapults them UP to influence and power.

Like all systems, the family tends towards homeostasis. But no living system can survive unless free to evolve, to change when conditions change. A system dies if it has such rigid homeostasis that even the slightest positive feedback—like her transformation—is ignored. It will come back to haunt them as enontiodromia occurs: as the worst becomes the best. This inversion of systems means one goes up, the other(s) go down—for nothing stays the same. When that whole homeostasis depended on her illness; and she is now well and thriving; something has to break. Throughout history the family was a homeostatic barrier against social change, and the most rapid changes are seen today. Objections are eliminated in these systems, by eliminating—making impotent—those who object!


“A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Jesus also said that “he that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Of particular import “a prophet is never known in his (her) own home or town.” So true! For nothing the anorexic does can ever change the image—the leaderless group-mind simply redefines the new situation to suit the template with her one-down. Anorexic families are the most stubbornly resistant to change, causing a crises in a system from which there is no escape but to recycle energy INWARD through symptoms: homeostasis. Then, her magnified symptoms compel the others to join forces to deal with her illness—as hand joins in hand, they are more solid than peas in a pod. All group photographs exclude her, as do their parties. The only way she is included is in gossip. Otherwise, when she walks in the room all turn the other way as if she doesn’t exist.


Could there be any doubt that anorexia is a social illness, particularly since it is specifically bound up with the extreme system described? Yet hospitalization -- although it removes her from her family—rarely brings permanent relief and generally causes deterioration of her state; as it is just as bound up by hierarchies, demands and domination, sexism, deceitful alliances with family, and the disconfirmation of her.    Any objections she may have to hospital food; or any desire she may have to be fruitarian-fasterian (the cures) to get well and remove the addiction to bad food (bulimia)  will likely be met with mockery and rejection. It is all just “another facet” of her illness. They already know how her intelligence can justify anything with science research.


You were tied to the family system: they kept you down. As a result you were tied even more—as victims always identify with their oppressors and need their approval even more. You may never get it from your system—but from the WORLD, YOU WILL—IF you can let this toxic dominance go. It was all a sick system, the way human nature has been from the beginning of time. It wasn’t even the people, the members of your family—it was the workings of systems. That is a force greater than any of the parts. Try complete separation, then RE-CONNECT: find a new family and great success. Love your real friends—they will validate you in new ways. 

Just never forget from whence you came—know all the signs  as I have laid out above, and never let it take hold again with any new system. You have the template within to attract dominance and rejection—so be scrupulous in taking control and casting out users-abusers-misusers-confusers. Once free, your will never have the excuse to vomit up society and family again. For best results, become fruitarian-fasterian to stay trim, fit and happy for life. This will bring you lifelong beauty and power. REALIZE that your food phobia is rational (for all food except produce is poison). REALIZE that your full-phobia is rational (for it is totally inefficient to be like most people, filled with food and indigestion and dulled thinking). Just stay HIGH—in the head, not the gut (swine consciousness). Never let anyone tell you how or what to eat. Realize that your cerebetonic tendencies to privacy are characteristic of the superior of the race, the real harbingers and pathfinders of new worlds. Just love God (who has a specific job for you to do, now you are recovered), and your SELF. 

Lastly, you must forgive your family if you are to progress. Forgive, then take the throne. It was the system—not the people—which is to blame. You can’t blame each or any one member. If you don’t realize this you will hate them all and this will be your downfall. Systems theory allows you to FORGIVE ALL, especially yourself. For all behavior is a mal-adaptation to the system we are in.

This page last revised July 17, 2000.