The Inside/Outside Box is a typical art therapy project. Fun to make, it is a self-portrait in metaphor and an un-self conscious look into things like persona, boundaries, containment, congruency and secrets. This particular box was made by a woman waiting for a bed in a treatment center. Lots of times people with eating disorders try to “pretty up” their outsides; more concerned with how others see them than they are with their own insides. I usually see a difference between the outsides and the insides, as if life were a performance for other’s approval. I also tend to see a lot of closed or partially-closed boxes; representing the shame that most people have about their disease process and secrets.
This box stands out for lots of reasons. “A” leaves the box wide-open. This is a level of vulnerability that is not entirely safe or smart. It is the boxer with his gloves down, not able to defend himself. It is the call of someone who needs protection, or at least a sense of discernment about whom to let in and whom to keep out. In addition to this “A”’s insides and outsides are the same – sparse, red, black and white symbols of war, death, broken hearts and destruction. Her insides and her outsides are very much the same dark, bleak picture. She is no longer even trying to look okay. The ribbon is her only attempt to “pretty up the package” but as you can see, it doesn’t disguise anything. This is a glimpse at “hitting bottom” and how it feels to admit defeat.
Inpatient treatment will provide a safe container for her to start the process of recovery. She has several tasks ahead of her – learning/practicing boundaries, how to spot “safe” people, dropping her persona when appropriate and containment of her uncomfortable emotions. She also needs a safe place to release her feelings and story about them so that she may be free to move forward without the painful and destructive energy that comes with practicing an eating disorder.