The body in the group: its presence and absence


Working with adolescents, and specifically with those affected by an eating disorder, makes many apparent contradictions come out. In this paper we focalized on the body which, in apparent contradiction, can hinder and become an obstacle to the expression of the real self, while continuing literally to provide the measure of the self at one and the same time. The body is seen by anorexics as a target, to be suffocated in its demands and fundamental needs, reduced to the bone and strictly disciplined. But suffocating the body means deadening the emotions expressed by the body too. It is in response to a fundamental anorexic assumption, consisting in a return to a deadly nothingness, that the group therapy approach makes sense. The group can provide a space and time where the vacuum becomes visible and can be contacted by the group as a whole. In an effort to reflect on this paradoxical situation, so central to anorexia but almost physiological in adolescence, which makes it necessary for a body to disappear so that a presence can be felt, we draw on a few fragments of conversation emerging at homogeneous group sessions for young girls with eating disorders, and from other sessions with groups of adolescents with heterogeneous symptom pictures but homogeneous in terms of their age. It is clear as the rhythm of the groups is constantly marked by coming and going, hiding and coming into the open, according to a sort of “internal balance”, capable of “weighing” the needs and the times of fatigue for all concerned. 

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