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Grynick, K.L. (2016). Enduring Perfectionism: Seeing Through Eating Disorder Recovery and America’s Cultural Complex. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 15(4):369-380.

(2016). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 15(4):369-380

Enduring Perfectionism: Seeing Through Eating Disorder Recovery and America’s Cultural Complex

Kim L. Grynick, MA, LPC

Contemporary research in brain science and evidenced-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Ellis, 1961; Beck, 1976), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (Linehan, 1993), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Hayes, Wilson, & Strosahl, 2011), and Family Based Therapy (Lock & LeGrange, 2013) offer salient knowledge and skill for the treatment of eating disorders, yet the intractable nature of eating disorders persists, begging the question: Is our current mode of perception of treatment the most fitting for the goal of the full development of the personality and a sustainable recovery? Archetypal psychologist James Hillman challenges that a new sensibility is required in psychotherapy, a quality of knowing that opens up the imagination in order to “see through” suffering. This article deconstructs the fantasy of eating disorder recovery by moving into the metaphorical roots beneath the rigid and unyielding behaviors, including America’s cultural complex of perfectionism. Depth psychological principles are applied to a case study of anorexia nervosa in an adolescent girl, arguing that a full recovery requires the presence of soul as integral to identity development. Fundamentally, a person with an eating disorder is hungering for soul in a culture that does not cultivate this form of nourishment.

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